Proper Car Washing, Polishing And Waxing
It is amazing the number of people that don't know how to properly clean or polish and wax their cars. Many people use products that were never intended for their car and others use products and equipment that should only be used by properly trained professionals. Some never even wax or clean their cars. Then they wonder why their car is given a very low trade in figure at the dealer, or why their paint is dull and flaking.
For the purpose of this article we interviewed numerous professional automotive detailers and similar professionals. We asked them what products they used and for tips that consumers could use. They pretty much came back with the same advice:
Properly clean the car: This is very important as the use of harsh, non-automotive products can actually harm your cars finish and make it wear quicker. Spray the car first and get it wet. Use the water to spray off dirt and other contaminates that will scratch your car if you immediately start using a sponge and water first. Also do not clean your car in the sun on a hot day. Do make sure you use warm water as it works best to loosen contaminates. After getting your car wet, use an automotive car wash solution and add to water in a bucket. Follow the directions on the bottle. Then wash the car. You will find it easier if you use a long handled wash brush (most auto parts stores have these). Be sure to wash and rinse in sections so the car wash soap doesn't dry before being washed off. Then using terry cloth towels or chamois, dry the car off. Expert tip: use a squeegee. It is much faster and easier.
Remove stubborn contaminants: There will be dirt, bugs, tar, etc… that will be left after washing. There are many products that are made specifically for removing these items you're your paint and car. The resounding answer from the experts was Meguiar's bug and tar cleaner. Remove all the contaminants and follow the directions (some products can remove paint if not used correctly). Expert tip: 3M and other manufacturers make a plastic shield that can be applied over areas of your car's paint like bumpers and behind the tires to protect from contaminants and rock chips.
Use a cleaner polish: This will remove any left over stubborn contaminates like ground in bug splatter on your painted bumper, acid rain etching, bird drop spots, and minor scratches. Use a circular motion, just like for wax. Follow the directions for that particular cleaner polish (some require a wet or damp applicator pad others don't). Do the car one section at a time and use a clean section of cloth to buff once dry. Most cleaner polishes will dry to a whitish haze. Be sure to buff off all the haze and residue from the cleaner polish. When done the car finish will be really smooth. Expert tip: for deeper scratches, contaminants, etc… you can use an orbital buffer or polisher to apply the cleaner polish. Be careful and use low rpm's (under 2000) anything above this and you risk burning the paint.
Apply several coats of polish or wax: There is a big difference between car wax and car polish. Car wax is usually a blend of carnauba and other waxes which will give a deep, wet look and new car shine. It comes in both a liquid and a paste, and it will not last as long as a car polish. Car wax is also less effective in high temperatures and can actually melt on hot areas like the hood. Car polish is a polymer blend usually with no wax. Car polishes can last 1 year between coats and is very durable protection for your paint. The experts recommend a car polish with Teflon in it for maximum protection and durability. The experts love the extra, deeper shine from car wax, but all agreed it was better suited for car shows.
Whichever you choose, they are both applied the same way. Apply in a circular motion and let it dry to a haze. Then buff dry with a clean terry cloth or microfiber towel. Expert tip: Don't use regular towels or diaper cloths as they can trap dirt particles and similar and leave scratch patterns in your finish. A microfiber cloth works best for removing dried car polish or car wax haze. 2 to 3 coats are recommended for maximum protection and shine. A good rule is to reapply the car polish or car wax at least 2 times per year. Expert tip: Apply car wax, not car polish (as car polish will leave streaks and smudges on glass), to your windows. Do one light coat and completely buff it off. The car wax will work better than the leading brand glass treatment for rain (it will also quite your windshield wipers).