Washing Your Focus – Exterior
An original Article by Todd Alcock (whippet_zetec)
Social Responsibility: In Australia we are generally not blessed with huge amounts of water, therefore it is not something we can waste without effecting other people in our community. With this in mind I would like to ask that everyone use water with a little commonsense and obey water restrictions in their local government/state which may be in effect. Fortunately I live in an area of Sydney serviced by reticulated water (recycled/grey) and there are no restrictions on its use.
You should always check the water restrictions in your local area before washing your car, as water restrictions will change from time to time.
Here are some useful links for you to see if any water restrictions may apply to you in your local area:
Sydney Water www.sydneywater.com.au
Hunter Water www.hunterwater.com.au
Brisbane City Council www.brisbane.qld.gov.au
Gold Coast Water www.goldcoastcity.com.au
Melbourne Water www.melbournewater.com.au
Yarra Valley Water www.yarravalleywater.com.au
South East Water www.southeastwater.com.au
City West Water www.citywestwater.com.au
SA Water www.sawater.com.au
Water Corporation of WA www.watercorporation.com.au
NT Water www.nt.gov.au
Hobart Water www.hobartwater.com.au
Why Wash Your Car?
The paint on your car is there for more than to just make your Focus look pretty. Your paintwork is also a protective barrier against the elements for the underlying bodywork. The paintwork, along with the clear coat applied to your car when it is manufactured for this reason requires regular cleaning and maintenance.
Washing your car also makes your car look and feel much better out there on the road. Not only do people see you take pride in your car but by taking an active interest in maintaining your cars paintwork when it comes to trade-in or sale time you can be guaranteed that you will get a much better offer than if you neglect your cars paintwork.
The Required Products and Utensils
I use the following items in my garage for cleaning and maintaining my car’s paintwork.
Armor All Car Wash & Wax formula (blue formula)
Armor All Original Protectant 250ml bottle
Kanebo Chamois (2)
Various cotton rags
Eagle One Wet Tire Gel
Eagle One Tire Wipes
Eagle One 20/20 Glass Cleaner
Eagle One Wet Wax As-U-Dry
Meguiars Sponge Applicators
2 sponges (1 clean sponge for the panels and 1 old sponge for under the sills and the rims/tires)
Hose (without nozzle for lamella flow)
*For those in water restricted areas a watering can works better than a bucket
Before you wash your car you should consider the following things:
Wash you car early in the morning or late in the afternoon, firstly it is much cooler at these time of the day and winds that can blow dust and debris through the air are generally non existent at this time as well.
Find a shady area to wash your car, this will assist in stopping water dry on the bodywork before you have time to dry it off with a chamois
If you have a front lawn wash your car on the lawn so that the water you use goes back to the ground and waters your lawn instead of the pavement or driveway. Caution should be exercised though when driving onto and off your lawn so that you do not ruin your lawn with tire tracks
1. The 1st rinse
I usually place my car on the lawn and try to have one of the corners of my car lower than the rest so that water flows off the car easier.
On the first rinse I have my hose turned on without any spray, and usually without a nozzle or connector on the end of the hose. This gives me a nice even flow of water without any high pressure.
The first rinse is to wash off any surface dirt from the cars paintwork and leave behind a trace of water for the wash.
2. The Wash
Making sure the bucket has been rinsed since the last wash so as to remove any sediment from previous wash I place both sponges in the bucket with a fairly liberal splash of car wash formula. I usually fill the bucket with warm water, no particular reason other than the fact in the cooler months it feels much better having my hands warm rather than freezing, alternatively in summer I go for a cold water.
Before starting also take the time to remove any items like bonnet or headlight protectors so they don’t get in the way of you washing. They can be washed separately to your car.
Starting from the roof down, wash your car. Regular dips of the sponge into the bucket releases the dirt contained in the sponge from washing in draws fresh water. After the roof and windows are washed you should rinse those sections down so that no washing formula dries onto the bodywork and leaves any streak /water marks behind. Continue on washing the panels, I usually start on one side, go around the front and over the bonnet to the reverse side before moving to the rear of the car and then back to the front bumper/spoiler o finish. All the time I am rinsing the bodywork after washing a section and rinsing the sponge in the bucket to release collected dirt and replace the water I the sponge.
After the bodywork, I take my older sponge, which has been siting in the bucket soaking up the water and formula and clean under the sills on the side of the car and the rims and tires.
: You can use an alloy rim cleaner here if required but generally I do not use them as they have enchants in them that if left on or not rinsed properly can ruin the look of your rims. With regular washing of your car your rims shouldn’t need the use of an alloy cleaner.
3. The 2nd Rinse after washing
After I have washed the car and rinsing as I go, I give the car one final light spray so as to leave behind droplets of water for the next part.
Taking my clean chamois and my bottle of spray on wax I begin the next important step, drying off the car. First I lay the chamois in its open length and drag across the windscreen and rear windows before drying the side windows.
Next spray as per directions the spray on wax onto the paintwork of your car in the section you are going to dry. I start again from the top down so that water falling off the car falls through parts that have not already been dried. After spaying the area to dry I lay the chamois flat and drag to the side of the area, by doing this you can cover a wider area and move quicker over your car, but also this method stops swirl marks on your paintwork. Work over all the panels on the car in this method, inspecting the paintwork as you go. As you dry you will notice the chamois fills with water, frequently squeeze out the collected water from the chamois.
When finished on the panels I take out my old chamois. With the old chamois, dry the door sills inside the car (open your car doors and boot), dry the rims and if required run the chamois over the tire wall. I usually open my bonnet and wipe the front and sides of the engine bay.
5. Rim Care
As stated earlier I do not generally use a rim cleaner and the only exception is if I have to remove excessive brake dust from a set of rims.
6. Tire Cleaning and Tire Black Application
After I have finished drying off the car the next step is tire care. A lot of people neglect this part of cleaning their car and in my opinion it really sets your car off in term of aesthetic appeal. I will drive my car onto the pavement or driveway for this stage of cleaning as the tire cleaning products will kill your grass and its also easier to apply such products on an even surface.
Taking out my tire wipes I spray the tire gel onto the applicator and wipe around the tire wall. Usually I go around a second time just to ensure that there is an even coat of product on each tire. I find that the gel works better than the spray in that the shine last longer and there is less “sling” (less product thrown up onto the bodywork when driving).
Other products I have used in the past have been the Armor All Tire Shine from the air accelerated can. I found this product did a pretty good job but left etch marks on the driveway (the chemicals in the product will strip back the dirt on your concrete driveway and leave behind white patches). There was usually some sling on the bodywork if you didn’t leave the product long enough to dry, and I find the gel I use now lasts longer.
: roll your car a half tire rotation forward at this stage of cleaning, this will allow you to get product on all parts of the tire including the section that was sitting on the pavement. Also, by using a tire black it will make your old tires look brand new, very useful for deterring those snooping police officers looking for a reason to defect your car (not that I condone the driving of an un-roadworthy vehicle or a vehicle with bald tires)
7. Polishing and Waxing
Polishing and waxing are actually two different things. A polish is more like a paint conditioner that restores valuable oils to the paint, eliminates fine scratches and creates incredible high gloss not possible with waxes. Waxing to protect shine and extend life of the polish should follow an application of a pure polish.
If your car is new, you probably don’t need a pure polish, a wax will generally do. I wax my cars every 2-3 months or as required. You can tell if your car needs a wax by running your hand over the panels after cleaning and drying, with a dry hand the surface feels rough or grips and releases you probably need a re-wax. If there are some larger sections where this is happening you will want to consider going back to a pure polish.
8. Window Cleaning
I do two types of window cleaning, external glass and internal glass.
External glass I use the 20/20 window cleaning fluid and when required I re-apply rain-x to the windows. You can tell if rain-x is required by either looking at how water draws off your windscreen when it rains (with rain-x any water on the windscreen will just glide upwards over the roof when driving). Rain-x is applied in a liquid format and wiped with a lint free cloth onto the windows in an even distribution. The rain-x will dry to a haze and at this point taking a new clean and dry cloth polish the windows until the rain-x has disappeared. If rain-x isn’t required I usually just spray and wipe off some 20/20 glass cleaner fluid.
Internal I only use the 20/20 window cleaning fluid. After a quick wipe with the cleaner damp chamois I spray the fluid onto the windows direct and wipe off in vertical or horizontal strokes (never in circles).
So there you are, after say about 45 minutes work (excluding a full wax and or polish) you have a shiny, clean, slick looking car that impresses all your buddies.
Other topics not covered here but in future issues
Other topics of cleaning I have not covered here include:
Internal cleaning and maintenance
Engine Bay cleaning
Links to car cleaning websites you may be interested in looking up