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How To Wash A Car

Published Thu August 22, 2019

how to wash a car


Most careful and cautious car owners are well-aware of regular maintenance and tune-ups for their vehicle, whether it’s a car, truck, SUV or any automobile. However, washing and cleaning cars is often overlooked and considered just a cosmetic or vanity exercise. But that’s not the case, and properly and effectively and correctly washing your car is an excellent way to protect its coat, undercarriage, and protection long term, and to not damage the vehicle further. At Meineke, we want to help our customers properly maintain their vehicles and save on their investment. Here’s what you need to know:


What is the Best Way to Wash a Car?


Let’s start with the basics: you need a rag, a bucket, proper soap, a drying towel, water, and space to wash and let the car air dry. A car that is not allowed to dry will develop spots that ruin the washing in the first place, so make sure you don’t forget the towel. Proper soap is needed because dish and hand soaps can damage your vehicle’s paint coating. A rag is needed to wipe away grease and dirt, and water is of course needed before and after washing to moisten the paint and help rinse away grime. Make sure you use clean water and replace the water in your bucket regularly as you go back for more soapy water while cleaning.


Should You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car?


The short answer is no. Never use dial or dawn to wash your vehicle as it will erode and damage the paint, and remove protective coatings. What makes a good car soap? A dedicated automobile car wash soap is available at almost any car part dealer and is properly-suited to clean and wash the paint on a car or truck without causing damage, and remaining lubricated and slick.


What Do I need To Wash My Car?


So what can you use to wash your car? Here’s a great list on what to use to clean your car with:

  • A sponge or washing mitts made of sheepskin or microfiber is preferred. However, any old rag or towel is possible for cleaning and wiping away dirt. 
  • A microfiber towel or other dry towel for drying off your vehicle once you’re finished painting.
  • A strong brush or sponge for cleaning tires
  • A bucket for your water. Have two buckets if possible, one for water and one for soapy water.
  • A cleaner and finish for your wheels & tires.
  • You might need a bug and tar remover for, particularly bad stains.
  • A finishing wax or polish is optional for a protective shine.

General Car Washing  


Be sure to always wash your vehicle in a shaded area to avoid premature drying out of the coat. Sunlight will also leave spots that stain your car, which using a towel can help alleviate. You can help avoid water spots by keeping your car wet at all times and always make sure your windows, vents, and doors are shut tightly and sealed. Try to keep water under the hood to a minimum as well, as you can damage engine parts or prevent starting. 


How To Wash A Car


  • Start by rinsing off your entire car with clean water from a hose or bucket, make sure you get any dirt out from under things like the wiper blades.
  • Always wash the wheels first. Your vehicle’s wheels and tires will be extremely dirty and require the most scrubbing. 
  • Refill your buckets with fresh soap and water as needed throughout the process.
  • Pre-treat any stains (oil, bugs, bird droppings) and apply removal soap directly to the area.
  • Start washing and periodically use a rag or water to rinse the car and dirt away.
  • Do not scrub too hard, and make sure you wash in straight even lines. Using a circular motion can create swirl marks that will last and cause spots. 
  • Rinse off throughout the wash, especially as you move around the vehicle to new areas.
  • Once you wash all sides and rinse, use a towel and air to dry the car thoroughly to prevent water spots and sunspots from forming. 

Can You Air Dry a Car?


If you only air dry your car you will likely leave water and sun spots, which can erode the paint coating over time. Carefully dry your car by using a towel or specialized car towel to dry most of the water. After that, wipe a microfiber towel over the whole car to remove spots. The towel should be flat and moved in straight lines, with no circular motions that will leave marks. 


How To Use Polish Or Wax After A Car Wash?


Car polish or wax should be used after a car is washed and completely dry, never with any dirt or water or other debris. Car polish will add shine, and car wax protects the car’s paint and finish for a longer period of time than if it were not used. (A way to tell if your car needs more wax, is if rain or water stops turning into beads on your hood.) Car was is most effective when used after a proper car wash with proper car products like car soap. Waxes should only be used seasonally, while polish can be applied after any wash. Stop by your local Meineke Car Care Center if you have any questions about car cleaning products or techniques.

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