As the pandemic hit hard in March people were stuck at their homes, looking for something to do. Baking bread became a thing, as did gardening, knitting, and drinking heavily. Car sales suffered, but car parts, and car accessories, did not. Shadetree mechanics went wild, including myself, fixing, painting and cleaning anything that needed it.
Volkswagen talked to the Chicago Auto Pros detail shop and YouTube channel for some simple tips for cleaning your vehicle. VW talked to co-owner Jason Otterness, who launched the channel in tandem with Chicago Auto Pros’ detailing business 12 years ago.
“I fell in love with detailing first before I fell in love with cars, and now I’ve been doing this for 17 years,” Otterness said. “As I’ve chronicled our business in recent months, the number one question we now get is, ‘What do I need to make my car look the way it does when you all do it?’ and honestly the easiest thing for consumers to do at home is regular maintenance—things like washing, tire shines and vacuuming.”
To put a finer point on it, here’s a list of tips to keep your car looking showroom fresh for years to come.
- Use soft towels: “One of the biggest things I think people don’t understand is how delicate car paint is and how easy it is to scratch,” said Otterness. When it comes to both washing and drying your vehicle, bath towels won’t cut it. Otterness says it’s best to use microfiber towels or mitts, which are already designed for gentler care.
- Use two buckets: If you are only using one bucket to wash down your car, chances are you are going to wipe dirt, salt and sand back onto your car. This can create little scratches on a car’s clear coat, known as “spider webs.” Toops suggests having a bucket that’s used solely for rinsing out your towel or washing mitt to remove debris, and a separate soap bucket to dunk it in before going back to work on the car’s surface.
- Wash from the top to the bottom: It should be no surprise that most of the dirt and grime your car collects is located on the bottom half of your vehicle. Start washing from the hood of your car and working your way down to its wheels and grille to help eliminate the amount of debris that gets dragged across the paint’s surface.
- Lubricate properly: Oftentimes, consumers will grab whatever is close at hand to clean their cars, including dish soap. Otterness says that dish soap can actually dry out and strip the rubber seals and wax that help protect your car, so it’s best to avoid it at all costs. Even if your resources are limited, he suggests purchasing a car-dedicated shampoo product for cleaning.
- Don’t wash your car in the sun: On a nice day in the summer, it’s tempting to go outside to wash your car in the driveway. But Toops advises against it as it can damage your car’s clear coat. If you allow your car to dry naturally in the hot sun—even just from washing it with water—the minerals left behind can eventually etch their way into the clear coat. Toops says it’s best to minimize exposure to the sun and hand dry your car with a towel whenever possible.
- Leave paint correction and buffing to professionals: While using a machine to polish out scratches and swirls can be done by newbies, Otterness and Toops warn that those unfamiliar with the equipment risk damaging the vehicle (i.e. taking off too much paint, leaving dull spots or discoloring plastic trim). They suggest holding off on these fixes until your next visit with your dealer.
- Lastly, wash often: Otterness says that while it differs depending on how much you drive, on average, consumers should aim to wash their car every other week to help keep it looking new and free from contaminants like pollen and iron particles that can damage the cars’ paint.
For interior maintenance, just one tip:
A microfiber towel and water go a long way: These items do an adequate job of helping to keep debris off the seats and avoiding buildup, especially if done regularly. Focus on high traffic areas – like steering wheels, shifters and door panels – and avoid using household cleaners as they can dry out quality materials and strip the grip on car’s pedals and steering wheel.
Keep ’em clean, and we’ll see you at your local Cars ‘n Coffee this weekend.