The main goal of exterior car detailing is to preserve or restore the paint job, remove scratches and other minor blemishes, protect the bodywork from future damage, and generally keep it looking as new as possible. Proper detailing can go a long way toward preserving a car’s resale value, not to mention that it simply feels good to drive a vehicle that looks nice. Use the following guidelines to get started.
Use a clay bar
A clay bar is a type of putty that helps you prep your car’s exterior surface before cleaning. “The clay glides over the paint surface removing embedded impurities like tree sap, brake dust, road paint and pollen that traditional hand washing techniques simply have no effect on,” writes TSS Auto Detailing, a detailing shop based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But more than just remove impurities, clay bars ensure that when you move on to hand-washing techniques, you do not rub small particles over the surface of the car, which can create small scratches and other blemishes.
Don’t use just any product
Using the wrong type of product when cleaning your car’s exterior, or even the interior, can lead to short- or long-term damage. Avoid using household cleaners on your vehicle, which can scratch and damage the paint. It’s better to go to the store and buy a quality cleaner designed for cars. Additionally, make sure to use soft sponges and cloths to avoid scratching the surface. The best type is microfiber cloth, which is extra soft and has enhanced cleaning properties. “Microfibers are designed to have a positive electric charge, which serves to attract negatively-charged dirt, dust and grease,” says Home Depot.
Keep the car out of the sun
Few things harm a car’s exterior as much as sunlight. Over time, UV rays have a bleaching effect on the bodywork, while heat can bake impurities into the surface as well as cause the paint to peel. The best thing you can do to protect your car is to park it in the shade whenever possible. If that’s not an option, you may want to invest in a car cover. In fact, according to Tan’s Auto Detailing in Vancouver, Washington, car covers are beneficial even if you park in a garage: “It is still vulnerable to various threats including paint fallout and over spray, falling items, and powerful liquid spills, even if it is protected from the elements. There may be delicate, thin paintwork on classic cars, as well as sensitive external parts.”
Knowing the best products and methods for cleaning your car is all well and good, but it’s only useful if utilized on a regular basis. To keep your car’s exterior in good condition and avoid permanent damage caused by the elements, you should aim to clean it once every two weeks; perhaps more often in the winter. This will ensure that rain, pollen, brake dust, and other blemishes that accumulate through normal operation don’t cause lasting damage. “Additionally, irregular dirt such as road salt and bug guts require immediate attention to prevent paint or metal damage,” writes Tony Markovich, contributor to TheDrive.com.
Caring for your car’s exterior requires ongoing effort. But your efforts will be rewarded every time you look at your ride — and, of course, if you eventually decide to sell it.