Easy fixes for a dirty car

June 30, 2015

Most of us use automatic car washes for convenience, but if their spinning brushes are not well maintained, they could be scratching your paintwork. Cleaning your car manually will give you better results and save you money in the process.

Easy fixes for a dirty car

Wash it without scratching

Time needed to wash a car: 10 minutes.

You will need: car shampoo, hose, soft brush, microfibre cloths, two buckets and a chamois or waffle-weave drying towel.

  1. Park your car in a shady area — direct sunlight will cause water to dry into unsightly spots. Rub undiluted car shampoo over any stained areas, such as old bird droppings, to pretreat the stubborn marks.
  2. Wash the wheels before the car body. Make sure they are cool, then spray them with water from a hose. Apply a little car shampoo with a microfibre cloth and scrub them with a soft brush; you can use an old toothbrush to reach smaller crevices. Rinse with water.
  3. Wet the whole car using the hose. Half-fill one bucket with car shampoo, mixed according to the manufacturer's instructions, and another with water. Whip the shampoo up into a sudsy froth. Don't be tempted to use normal dishwashing liquid — you're more likely to get water spots as the car dries.
  4. Soak a cloth in the sudsy water and rub it over the car, starting with the roof and working down. Don't apply too much pressure as you'll risk scratching the car. Rinse the cloth in the bucket of clean water before reloading it with shampoo — this way, you'll rinse any grit off the mitt as you go. Keep wetting the car with the hose — don't allow it to air dry.
  5. When you've cleaned the entire surface of the car, rinse it thoroughly with your hose.
  6. Immediately dry the car using the drying towel or a chamois. This will help avoid water spots.

The chrome bumper has lost its shine

Polish it back with steel wool: Check if the surface to be cleaned is chromed steel or plastic chrome (a plastic substrate covered with a thin layer of chrome). Older cars may have bumpers and sideview mirrors made of chromed steel, while chromed plastic is often used for details on more modern cars. Apply a magnet to the bumper; if it sticks, it's chromed steel, if not, it's probably plastic.

  • Chromed steel may appear dull or have rust spots, but can be restored by polishing vigorously with 0000 steel wool.
  • Don't use steel wool on chromed plastic — instead rub it with a 2:1 mix of white vinegar and water, or use a specialist chrome polishing compound.
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