Your car is where you spend a large part of your week, commuting to and from work, getting groceries, taking little Jimmy to football practice and waiting to take him home. Whether you drive a Mustang Mach 1 or a 1998 Black Honda Accord Ex with Grey cloth interior with stains from the previous owner's children, a nice cleaning a waxing can make any car easy on the eyes. It may also make that hour long commute a little bit more enjoyable. This guide will show you how to clean your car like a professional, and help you keep it shining until you find the time to do so again. There are some fundamental facts you need to know before beginning to take care of your vehicle, and now it's time to learn some! For convenience, I have ordered these steps in the way that I clean my car, and I would generally recommend keeping them in this order. It works very well.
The procedures described in the following three steps are normally beneficial to your vehicle. However, if any damage occurs to your vehicle from following this instructable, the author cannot be held responsible.
Step 1: Exterior Cleaning
So you wanna get that great factory color to rebel against the dirt and grime covering your car and regain control? Well it needs a little help. This is where you come in. Begin with a nice clean bucket, a hose, a good car soap and a sponge (or other soft scrubbing utensil). I always begin my rinsing out the bucket to make sure there is nothing in there that would add scratches to my car. After that, read the label on your bottle of car soap for the specific amount to add. Once you have added the soap to the bucket, fill the bucket with water. I usually do this in a two step process. I begin by swirling the soap with the "Jet" setting on my hose head. Then, once the suds have built up, I move the hose head into the water and get a good amount of water going down under the suds.
Now that you have the perfect amount of suds and water, it is time to commence washing your car.
DO NOT WASH YOUR CAR ON AN EXCESSIVELY HOT OR SUNNY DAY! THE WATER WILL EVAPORATE TOO QUICKLY AND YOU WILL GET SOAP SPOTS ON YOUR CAR! WAIT FOR A COOLER, OVERCAST DAY!
As long as the day is cool and overcast, begin by rinsing down your car. It doesn't have to be extremely thorough, but start at the top of your car and rinse down along the sides. This is to remove any large particles of sediment that could scratch your paint when you begin scrubbing. It also helps to cool the body of your car, which will keep the water from evaporating more rapidly than usual.
When you begin washing your car, keep in mind the zones of washing, shown in the pictures below. Begin washing by rinsing the roof of your car with water, absorb some suds/water in your sponge or rag, and begin washing the roof in tight scrubbing circles. Go row by row across the roof section of your car. Keep the scrubbing rows parallel and overlapping, to prevent any gaps of uncleanliness. Once you are finished with the roof section of your car, rinse it thoroughly to remove the soap you used to scrub the dirt off.
Repeat the above paragraph, going section by section, top to bottom on your car. For me it goes: Roof>Windows and Roof Supports> Top of Hood and Upper Quarter panels> Middle of Doors and Trunk> Front Bumper, Lower Quarter Panels, Lower Doors, and Back Bumper. There is a reason beyond organization for this method of washing. When you drive your car, you pick up the heaviest and largest sediment on the frontal/lower surfaces of your car. You collect the lighter and smaller sediment on the Rear/Upper surfaces of your car.
Finally, when replenishing your soap supply in your sponge, wring it out anywhere except over your water bucket. If you do wring it out over your water bucket you will put all of the dirt you just scrubbed of straight into your water. Thus, when you scrub again, your putting dirt back on your car.
Step 2: Interior Cleaning
While your waiting for the exterior to dry, you can clean the interior. I always begin this with an exodus of all extraneous materials from my cabin area. For me, this means anything from clothes to textbooks, old notes to old breakfast. Whatever you need to remove, remove it. Then move in with the vacuum cleaner and suck out all of the dirt and grime from everywhere. This goes for the dash, the floor, the seats, even the trunk. Take out the floor mats and vacuum those and and floor beneath them.
Once I finish vacuuming everything, I usually make use of some vinyl moisturizing wipes made by armor-all. I wipe down every vinyl surface in my car. This product is something to consider purchasing if you live in a hot area where your vinyl bakes while you're at work or school (like Florida, it gets ungodly hot here in the summer).
At this point you can wipe down your windows interior and exterior with any type of cleaner you have. I use ClearVue auto cleaner, and it works very well. Afterwards, you can add RainX to your windshields if you so desire.
By now, the exterior of your car should be nice and dry. If it is not, take a break.
Step 3: The Finishing Touches
The finishing touches are what makes the difference between a cleaning your car, and cleaning your car like a pro. This is where you break out the wax of your choice and go the extra mile for things that regular human passengers wouldn't even notice in the awareness portions of their brains. But subconsciously, they're like "Ohhh, this guy or gal cleans his or her car like a pro." So what do I do for this subconscious approval, you ask? This is it.
WAX YOUR CAR IN A COOL SHADY SPOT. DO NOT DO SO AFTER A WARM SUNNY DAY. DO NOT DO SO UNLESS YOU HAVE CLEANED YOUR CAR BEFORE HAND. DO NOT DO SO UNLESS YOU ARE ADEQUATELY PREPARED TO DO SO.
I begin with the front section of my car, and see how far I get. Typically, night hits once I've done the hood, both quarterpanels, and the front bumper. I do however wax without the aid of a machine. If you do, you'll probably make it further.
As with washing, do your car in logical sections. Top/Bottom or Front/Back doesn't really matter when waxing. I try to do it in the areas that will receive the most wear and tear first, such as, the front hood/bumper and the drivers side. Read the instructions on the back of your bottle of wax to learn how, I will not discuss that here. Once you finish the outer body of your car, go crazy. I wax the inner door areas that are painted metal, but that's just because on a 1998 Accord they are especially noticeable. If you use your trunk a lot, wax the metal on the underside of the roof of the trunk. Use it anywhere you want, within reason. I wouldn't wax door hinges or anywhere inside the engine compartment, because I do not know if there would be any poor consequences. Use your head.
With the correct products you can also shine up your tires at this point or gloss your rims.
Step 4: Conclusion
If you have completed the preceding steps to your car, enjoy the pay off! Driving around in a nice clean car is great. Especially when you are driving around passengers and receive complements on your work. If you don't feel like going the extra mile (or hours), don't do step three. All three steps usually take me a day, with breaks for lunch and the hottest parts of the day. If you get really into cleaning your car, consider upgrading your cleaning utensils, or trying out other waxes. Otherwise, just enjoy your hard work.