Taking proper care of your car’s exterior paint can add years to its life and luster. Your car’s paint job is both one of its most noticeable features and one of the most expensive features to replace and repair. Fortunately, there are many preventive steps you can take to protect your car’s paint and keep it looking like new. Consider using the following tips as a starting point:
Use proper tools to wash your car. Start with a cotton or paint-safe microfiber washing mitt, a five-gallon bucket and cleaning products specifically designed for automotive use. Only use pH balanced, non-detergent formulas that won’t strip wax, and combine them with lubrication to prevent scratching and conditioners to maintain shine protection. These products are usually gentle on all painted finishes as well as rubber, vinyl and plastic components.
Never skip drying. Drying your vehicle after washing it is necessary to prevent water spots. Auto detailing professionals advise using 100 percent cotton detailing cloths or sheepskin chamois to dry your car (polyester and microfiber can scratch the surface). If you want to get more high-tech, many car care product lines have “paint safe” drying towels that are super absorbent and claim to be lint- and scratch-free.
Use detailing clay. If you’re having trouble removing road grime, bug residue, pollution or tree sap, the next step is to use detailing clay to pull the contamination off the car’s surface without abrasion or scratching. Detailing clay usually comes in a kit with a lubricating spray to protect the paint. Spray the area to be cleaned and glide the clay along the surface—it’ll grab anything that protrudes. Remember, detailing clay isn’t designed to remove paint scratches or swirl marks. Heavy tar or insect deposits may need to be removed using a specialty solvent.
Use car polish, cleaner or rubbing compound on old, oxidized paint. All three remove dull paint, but in varying degrees of aggressiveness. Polish removes the least amount of paint for a given application, while rubbing compounds remove the most and cleaners are somewhere in the middle. Start with a polish before moving on to a cleaner. Rubbing compound is a very aggressive abrasive, so you should talk to a professional before applying it.
Wax your car to protect its paint. Use a carnauba wax or paint sealant, especially if you’ve just used polish or cleaner. Carnauba wax produces a deep, healthy shine that you can’t attain with a sealant, but it only has a lifespan of eight to 12 weeks. Paint sealants give you longer lasting protection and won’t melt, wash off or wear away for about six months.
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• Always start your project with the car out of direct sunlight. Make sure the paint is cool to the touch before applying any cleaning product or wax.
• Spray your car with ample amounts of water before washing. Use the water to spray off dirt and other contaminates that will scratch your car if you immediately start using a sponge.
• Wash and rinse in sections so the soap doesn’t dry before being washed off.
• Read the manufacturer’s directions on all car care products prior to use.