How to Wash Your Vehicle Properly

Comment laver votre véhicule correctement

There are 2 types of vehicle owners. Those that wash their vehicle and those who think it will rain and clean the car.

The ones that wait for the rain are usually people that acquire a lot of dirt and grime on their vehicles. Maybe they live in a rural area or they have a job in construction.

The people that don’t wash their vehicles regularly are generally the ones that have more problems with the car in the long run.

Over time not only can mud and dirt accumulate on the vehicle, but grime from grease and oil, tar from the road and the dreaded bird droppings. All of which can cause damage to the car.

Those who regularly wash their vehicle understand the implications of a dirty vehicle.

Some people that wash their cars regularly will choose a touch-less car wash to clean off the dirt and grime.

While this can remove some dirt, it doesn’t get everything. Dirt and heavy grime can remain after a wash. Plus, the brushes and power spraying in these car washes may cause issues with the paint. The last thing you want is scratches when you get your car cleaned.

Another option is to go to a car wash where they wash the car by hand. This can be quite expensive and can take a lot of time.

The ones that wash their cars by hand are the ones that usually have the best running cars. Hand washing the car gives them the opportunity to find problems with the car and take care of them as they’re discovered.

In addition, the ones that wash their cars by hand will usually have great interiors. A lot of products made to clean and maintain car interiors are available.

It’s not uncommon to see a person hand washing the outside of his or her car, polishing the dashboards and seats (assuming they aren’t cloth) with a protectant to keep them from cracking and in a looking-new condition.

Why Wash Your Car?

This is a question a lot of people ask. After all, it does rain, right? (And it always seems to rain right after you wash your car).

There are a number of reasons to wash your car regularly, these reasons include:

  • Car appearance – A car that’s covered in dirt and grime isn’t a pleasant sight to look at. It can even be a subject of ridicule. Vandals have a habit of playing jokes on people with dirty cars by taking their finger and scrawling “Wash Me” in the dirt and grime on a vehicle. And when that happens, the person writing their grime based graffiti is actually rubbing the dirt into your paint, causing the paint to be more susceptible to breaking down over time.
  • Personal image – Along with the car appearance, you can be judged on how clean you keep your car. For instance, if you’re going on a date, would you want your date to have to grab a crusty, dirty car handle or a clean one. The website Lifehacker mentions that people that are interviewing for jobs should clean their car inside and out to project a good image to the interviewer, as some will send assistants out to look at your car during the interview to see how organized and tidy you are.
  • General maintenance – Washing your car is also a chance to inspect other aspects of your car’s exterior and interior. You can check for scratches, dents, and rust. It also gives you a chance to look at your tire air pressure (after all, cleaning the rims and tires are important too), and check your engine fluids as you’ll likely top off your wiper fluid and any other fluids that need to be added.
  • Exterior finish – Dirt, grime, and other particles that attach to your car work to damage the finish and paint to your vehicle. By cleaning them off, you stop the erosion process that these particles have started. Washing, polishing and waxing protect the finish (for a few weeks) from those particles coming back and causing damage.
  • Fuel economy – A clean car improves fuel economy. At one time, there was a debate that a dirty vehicle actually was more aerodynamic like the divots on a golf ball. The dirt would act as a barrier and reduce wind resistance. This was proven false by an engineer and the folks at the Discovery Network television show Mythbusters who decided to put the engineer’s findings to the test. During the test, Mythbusters showed that the clean car had 10% better gas mileage than the dirty car.
  • Safety – Dirty windshields and mirrors are a huge safety issue. This is why every gas station you pull into has the window squeegee and of course, every car is equipped with windshield wipers. Some even have rear windshield wipers. Also, debris on a car can be dangerous to other vehicles on the road. Dirt chunks flying off your car can hit another person’s windshield and crack it. Driving 65 miles per hour down the highway can send a ¼” glob of dried mud soaring like a bullet at another car.
  • Resale value – A car is an investment. But in most cases, you’ll only have it for 5 or 6 years. Eventually, you’ll want to trade it in or sell it. To get the maximum value on the car, keeping it clean is important. It saves the paint job and the coating and keeps it looking new.

Preparing to Wash Your Car By Hand

Getting some soap, a towel, and a hose may be some people’s idea of washing a car but taking the process that lightly can actually damage your car.

Companies that develop cleansers for cars didn’t do so to make a buck, they knew that taking the dish soap off of the kitchen sink wasn’t good for the finish of the car. It cleaned the dirt and grime off of it, sure. But it also caused issues like micro-fractures in the paint bonds, which caused scratches and bare spots after time. Especially if the person cleaning had to rub hard to get the dirt off.

Before you start getting all your items ready to clean the car, you’ll want to get some clothes appropriate for washing. Remember, even though you’re using soap, it does have chemicals in it. And if you’re waxing or polishing the car afterward, there are even more chemicals. Not to mention, you’ll be washing off dirt, so chemicals and dirt will warrant some old clothes and maybe some rubber gloves and boots.

For washing the vehicle, you’ll need a few items. These include:

  • Car wash detergent
  • Bug and Tar Remover
  • Brush made for washing cars
  • 3 car wash mitts
  • A few towels
  • A car wash sponge
  • A towel or shammy
  • A hose
  • 2 5-gallon buckets

You’ll want to find a shady area to wash the car. Don’t park in a sunny area. Direct sunlight causes the car to dry too quickly and leaves spots on the paint.

You’ll also want to use some common sense and ensure that your windows, door, hood, and trunk are all closed tightly to avoid water and soap from getting inside.

If possible, you’ll want to collapse your car antenna and pull your windshield wipers away from the glass in both the front and back of the vehicle (if applicable).

Get all the items you need to wash the vehicle together and keep them close by.

Fill both buckets with water (warm works best, but with a hose, you usually get what you get).

Put soap in one of the water buckets.

Now you have a soap bucket and a rinse bucket. The rinse bucket is for the sponge and the mitt, not to dump on the vehicle.

Washing the Car Using the Two Bucket Method

Now that you’ve all of your tools ready you can start washing the car.

First, you’ll want to take your hose and rinse off the car. Don’t use a pressure stream from a nozzle or use your finger at the end of the hose to create a pressure stream. Use the natural flow. The idea isn’t to force dirt off but to loosen it by soaking the grime a bit. Using pressure streams can cause dirt to scratch the paint. Also, aim the hose downward onto the vehicle. Aiming upward can cause water to leak into the windows, doors, and trunk.

When washing the car, you want to start with the wheels. When I wash my vehicle, I have a longer brush that’s designed for the wheels. The rims and tires get very dirty from driving in my area with all the construction, so I like to keep the brushes separate. Remember, you’re not washing the rims and tires at this point, Soap comes later. This is just rinsing and scrubbing to loosen the dirt.

Once you’ve scrubbed the tires and wheels, it’s time to wash the body of the car. Take one of the mitts and dunk it into the soapy water. I like to get really big mitts with long strands to protect the finish of the car. The longer the strands the better.

You’ll want to rub the entire car with the soapy mitt. Soap the car in sections at a time, starting at the top and work your way from end to end, top to bottom. This allows the soap to drip down and loosen dirt on the bottom, which will most likely need more loosening than the top anyway as the dirt on the bottom usually accumulates faster than the top.

Before dunking the mitt in the soapy water each time you need more soap, dunk the mitt in the clean water first, then the soapy water. After 3 or 4 dunks in the clean water, dump it (as the clean water will now be dirty water) and refill it with the hose. This way you’re not wiping soap and dirt all over the car, you’re just wiping soap.

If the mitt becomes too dirty, switch mitts to a clean one.

It’s okay to put extra soap on dirty areas, but don’t rub hard, you could scratch your paint. Let the soap soak in to loosen the dirt and grime.

In some cases, you may find bird droppings, bugs and even tar (in my case I find tar a lot due to all the construction in my area). This is what the Bug and tar remover is for. Spray this on these type of spots and let them soak. Then wipe them clean with a towel. Don’t put a lot of pressure in removing these. Spray multiple times to remove. Remember, this is only for the body of the car. If you have bird droppings or bugs on the windshield, they should wash off with the soap.

Once you’ve soaped up the car, and have tackled the grime, hose off the car. Hose off the vehicle from top to bottom. Use the sponge as you’re hosing off the car to help with trouble spots. Remember, keep your clean water bucket full of clean water to dunk the sponge.

As you’re hosing the soap off, scrub the tires and rims again to remove the excess soap and grime.

Once the car is washed, hose off the undercarriage of the car to get any loose dirt. This doesn’t need to be thorough, but enough to catch loose dirt.

Finally, use the shammy or a towel to dry off the car. Do this as quickly as possible to avoid water spots.


Washing your car using this 2 bucket method will minimize the dirt that’s left on your car when you finish cleaning.

Investing in the cleaning tools may sound a bit expensive, but they’re reusable and a “touch-less” car wash averages around $10 each time. You’ll make that back with 3 or 4 washes.

Cleaning your car every 2 weeks (or more often if your car gets really dirty) will keep your car looking good, prevent rust, and retain the maximum retail value.

A clean car is a happy car.

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