There are two main killers of vehicle paintwork. The first is UV, which for some, is unavoidable. The second is neglect.
We’ve all done it – dropped a sponge and continued to use it, dried paintwork with a dirty old chamois, or even committed the cardinal sin; used dishwashing liquid instead of a dedicated car wash solution.
All of these no-nos take their toll on a car's paintwork, especially darker hues. Bad technique creates micro-scratching, or as the industry calls them, ‘swirl marks’. This fine marring reduces lustre, and makes a car's finish appear dull.
Caring for your car goes beyond looks. It has the power to improve its residual value, and possibly earn you a buck or two more on the private market.
We’ve decided to put together a quick guide on the ins-and-outs of cleaning your car, with the help of the experts at Bowden’s Own.
Bowden’s Own is an Australian owned mob, who manufactures the bulk of its products here in Australia. More importantly, its car cleaning products are biodegradable, therefore designed to flow into our waterways safely. We have a unique biodiversity here in Australia – one we need to do more for.
Brett Hobbs, chief detailer at Bowden’s Own, kindly lent his expertise, and some products, to craft a three part series. We’ll be covering off tips and tricks for exterior washing, drying and tidying, snow foaming, as well as interior cleaning.
Today, let’s stick to washing, drying, and tidying your car’s exterior.
Wash technique is critical to ensuring your car’s paintwork remains glossy. The best way to wash a car is with the two bucket method. According to Brett, “This is one of the simplest ways to reduce the chances of inflicting swirls and scratches”.
For this exercise, we’ll need two buckets (a third is optional), a hose, car wash solution, and a wash pad.
On top of this technique, you can go one step further by introducing grit guards in your wash buckets. They help trap small dirt particles in the bottom of the bucket, which keeps the water clean during washing.
Whether you invest in grit guards is up to you, but one other necessity is a dirty car. In our case, we have a grubby McLaren 720S that needed a quick tub.
Start by washing the wheels. It’s recommended to have a dedicated, third bucket for this procedure. If not, thoroughly rinse it out, before using it again. In our case, we also used a Bowden’s wheel brush, and found it saved time, and reduced effort.
“Our long brush was designed to also clean the wheel barrels too, and even features a clever hand guard, so you don’t bash your knuckles up against the wheel,” added Brett.
Once complete, rinse, and get on with washing the body.
Begin filling one bucket with nothing but water, and the other, with the recommended dose of car wash solution. We were using Bowden’s Own’s Nanolicous wash, an Aussie-developed solution that adds a polymer-based layer of UV protection as you use it.
Always follow the instructions when mixing car wash, as too much can actually be detrimental to waxes or coatings attached to your vehicle's surface.
Brett mentioned “Our Nanolicious Wash is a lubricating and concentrated car wash. 30ml is all you need in a 15-litre bucket for a pleasurable washing experience.”
Another tip is to begin filling the car wash solution bucket with just a slow stream of water. Once it nears full, flick your hose gun attachment to 'jet', and mix it up. This creates a watery, slick solution that’ll act as a lubricant on the surface, further preventing swirl marks as you wash.
Start by hosing your car, and your wash pad of choice. Try not to use a sponge, as its coarseness will introduce swirl marks. Instead, opt for a microfibre washing pad.
Brett said; “We have a number of safe microfibre wash tools, starting from less than $20. Pick the one that suits you the best and is the easiest for you to use.”
Next, dip your wash pad into the solution, and gently wipe one panel at a time, with a consistent left to right motion. Do not apply pressure – instead, let the pad glide across the surface, picking up dirt along the way.
About halfway through cleaning the panel, check the underside of the pad – if it's dirty, stop, and rinse it. If it’s still clean, proceed and finish the panel, checking its condition as you go.
When it's ready to rinse, dip the dirty wash pad into the plain water bucket, and squeeze out the dirt. Once the sponge is clean, dip back in the wash solution, and carry on. Rinse and repeat.
If your car is filthy, you may be dipping the wash pad more often. The name of the game here is to not wipe a dirty wash pad over the car, as this build-up will cause scratches. A clean wash pad is a happy one.
Rinsing and drying
Like the sponge, the chamois is dead. Brett mentioned that “microfibre drying towels are a huge step forward in the car detailing world. They’re super absorbent and won’t scratch the paint like a chamois can.”
Soft, cheaper, and easier to fold when dry, Microfibre drying towels are less harsh on your car’s surface. They can even be machine washed too, to keep them looking and performing like new.
If you prefer the idea of a more regular feeling chamois however, Bowden’s Own does make a modern-day take on an old faithful.
Before drying, rinse the car. Instead of using the ‘jet’ setting on your hose gun to smash the suds off, use a slow, steady stream of water.
Brett mentioned “using a delicate stream actually helps carry the bulk of water off the surface, meaning there’s less to dry with an appropriate towel”. Clever!
Once rinsed, begin to dry. Like the washing technique, let the towel glide over the surface, picking up the water as it goes.
There are numerous drying aids available, such as Bowden’s Own’s ‘Boss Gloss’. A quick spritz of this product onto your towel before drying turns it into a hygroscopic water-absorbing machine.
Again, how far you want to go with products is entirely your choice, but at a minimum, throw away your old chamois and invest in a quality drying towel. Generic branded towels can be purchased from just $15, and will last years, if properly stored.
Another cheeky shortcut is to first use a leaf blower, to dry the car as much as possible, and remove trapped water from any crevices . “This is a great way to remove water from all the nooks and crannies." said Brett.
Once the surface is dry, open all doors, and boot, and dry the jambs. Be wary that such areas are often dusty and dirty, so try to use a second, dedicated cloth when wiping these areas. I find old towels, or T-shirts, work well.
Some modern vehicles, especially SUVs, are covered in black plastic. Hard-wearing and resistant to stone chips, there're plenty of reasons why this material is used on bumpers, and around wheel arches.
However, due to being an uncoated material, that material readily suffers from UV degradation. The sun is strong in Australia, and has the tendency to age exterior plastics prematurely, turning them grey, in the process.
Given it's an Aussie-centric issue, there were no previous solutions to help mitigate the problem. The age-old trick of applying WD40 has its limitations, and usually lasts a week, at best.
The team at Bowden’s Own saw a gap, and developed a plastic dye suitable for Australian conditions, called 'Mr. Black'. As our McLaren 720S featured carbon fibre in lieu of black plastic, it wasn’t the best candidate to test the product on.
A quick call-around the Sydney CarAdvice office yielded two ideal candidates: a 100-Series Toyota LandCruiser with awfully faded bumpers, and our resident photographer’s N60-series Toyota 4Runner, also with sun-damaged trims.
The kit comes with everything you need, including a pair of gloves. The process is that easy, we all had a go: Clean the area using the prep solution and cloth provided in the kit, then paint the dye on, with any one of the utensils also included. Any overlapping or heaping can be wiped off, and levelled.
As you can see from the half-half photos, the LandCruiser's bumper came up great. Two months have since passed, and the product is still holding up well.
It's a great trick that can be applied to a car pre-sale, in order to make the best first impression with a new potential custodian.
In our next piece, resident off-road guru Sam Purcell will take you through the basics of cleaning your car’s interior.
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