How to wash your car like a pro

Sharon Lee
Sharon Lee

Whether you’ve just bought your car or had it for a while, regularly washing your car is a great way to keep your car looking as clean and shiny as the day you got it. It’s an easy maintenance job you can do at home, or at a self-service car wash. You might even find running a wet sponge over the contours of your ride therapeutic too.

With the proper technique and the right tools, you’ll have your car looking fresh and streak-free. Here’s Carma’s automotive specialist Davey Chua’s tips and tricks, and follow along our step-by-step instructions on how to wash your car like a pro.

How do I avoid streaks when wiping my car?

There’s no better feeling than putting those final touches after washing your car and getting that streak-free finish. “Using a microfibre cloth is the best place to start with,” advises Davey, “then wiping from side to side and not rushing through the process can prevent streaks or swirl marks on the car.”

Are acid-based products good for my car?

There’s plenty of cleaning products out there from wheel scrubs to glass cleaners. It’s a lot to choose from and easy to get lost in. You may have also come across certain acid-based cleaning products and wondered whether they’re better for your car. “Acid-based cleaning products should be used with caution or not at all, as they can damage your car’s paintwork,” says Davey, “they’re usually used to remove mineral deposits or brake dust so if you’re just washing your car at home you won’t need it.”

What you’ll need:

  • Two large buckets
  • Car wash solution
  • Wheel brush
  • Sponge / wash mitt
  • Clay bar
  • Chamois / microfibre cloths

1. Pre-wash prep and rinse the car

Park your car in the shade if possible to avoid the car drying too quickly and leaving dry marks. Start by rinsing the entire car thoroughly to loosen dirt and debris with a water hose or pressure washer.

2. Use a clay bar to remove stubborn spots on the surface

Flatten the clay bar by massaging it and run it across the surface of your car, especially the front and bonnet where bugs and dirt can collect while you’re on highways. After running through one panel, check the bar for dirt, then fold and knead to use a clean surface on the next panel.

3. Prepare your buckets

Fill both buckets with water then pour car wash liquid into one of the buckets. One for rinsing, and one for washing. That way you have an easy spot to rinse off any dirt you’ve picked up while washing, and not spread it all over the car again.

4. Wash from top to bottom

Dip your wash mitt or sponge into the soapy water bucket and start washing your car from top to bottom. Wash each panel one by one, side to side gently to avoid swirl marks and protect your paintwork.

After you’re done with one panel, give it a rinse to prevent the soapy water from drying on the car while you’re working on the next panels. Then rinse your mitt in the clean bucket before moving to the next.

5. Wash the wheels

After washing and rinsing the panels, it’s time for the wheels. Use your wash mitt or soft wheel brush to scrub the rims and spokes thoroughly.

6. Rinse off

Once you’re done with the car body and wheels, give the car a final rinse starting from top to bottom. To make drying easier and faster, direct your stream at an angle so the water sheets off the panels.

7. Dry with a chamois or microfibre towel

Sounds strange, but you’ll need to dampen the chamois before drying the car. A damp chamois absorbs faster than a dry one, so take your chamois and dampen it with some clean water before running it across the panels of your car.

Squeeze out as much water as you can after each panel, keep going until the entire car is dry, then you’re done!

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