6 Car Washing Mistakes to Avoid
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
With everything that has been going on lately, keeping your vehicle clean and maintaining the exterior has probably not been your top priority. Now that restrictions are easing, it's a good time to knock that out either DIY style or by taking it to professionals *cough* Eco Car Spa *cough*! Whether you enjoy the task of washing your vehicle or see it as a somewhat pointless task that will have to be repeated in a few weeks; you might be surprised to learn that it's quite easy to do it incorrectly and possibly even cause damage.
Washing their vehicle is one of the most common ways unsuspecting owners damage their vehicles and even reduce the resale value of the vehicle. Done incorrectly or without proper products can result in scratches to your clear coat, diminishing the shine and appearance of the vehicle. However, the good news is with the correct equipment and proper technique or by using the services of a trained professional you can avoid damaging your vehicle. Below we outline some of the most common mistakes we see when people bring us their vehicle.
Mistake 1: Using a Machine/Tunnel Car Wash
We've said it hundred times and we'll say it again; automatic car washes should be avoided if you're wanting to protect and preserve the exterior of your vehicle. The brushes and cloth spinners are often abrasive and/or they collect dirt and grit from previous vehicles that are then rubbed on your vehicle and can leave scratches or very fine swirls which distort and dull the clear coat and are very noticeable in direct sunlight.
Take the time to hand wash your vehicle yourself. In order to do this, you'll want to invest in quality supplies, do research on the proper methods, and allot time at least 2x a month to hand wash and dry your vehicle. Or find a place you trust (that uses the correct supplies and techniques) to take on this maintenance for you. At Eco Car Spa, we offer maintenance washes on a weekly or bi-weekly schedule at a discount. We're able to do this because we know we're the ones working on your vehicle and we're doing it regularly so the labor needed is reduced because your vehicle is not being neglected for weeks or months at a time.
Mistake 2: Washing your Vehicle in Hot, Direct Sunlight
I can see you rolling your eyes with this mistake, since summer has definitely arrived here in Texas; but hear me out. Washing in direct sunlight on a hot day will most likely result in hard to remove water spots due to the water drying faster than you. Or worse, the soap drying before you're able to rinse which makes it much harder to remove. When we are mobile detailing, our appointments are scheduled back to back in order to fit everyone in. This inevitably results in having midday appointments with little to no shade. We're able to avoid this mistake because we have more than one person working on the vehicle which means water and soap are not drying before we're able to properly rinse and dry it.
For your health, most importantly, but also to help you avoid this mistake, DIY your vehicle during a cooler part of the day either early morning or late in the evening. This allows you to stay cooler and will make the car washing process less frantic. If you're unable to avoid direct sunlight, work in small areas around your car instead of doing all of the washing in one step. This is definitely more time consuming and often means you have to touch-up as a last step but it will help avoid the water and/or soap drying too fast.
If this sounds miserable, we're here for you! When you visit our Stonebriar Centre location, your car is washed in the parking garage out of direct sunlight. As mentioned above, when we are mobile we take the proper precautions to avoid the direct sunlight causing problems.
Mistake 3: Using Household Cleaners or Abrasive Brushes/Sponges
Household cleaners are not appropriate for your vehicle, especially the exterior. Most of them are far too harsh and are meant to eliminate grease or other stuck on gunk and using it on your vehicle is almost guaranteed to cause some damage. Don't get us started on using brushes or abrasive sponges, yikes! All of the items in the bucket above are NOT for your vehicle. Put it back under the sink and walk away!
Take the time to do your research! There are tons of great products out there specifically designed for your vehicle's exterior and interior. It's so important to find products that have good reviews and are used by professionals. You'll also need to take the time research and learn proper techniques. There are lots of YouTube videos by professionals teaching this exact thing. Worth the time and effort if this is something you're wanting to do long term.
If you don't have the time and energy to dedicate to the research and education, we're here for you! Our staff is trained in the proper techniques, and have YEARS of experience. We use only the best products to protect your vehicle and maintain it's value.
Mistake 4: Using only 1 Bucket or Reusing Microfiber Towels for Different Purposes
You've got your proper soaps, microfiber towel/s, and a bucket and you're ready to go! Not so fast, using only one bucket of water means after the first rinse, you're using dirty/grimey water to clean the rest of your vehicle. Which you guessed it, will cause damage. Also reusing microfiber towels after they become soiled or being dropped on the ground is also a ticket for damage.
Make sure you're using at least 2 buckets, one for soap and clean water and one for rinsing. Technically, you'll also want a separate bucket for wheels/tires. You'll also need to use what feels like a million microfiber towels. Good news is you can buy a large pack of microfiber towels for a decent price. We always recommend the giant pack at Costco that's under $20.
Mistake 5: Scraping off Bird Droppings or Bug Guts
Nothing is worse than finding annoying droppings, bug guts, or specks of dirt on your otherwise clean car. However scraping them off dry without using the proper supplies will most definitely damage the clear coat. Also bad, in case you're using the method I did in college, using a paper towel and water. Surprisingly, paper towels are rather abrasive and your still essentially scraping and rubbing the contaminants into your clear coat.
If possible, using a microfiber towel to wipe of the droppings or guts before it dries. Let's be honest, how often does that scenario happen? Otherwise, we recommend soaking a microfiber towel in warm water and laying it on the mess for at least 10 minutes. You should then be able to carefully wipe it off without causing damage. However, if you have more than one spot it's probably best to suck it up and wash the entire vehicle.
Mistake 6: Using a Machine Buffer without Proper Training
You've watched all the YouTube videos and bought more supplies than you could possibly need. You're an expert and ready to go, right?!? A common mistake we often see and help correct is a well intentioned DIYer or an untrained "detailer" using a machine buffer/polisher resulting in buffer trails or holograms. Usually, this type of job looks good enough in indirect light but as soon as direct sunlight hits it you can see the damage that was done. The good news is this can be fixed by a professional.
Skip this step for DIY and take it to a professional instead. On average, this only needs to be done 1-2x a year. The cost to pay a professional outweighs the investment in equipment, supplies, and learning curve of doing this own your own.