General Exterior – Wash
1. Use plenty of water. If possible, rinse the car down with a hose first (low pressure so as to wash off grit etc.. without scratching the paintwork).
2. Use a car specific soap (NOT washing up liquid). I use Triplewax Car Shampoo (available from Amazon or eBay, if you don’t have a good local car parts store). This is cheap, but effective. Enure to soak tough dirt (bird poo, tar marks etc..) rather than rubbing them too heavily.
3. Soak the windscreen particularly, to ensure all dirt is removed. Clean wiper blades with the same mix after windows and paintwork are complete. Wipers perform much better when clean!
General Exterior – Wax
A decent wax can make a real difference to your cars appearance, with a very satisfying shine! I use Meguiar’s wax products, though I accept this takes a good amount of time to apply and buff up. Auto Glym is a quicker product to apply and buff in my experience, though doesn’t seem to last as long for me.
T-Cut, Colour Cut, and GS-27 are all designed to remove very light scratches. Don’t expect any miracles, but if you have very light scratches, they maybe able to make them a lot less visible, by softening the edges.
Glass cleaner is a must, particularly on the windscreen. I used to simply wash the windscreen and windows while washing down the paintwork. But a quick wipe down of windows, and screen, after your normal wash, will make for a smoother wipe in the rain, reducing smears and glare.
This said, ensure your glass cleaner is ammonia-free as ammonia shouldn’t be inhaled (and certainly not used in a confined area like a car). Ammonia also dries leather and rubber, so will damage seals.
Brake dust gets baked onto hubcaps or wheels, and can be extremely difficult to remove. I found Auto Glym’s wheel cleaning product to be the best for removal, though all wheel cleaning products are very corrosive (to my knowledge), and therefore need to be removed thoroughly and quickly from the hubcap/wheel to prevent them doing damage themselves. This said, I recommend in-frequent use of a wheel cleaning product, say every 6-8 weeks.
I used to spray a tyre blackening agent/lubricating product onto my tyre walls after they had dried from a wash. I convinced myself that this extended the life of the tyres, and improved their look. In reality, given I drive 100 miles each day, the effect was short lasting, and my tyres have never been at risk of aging before I’d worn the tred through!! The only real benefit here was that overspraying onto the wheel would coat it with a layer that would reduce the ability for brake dust to stick. I don’t believe there is any real benefit of these products for those simply seeking to clean their car!
If you do choose to use such a product, be very careful not to cover ANY of the contact area of the tyre, as these products add a coating to the rubber, and will therefore reduce stopping distance if applied to the contact area of the tyre. Only therefore ever apply to the wall of the tyre (the vertical element – the side of the tyre!)
When in a car parts store, I bought some “Back to Black” one day (many other black-out products exist). I was amazed when I applied it. I just hadn’t realised how much my “black” exterior trim had lightened. A simply application of “Back to Black” made a huge difference on my silver car, increasing the contrast, and making the trim look almost new. I would warn to wear gloves and old clothing when applying, as the colour will heavily stain your hands or clothing. It will however wipe straight off your paintwork, so I must admit, I don’t worry about being too accurate, I prefer to get into all the gaps and corners, and then wipe it off the paintwork when dry.
I find a damp microfibre cloth works like magic on interior trim. No soaps or chemicals required. These can be bought very cheaply, and used in the house too (I must admit I keep car cleaning ones separate, as they tend to pickup oils/grease).