Washing your car yourself is an inexpensive way to make it look good, but it's very easy to accidentally damage your car instead of protecting it. While waxing doesn't have to be involved - you can always just wash and dry without doing anything fancy - even those simple procedures are risky in the wrong hands.
That's not to say there is something wrong with washing your car yourself. But be aware of the pitfalls, because the wrong move (in some cases, literally the wrong movement) can damage your car's paint job.
Always Start With a Wash
No matter whether you're going to just wash the car or do the full wash-dry-detail-wax procedure, always start with a wash. You have to get rid of as much dust and dirt as you can. A lot of the material that's on your car is merely stuck to the surface of the clear coat, but some of it is actually embedded in the clear coat. And even the stuck stuff can etch lines if moved just the right way.
Washing the car with a proper car soap and then patting dry the leftover water will remove those stuck and embedded materials. If you try to do anything to the car without washing first, you risk adding long, obvious scratches to the clear coat. You might not see a distinct gouge, but you'll see those wispy lines that never seem to go away.
Always Move in Straight Lines
Whether you're sudsing up the car, drying it after you've rinsed it, rubbing it with a clay bar for detailing, or adding new wax or sealant, always move in a straight line. Don't use a circular rubbing motion, because that can create swirl marks that are really small scratches. Move back and forth in straight lines.
The problem is that the sponges, cloths, and bars can pick up small pieces of grit blown onto the car. No matter how good your wash job is, the wind and general atmospheric dust are always present and can always drop onto the car. Moving back and forth in straight lines is best because that minimizes the risk of creating those swirls.
Never Use Products Not Made for Cars
Always use car soap rather than something like dish soap; car soap will preserve your car's wax or sealant job. Other soaps and detergents can remove that protective coating, leaving the paint open to potential peeling and other degeneration.
Chamois is best for drying; it's very soft and absorbent. Also, that clay bar should be an actual auto detailing clay bar, not regular clay. They look similar, but regular clay is not gentle enough to really smooth out and remove those last little bits of dirt without messing up your car's paint job.
Never Attempt to Rub Out a Scratch
Washing and using a clay bar will not remove scratches. They will not fill in the gaps in the clear coat. Do not rub your car with anything, thinking that more pressure will erase the scratch. You only risk making things look worse.Never Split the Job Between Days.
Never Split the Job Between Days
Once you start your washing job, complete it on the same day. In other words, if you plan to wash, use clay, and wax, do it all on the same day. If you wait, then more dust and dirt, not to mention bird droppings, can settle on the car, increasing the risk of more scratches.
If you've accidentally created swirl marks or scratches and want to fix those up, give us a call here at Sam's Automotive Reconditioning Center. We can perfect paint jobs, fix dents, and make your car look like it's got a fresh coat. Take care of your car with our help.