Pretty On The Outside (in Canada).
August 25, 2018 8:24 AM   Subscribe

For the first time in my life, I am interested in cleaning the exterior of my car and protecting it. Searching online leads me to either completely fanatical people with a lot of spare time and money, or people who seem to be shills for various products. The "car care" aisle in the store contain about 500 different products that I don't know if I need. Any reasonable advice?

Louise is a 2013 Mustang with her original factory paint. Her paint is a bright green metallic tri-coat - "Gotta' Have It Green". She came with some minor paint chips, one area with some rusty bubbly paint, and one area on the lower plastic (?) skirt panel bumper thingie (?) that has a full-scrape - all of which I'll eventually fix (once I figure out how best to do that without repainting everything? or get some touch up paint? WHO KNOWS.) Otherwise the paint is in phenomenal condition. No whorls, no scratches, and super-duper shiny pretty.

She will be driven year 'round in Southern Ontario, so I need to keep her in shape for various weather - heat, cold, rain, snow, ice, etc. She lives outside - no garage - which I realize adds some challenge here. She's not at-risk of sap or more than the occasional bird poop. She gets a lot of sunshine (no real shade where she's parked at home or work). I drive her pretty much every day.

I am inherently lazy and not looking for a way to fill spare time, so something that requires me to do work on this every weekend for the rest of my life is not going to happen, but I am willing to invest time/effort monthly/occasionally. I'd like to prevent rust. I'd like to keep her paint bright and shiny. I'd like to protect her as best as possible from "the elements".

Do I need undercoating? Oil spraying? She has never been undercoated (as far as anyone can tell) and the oil undercoating / oil body treating places I've searched won't do it for a car older than 4 years.. for reasons I don't fully understand. I feel like I need oil undercoating to protect her in the winter? Maybe?

Do I wash her by hand with my garden hose and.. some product that you'd recommend? Do I drive her through a touch-free car wash (my gut says no)? Do I take her to a DIY car wash bay and use their special hose + some product you'd recommend? Does she need undercoat oil spraying? Do cars actually need waxing?

Basically, please tell me how to take care of the exterior of my car (including the underside) - while balancing effort, cost, and with (ideally) specific methods and product recommendations available in Canada.
posted by VioletU to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
1. Touch free car washes tend to give my Honda Fit mini scratches and don’t even really get the top clean all the well since it’s so low so now I just wash my hand
2. It’s good to do a car wash wash after winter to get off salt that may be on the underside of the car.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:18 AM on August 25, 2018

Get your car washed and then waxed (by you or a professional) before or after major seasonal changes.

I do it here in southern California before intense, baking late summer weather and before our increasingly infrequent winter rains. I think the wax preserves the paint somewhat and protects it a bit from the elements.

I am unwilling to spend an hour on waxing it, so I pay someone else $40 (US) to do it.
posted by Temeraria at 9:34 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

You're probably not going to be able to wash the car in the winter anyway, because everything will be frozen.

BUT: When it's just chilly, but not yet frozen: Fill up your soap bucket with hot water from inside. That way you can wash your car without losing feeling in your fingers, at least for awhile.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:51 AM on August 25, 2018

The laziest option is to take your car to a "Car Detailing" place. You'll get what you pay for, but they will thoroughly clean the outside and inside of your car.

Reputable places will also recommend any "cherry on top" options.
posted by porpoise at 10:41 AM on August 25, 2018

I’m in Southern Ontario and have a 2006 Mini. In the winter I use a car wash at an Esso station - don’t know if that’s good or bad but I like that the underside of the car gets washed.

When the weather is nice I use Goclean Waterless Wash Originally from Kitchener and now headquartered in downtown Toronto. It used to be sold at Canadian Tire but I think they discontinued it. I ordered online last time. Originally I used the waterless spray. You must follow the directions exactly but it is very easy to use. I think their branded microfibre cloths are worth the money. I also find their product for laundering the cloths absolutely amazing. Occasionally I use the interior cleaner. Recently I tried Rinseless Wash that you dilute in a bucket of water and the results were even better than the spray. Sooo shiny! Makes the wheels look great. No wax needed, so the whole job takes hardly any time. I also like that none of their products make the plastic trim look shiny (How do they do that???) I’ll use the spray if the car isn’t really dirty.
posted by strasbourg at 12:15 PM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the recommendation, strasbourg! I ordered a bunch of the GoClean stuff (directly from the manufacturer's website) and finally got a chance to try it out today. I went with the Rinseless Wash today (but purchased the waterless, as well) and it worked really, really, really well - other than the fact that my arms were unprepared for the process of cleaning a car. It has a lovely smell, too. I had a few tar spots that I used the spot cleaner on - for the most part, it all came off. Thanks for this recommendation - my car looks super shiny and great!
posted by VioletU at 3:31 PM on September 9, 2018

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