New car - cleaning & waxing advice.
August 27, 2007 7:00 AM   Subscribe

I just bought a new 07 Accord and I want to clean and wax the car myself. In the past I have done the automatic car was thing. What type of wax? Should I buy a buffer? How often do I need to do this?

Also... How do you clean off bugs from road trips without abrading the paint?

I live in MN (no heated garage) so what the hell am I supposed to do in the winter? I am assuming that if I go down the path of hand washing, I don't want to switch to the automatic scrub car washes during the winter, right?
posted by rdurbin to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I clean my car with this (sold in the UK as Flash, but identical to the US product). Easiest product ever. Works perfectly. I also use Rain-X on the windshield, which makes rainwater just bead away.
posted by essexjan at 7:11 AM on August 27, 2007

If you've never hand-polished/waxed your car before, I'd suggest avoiding using a buffer at this time. You can easily wreck the finish on your car if you don't know what you're doing.

I occasionally use the Mr.Clean unit that essexjan suggests. Surprisingly, it works as advertised. One caveat...if you are on a well that has a high mineral content (or simply have very hard water) you will go through the Mr.Clean filters very quickly. In addition, that big pistol can be quite clumsy to use. Other than that, it's a good product.

For bugs and other crud, there are liquid bug and tar removers that you can buy for just this purpose. Use before the overall wash.

So, now the car is clean. What now? Polish and wax. You should, generally, use a separate polish and wax. You really needn't do this with every wash (depending how often you wash, of course). Generally, I'd do a complete polish-and-wax 3 or 4 times a year, with touch-up waxing in-between. But, then, I'm not as enthusiastic about it as others are.

Winter, unfortunately, generally means you're going to have to put-up with a grungy car more often than not. Just make sure that you do a thorough wash/polish/wax as late into fall as possible, just before winter hits. Make sure you get a good wax coating down. That should see you through the winter well enough.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:31 AM on August 27, 2007

I've tried a lot of waxes and have just switched Turtle Wax Ice. You can apply it very fast, even in direct sun light, and you just gently wipe it off after 5 - 10 minutes of it sitting on the car. Their car wash solution is really nice too. The reflection is quite impressive.

I wash and wax my car every 1 - 2 weeks. Most people don't do that. Most people I know that are really into keeping their cars nice don't use buffers either.

If you want to get really into it the first time I recommend doing this:
Wash your car. Soap the whole thing with a dish detergent soap solution (this will remove any pre-existing wax) Rinse. Clay bar your whole car. Polish. Wax.

Your car will be smoother than glass and look like it too.
posted by zephyr_words at 8:29 AM on August 27, 2007

Best car wax according to Consumer Reports: Black Magic Wet Shine Liquid Wax and Turtle Wax Carnauba Car Wax T-6.
posted by probablysteve at 8:36 AM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I am obsessive about my car, and it's not nearly as nice as yours.

Some newer 'automatic' car washes are touchless, FWIW. Maybe just for the winter. I'm in New Hampshire. I find that the snow will do a great job cleaning the car off by itself. But you're right, you can't exactly hose it down when it's -5 out.

In the meantime! Invest in some quality tools. You'll need a hose and bucket (duh), a good spray nozzle (one that doesn't leak all over you!), a good sponge or two (or a bunch of cloths--use clean ones so you don't scratch!), some sort of soap (unless your car has stuff really stuck on it, you don't need anything particular... I'm wanting to try the Rain-X carwash liquid, which is supposed to have the water bead off)...

Make sure you hose the car down first, wash a section, and then rinse it off again. When you're done, dry the car or you'll have water spots everywhere and it'll look worse. (Also, do not even think about waxing if your car isn't 100% dry.) I've had good luck with the California Water Blade (I think it was like $7 at Target, the linked store is way too much).

I'd hold off on the polish. The principle is that it's slightly abrasive, so it's great for cleaning up old finishes. (I had amazing results using the cheapest polish I could find on a 10-year-old car I'm getting ready to sell.) But on an '07, keep the polish at bay!

I've heard it said that the harder the wax is to apply (and, indirectly, the harder the wax is), the better it is. I'm in love with a liquid wax, Turtle Wax Platinum Ultra Gloss Liquid. (I'd bathe in the stuff if I could!) I've never tried anything else, so it's not necessarily a comparison as much as just a data point of something that works great and smells even better. Definitely wax by hand. They make 'applicators' that have a handle and a pad with a cloth on the bottom, which will make things easier.

Everyone forgets the tires! Clean them last, and take some time to clean the rims very thoroughly. Neglected, they'll get very nasty very quickly, and become really hard to clean. (Tar, dirt, brake dust....) If you take good care of them, though, they'll really stand out. I've also started using ArmorAll on the tire; it doesn't shine as much as just look blacker and cleaner. (I was never a fan of the super-glossy tires...) Not to mention the fact that it's also a protectant.

Seconding Rain-X. You have no idea how amazing it is until you've tried it. The water just beads right off; I rarely even need the windshield wipers if I'm driving. (The key seems to be to make sure that the windshield is spotless, and then apply it twice for best results. I think the bottle actually mentions the double-application now.)

And don't forget to do the inside at the same time. Just a quick vacuum, picking up of accumulated garbage, and a wipe with ArmorAll will do wonders. (Tip for cleaning windows: use newspaper instead of paper towels.)

I wax about monthly. This is probably total overkill, but I actually enjoy the process.

As for the bugs: Bug & Tar remover. The stuff I use is made by Turtle Wax (I think) and actually has a wax, too, but that's not at all necessary. Spray it on, let it sit for a minute, and wipe it off. You might need a vigorous scrubbing, but they'll come off. Doing it regularly, and waxing, will make it relatively easy to maintain a bug-free car.

Oh, and while I love washing my car by hand and am positive that it's superior, I'd still take my chances with an automatic car wash if it were the winter and my car was really dirty.

Okay, this is really long... Hope it helps!
posted by fogster at 8:40 AM on August 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

I didn't think to add: when you're taking the time to do a really thorough car wash, you might as well check some other things. Check your tire pressure, oil level, washer fluid level... You needn't be an auto mechanic (I'm far from it!) to check the basics like this.
posted by fogster at 8:43 AM on August 27, 2007

I'll chime in for the non-obsessive team. I wash my car when it looks dirty, and I wax it by hand once a year. Generally speaking, I'd wax when you notice that water is no longer beading up on your hood. My car is a 97 and still looks decent. Still runs just fine too. YMMV.

The salt from the roads in the winter is very bad for your undercarriage. I'd take advantage whenever you get a 40 degree day in the winter and at least run the car through a touch free car wash to rinse the salt off.
posted by COD at 8:52 AM on August 27, 2007

Be careful on the automatic car washes. "touchless" does a great job, but it's the equivalent to a mild chemical peel every time. Most modern brush car washes will not scratch the paint (most bristle washes have been retired), but I'd suggest looking at the cloth and making sure it isn't moldly/crusty/etc. You can go to a brush wash - especially long tunnels, that have good dryer systems at the end - weekly in the winter.
posted by notsnot at 9:12 AM on August 27, 2007

« Older Compensaton for new job turns out to be 50%...   |   The Pre-Emptive Break-Up Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.