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How to care for your car

23rd May 2024
Ethan Jupp

Cleaning your car can be immensely laborious but also incredibly satisfying, it's a process that you can take to any number of extremes. Car washing ranges from the less-than-advised brooming and spraying at an automated facility, to paying thousands for the most reputable detailers that can work out the depth of your paint with lasers, have a cabinet full of polishing implements, and will have your car looking better-than-new by the time they’re done.

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But how does the average car owner go about doing the best possible job of washing their own car? Well, a bucket, a brush and some washing up liquid ain’t gonna cut it. We’re working with eBay to show you how it’s done with millions of parts and accessories from trusted brands including top-of-the-range products that you can use to care for your car.

This is our step-by-step guide to achieve a great result, without going down the rabbit hole and totally emptying your wallet. Let us know how you get on.

What you’ll need

While the goal isn’t to go too mad money-wise, there are a few bits and bobs you’ll need:

Products

  • Wheel cleaner
  • fallout remover
  • Tyre cleaner
  • All purpose cleaner (for unpainted plastics)
  • Citrus pre-wash
  • Snow foam
  • Shampoo
  • Quick detailer
  • Glass cleaner
  • Tyre dressing

Tools

  • Three buckets with grit guards
  • Soft wash mitts
  • Microfibre cloths
  • Soft drying towel
  • Barrel brush
  • Arch brush
  • Body brush
  • Pressurised easy sprayer
  • Pressure washer with shampoo/snow foam attachments
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Wheels and arches

Cleaning your car the wrong way can cause damage if you're not careful – start in the wrong place and you'll drag muck across delicate paintwork. Our advice is to start with the dirtiest areas first.

And the dirtiest areas are always your wheels and wheel arches. Most comprehensive detailing kits should come with a range of brushes and mitts for cleaning your wheels, and you'll want to keep those separate to avoid cross contamination.

First give them a rinse, then spray them down with wheel cleaner and wash with a mitt on the faces. Use a barrel brush to get in between the spokes and in the barrels. Then spray fallout remover to loosen up the remaining caked-on brake dust and other road detritus. Your choice of brush should ideally reflect your wheels – Nylon isn’t the best for more delicate diamond-cut wheels, for instance. Get that brush all the way in your spokes and to the outside of the wheel barrel. Gently spray with the pressure washer and get a brush in between the wheels and arches too.

If you’re feeling really detail-oriented, you can use special products to clean your tyres, too. Once all are sprayed, scrubbed and rinsed, the look of your car should already be transformed, but we’re only just getting started…

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Pre-wash

This is the most important bit if you're hoping to achieve a truly beautiful end result. It'll also minimise the risk of paint damage as much as possible, because you need to loosen and remove as much dirt as possible before actually touching the car physically.

With a pressurised easy sprayer and the citrus pre-wash – mixed with water – spray the car down top to bottom, front to back. Then, using your pressure washer with its reservoir attachment, coat the whole thing in snow foam. The end result should be a very satisfying, totally whited-out car that you now need to leave to dwell. The pre-wash and snow foam should be soaking into all the caked-on muck, loosening it and ideally lifting it off.

While that’s happening, take another small soft brush and go over the details of your car like the various badges, nooks and crannies. These are areas that otherwise might not get the perfect clean if you don’t.

After a few minutes, the pre-wash and snow foam should have done its work. Depending on how dirty your car is, increase both the amount you spray and the time you leave it… but the difference will be profound after the rinse regardless.

When you rinse your car off it'll really hit home just how dirty it was, and that's all muck that you’d have otherwise been rubbing into your paint if you hadn’t bothered with this first step.

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The main wash

Now, with your buckets of shampoo-mix warm water – complete with grit guards – and wash mitts, you’ll be looking to get on with the main wash.

The key to a good wash, while once again minimising the risk of damage, is keeping the areas of the car you clean segmented, separated and ordered. Starting with the cleanest areas which are generally from the top down, scrub one panel at a time using soft pressure to reduce the chance of dragging remaining contaminants. You should do this in straight horizontal lines.

Start with the roof first, boot lid and bonnet, before hitting the upper doors, front wings and beltline, before moving further down the side of the car and to the bumpers. Of course, you’ll be regularly rinsing in your second bucket and re-dipping in your shampoo bucket throughout the process. Rinse off the area you just washed too before starting on the next, so the shampoo doesn’t dry on the car.

Rinse the whole car again once the last parts are done. If needed, use a fallout remover to get rid of any residual rubber and brake dust on the lower areas of the car behind the wheels and rinse again. The last thing to do now, before drying, is a few sprays on each panel of quick detailer. It’ll help to reduce streaks during the drying process. It’ll also give a nice bead when the car gets wet again.

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Drying and the final details

With the car totally quick-detailed and still wet, you can begin work with a soft drying towel, once again working top to bottom. You don’t want to see any streaks or drops of water left around the car ideally, though the mirror caps and other panel gaps will likely spit a few droplets out if you've been thorough in the wash.

Finally, spray and wipe the glass with glass cleaner and dress the tyres and plastics around the car returning the latter to a deeper black.

At this point… you could be done. Or, you can get into the whole other can of worms that is paint correction, with clay bar, waxing and polishing. We’ll save that for another time, though.

Get 30 per cent off selected car care and cleaning products with eBay! Offer ends Sunday 30th June. Selected sellers. T&C's apply.

Visit the eBay Garage at FOS to immerse yourself in the world of vehicle parts and accessories and put your skills to the test for a chance to win some exclusive merch!

Images courtesy of Getty Images.

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