What you can buy in a car kit and what you really need to clean your car effectively and safely can be two completely different things!
Putting price aside for moment will let us concentrate on the tools you need to clean your car. There are several fundamental stages involved in car cleaning and so we look at each one with requirements and advice as appropriate. All you need do, is decide how you wash your car. Then select the appropriate stages and draw up your list of ideal car kit contents from there!
Wheels have a very tough life in more ways than one. A good quality wheel cleaner applied several times is better than a stronger cleaner that could damage laquer or other delicate surface finishes as it cleans in one hit. Be aware of what your wheel rim finish is and check the cleaner is suitable.
Wheel brushes are the same, avoid easily exposed metal inserts or overly hard brush heads that can easily scratch as they clean. A softer brush sized correctly to your wheel style, then used frequently is much better. Ideally add to this a smaller detailing brush for around the nuts, air valves and rim / centre cap detail. Once clean, finish off your wheel with a good quality wheel specific sealant to add protection and make future cleaning easier.
In order to pre-wash your car you need at least a watering can with a rose. However, this is a poor substitute for a hose with some sort of pre-wash agent and low pressure application foam lance. Ideally use a pressure washer, high pressure foam lance and pre-wash foam (often called snow foam). Not many car kits contain a pressure washer!
Two buckets is essential in washing and yet so often neglected! Use a microfiber mitt and quality car shampoo. Ideally two five gallon (twenty litre) buckets should be used for separate wash and rinse water because mixing water puts the dirt you wash off back onto the paintwork. Add to this a lambs-wool mitt and a top quality branded car shampoo. Cheap car shampoos often have ingredients that appear to clean well but actually strip wax and discolour trim.
Use a large, soft, clean microfiber towel to lift on and off the car panels, soaking up the excess water. Your towel should be reasonably large, it has a lot of water to soak up! Ideally use an air blower to remove excess water, especially good for hard to reach places, around badges, wing mirrors and body trim. Traditional chamois leathers can easily scratch as they are used to dry so avoid them.
Preparation is everything. Even when washed most cars will still have tree sap, road tar and brake material (to name but a few contaminants) stuck to the surface of the paint. Run your hand lightly across the panel and you will feel it is rough. Use a clay bar to remove this and get your paint surface to a glass like finish. If you have never used a clay bar before, buy a branded bar that is mild or low in terms of what it removes don’t start with an aggressive bar! We always suggest having a practice on a spare panel (easy to get from a scrap yard). Claying is not that difficult but can damage paintwork if not performed correctly and we don’t want that!
Remember, like so many things preparation is everything. If you want a stunning finish then spend time polishing. Use a good quality car polish and a microfiber towel for application. Always use a different microfiber towel for removing the dried polish. We prefer larger towels for this so you can easily keep turning the towel to a fresh face. Ideally a machine polisher at this stage yields better quality results in shorter time with less elbow grease but hand polishing is still a good, considerably cheaper alternative for most enthusiasts. Time and patience are very important ingredients. Technique will develop with practice.
Using the best wax you can afford for your type of paint finish (both paint type and colour) will pay dividends in the quality of finish as long as the preparation has been done properly! Depending upon wax or sealant selected the application tools vary. Some require a microfiber cloth, some a sponge applicator and others allow for machine application. Read the instructions carefully, select an application method suitable for you and then you won’t end up buying something you can’t use properly. We suggest using sponge applicators with products that are applied by hand as a good place to start. Discuss it with your supplier. Finally use a large soft microfiber towel to buff off the dried wax so you can easily keep turning the towel to a fresh face.
Advice here is very product dependent but shares a lot in common with wax because the application and removal requirement is broadly similar. That means using a product appropriate application method, perhaps a sponge applicator, with a large soft microfiber towel to buff off the dried product so you can easily keep turning the towel to a fresh face.
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