Recently, we took a trip down to the Meguiar's headquarters in Irvine, CA where Director of Training and Customer Relations Mike Pennington quizzed us on our carcleaning knowledge. Think you know how to clean a car properly? You probably don't; even we were surprised at how misinformed we were. Using the methods my own dad taught me as a kid turned out to be utterly disastrous for the paint finish on my car. According to Mike, by using old T-shirts and towels to wash and dry, I may as well have thrown sand at my car while washing it. Mike explained to us how easy it was to clean a car using simple techniques and with any type of car cleaning products, not just the ones sold by Meguiar's. While we were there, we looked on with an intense look of concentration like old guys forever trying to remember the name of a song. Mike took pause in our puzzled faces and decided it would be easier for all parties involved if he just showed us how to clean a car in five steps.
Evaluate your paint's surface by the look and feel. Make sure your hands are clean and dry, then gently rub the surface of the paint. Does it feel smooth as glass, or rough like a girl's unshaven legs? If it's smooth to the touch, you can start polishing. If not, it's time to clay.
Automotive clay helps to remove bonded contaminants and other stubborn defects that washing can't remove. Knead the clay bar into a flat wafer and use Meguiar's Quik Detailer to lube the clay while rubbing it on your car (not on yourself, like Jonathan found out the hard way). If you drop the clay on the floor or any other dirty surface, throw it away and start with a new piece.
Polishing For easier waxing, apply a uniform, thin coat while your car is in a cool, shady area. Using extra wax does nothing but waste product and time. If you don't trust your own hands, use an orbital or dual action polisher to apply the wax. After applying the coat, run a finger quickly through the first area you waxed. If the wax smears, wait a bit longer. If your finger runs through clear, use a highquality 100-percent terry cloth towel or, if you can swing it, a premium microfiber cloth to remove the wax.
Maintaining If you find the spray detailer becomes slow to wipe off, it's time to re-wax. To keep your wheels and tires looking their best, be sure to always use a dedicated wheel brush to clean them as the last step in your wash. Use a spray protectant after your tires are dry to ensure easier application. Consider the material your rims are made of before choosing your wheel cleaner. Some materials, like Jonny's Volk Racing matte finish Time Attack wheels, require special cleaners to prevent spotting or staining. When in doubt, use the least aggressive cleaner with a higher quality brush to clean your wheels. Lastly, be sure to use a stiff hand brush to loosen up any dirt in the carpeted areas of your car, like the floor mats. Brushing makes vacuuming much easier, and that is always a good thing.
Protecting In between washes-or even daily, if you live in a dusty area-use a spray detailer along with a premium microfiber cloth to keep your paint clean. We suggest keeping a set inside your trunk to make cleaning pesky bird poop easier.
A Quick Recap
Let's go over the five-step program one more time:
01 Feel your car up to evaluate the paint
02 Clay the car to make it smooth as glass
03 Apply wax evenly
04 "Wax off" using microfiber
05 Maintain regularly
See how easy it is to clean your car properly? Mike insists that the extra time that you put into the basics of car cleaning will help keep your paint looking its best. It's the little extra things, like using a second bucket when washing, that make a big difference.