Every day the paintwork of your car is assaulted by a catalogue of damaging substances. Form exhaust gasses to UV rays, from bird droppings to corrosive leaf sap, the elements wage constant war against the glossy sheen that makes your car look so good.

Keeping your car clean does more than just enhance its appearance, though. The removal of contaminants will actually extend the lifespan of your paintwork and slow your car’s rate of depreciation.

Washing Your Car

Washing your car is not a difficult or complex task but you do need to pay some attention to the materials you use.


Detergent. Use a product that has been designed specifically for washing automotive paintwork. Don’t use a household cleaner or dishwashing liquid. Household cleaner can damage paintwork, while dishwashing liquid may prove too weak to properly remove road grime and may also be difficult to rinse away thoroughly.

Applicator. Whatever you use to apply the water/detergent mix to your car, make sure it will not scratch the paint. Sponges are convenient to use and require fewer trips to the bucket for rinsing, but terry-towel cloths trap dirt more efficiently.

Getting the Job Done

If possible, park your car in the shade and begin washing only when the body of the car is cool. Washing while the metal is still hot will cause your soap suds to dry rapidly and become resistant to rinsing – effectively, you’ll have to do the job twice.

Tip the amount of car wash detergent recommended by the manufacturer into a bucket and then fill 2/3 full with cold water. Ensure thorough mixing.

Hose your car down to remove loose surface dirt and to soften the remaining grime.

Soak your sponge or cloth in the water/detergent mixture and begin washing. Start with the roof and work your way down the car, recharging your cloth regularly.

Work on one section at a time (the bonnet, a door, a fender etc.) and rinse with a hose before proceeding to the next section. Working in this manner will prevent soap drying on your paintwork.

Wheels can be washed using a soft dish brush – you’ll find it easier to do a good job with a brush than with a sponge or a cloth, particularly if your wheels have spoke holes.


If you finish the washing process at this point your car will be clean, but the water drops on the paint surface will leave marks as they dry. These will be especially visible on the windows. To prevent watermarking, dry your car after washing with a chamois cloth. You don’t need to get it bone-dry, but you do need to break up those water beads.

It’s a good idea, too, to take your car for a short drive immediately after washing and drying in order to dry out the brakes and prevent corrosion on the discs and drums.

Regular Cleaning

A regular, weekly or fortnightly washing will prevent the build up of dirt on your paintwork. Your car will not only be free of this paint-degrading layer of grime, it will also be more reflective and so repel a greater amount of New Zealand’s damaging UV rays. Not to mention, it feels a whole lot better driving a clean, shiny car, than something that looks like it’s just emerged from a dust storm.

Learn more about washing your car in this video.

How to Wash Your Car, 3.0 out of 5 based on 1 rating

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