Paint Care, Dummy!

Paint Care, Dummy!

Confession time: you’ve caught yourself walking past your car, ogling the damn thing. Do you like what you see? Do you get to brag, or apologize? Are you admiring the paint or hating yourself for not taking care of it?

If you’re the dude (or dudette) who smiles with a big fat grin after regarding your reflection in the paint, congrats. You have taken care of it. You did the washing, the waxing, the touch up paint, the buff-out… You did the work. If you’re the guy who looks at the hood of your car (or truck, or the tank of your bike) and feel a little ashamed, let’s fix that. We don’t want you to be a paint-care dummy.

Because you can’t take care of paint that’s not there, start with touch up paint (of course!). Got a chip in the bumper? It’s a one-day job to touch-it up to the point that you forget it was there. Rinse, repeat. Then there’s a regular wash habit: have one. Things like wax and advanced detailing are nice, but at the very least, you should get yourself cleaning consistently – keep your ride looking like you care.

There are plenty of good car wash habits – take a look at Mother’s detailing guide, or Griot’s – but that’s a LOT. Start simple: how about a few “I wish I’d thought of that” tips from the TUD Life crew that make car washing so much better (and help you look damn good).

  1. The Two-Bucket Method. So obvious, it’s silly. Why would you rinse a sponge or wash mitt full of dirt in a bucket full of clean, soapy water? Get a second bucket, put some water in it, and always rinse in that one. Rinse the rinse bucket a few times in the process.
  2. Keep the Car Wet. While you’re working in one area, don’t let the other side dry off and make water spots. Water spots are a direct attack on your paint. We hate water spots, even if they help us sell touch up paint. Keep spritzing the whole vehicle until it’s time to dry the whole vehicle.
  3. Pre-Treat the Crud. If you got insects, road tar and other stuck-ons on the front end, wet the offended area, then pour a little car soap in your hand and dab it generously on the bug graveyard. Let that sit to penetrate, then wash the area like you’d wash the rest of the car.
  4. Speaking of, Use Car Soap. Don’t you dare use dish soap to wash your car. Just never.
  5. Start High. (NOT a joke about a Colorado resident washing a rusty Subaru…) Start soaping and washing at the top of your vehicle. There’s usually less dirt, and water usually runs downhill. This way, you’re not rubbing a sponge full of crud from the lower half of the car on the rest of it.
  6. Dry, Then Dry Again. The first point of drying is to get as much water off as possible. Absorbent 100% cotton or waffle-weave towels do a good job, but you’re always going to miss some. Compressed air and microfiber towels with some detailer can re-dry those misses later.
  7. Try Clay. It’s one of our favorite tricks for automotive paint. Buy a good name-brand clay bar, then use it per the instructions (though we’ve had luck with clay and water, most manufacturers recommend using a detail spray with clay). Your paint will be as smooth as new. Smoother.

Don’t be discouraged: 80% of making your ride look right is the service you give the finish. Get out in the garage and do those basics: touch up paint and regular washing and waxing. Don’t be lazy, don’t be a dummy, and take care of your paint.

Two-Bucket Method

“The Two-Bucket Method”

Two buckets. Do you have two buckets?

Let’s take it from the top: your car’s dirty. When you wash it, the dirt comes off. Where’s that dirt go? How does it get off? Sure, some heads to the ground in the pre-wash rinse, but not all. But what are you washing the car with? What’s that soapy sponge or wash mitt doing?

What you’re using to put soap on all that dirt is the same device that’s gently removing: you put that release agent (the soapy water) on the paint and take dirt off the same way. Soap on, dirt off. Every time that sponge comes away from the vehicle, it’s got much less soap in it, and much more dirt.

So, the question: where are you putting that dirt next? Back in the bucket full of soap? Back on the car?

Your automobile’s paint is not a thick layer of armor. In a sense, cars have it backward – the metal is under the paint. Shouldn’t it be the other way? Unless you live in post-apocalypse Chicago, a durable metal shell on your car (or remote-operated .50-cals) is not nearly as appealing as a pretty coat of Lobster Red Metallic, which is why most vehicles have paint on ‘em: it looks better. Thank goodness, the paint-lovin’ goons at TouchUpDirect love your paint too, and we’re here to help.

The two-bucket method doesn’t even require two buckets. A bucket and a plastic office garbage can, a bucket and a pot (don’t tell your wife), or a bucket and a kitty-litter jug with its head cut off. If it can hold clean water and is easily emptied and refilled a few times, it’ll do as Bucket #2.

Point is, when you lift your now-less-soapy wash mitt from the vehicle you’re washing, put an additional step into the process: before you dunk that mitt in the soapy water bucket again, swish and rinse it in the clean water bucket. Yup! This is the Two-Bucket Method, one of TUD Life’s Recommended Good Car Washing Habits. You’re welcome.

You’re right – the clean water bucket won’t stay so for long, but that’s to your garden’s benefit. That’s why the bushes next to the TUD Life driveway look so happy. Dump and fill Bucket #2 a few times. Admit it: you’re picturing the bottom of your soap bucket from the last time you washed your Mustaro – that water wasn’t pretty, was it? That water was what with which you were wiping your W30. Whoops.

Junkyards are full of typewriters and VCRs and buggy whips and one-bucket methods: congrats, you’ve evolved. Don’t feel worse than you should. Plenty of good folks don’t use the two-bucket method. So long as you use it now that you know it, you’ve taken a better technique as your own.

Program Note: you’re always going to find a scratch or two when you wash your truck/car/motorcycle/tractor. Having a TouchUpDirect touch up paint kit on the shelf means you can chase those nicks before they turn into something the neighbors will discuss in hushed tones over crullers and tea. Find your color code and give us a call: we’re not from the government, and we’re here to help.

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