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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Speaking of, Use Car Soap. Don’t you dare use dish soap to wash your car. Just never.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.