June 12, 2006I know washing is a simple task, but I want to be thorough in explaining the detailing process.
First off make sure you are in a shaded area out of direct sunlight, and that your paint is cool to the touch. This is primarily to prevent water from drying, and forming hard water spots on the paint. As prviously discussed, if you plan to re-wax or detail your PT, then use dishwashing liquid. This type of soap has a high PH level to strip all chemicals from the paint surface. If you are not intending on waxing, or detailing your PT, then you will want to use a good car wash soap to clean your Cruiser with. These soaps contain a low PH level that will not strip chemicals from the surface reducing the possibility of fading.
ONE QUICK WARNING: If you take your PT to a Full Service Hand Car Wash on a regular basis, these facilities usually use a high PH soap to keep costs down, and create a marketing ploy for detailing. If you are a regular customer, the idea is to strip the wax off your finish using high PH soap, and let the paint fade. After a few washes, they might talk to you about detailing, and might use a little Glaze to show you how much better your vehicle would look if you paid $100.00+ for the exact same process I describe in this series.
You want to start by cleaning your wheels to eliminate the possibility of getting brake dust, and other related contaminats on your paint. Start by spraying the wheels, tires, and inner fender wells with degreaser, like Simple Green. Add approximataly two ounces of dishwashing liquid to a five gallon bucket of water. Dip a brissle brush into the soapy solution, and start by scrubbing down the inner wheel well to remove road dirt, and grime. Next move on to the tire. You can use the same brush, or a stiff tire brush for this. For the wheels, most large retail stores carry what looks like an oversized bottle brush designed to clean wheels. Meguiar's also makes one available at www.Meguiar's.com. Dip the brush into the soapy solution, and scrub the wheel thoroghly to remove all brake dust biuld-up from the entire wheel. Finish off with a rinse of cool clear water, and we are ready to move on.
Next in our washing process we are going to give the engine a good cleaning. Start by popping the hood. Take your garden hose, and rinse down your front fenders. Next lay an old bath towel over each fender to avoid getting chemical overspray, and grease/oil onto your paint. Now spray your engine down with a good foamy engine cleaner like the one manufactured by Gunk (available at most auto parts stores). Spray the engine down with the chemical, and allow it to react for a few minutes. While you are waiting, take your degreaser, and give the underside of your hood a quick spray. Use your soft brissle brush for any stubborn grease, or grime on the hood, engine, or anywhere where the chemical might need a little extra help. Now, hop in and start the engine before you rinse the engine down. This is an extra percaution to assure you get no water into any electronics that may effect the engine in any way. Rinse the underhood first, and then the engine. While the engine compartment is still wet, apply a light coat of water based dressing to the entire engine compartment. Next remove the towels from the fenders, and we are ready to move on.
Now its time to move on to your paint. Start by re-filling your bucket with fresh soapy suds. Next begin by pre-rinsing your paint to remove any loose dirt from the surface that may scratch the surface. It is best to use a good wash mitt as opposed to a brush to minimize scratches. I break a vehicle up into five sections: Top, Rear, Left side, Right side, and Front. I wash each section starting with the top first. By starting at the top, the suds will run down the body minimizing trips to the bucket resulting in less work. Continue washing the entire vehicle before you rinse. This sounds a little strange, but it is by far better for soap to dry on your paint, than hard water spots. After you have washed, and rinsed the entire vehicle, take your hose nozzle off, and run the hose over the paint starting at the top, and working down. The water will sheet off of your paint, making it easier to dry.
Now we are ready to dry. Start off by popping your hood again, and opening your doors, and rear hatch. One trick I use to blow water out of your mirrors, and related hard to reach areas is to use a small can of compressed air used for cleaning your computer keyboard which can be purchesed at most retail stores (Wal-mart). After the mirrors are blown out, I take a Microfiber Drying Towel, and start by quickly wiping down the paint. On the first pass, I am just going over the bulk of the water quickly to avoid spotting. I then follow up with a secont pass for all the final detail work, including the door jambs, rear hatch, and engine compartment, finishing up with the wheels.
Their are many products available for drying, and the choice simply comes down to personal preference. I use a Microfiber Drying Towel as it is ultra soft, and absorbs three times more than a chamois. You use a California Water Blade (a double edged squeegee) to lightly pull the water off your paint which will help reduce time by half. If you use a synthetic chamois, you want to use the rough side, and again work in one direction.
ONE LAST NOTE: If you have a water softener, then it is not nesessary to dry your vehicle. Soft Water is refered to in the detailing industry as Spot Free Rinse, and will not leave water spots. The only exception is at coin opperated car washes, as they often do not maintain their soft water filters, and can leave spots on occasion.
Now your PT is clean with all wax, and residue removed from the paint surface. Now its on to the next step of buffing your paint. Check out part 3 of this series to get lhe lowdown on buffing. Till then, happy detailing!