There is a Right Way to Wash Your Car. Here’s How

The other day we were at the gas station. While pumping, we watched someone use the squeegee on the windshield, then run it down the hood of the car for a quickie car wash. We’re pretty sure that violates gas station etiquette, and it was pretty gross.

It reminded us that summer means many of us like to take advantage of the weather and be outside, washing our car, truck or SUV by hand.

We hope that these tips and the video featuring Gerry Bonanni, Senior Engineer, Paint and Body Repair, encourage you to spend some quality time taking care of your vehicle.

Did  you know most Ford vehicles manufactured today undergoes a five-layer paint process? The procedure starts with a pretreatment that protects against corrosion and ends with a clearcoat that aids in reducing chips and scratches. So, you’ll want to protect and maintain its long-term durability by washing your vehicle the right way. Ford has put together a list of tips to help you get the most bang for the muck.

Exterior

•Before you get to the washing part, ensure that the vehicle is fully wet – and kept that way. You want to be able to float the dirt off the surface

•Use soap specially formulated for cars. In other words, not dishwashing soap, no matter how mild, as it can strip the wax protection and potentially cause waterspotting

•A sponge or wool mitt kept wet and sudsy will mean you won’t have to rub or scrub the surface

•Start the wash at the top, then move to the sides, finishing up at the bottom (all the grit accumulates there)

•To dry the vehicle, use a water blade or soft towel

•Wax will help keep the surface protected

•Heard this one? Clean wiper blades with rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol

Interior

•It’s tempting to use your sleeve to wipe off the instrument panel, but a clean, damp white cotton cloth is more effective on the panel as well as the interior trim areas and cluster lens. Use another clean but dry white cotton cloth for drying. Glass or household cleaners? Don’t do it

•For dust and loose dirt on the fabric, carpets, cloth seats and safety belts, use a vacuum. For light stains, use an auto-specific carpet and upholstery cleaner. For tar or grease, spot-clean first with an auto-specific spot and stain remover

•Do you have leather seats? For routine cleaning, wipe the surface with a soft, damp cloth. When it’s deep cleaning we’re talking about, wipe the surface with a mild soap-and-water solution, and dry with a soft cloth. You can also use products designed for cleaning leather auto interiors

Aluminum wheels and wheel covers

•Brake dust is a real nuisance in this department. You can use wheel and tire cleaner, although the brake dust and heavy dirt might require a little elbow grease with a sponge. Rinse thoroughly with a strong stream of water

•Never apply any cleaning chemical to hot or warm wheel rims or covers

Engine

•We know of someone who used a power washer under their hood; $700 later, things were running right again. Morale of the story? Be careful; high-pressure fluid could penetrate sealed parts and cause damage

•Don’t spray a hot engine with cold water, as it could crack the engine block or other engine components

•When cleaning, use a specially formulated engine shampoo and degreaser

•Make sure you cover the battery and filters when cleaning (refer to the owner’s manual)

•Never wash or rinse the engine while it’s hot or running; water in a running engine could cause internal damage

•Another never: Never wash or rinse the ignition coil, spark plug wires,  spark plug well or the areas in and around those locations

Summer cleaning

•Don’t wash your vehicle if it’s hot to the touch or exposed to strong, direct sunlight

•If you’re dealing with bird droppings, bugs, suntan lotion or insect repellent, use car-wash soap and water as soon as you can

•Tree sap and tar can be cleaned off with a bug or tar remover (use a high-equality one). Wax afterward

•We’ve mentioned these tips before on theFordStory.com, but they’re worth another mention: If you wipe down your windshield with a tumble dryer sheet, bugs won’t stick to the glass as easily, and you can use cooking spray on the bumpers for the same purpose. To remove a sticker from the window, saturate it in cooking oil before you start scrubbing

Do you have a tip that we’ve missed? Post it as a comment!

Related Tags
exterior
interior
mustang
paint

42 COMMENTS ON THIS ARTICLE
Elaine Marco Elaine Marco new ford owner,2011 escape. hard to get to the top and the hood area. any tips for this?
2 year(s) ago via
Paul Mickelson Soft water if available makes the job much easier. If the car is waxed regularly I seldom use soap. The surface is slippery enough to not need soap. Just a mitt with cool water works great.
2 year(s) ago via
Ryan Bouvier how do you properly take tar off a vehicle
2 year(s) ago via
Robyn Purnell you would be suprised how many people do not know the proper way to wash their cars or care for the interiors. good information for beginners! I sell Fords for a living and am always coaching my customers on how to care for their new and used vehicles.
2 year(s) ago via
James McLeod Hayes And spray wax is not a wax, just a synthetic water repellant.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
James McLeod Hayes Twice a year isnt enough, since NO wax really lasts much longer than a month for a daily driver, unless its kept inside for that long. its all just a gimmick to make u buy it. ive always waxed mine every other week or maybe just a little longer. You should wax it every other wash job to really protect it.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
James McLeod Hayes Just tying to help those who are unsure about what works and what makes it worse. Thanks..
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
James McLeod Hayes I've always been extremely miticulous about keeping my vehicles spotless, and have experimented in every type of wax and cleaner there is, as i detail cars for a living, and have used both industrial and store bought brands, and i must say that "cherry wet wax" from BG is the best user friendly, yet most effective wax i've used thus far, and store bought brands are as bad for your car as armorall is. I have a 95 f150, with all original paint, that i've had for 8 years now, thats never been kept inside, and stays in the MS weather year round, yet still looks brand new due to this paste wax. trust me, it works. i have many "trade" secrets to provide and if anyone has a question, ive seen it all, so just send me a message if you have any questions.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Aretedi Dalag Very interesting post! Many may think this is just the basic and it's easy but it's still cool to hear it for m the pro.
2 year(s) ago via
Seth Arp What does the EPA and light bulbs have to do with washing cars? Anyway... All of my vehicles are at least 10 years old- the oldest being a 55' Mercury with an 8 year old paint job. All of them basically look brand-new. I've always taken good care of my cars. The trick is to clean and wax them often. It seriously doesn't matter how much money you spend on waxes and cleaner either. The cheapest stuff will work just fine. I wax my vehicles about once every 1-2 months and once a year I give them a clay rub-down. While we're at it, the same goes for oil changes and overall maintenance. Keep care of your vehicles and they'll pay you back.
2 year(s) ago via
Fred He didn't wipe down the door, trunk, or hood jams?
2 year(s) ago via
Mark Milliken @ scott van etten.. Wah wah wah... Im from Boston, and we love that dirty wahtah!
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Bob Keefe if you can swing a little extra $$, get some Zymol. i think it's one of the best out there. i won many trophies with my ZX2. now with my 2012 Focus, i'm 2 for 2. a second place first time out & fresh off a first place win at Autos of the World in RI.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Time Realradioone Go to the retailers at the car wash.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Norm Seavey My Ford gets nothing but the best, My commercial cleaning products, 32 years # One for auto & trucks, Not That Cheap Stuff from the Big Box Stores That eats your paint and leaves your leather unprotected, Norm
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Dave Evans Pro tip: use water.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Ryan Kenneth Stone So who cares about reviews
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Quincy McMurphy It's best to use a wire brush and/or scuff pad on tires, along with some good tire or multipurpose cleaner, for this will help get the old tire shine off, and it helps get scuffs off the tires. Use plenty of water afterwards.....
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Bob Bator Don't tempt fate by spraying water under the hood...keep the cleaning under hood limited to damp rags with some Simple Green and compressed air.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Julie Hogan Chastant LIGHTBULBS ARE PROHIBITED BY THE EPA SCOTT....lordy, wash your cars any place you CAN. I am going back to the handwash AT a carwash with ME doing it not because the EPA told me too, but because I have a city water bill and it's cheaper to do that way. PROHIBITION IS FOR control freaks. sorry..... love my mustang but the mention of an unelected body of bureaucrats tormenting us just, just, makes me wanna scream.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Krista Cassa I hve a 06 gt mustang tht looks brand spanking new she gets a bath every week
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Scott VanEtten The only problem with driveway washing is that all of the soaps, surfactants, and oils run down the driveway right into the storm sewer, and then it ends up in our lakes and streams. This is not the environmentally friendly thing to do, and is actually prohibited by the EPA.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Joe Jackson I hate it when people let there car go, and then want someone to slave over it to try and bring it back. A five year old car should still look showroom new. NO EXCUSES!!!
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Dwight Fry At the rate he was rubbin.....It took him 3 days to finish the wax.....
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Dwight Fry AT the rate he was rubbing ........It most likely took him 3 days.....to finish but it was clean.......and by the way it had a fresh coat of wax too start with.
2 year(s) ago via
James McLeod Hayes I want to see a show focused on detailing, maybe call it "detail wars". Two guys, or girls, racing to do the best job in the fastest time. Then looked over by barry meguire.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Jacob Hidinger Thank you for posting. Will have to utilize these tips soon!
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Corey Cleary Say what you will, but so far the Mustang has gotten better reviews.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Ryan Kenneth Stone Camaro is wayyyyy better than mastang
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Chris Podnar I got some good tips from that video. I guess I need to get busy!
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Dave Reece Get someone else to do it..
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Hans Hofmann And next time, please take a hot girl ;)
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Joe Jackson Duragloss swirl and haze remover if you have swirl marks. Even ones caused by a buffer. Make sure to use clean, preferrably new, microfiber towels and make absolutely sure car is clean first.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Olivia Marie Thank you for posting! I'm in the car wash, car cleaning industry and cringe when I see what some people do to their cars when they wash them!
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Adams Sheu OK, I wash my Old Liata by this way,,
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Dustin Carr Mines next to be washed right? Lol
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Jj Cowan I love my wife's 2004 40th Anniversary Mustang Coupe--I just need a shoe horn to get in and out of it! Definitely a young people's car!
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Joe Jackson Wheels and tires FIRST!!!! You need to put wheel cleaner on dry wheels in order for it to be full strength.
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Vince Fain Hey,does anyone know how to attach a blower to a 251 on a 60s unibody? Need help helping my friend,would I need an adapter plate?
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Andres Alejandro Sanchez i want one for me please! =$
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
Aaron Logan hey ford can i hav a free mustang lol
2 year(s) ago via Facebook
John Markee Good story... Great tips... Thanks
2 year(s) ago via
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