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Best Ways to Wash Your Car (and Other Cleaning Tips!)

We ask a CAA Auto Advisor for tips on how to keep your car clean inside and out

A man in a plaid shirt washes his car outdoors

A well-cared-for car tends to retain more of its value compared with one that hasn’t seen a wash since day one. Most car buffs also believe a clean car runs better. That’s up for debate, but there’s no denying that a shiny vehicle simply looks great.

Ryan Peterson, CAA South Central Ontario’s manager of automotive services, offers these five tips on how to best wash and wax a car yourself.

Never use household dishwashing soap

While convenient, this type of cleaner is not designed for use on automotive finishes and is all but guaranteed to harm a vehicle’s delicate paintwork. When choosing proper suds, look for brand-name products with good online reviews.

Use two buckets for washing

Peterson says to use one bucket to dip the soapy wash cloth and the other for rinsing it. This prevents the dirt you’ve just cleaned off your vehicle from inadvertently returning to the very cloth you’re about to rub across your car.

Protect your car with a coat of wax

More labour intensive than a simple wash, wax forms a protective layer between your car’s finish and the dust and dirt that accumulates from daily travel. Whether using a wax paste or liquid, spread a thin layer of the product to just one panel of your car at a time. Then, wipe if off when it forms a haze. Don’t work in direct sunlight and be sure to follow the directions carefully.

Clean the interior of your car, too

Placing all those paper coffee cups or food wrappers in the bin is a start, but investing in dedicated supplies for this task is also a good idea. Look for cleaning products specifically for car interiors, such as dashboard protectant wipes and upholstery or carpet scrubbers.

Have your car professionally cleaned

If you’ve neither the space nor inclination to wash your own vehicle, there are plenty of reputable auto salons that’ll return your car to like-new condition. If you’d rather enjoy the solitude of an automatic car wash, Peterson recommends a “touch free” service to lessen chances of paint damage.

Get more with CAA

Find great car care products at Member-exclusive prices online at shopwithcaa.com.

If you have questions about car care, buying a new or used vehicle, auto repairs, vehicle inspection, driving costs or other car-related questions, the CAA Auto Advice team provides Members with complimentary automotive advice. Call 1-866-464-6448 or email autoadvice@caasco.ca to speak with a CAA Auto Advisor.

Image credit: iStock/Ridofranz