6 Expert Car Wash Tips

It's a pretty great feeling to roll down the street in a ride that's freshly washed and waxed, with a shine that'll turn heads. Washing and waxing your vehicle does more than just make it look good, though. Getting rid of dust and road grit is great for your finish, and a couple of coats of wax will protect the finish and, ultimately, your vehicle's body. Let's go over a few tips on the best ways to get that shine.

a man washing a car

1. Wash out of direct sunlight

Park in the shade to do the washing. It keeps you out of the sun and prevents the sun's heat from drying the vehicle and leaving water marks and spots before you're even finished.

Turtle Wax car wash solution
Use a car wash solution to protect your vehicle's wax coating | Advance Auto Parts

2. Toss the dishwashing detergent

Dishwashing detergent might generate a nice head of suds, but it's designed to cut grease and that means it'll also effectively strip every bit of wax off your vehicle. Instead, use a car washing solution that's specifically designed for the purpose. They contain additives that lubricate and protect the finish and won't strip wax and polish — instead, they actually add a slight water-repellent finish of their own.

Car washing solution is also formulated to dry spot-free, which saves you some headaches when it's time to apply wax.

a woman washing a car wheel

3. Use three separate buckets

Think about it: your wheels and lower body panels are going to be the nastiest, dirtiest parts of the car. Why would you want to keep using the same bucket the whole time and just redistribute that dirt all over the vehicle? Instead, use one bucket for the rest of the vehicle, one bucket for the wheels and one bucket to rinse.

Remember that you should wash starting with the roof and work your way down, otherwise you'll be working your way up to the roof and dripping all over the work you've already done.

a man washing a car

4. Wash the vehicle in straight strokes, not circles

It's fine to apply wax with a circular motion, but you should avoid that while washing. Washing in circles with the rag or sponge will leave swirl marks.

5. Try using a leaf blower to dry the vehicle

Drying the car so that you don't leave spots or marks is a challenge, so consider blow-drying with a leaf blower. After all, many automated car washes now include a high-velocity blower for this final step before you pull out of the wash bay. If you really must dry the vehicle by hand, consider microfiber towels that absorb water and don't leave lint behind. It's a good idea to have some on hand anyway, as they have all sorts of uses for cleaning glass, interior panels and detailing work.

Meguiar's Hybrid Ceramic bottle
Try a spray-on wax for an easy, even application | Advance Auto Parts

6. Use a wax or polymer-blend protectant

The technology for finish protection keeps evolving, and a polymer-based protectant can provide a hard finish that guards against damage from road grime or bugs while repelling water. The great news is that there are plenty of polymer protectants on the market that are pretty affordable. It's not just a way to keep your car looking good, it's protecting your investment; you can think of washing and waxing as one more preventive maintenance task!

Got any suggestions about washing and waxing? Let us know in the comments section!

Last updated June 11, 2020