Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.
Our resident Gearhead reminisces about his glory-filled car show days, and how nobody preps a car better than...you.
I don't know much, but I'll tell you one thing that's for certain: You're not gonna win a car show if your car's not squeaky clean. Cleaning your car before the show starts is a way to show the judges that you really care. On the other hand, leaving dust, fingerprints and grime on the car is a clear signal that you're not in it to win it. So let's talk about a few simple steps you can take to get your car spic and span once you arrive. I've been going to car shows for more years than I'd care to admit, and this is what works for me.
Self-Service Car Wash
Okay, this one might involve a little nostalgia on my part. But I can't help it. I grew up in a time when you didn't trust your car to anyone else; you washed the thing yourself. And the best way to do that is still at a good old fashioned self-service car wash. You know the drill. Pull into a stall, get your stack of quarters, feed 'em into the slot and select your cycle. I'm partial to the power-washer nozzle myself, because you just can't get that kind of precision and control in an automated car wash. It's especially useful for the wheels -- you can really blast away and get into the nooks and crannies. When you start with the self-serve wash, you know that all your car will need afterward is fine-tuning.
Waterless Car Wash and Rags
Another indispensable weapon in my arsenal is waterless car wash. I literally never leave home without a spray bottle of Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wash and Wax Spray in the trunk. Don't forget that you'll need a few microfiber towels, too. In a pinch, this combo can give you a decent shine even without water (hence the name). You can use one towel to get the surface grime off and another to go back over the metal and polish it. But you do run the risk of rubbing some of that grime into your finish, and in any case, you obviously need to get yourself to water if you want to win a car show. So here's what I do: I start with the self-serve wash, and then I go over every surface with a fine-toothed comb, looking for spots that the high-pressure stream didn't take care of. Whenever I see one, I spray a little Meguiar's on there and rub it out. Simple as that. If you follow these two steps, your exterior's going to be ready for prime time.
Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.
But what about the cabin? Other than dusting and de-smudging as required, I mostly focus on the upholstery, and that means keeping it in the family with Meguiar's Gold Class Rich Leather Cleaner. Take another one of those microfiber rags and rub this stuff in nice and deep on the seats, door panels, even the dashboard if it's covered in leather or vinyl. The Meguiar's formula isn't greasy or shiny; it just gives the surfaces a really refined luster. Let me tell you, not all of the guys at the show will go this far to make their interiors sparkle, and that could be the difference between first and second place.
How Do You Keep It Clean? I know I'm not the only one here with decades of car shows under my belt. What are your quick tips for cleaning up your act before the show? Let us know in the comments.
Editor's note: Find all of the appearance products and accessories you need for car show prep at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.