How to Get Your Car Gleaming in the Sunshine
Chances are, if you got caught up in the excitement for March’s new registration plate you’ve discovered that the ‘next-day-delivery’ culture we’ve grown accustomed to does not, as a rule, apply to cars!
Many models have long waited times, particularly if you want a specific colour and trim or extra equipment added.
However, that little cloud of disappointment has a silver lining. You might have been ready to hand your PCP car or trade-in back during those early snowstorms, caked-on salt and all – but if you want to know ‘how much is my car worth’ when it looks its best, April, May and June are the perfect months to get busy with the bucket and sponge.
Most car-buying websites such as Motorway tend to assume the car is presentable, but if you want to get the most for your car you can always try a private sale. In these cases, less than £100 and a sunny day spent prepping and cleaning your car could make the difference between offers that are thousands less and no clicks on the ad, and a quick sale for your asking price.
Washing Your Car
Choose a day when it’s not too hot, and start with some snow foam. Many different types are available, but for a quick and simple solution Demon Shine can be bought online or in most car parts shops such as Halfords, straight pipe, and it’s got all you need including a hose-attached snow-foam dispenser. It’s at the cheaper end of the market and it works really well if you don’t have a pressure washer, or even, particularly high-water pressure.
Soak the car, let the foam sit, and then rinse with clean water.
Don’t try scrubbing, just let it soften the muck; you can get the stubborn bits later. The aim is to move all the gritty, scratchy pieces away without pressing them into wash mitts or paintwork.
If your car has lived outside over winter, take time to open the bonnet and clean the leaves out as well, lift your wipers clear of the windscreen and carefully wipe them (have you replaced your wiper blades this year?), and just get the foam into the gaps where dirt may restrict water from draining away.
When it’s time to shampoo, a bucket with a grit catcher in the bottom is a great investment. Start at the top, and work your way down; if you have a particularly grubby car we’d have a second mitt or sponge for doing the sills, the bottom of the doors, and bumper/wheel arch edges. You may find it easier to do a panel at a time but always rinse the mitt thoroughly if you’ve gone near the lower edges of the car.
Polishing to Perfection
All that effort was just to get the car clean – now you want it to gleam! If you’re not normally out every Sunday on the driveway with a hose and line of buckets (or, more realistically always in the queue for the local car wash) you can pick up complete car polishing kits of varying cost and perceived quality.
Top tips for a good finish begin with properly drying the car. You can use microfibre, chamois or even a large air blower, but don’t just let it air dry particularly if you have hard water. What you want to avoid is suddenly pulling a pool of water out from behind a headlight or piece of trim.
Wax the panels in shade on a warm day, and avoid getting the wax on black plastic trim or rubber screen surrounds. You can wipe it off but it may leave marks.
A coat of sealer will keep the shine bright for longer, but if you find the paint feels rough after you’ve washed the car you’ll get better results by starting with a clay bar, then polishing, then sealing. Wax isn’t really a polish in the sense of, say, T-Cut or similar; you don’t want to abrade the paint or clear coat, you want to apply a layer of extra clear reflective surface, then polish that to a shine.
Extra coats rarely do harm and can last longer, but are lots of effort if all you want to do is sell your car.
Once polished, clean the glass and wheels, get it to a nice location and take plenty of photos – copy what you see in reviews and proper advertising, not the Facebook ads with thumbs over the numberplate, and your car will stand out to the right buyers. For a popular model, you’ll be surprised at how happy buyers are to get a genuine, clean privately-owned example for the sort of valuation the trade would give – and you’ll have more cash for your new car’s deposit.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Can I Use to Wash My Car at Home?
You don’t need a pressure washer or fancy cleaning products to get your car shiny clean – warm water, soap, and microfibre cloths will do the job (a good playlist or CD always helps too).
What Can I Wash My Car With?
Ideally, your cleaning tools/supplies should include:
- A hose with a variable nozzle.
- A soft sponge and/or car wash mitt.
- Car washing liquid.
- Several microfibre cloths.
- One (or more) large microfiber towels for drying.
Best Way to Polish Car
Polish a Car By Hand
- Remove any nearby objects that don’t need to be polished.
- Wash your car.
- Put a small amount of polish on the applicator pad.
- Working in small sections, spread the polish into the paint in regular, circular motions.
- Using a clean microfiber cloth, buff the polish into a shine, area by area.