If you’re anything like us, you’ve been shocked from time to time at exactly how dirty your car has become. Perhaps someone thoughtfully wrote “wash me” in the dust on your trunk, or you noticed that you had inadvertently started your own exotic bug collection on the front grill. If you’ve had either of these experiences, you may not be washing your car as often as you should. Many car enthusiasts suggest a weekly wash, but if that isn’t doable for you at the moment, you should still try to wash it as frequently as possible. Having a shiny car gives you more than just street cred; it protects your vehicle and prevents faster aging and damage.

Whys and Hows of a Shiny Car

(Pixabay / Toby_Parsons)

Preserve the Paint

How, you may ask, does frequent car washing protect your car? For starters, it keeps your paint job nicer for longer. Different geographic locations across the U.S. have various effects on paint. The northern states like Utah, Idaho, Minnesota, and New England use a lot of road salt in the winter to de-ice the roads. This salt corrodes the paint and causes oxidation faster than areas that don’t use road salt. If you live in the southern states, however, you’re not safe either. While they don’t necessarily use road salt in the winter, there is often a lot more dirt and sand which will wreak havoc on your paint job as well.

The sun’s UV rays are also harmful to your paint job, but you can’t just slather sunscreen on your vehicle in the morning to prevent sunburn. Try to park in the shade whenever possible, and use a car cover when you can – either indoors or out. Car covers protect your paint job from the sun’s rays, but they also keep dirt and other contaminants off of the paint which is healthy for your paint job. If sunny days abound, but shade isn’t always available (I’m looking at you, Arizona), get frequent car washes to help remove contaminants from your paint before they can get baked on. The longer these stay on your car in the sun, the harder they’ll be to remove and the more damage they’ll cause.

The RIGHT Way to Wash

Have we motivated you to start washing? Before you do, think of washing smarter—not necessarily harder. There’s a right way to clean your car. Here are a few tips to guide your efforts.

  1. Get rid of noticeable dirt and grime by spraying your car down with a water hose.
  2. Using a chamois or soft sponge, and work section by section by soaping up and then rinsing. This prevents streaks in your final product. Dawn dish soap works for everyday washes, but use soap specifically designed for cars if you want a really sparkly shine.
  3. Look for light scratches in the clear coat of paint. Use a rubbing compound (you can find it at an auto parts store) to fill in the scratches so that they won’t chip more.
  4. Channel your inner Mr. Miyagi, and apply wax. Make sure the car is completely dry before you start. You can either use clean, soft towels, or you can take the car for a quick spin to air dry. Try to work in the shade and in warm (but not hot) temperatures. Start applying the wax using small circular motions, working in a two-foot by two-foot square at a time. Wait about five minutes after applying the wax, then use a clean, soft cloth to remove the wax and buff to a shine.
  5. Apply a sealant to further protect the paint from dust and grime and to give it a high gloss.
  6. Use a special automotive glass cleaner on the windows and mirrors so that you don’t have streaks that could limit your visibility.

Keeping your car nice and clean has many benefits that make the time worthwhile. It helps keep your car looking good, and it prevents your paint from corroding and oxidizing faster than it would otherwise. These benefits alone can help your car retain a higher resale value should you need to sell it in the future.