Proper car care begins and ends with knowledge. Understanding what a given product or procedure is going to do for you car can help you make proper decisions on extending the life of your vehicle’s surfaces, such as paintwork and leather. Today I open the Ask Dr. Beasley’s Mailbag to answer customer submitted detailing questions with our 30+ years of professional detailing experience.
“How often should I be washing my car? I’m not really one for spending a ton of money on my car, but I don’t want to let it rot.”
- Candice; Madison
According to the International Car Wash Association, it is recommended you wash your car at least 2 to 3 times per month. That said, it also depends on where you live. In Madison you’ve obviously got a full four seasons so the wash frequency might increase come winter and spring. The reason for this in the spring is that rain can leave behind residues on your car’s surfaces such as contaminants from acid rain and in winter, if salt is left to build-up on your car’s surface, the etching effects can corrode your paint. The bottom line is that the longer foreign materials are left on your car’s surface, the more damage is prone to happen – lowering the resale value of your vehicle.
“My local car wash always pushes the undercarriage wash, almost to the point where it seems like I NEED to do it… is this true? What are the benefits of the undercarriage wash?”
Mary Ann; Chicago
An undercarriage wash does have value in certain scenarios. In cities like Chicago, the roads tend to be home for salt come winter. When collected and left on the bottom surfaces of your car, etching and rust can occur to vital parts of your vehicle. Since it is now winter it becomes increasingly more important to remember an undercarriage wash to prevent damage from happening. In the spring, summer, and fall seasons you don’t necessarily need it as much, but it’s a good thing to remember to do at least once a month.
“Salt marks on my door panels? The car washes never remove them completely and I cant stand the way it looks. What’s the best thing to do to get rid of and prevent this problem?”
For the most part you’ll be able to fix and prevent salt residue from building on door panels and door steps by conditioning. Whether leather or plastic, conditioning (after cleaning) will moisturize the surface and protect it from staining. For a cleaner, a concentrated interior cleanser will work just fine. For extended protection and better absorption of the conditioner, be sure the surface in question has been pH balanced after cleaning. Keeping up to date with this will not only protect against stains like salt, but also keep the panels from fading or cracking.
“What’s the difference between a carnauba car wax and a paint sealant? Which is better for my car before the winter?”
- Craig; D.C.
The short answer is that they are made of different things. Carnauba is made from the wax produced by the leaves of a palm tree found in northern Brazil. Carnauba tends to provide you with a deep and trancing effect while protecting your paint for an average of 2-3 months. A paint sealant, on the other hand, gives you longer lasting protection with a little less shine than a carnauba will. Paint sealants use polymer technology that adheres to your car’s paint for a longer time, allowing for extended protection.For winter I recommend a coat of a quality paint sealant, which should last about 4-6 months, and then going back over it with carnauba come early spring.
“Just washed my car and wouldn’t you know it two days later its got fingerprints from my kids in spots and some bird decided to have a pit stop right on my hood. I don’t really have the time for another wash this week, anything else I should do? Windex?”
- Bill; Daytona
No windex, please! Windex can do more harm than meets the eye. As Windex is a cleaner, it can remove wax and cause harm to your finish. A final touch & smudge removing detail spray product is the best for between washes. A product like this will remove finger prints, water streaks, and help you remove bird droppings while enhancing the finish of your car.
“What’s the best way to take care of my wheel’s in winter? I’ve read about wheel wax but I’m not sure the point if its going to wear off while I’m driving.”
Finding a good wheel wax can be tricky. In fact, a good wheel wax isn’t wax at all. Carnauba wax has a melting point of ~180°F; because of this the wax can run off if your car’s wheels experience high temperatures. A durable wheel sealant that uses a water-based formula will last longer, stay on through rain/snow, and does not have a melting point since it’s not a solid.