5 Don’ts of Exterior Car Care

What Not To Do To Your Car

1991 Ferrari Testarossa

Mastering the art of car care isn’t an easy task. The enthusiast is beaten with thousands of products, hundreds of techniques, and dozens of tools to make detailing more and more confusing. In an effort to build the foundational knowledge needed to properly care for your car, here are five things you probably should avoid when detailing your car’s exterior…

Don’t be too aggressive when polishing. Chances are, the typical bottle of car polish you see today says “quick scratch remover” or “easy swirl remover,” and maybe a few exclamation points, too. This goes against all detailing logic. Identifying and understanding scratches and swirls requires a process if you want to preserve your paint as long as possible. Sure you could butcher it with a heavy compound, remove the scratches and inch ever-so-much closer to the bottom of your car’s precious clear coat, but then again, no. The correct process is to start gentle with a smoothing polish, and always avoid over-polishing. Clear coat is essential to a long lasting finish, and the more you polish, the less it’s working to prevent damaging UV Rays, environmental contaminants, and bird droppings from coming into contact with the paint pigment layer. Do yourself and your car a favor, and start soft with any polishing procedure.

Don’t go to the Automatic Wash. The convenience isn’t worth the potential damage to your vehicle’s finish. Those swirling brushes have touched thousands of gnarly cars and are probably dirtier themselves than your car is. Face it, it makes sense. A hand car wash, whether performed at home or by professionals, is a much more deliberate process and allows for more care to be given to the car’s exterior surfaces. There’s no need for the harsh chemicals and the high-speed friction from the brushes, so save the $4 and wash the car yourself. Swirl marks, holograms, spider webbing, and scratches are all too often caused by automatic washes, and are easily avoidable; saving you a lot of time and money.

Don’t polish unless you’ve clayed first. This one’s big because you could end up making the paint worse than it was before. Claying removes microscopic debris from your car’s paint. If un-clayed, you will be grinding this debris deeper into the paint, creating new sets of swirls and scratches. It’s a simple process that is an absolute prerequisite for any polishing procedure you’re planning on doing. Without it, let’s face it, your paint could be quite painful to look at.

Don’t glop on wax like there’s no tomorrow. Too much wax isn’t a good thing, it’s wasteful and sloppy. The science states that wax bonds at a molecular level, meaning only a singular layer is bonding the paint when you apply it. All that hazed wax you wipe off is excess and wasted. A lot of manufactures say apply liberally, but of course… they want you coming back when you run out. Truth is, you only need a little bit. With a good carnauba, less than 2oz of wax should be enough to protect an entire mid-sized SUV. If you want to add more protection, the answer is layering. Follow the same wax steps, don’t use as much, and simply repeat the process once you’ve removed the previously applied layer of haze. It’s that simple, and much less wasteful.

Don’t use any dirty mitts, towels, or tools when washing your car. It seems easy to remember, but it’s also easy to forget due to convenience. For the same reasons you’d use multiple buckets during a car wash, or a grit guard, you want to keep anything that’s touching the car as clean as possible. Clean microfiber towels prevent against scratching the surface, clean brushes ensure no dirt or grime is dragged along the car’s paint, and clean mitts make for a safe and thorough car wash. Rinse off your accessories after using them, that way they’re ready for next time your car needs some attention. It’s that easy and can help you avoid future headaches.

Detailing is supposed to be fun, involved, almost therapeutic for those who take the challenge of doing it themselves. Rethink your motives, lose the “quick fix” formulas and get down to what it’s all about; you and your car. These were 5 Don’ts of Exterior Car Care, and check back with us for more tips to help you car for your car the right way.