Do It Right

Some Car Care Habits Can Be Harmful

Kevin Harper - October 25, 2012 10:00 AM


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We have the best intentions. No one will knowingly do something that is going to affect the beauty of their fine ride.

The key word in that previous sentence is “knowingly” since many of us may have good intentions. We just need to be aware of the consequences of our desire to forego something or even to shortcut the system.

All car care manufacturers who create quality products want to see their products in proper use. The years of formulation and development are proven in lab tests and real life scenarios, often by professional car care personnel. It’s when the products get in the hands of the uninformed user that trouble creeps in. It is the reason so much time and effort is spent on creating videos or other means to educate the public on the use of the product. You can do a good job when you clean and shine your car, but are you doing the best job?

The folks at Meguiar’s know everyone enjoys a great looking car, but not everyone is aware of what they could be doing in the long run to get that great looking car today. Like all car care companies, Meguiar’s wants the owners to avoid making simple car care mistakes that can have long range consequences.

We borrowed Mike Horne and his ’65 Falcon to give you a little idea of what you want to do. Mike doesn’t make any of these mistakes on his car (we tested him in advance), but he was a sport and let us pretend he might.

Use the Right Wipes

When you are washing and drying the car, don’t just rely on whatever is lying around. There are dedicated wash mitts that allow you to get right done on the surface to remove as much as you can. These mitts are designed for this purpose only, so having a wash mitt handy is the right choice. By all means, keep it clean for the start of your use. If it is not clean, you are a step behind. If you can’t get it clean, throw it away and get a new one.

The same holds true for the drying. The use of a special drying towel allows you to have the confidence that the job will be done right. Too many owners rely on an old towel, which is wrong on the “towel” and “old” part. These towels tend to retain grit or particles that can end up with you accentuating a problem with surface imperfection. It is best to have the proper tools for any job and in this case having the dedicated mitts and towels leads to the best results.


The Right Liquid

Here’s a test for you and it should be an easy one. On the left, you have dishwashing detergent, taken directly from the kitchen sink. On the right, it’s the specially formulated car wash from Turtle Wax.

If you are looking to clean the exterior, the only choice is the car wash. Most household detergents are formulated to strip everything off the surface, including the wax protection of your car. The cleaning power of the dishwashing detergent will be great for your dishes, but it renders your car defenseless against the elements. The best cleaning and protection comes from a pH balanced car wash. The wash is designed to remove the loose surface dirt and debris without bringing damage to the car’s surface.


Park Place

Shady spots can be nice and cool for the warm summer days. High above the car, though, dangers are lurking. Meguiar’s says this is one of the most damaging things you can do to your paint finish without even touching the car. The damage caused by falling items like tree sap and bird droppings is intense and here’s why. You may not be there where these unwelcome visitors hit your paint surface (or you may not have noticed from the other side of the car). If not removed quickly enough, items like tree sap, bird droppings and the like can damage the paint finish. Leaving your car in the sun for short periods of time is much better than running the risk of what could happen from the treetops. If you have to park under trees and it doesn’t have to be exposed, bring a car cover.

Shining Through

An owner with a good concept of car care knows that the details are critical. There are areas where you may not think to be important, but the impression you will leave is one who truly doesn’t care if you don’t seek out all of the details. Dull, hazy and oxidized headlights are the first giveaway sign of a neglected car. They have the added onus of being ugly and a safety hazard. If you’re driving, these are the lights of the way. The windshield wipers keep your vision clear, but no such assistance is given to your headlights that are even more susceptible than the windshield to dirt and grime. Many companies like QUIXX offer headlight restoration kits that allow you to make a world of difference in a very short time. For use on plastic headlights, the kit is inexpensive and can often return 95 percent of the clarity of new. For glass headlights, start with glass cleaner to remove surface dirt.


Clean Up Quick

We’re all busy, but are we so busy that we overlook the matters that need immediate attention? For the drivers on the go (or for those who park at the hamburger joint on cruise nights), eating in the car has become a habit. Inevitably, there will be spills or food dropping onto interior aspects like floors and seats. Some spills could be considered minor, but where is the line?

Since we don’t know the answer to that, it is best to treat all spills and messes alike. The best plan of attack is to clean it quickly and thoroughly. Leaving these spills can have long lasting impact like permanent stains and unpleasant odors. A helpful idea from Meguiar’s is to have a few terrycloth towels and the Quik Interior Detailer in the trunk. Cleaning up spilled food right away is the key to getting the problem completely fixed. If the spills or other interior incident results in unwanted smells, a bottle of Odor Eliminator can be helpful. The idea is to eliminate the odor, not mask it. It is more effective to rid the car of the smell than to create a smell that may (or may not) overpower it.


Add A Bucket

You may have noticed from one of the earlier pictures that Mike had two buckets on the ground as he was washing the Falcon. You may have also noted that the buckets were dissimilar in color and size so there could be no confusing the matter. This is the best way to go since two buckets are better than one. By using one bucket when washing, you end up transferring dirt back onto the car, which can create swirl marks and defeat the purpose of your washing at all. In our case, a plain white standard bucket is used with plain water for rinsing the wash mitt. The red bucket is a wash solution bucket that is used for retrieving fresh suds to continue the wash process. The red bucket also has a grit guard to help trap loose particles that will sink to the bottom. The design of the bucket allows for the mitt to be placed onto it with little risk of falling to the ground. Buckets are not expensive, but the consequences of improper washing can carry a price.

The Right Amount

Nobody in their right mind would glop their paste wax onto the fender to apply it, so we were just being a little silly (Mike made us get that off there NOW!). There is a risk that you can apply too much wax, thinking that you are providing extra protection. In reality, it is nothing more than wasting a good product. You’re also not thinking about the amount of work that you are bringing yourself when the time comes to remove the wax. To get the most out of your wax, Meguiar’s suggests a single uniform thin layer of wax. If you are worried about coverage or protection during the winter months, a second uniform, thin layer can be added, but no more than that.


Common Sense

This is how the Falcon is stored under the normal circumstances. Since Mike doesn’t have a climate-controlled garage and maintains a pretty busy schedule with customers and friends, the car needs to be protected from any harm. He has utilized the Covercraft car cover to protect his pride and joy. Granted, the car is inside, but the wise owner realizes that there are dangers under roof. Dust, accidental spills and other threats happen easily and having the car under a cover eliminates the possibility of damage.

Covercraft has many levels of protection available for most cars, so choosing the right cover is an easy decision. A car cover is an investment, not an expense. Trying to cut corners and save money by using a blanket or cheaply made cover can have disastrous results that might only be noticed when you’re about to leave for a show. Protect your car when you can.