Right up there with BBQ parties and baseball games, spending a nice Saturday afternoon washing and detailing your car is one of the best things about summer for car guys. To help you with that Saturday afternoon ritual, we've compiled a few tips for cleaning up your baby and keeping her that way.
Be sure to read the other parts of this story:
Part II: Washing and Drying
Part III: Interior Cleaning
Part I: Tires and Wheels
When washing your car you are supposed to start at the top and work your way down. If you get the wheels and tires cleaned first, you won't have to worry about getting all the brake dust and road dirt all over your two hour wash and wax job.
Let's start with the car tires. You can use the same car wash soap you use for the body of your car on your tires or you can purchase a special tire cleaner (if your tires have been through some really dirty roads). It's also a good idea to get a stiff bristled brush and scrub the car tires to get all the grime off. Scrubbing down the car tires produces a clean slate for applying some showroom shine to those puppies, which we'll get to in just a moment. Hose the car tires down, apply your soap of choice, scrub them up and rinse them off. Be sure to take an old towel and dry the tires off at the end of the car wash process too.
Expert Tip: Do you have mud or dirt in your wheel wells? Spray the tire cleaner into the wheel well and use the same brush to clean up your wheel wells. If the brush is too big to fit, then take an old rag and wipe the inside well down.
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Now let's get onto the wheels or rims, whatever you prefer to call them (and if you have those plastic rim spinners, for the love of all that is decent and good, take them off now and leave them off). It's important to make sure your wheels are cool to the touch and preferably out of direct sunlight, especially if you have expensive chrome or aluminum wheels. If the wheels are hot, some cleaners can stain them, so be sure to keep the wheels hosed down. Also make sure you get the right cleaner for your specific wheel type and finish or you could damage finish. If you aren't sure what type of wheel finish you have, and then get a wheel cleaner that is safe for all wheel types, otherwise you can look for specific cleaners made for polished, chrome or even non clear-coated aluminum wheels. If you are really specific about your wheels and want to be extremely careful, you'll want to find a cleaner, such as P21S , that contains no acid or lye, which can be harmful to a wheel's finish.
To get the job done quicker, you can use a soft bristled brush to get most of the brake dust off, then use a wheel detail brush (which is usually shaped like a small Christmas tree) to get inside the spokes and the interior of the wheel, where all the nasty brake dust collects. To finish cleaning the wheel of brake dust, use a terry cloth rag or sponge and wipe down the areas that the brushes couldn't reach. Pay close attention to the corners where the spoke meet the outer rim and especially the underside of spokes that are closer to the top of the wheel, where you can't see them. Rinse the wheels off really well and enjoy the shine!
Expert Tip: Wear dishwashing gloves or latex painting gloves to keep your hands safe and clean from harmful brake dust and cleaner.
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To finish off the wheels and tires, you are going to want to apply some tire shine, but be sure to do this when you're fully done washing the car so that you don't rinse off the tire shine. There is nothing better then standing back after applying the tire shine and seeing the fruits of your labor as a shiny car sits on jet-black tires ... just like it was in the showroom.
Tire shine comes in a few options -- from the traditional liquid based sprays and foam aerosol cans to new gels that are applied with sponges. You can find tire shine products that offer a very glossy look or some that provide a more natural sheen. Whatever you choose, be sure to take your time because you don't want it all over your clean wheels or car.
Expert Tip: Avoid tire shine overspray on your car and driveway. If you are using a liquid based tire shine, buy a small paintbrush, empty some liquid tire shine into a clean bucket and paint it on like you're painting on some barbeque sauce on a nice rack of ribs. Use a towel to wipe off the excess as needed.
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