Keeping up appearances to make your car pay off

You need to protect your car’s looks as well as its performance to make sure your careful investment doesn’t become a financial disaster.

“Keeping your vehicle clean not only protects your valuable vehicle investment … It’s a task that takes very little money or effort, but has huge returns,” says Rich White, executive director of an American Car Care Council.

Park under cover
Nature is now your enemy. “Tree sap, bird droppings and possum pee can quickly damage your paint,” reminds us.

“If you can’t park it under cover avoid parking it under trees, power lines, or other things on birds perch on.” This is especially important at night when the critters roam.

Frugal advisers say to avoid parking next to other cars as well.

“One simple and no-cost way to avoid dents and scratches on your car is to look for isolated parking spaces. If no-one is parked directly next to you, your car is much less likely to get dinged.”

If you don’t have a garage, consider using a car cover. They admit it is a pain putting it on and taking it off every day, but it can make a “major difference” in your car’s eventual appearance.

Read more: Driving with a dog makes you safer

Avoid ‘sand-blasting’ car washes
You’d think paying for machines to clean your car would be a no-brainer, but points out there are pitstop pitfalls with car washes. Avoid swirling brushes, which are rarely cleaned and can spread “accumulated sand, grit and other debris” over your valuable paintwork. Don’t choose hand drying either – the towels attendants use are usually not clean. Be wary of high pressure ‘touchless’ car washes, as well, which can also push debris across the car surface, causing “awful swirl marks”.

Maybe just skip the entire car wash idea: “Many car washes use recycled water and no matter how hard they try, or what they tell you, it isn’t possible to remove all the contaminants, so every squirt of high-pressure water is effectively sand-blasting your paintwork”.

Read more: Driving less may hurt your tyres

Wash your car once a week
“Pre-emptive maintenance is perhaps the best way to keep your car or truck looking new,” according to They quote a vehicle detailing expert who washes his fancy vintage sports car for 10 minutes after every drive. Your family’s chariot may not such extreme TLC, but a quick wash every Sunday will retain its new-car look longer and make cleaning easier. A handwash with a mild detergent will remove deposits and gently polishes the paint surface.

Wash smart
There’s an art to this. Rich White says to work from the inside out, cleaning your car’s interior first to avoid dirt and dust sullying body panels.

When you get to the exterior, wash and wax in a shaded area to prevent water spotting and to keep the wax from drying too quickly and “baking onto the car’s surface”. Next, check for small scratches and chips and fix with paints new-car dealers sell. Use a soft rag, not synthetic or paper towels when washing and waxing. A microfibre wash mitt is deal.

Hose the car and shampoo from the top down, using an acid-free non-abrasive cleaner that’s been diluted with water. 

Scrub wheels and tyres using a stiff bristle brush.

Rinse off the soap, again spraying from top to bottom and spray thoroughly underneath the car and inside the wheel wells to remove road grime. Dry with an absorbent chamois before waxing.

Polish regularly
Follow product instructions when applying a coat of wax to your car; there’s a wide variety of products for specific vehicles and conditions.

Polishing your car protects the painted surface. It need only be done every six months.

Use a quality polish and apply it with a quality applicator made for the purpose and remove the polish using a soft, clean rag that won’t scratch the paint.

Doing the whole car is a big job; do it panel by panel.

How often do you clean your car? Did you know that car washes can be damaging to your car’s exterior?

Read more: Smart car, dumb driver?

How often do you clean your car? Did you know that car washes can be damaging to your car’s exterior?

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Written by Will Brodie

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