Having spent at least a month in the parking garage, my trip home was a clear cry for help from my filthy car. And if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it well.
I found some stuff called Krud Kutter. It’s a strong cleaning product. So I used lots of it. There were a few spots (like my gas cap) that had lots of caked-on dirt. I also used it on the base of the car, which had gotten quite dirty. As had, not shockingly, some parts under the hood, and my wheels. I’m telling you, wheels are the secret to having your car clean.
I first sprayed it where needed, and then let it sit while I went and got the hose set up. About five minutes later, I hosed off the car. Already, it was looking much better.
Turtle Wax apparently makes a car wash solution that’s supposed to leave a ‘hard wax shell.’ I don’t believe that, because I cleaned my windows with it too, and there’s definitely no hard wax shell on my windows. Of course, while scrubbing the car clean, you’ve got to re-apply the Krud Kutter and scrub the dirty parts, which suddenly looked much cleaner.
When all was said and done, you dry it off with a Calfironia water blade. It makes quick work of drying your car. (If you don’t dry the car, you’ll get water spots everywhere and it’ll end up looking worse.)
Take a break to let everything dry completely, including the tires. (Actually, I cheated and used another cloth during this time to scrub the wheels with Krud Kutter and a rough sponge again: using the same cloth you’re cleaning the car with is just asking for trouble.)
With everything dry, there are some more steps:
- Re-apply Rain-X to the windows. I find that you just need to do front and rear, the front side windows, and the mirrors.
- Since it’d been a long time, I used a clear-coat safe polish. It was supposed to be a wax, too, but I was using it for the polish qualities. (In theory, a polish is slightly abrasive, so you’ll end up with a much shinier finish, and the extremely thin scratches that had been built up disappeared.)
- As I waited for that to dry, I used Armor-All on the tires. It makes much more of a difference than I expected the first time. Over time your tires turn a dull gray, and your wheels go from silver to, well, dull gray too. Having just gotten the wheels shiny, the tires still looked their dull gray. After applying the Armor-All, they looked pretty much brand-new. But they don’t have that ridiculous shiny look that the tire-shine sprays do.
- With that done, I now had the tell-tale white haze all over my car from the polish/wax. I took a cloth and wiped the car down. (Hint: for an SUV, you’ll really want more than one cloth.) It’s important to note that the car has to be spotlessly dry, or you’re wasting your time wiping it down: any moisture will just smear the white haze around and make it look even worse. It’s not a fatal mistake, you can wipe it down when again when it dries. It’s just a colossal waste of your time. The key is to dry your car prior to polishing/waxing, but there’ll inevitably be some little bits of moisture anyway: so you just get them as you’re waxing. You’re supposed to apply it with a damp cloth anyway.
- You always follow up a polish with a wax. I’m a big fan of this wax, which smells so good that I want to bathe in it. Let that dry and then wipe the haze off.
- Here’s a secret: when you’re done waxing the car and you need to wait a few minutes for it to dry, wax your wheels. No, really. Not only will they shine more, but it’ll make it harder for brake dust and tar and the like to stick to them. Even having scrubbed them super-clean, I do them last, to make sure any dirt on them doesn’t get transferred to my car, where it may scratch the paint.
- While waiting in between steps, you can apply Armor-All to other plastic/rubber surfaces. (In my case, some trim around the engine, a plastic cover on the rear bumper, the rear windshield wiper, and the ‘knobs’ on my roof rack.)
You don’t want to go too crazy, but it’s worth mentioning that you can clean your engine, as long as you know what not to mess with. (E.g., I wouldn’t spray the battery with a hose, and I avoid certain things that don’t look like they should get wet; overall, an engine’s pretty well suited to getting hosed down. Just make sure it’s cool, or you risk enormous problems!) I’ve cleaned the engine before, so it wasn’t that dirty, but a little Krud Kutter in strategic places got it looking much better, and then Armor-All on some hoses and plastic covers that looked like they could use it. Just use common-sense when doing this: components that are greased probably shouldn’t be sprayed with a degreaser, for example, and steer clear of things like filters, although they’re covered most of the time anyway. While I’m in the engine, I give it a basic once-over: I’m no mechanic, but it’s simple to see if the liquid reservoirs need refilling. I just had to top off my windshield washer fluid, which I just did with water.
It makes sense to me to clean the inside of the car at the same time. I usually do it afterwards, as I usually end up standing inside the car to reach the roof. The steps here are pretty common sense: pick up garbage, vacuum, clean the windows, dust, and wipe down with Armor-All where appropriate. Oh, and make sure the clock is accurate. That’s a pet peeve of mine. Follow the advice on the Armor-All bottle and don’t apply it to your steering wheel or pedals, because they’ll become slippery.