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How To Keep Your Used Car Looking New

Lyndon Bell
by Lyndon Bell
March 11, 2011

One of the things that attracted you to purchase your used car in the first place was undoubtedly its appearance. Like most sellers, the person you bought the car from took extra pains to get the car looking as new as possible to entice you to buy it. Now that they've done all the heavy lifting, all you have to do is maintain the car's appearance to keep it looking new.

While washing a car may seem like the simplest thing in the world to do, there are definite techniques you can employ to make it easier and more effective. In fact, done improperly, you can actually damage your car while washing it.

Here's the right way to do it.

1. Always wash your car when it is cool outside and when its paint is cool. Washing your car when it is cool prevents soap and water from drying on it, leaving spots that can damage your paint.

2. Car wash liquids are specially formulated to enhance the shine of modern paint jobs. Dish soaps, on the other hand, can actually strip away the oils in your paint that give it luster. Car wash soaps are designed specifically to float away oil, grease and dirt without marring your paint.

3. Always use a full bucket to wash your car and refill it with fresh water if it gets depleted as you go. This will allow the dirt in the bucket to settle to the bottom and prevent you from rubbing it all over your car while you're trying to clean it.

4. Use a wash mitt or sponge specifically designed for automotive use. These are created specifically to avoid scratching your paint as you wash your car.

5. Always start at the top of your car and work your way down. This way you won't rinse soap onto areas that have already been washed. Also the parts of the car closest to the ground collect more dirt and abrasives. The good news is those parts of the car are typically designed to deal with it. But if you wash them first, all of that dirt will get in your mitt or sponge and in the bucket. You'll then rub it over areas of the car not designed to take it.

6. Along those same lines, you want to make sure you rinse the sponge or mitt often during the wash process to keep it clear of gritty abrasives that can damage your paint.

7. If you car is really dirty, empty the bucket midway through the wash, rinse it out and refill it with fresh water and car wash liquid for the same reason as above.

8. The last thing you wash should always be the tires and wheels. You also want to use a different mitt, sponge or cloth as the tires and wheels will frequently be coated with materials you don't want to touch other areas of your car.

9. For rinsing, use the gentlest stream of water you can. High-pressure streams of water can actually wreak havoc on your paint.

10. If your car is on the larger side and you're washing it alone, you'll want to keep the first areas you washed wet while you finish the rest of the car. Any areas allowed to dry on their own could be susceptible to spotting; you want the entire car to be wet when you start drying it off. So once you're done washing the tires and wheels, spray the entire car again with your water hose to get fresh water all over it for the drying phase.

11. Just as when washing, you'll want to start at the top of the car and work your way down. Use either a clean chamois or terry cloth. If you couldn't get the car into full shade to wash it, dry the side of the car most exposed to the sun first. This will help prevent water spots from forming.

Washing your 'new' used car regularly will keep it looking good and save you money. Keeping the car clean will preserve its paint job, maintaining its resale value should you ever decide to sell. And, the longer the car looks new to you, the less likely you are to want to buy something else.


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