Once and for all: The right way to wash a car.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

We read your column every week and thought you could help answer a question and save a marriage. Is there a right was to wash a car? If so, why? My husband says to wash a car, you start on the roof, then the hood, then the sides and last the back. I say once the roof is done, start on one side and work your way around. Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated.

RAY: I love these earth-shattering questions! Actually, these are always the questions that generate the greatest amount of mail.... so we're gearing up for a land slide down at the Hate Mail Division.

TOM: In our opinion, you're both wrong. Not that it matters! But here, for the sake of argument, is the official Click and Clack Car Wash Technique for the Seriously Retentive Personality:

RAY: First, park the car out of the sun. When the sun shines through droplets of water, the water can act as "lens" and leave permanent impressions on the finish, and you don't want that.

TOM: Next, wet the car thoroughly from top to bottom. Give it a good hosing, because the more dirt you can get off with the hose, the less likely you are to scratch the paint by rubbing dirt into it.

RAY: Mix the car wash detergent of your choice with mildly warm water. Don't skimp on the soap, because the suds are what "lift and carry" away the dirt.

TOM: Using a nice, soft wash mitt, start by cleaning the roof. Then work your way down to the side mouldings. Always work your way from top to bottom---the roof, the hood and trunk lid, then the sides---so you're not getting dirt on parts of the car you've already washed.

RAY: Then wash below the side mouldings. There's likely to be more dirt down there, and you don't want to be moving it from below the mouldings to above the mouldings, where it's a) more likely to scratch the car and b) more visible.

TOM: After you've washed below the mouldings, the last thing you wash is the tires, and any other really dirty, disgusting areas you want to wash like the wheel wells.

RAY: Then hose off the whole car very thoroughly, and wipe it--from top to bottom--with a synthetic "chamois" cloth or a clean, all-cotton towel.

TOM: Then you can go out and practice your slalom driving trying to avoid every puddle on the road.

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