Have you ever wondered how some older cars still look new, regardless of mileage? It's not by chance, but by taking good care of your car's exterior. The paint is one of the most important features of a vehicle's resale value. Keeping the new-car look requires some time and effort to start with, but once you've treated the surface properly, future maintenance is reduced considerably.
Start with a really good hand washing (in shade), using carwash soap and water. Never use harsh household detergents, which will strip wax protection off. When your car is thoroughly dried with clean towels, examine the surface by running your hand over it, searching for foreign materials like bug splatters, road tar or tree sap. These can be removed with common kerosene lamp oil. Stubborn bits can be removed by wiping the surface with a clay bar (available at auto parts stores) and water.
Touch up any scratches with touch-up paint from your dealership. Give them the paint code on the vehicle tag (usually in the door jamb area for a perfect match. When the paint has dried, polish these touch-ups with fine rubbing compound, which is also good for restoring any areas of faded or "dead" paint.
When the car's paint surface is thoroughly clean, you can use a "cleaner/wax" on the whole car. This is a very fine abrasive combined with a light wax. Your car should be looking its best at this point, and you're almost done.
Now the secret ingredient that keeps your clean finish protected, carnauba wax. It's expensive, but a can will last you for years. It must be pure carnauba. Only in shade, rub the pad (comes inside the can of wax) or a piece of clean terrycloth on the wax and apply it over a two-foot area at a time, then buff off the excess wax with another clean cloth (cotton diapers are excellent).
It's no easy job to wax the whole car this way, but pure carnauba wax will protect your shine for at least six months. You can tell when you've done it right because water will bead up on the surface. If you wash it only with carwash soap, dirt and foreign material will slide right off the surfaces, and your paint will be protected from damaging bird droppings, pitch, etc.
You'll know when it's time to reapply cleaner wax, followed by carnauba, when you see water running off the surfaces in sheets, rather than beading up.
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