Most experts recommend washing your car once a week to keep it clean and free from contaminants that can damage the paint and other surfaces. That includes when the ice and snow bring out the salt trucks and when warmer temperatures bring out construction barrels.
Surely winter weather has its challenges when trying to keep your vehicle clean, but so does summer. Ideally, you should never wash your car in the heat or in direct sunlight. But “ideal” is not really an option all of the time. So, how do you handle keeping your vehicle clean when the heat rises? How can you wash your car in hot weather?
The problem with hot and sunny
Isn’t a sunny summer day the perfect time to clean your car? After all, it always seems so beautiful out whenever someone washes a car on television or at the movies. But washing your car in the heat is less than desirable, despite what Hollywood might suggest.
Leaving a car parked in the sun can have negative effects for a number of reasons. It has been widely publicized when children or pets left in a parked car have perished because it gets extremely warm inside in relatively short order. Well, if the inside gets hot, so does the outside. Temperatures on the surface of a car can reach two hundred degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, the result is far less serious than the loss of a life. Still, when a car sits in the hot sun, the lifespan of the paint, trim, and other surfaces (such as a convertible top) is reduced by the ultraviolet rays of the sun.
And when you wash your car on a hot day, soap residue and other substances can leave behind spots, streaks, and drip marks that are extremely difficult to remove. Baked-on soap is often harder to clean than the dirt it was intended to remove. Once the water evaporates, these substances adhere to the surface with help from the heat.
Hard water spots left behind when untreated water dries on your car can also be tricky to remove. Sometimes the minerals in hard water can even etch, or eat into, the paint; once you remove the spot, you are still left to deal with the damaged clearcoat. That can only be done by sanding and buffing, similar to the cure for dull paint and oxidation.
What to do when the heat cannot be avoided
If you are going to wash your car yourself, select a time of day when the sun is not so high in the sky. Mornings and evenings are best. And pick a shady spot if you can. Working under a tree is not ideal, since leaves, twigs, and sap can fall on your clean car. It might be a trade-off, but it is better than direct sunlight. Better yet if you have a carport to work in.
If you are unable to work in the shade (because there is no shade) and have no choice but to wash in the sunlight when it is hot out, keep the following tips in mind to mitigate the effects of the sun:
- Be prepared. Make sure you have all of the supplies you need laid out before you begin. Have your buckets (one with soapy water and the other with clear water) and wash mitts in place. Set your cleaning brushes and car wash chemicals (for the wheels, wheel wells, engine compartment, glass, etc.) where you can reach them quickly and easily. Make sure your microfiber drying towel is ready to go.
- Take care of the wheels, door jambs, and engine bay first. Once you start washing the outer panels of your car, there will be no time to treat the wheels and other elements if you want to avoid problems with the sun. Apply wheel cleaner, scrub, and rinse. Do the same with degreaser and other products. Just take care to wet the outer panels as little as possible.
- Work quickly. When you have to wash a car in the sun, do it fast. Not sloppy, not haphazardly. Do it in a quick but organized fashion. That is why you set all of the materials and tools out in advance. With the bucket of suds and wash mitt readily available, start by wetting the car from the top down. Then keep moving. Working quickly helps to prevent the car from drying before you want it to.
- Work in small areas.Whenever you wash a vehicle you should work in small areas. Rather than soap up the whole car, hit half of the roof. Then rinse. Do the other side. Then rinse. Attack the windshield. Rinse. You get the picture. Wash only a small area at a time. This is especially important when working in the heat.
- Keep it wet. One goal when washing your car in the sun is to always keep it wet. The whole car. So, if you are sudzing up the hood, make sure the roof does not dry out. When you rinse the front bumper, rinse the hood again. Keep your car evenly wet at all times. When you are done washing, give the entire vehicle one last rinse. It might sound counterintuitive, but the whole surface should be wet before you dry it.
- Dry with a microfiber towel. A microfiber towel will help you avoid scratching the paint while you are drying it off. Pay special attention to water that accumulates in the mirrors, under moldings, and around badges, since running, dripping water can cause streaks.
Hard water can be a concern when washing at home. If your water has a lot of minerals, you might have a really hard time preventing spots. If it has a lot of iron content, you could see staining, especially on a light-colored vehicle. An automatic car wash deals with the issue by recycling and filtering their water. You might consider an in-line filter to treat your own water. Pretreating contaminants like bird droppings or bug residue can be difficult on a hot car also. Try to cool down the surface before applying a cleaner.
Head to the drive-through
Perhaps a more suitable option in the heat is to take your car to a soft-touch automatic car wash. There, you can have your car cleaned indoors, out of the sun. Although air dryers blow much of the water off of your car on your way out of the tunnel, some water remains behind. Fortunately, most reputable car washes include towel drying in each of their car wash packages so that your car is completely dry before spots are left behind, especially in hot weather.
At about seven minutes, an automatic car wash is certainly quicker than washing by hand. It is also more convenient – unless you have a lot of extra time in your schedule to hand wash your car every week. At some car washes, you can purchase an unlimited car wash club membership so that you can drive through whenever your ride needs to be cleaned. Of course, you can also get the underbody cleaned and choose from a smorgasbord of car wash extras as well.
Head off the heat
Perhaps the best way to deal with washing your car in the heat is to make sure that dirt does not stick to the surface in the first place. When you keep your paint smooth and shiny and topped off with a coat of polymer sealant or Carnauba wax (or both), contaminants are unable to bond with or eat into the paint. Instead, when you rinse off your car, those contaminants run off easily.
While a professional detailer can certainly shine and wax your car for you, with a little care you can wax your car yourself to keep it looking new. In between applications of wax, you can also opt for the upgraded wash packages at the car wash, the “extras” like Rain-X Surface Protectant and Armor All Extreme Shine Wax to supplement the hand-applied products. That way, your car never accumulates stuck-on dirt and other contaminants in the first place.
If you can avoid it, try not to wash your car in the hot sun. Wait for a cool and cloudy day or move into the shade. Take it to an automatic car wash. But if it cannot be avoided, make sure your car is prepared in advance with a coat of wax. Then make sure you are ready and set to go…fast.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright
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