How often are you washing your vehicle by hand? Once per month? Twice a year? “Wait…I’m supposed to be washing my car?”

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For many, splashing some suds on and taking a hose to their car is a monthly or seasonal DIY task. For others, cleaning their car at home couldn’t be further down the “honey-do” list. (There are so many stressors in life, why add to it when you can simply go to a carwash down the street, right?)

However, hand-washing your vehicle isn’t as time-consuming an endeavor as you’d suspect. Plus, cleaning your car in the driveway can save you a bucketload of money in the long run – that is, if you know how to perform a DIY car wash the right way.


Tip 13: How Dirty is Your Car?

Before you get the sponge and bucket ready, it’s a good idea to evaluate how dirty your vehicle is. Ask and answer questions such as:

  • When’s the last time you cleaned your car?
  • Did you drive it in winter, when roads were icy and covered in salt?
  • Is there mud caked on the undercarriage?
  • Are there any signs of rust? A rusted car is a sign you may need body repair at best, or a new vehicle at worst.
  • Does it need to be waxed?
  • Are your headlights dim?
  • Do you have any old stains or spots (e.g. bird droppings, bugs, etc.)?

For vehicles that need extra TLC, you’ll want to invest in the right cleaning supplies, equipment and products. This will include waxes, clays or polishes to protect the exterior, a pressure washer with the correct nozzle, and possibly specialty cleaning agents to wash away road salt or chemicals.


Tip 12: Check Your Cleaning Products

Do not just begin scrub-a-dubbing your car with whatever cleaning product you find; some are for special purposes, and using those could ruin your vehicle’s paint, wipe away clear-coat finishing, or damage rubber fittings around your windows.

Always read the labels on car-washing products to see if they are all-purpose automotive cleaners. Liquid dish soap, laundry detergent, and other non-automotive cleaning agents can strip away wax and damage paint.


Tip 11: Wash in the Shade

If you choose to wash your car in the driveway, be sure to do so when there’s overcast or at a time in which the car won’t be in direct sunlight. Otherwise, choose to move the vehicle into a shady spot for the duration of the car wash.

Direct sunlight will cause the water and soap to dry too quickly, which typically results in water spots, nullifying all that elbow grease you put into the carwash.


Tip 10: Clean Water. New Sponges. No Jewelry.

Before you begin, it’s important to minimize the risks of scratching your vehicle. Fill your buckets with clean water (see tip 9 below), buy and use new sponges (or car-wash mitts) and cloths, and remove anything that might ruin your car’s paint, including jewelry, belts with buckles, and pants with metal buttons.

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Tip 9: Use 3 Buckets

We’re avid supporters of the three-bucket car wash. Unlike one bucket, which recycles dirty water that could cause microscopic scratches on your vehicle, three buckets all but ensure you’re washing your car with clean water. Here’s how to set up the three-bucket system:

  • One 5-gallon bucket full of soapy water (Soap Bucket)
  • One 5-gallon bucket full of just clean water for rinsing (Rinse Bucket)
  • One 5-gallon bucket full of clean water and soap for wheels (Wheel Bucket)

To use the three-bucket cleaning system:

  1. Rinse your vehicle first.
  2. Dunk your sponge in the Soap Bucket and wash the car.
  3. Rinse and wring out your sponge in the Rinse Bucket.
  4. Re-dunk your sponge in the Soap Bucket. Repeat steps 1 and 2, emptying and refilling the buckets as necessary.
  5. Wash the vehicle side-to-side, never using circular motions, and then move to the hoods and roof before washing the wiper blades and wheels (see tip 8).


Tip 8: Wash the Wheels

The final step should be to wash your wheels, as they’re the dirtiest part of your vehicle:

  1. Use the Wheel Bucket as you would the Soap Bucket, but only for your wheels.
  2. Utilize the Rinse Bucket between. Repeat steps 4 and 5 as necessary.


Tip 7: Clean the Headlights

If you’ve noticed your headlights looking dimmer than the day you got the car, you’re probably not losing your mind. Over time, headlamp casings – which are usually plastic – will become filmy or cloudy (oxidized), resulting that dull illumination you hate.

A grungy, dirty headlight can be cleaned with specialty products, like headlight restoration kits, and, as some DIY detailers will attest, toothpaste. Be sure to follow all instructions from your headlight restoration kit; failing to do so may damage the paint surrounding the headlamp casings. You may also have to perform this task before washing your vehicle.


Tip 6: Wash Underneath the Car

Winter can be a doozy on vehicles – Denver winters can be especially brutal on cars – as they will accumulate road salt and other chemicals on the undercarriage and in the wheel wells. While cleaning underneath a vehicle presents its own challenges, there are a couple solutions:

  • Use a pressure washer with a pivoted hose and the correct spray nozzle (40-degree tip or wider);
  • Put a strong, oscillating lawn sprinkler underneath the vehicle, allowing it to run while you clean the rest of the car;
  • Prop the vehicle up on a ramp and spray with a hose or pressure washer, being sure not to put yourself in danger; or
  • Bring your vehicle to a local car wash and have them clean and apply a special protectant under the car.


Tip 5: Rinse and Hand-Dry

Once your car, wheels and headlights are washed, it’s time to rinse with a hose, making sure to spray between the wheel wells and in the grille.

We recommend not air-drying the vehicle. It’s best to dry by hand, with a clean microfiber towel or chamois, as this ensures fewer water spots or streaks emerge.

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Tip 4: Don’t Forget Windows

For that glorious shine and streak-free look, use automotive glass cleaner (ammonia-free) and a dry microfiber cloth to clean the windows, inside and out.


Tip 3: Protect Under the Hood

Just because people don’t look at your engine bay doesn’t mean it should be grimy. Debris like leaves, mud and sand can slowly do a number on the essential components under your vehicle’s hood. A plastic cleaner, like 303 or Meguiar’s, will help to clean the area and plastics around the engine.


Top 2: Shine & Protect the Surface

If you really value your vehicle, it’s best to apply a protectant to its surface at least once per year, if not before and after each extreme season (winter and summer). This not only safeguards it from UV degradation and dirt, but it helps you identify blemishes and scratches that can be repaired.

Spray detailers or waxes are good starters to keep your vehicle looking beautiful year-round. They’re especially helpful if you have a new vehicle, like a Honda Accord Touring with a clearcoat, as they’ll add an extra level of glitz.

For a more in-depth protectant, a clay bar, paint sealant, or wax protectant may be needed to preserve the surface from UV rays, bird poop, tree sap, and other corrosives.

Don’t forget the tires; a good tire protectant will make rubber glisten and polish the metal wheels at the same time. (Chrome polish helps to remove any leftover oxidation, too.)

Because there are so many options to protect your car, it’s best to ask a professional detailer or your dealer for advice. At Kuni Honda, we have experts on hand to suggest the best products to keep your Honda looking like new.


Tip 1: Clean Inside

It’s time to finish up with a cleaning inside your car. Removing garbage and vacuuming the interior should be steps 1a and 1b; the incredible added convenience of a Honda Odyssey and its HondaVAC system can’t be overstated here.

If you have floor mats that have seen better days – if they’re stained with ice-melt or coffee, for instance – you can give them a good scrubbing out on the driveway. A scrub brush with mild detergent or soap and water works well, though you could opt for a pressure washer if you don’t care about the fibers.

An alternative, especially if you live in Denver, is to purchase all-weather floor mats for your vehicle. These are typically hard-shell plastic that won’t trap ice-melt or any other stain-causing elements in the fibers. Simply remove them, rinse or wipe them off, and you’re good to go.

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Contact our Honda accessories store in Centennial, CO, if you need to order an OEM floor mat for your Honda. We can order and install any Honda part or add-on for our customers in Denver, Aurora, Littleton, Parker or the surrounding area. Give Kuni Honda a call at 866-983-3742 to place your order or ask for assistance.

Categories: Car Wash Tips