The Ultimate DIY Car Wash Guide - NYCM Insurance Blog

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May 10, 2023

The Ultimate DIY Car Wash Guide

Between spring mud and winter wear and tear, your car goes through a lot over the course of the year. Keeping your car washed is a low-cost way to protect its value and maintain its appearance. Contaminants such as dirt, pollen, tree sap, air pollutants, and bugs can all damage the finish and paint on your vehicle. We’ve put together the ultimate DIY guide for washing your vehicle right in your own driveway. Continue reading for steps on how to get your ride shining like new.


Step 1: Gather Your Vehicle Cleaning Supplies

While you can certainly achieve a clean car with a simple bucket and sponge, for the ultimate car wash we recommend the following:


    A shady spot. The sun can dry your car too quickly, leaving product residue.

    A hose

    2 five-gallon buckets with grit guards. Grit guards are screens you can place in your buckets to help hold any dirt or debris at the bottom of your bucket.

    A microfiber mitt or auto washing sponge

    Microfiber detailing cloths

    One or two large microfiber drying towels

    Wheel brush

    High quality auto soap

    Auto bug removal spray

    Wheel (rim) cleaner

    Tire shine

    High quality car wax or sealant

    Wax applicator pad

    Glass cleaner


Step 2: How to Wash Your Vehicle

First, you’ll want to rinse the entire vehicle off with the hose, trying to rid it of dirt and grime before touching it with your sponge.


Next, you’ll want to work in sections with the following two-bucket method:


    Fill 1 bucket with clean water.

    Fill 1 bucket with clean water and add soap according to the instructions on the package.

    Wash one section of your car with the soap water and sponge, then dip your sponge into the clean water bucket and scrub the sponge on the grit guard. This will help to rid your sponge or cloth of any debris that may have come off of your vehicle. In turn, this helps to avoid scratching your paint, leaving you with a clean sponge for every wipe with soap.


Continue with this method around your vehicle, focusing on the top of your car and working your way down. Be sure to rinse each section with the hose once you're done with the soap and sponge to avoid the soap from drying on to your vehicle. You will also want to dry each section with your large drying cloth to avoid water spots.


The further down you go, the dirtier your car will be in most cases. You’ll want to wash your wheels last, with your wheel brush, as these will probably be the dirtiest part of your vehicle. Doing this will help to avoid scratching up your paint with any stray dirt and grime.


Step 3: Bug Removal

You may notice that your typical soap and sponge isn’t up for the task of removing stuck-on bugs from your vehicle. Follow the instructions outlined on the bug removal product to remove any bugs left over after washing your vehicle.


Step 4: Tire Cleaning

You’ve scrubbed your wheels and tires with soapy water, but to give them the ultimate shine you should use a rim cleaner. Be sure to follow the package instructions for optimal results.


After that, it’s time to apply tire shine to get your tires looking factory new! Be careful not to get tire shine or wheel cleaner on your vehicle as its oily texture can be damaging to your car’s paint. While you’re at it, now is a great time to check your tire tread. To learn more about safe tire tread, click here.


Step 5: “Wax on, Wax off.”

This step may be the most important to increasing your vehicle’s paint longevity. According to the package instructions, apply wax to the buffing pad and work the product onto your vehicle. Buff off with a soft, clean microfiber detailing towel.


Step 6: Don’t Forget the Windows!

You’re almost done! Using a glass cleaner and small microfiber cloth, wipe your windows inside and out. This step should be done often, especially on the inside of your windshield to avoid glare from the sun on any dirt or residue that may have settled on the inside of your windows.


Step 7: Detail the Interior

Even if it’s just a quick clean out, the finishing touch on the ultimate car wash is going to be detailing the interior of your vehicle. Start by removing any garbage, and any items that don’t belong inside the car. Take a moment to empty out the console and glove compartment, throwing away any unnecessary paperwork or debris. You’ll want to take a microfiber cleaning cloth and wipe down the surface areas of your vehicle including the dashboard, cupholders, radio, etc. Lastly, you’ll want to vacuum the carpet or floors of your vehicle. Take it a step further by using a carpet cleaner to wash the fabric in your flooring and seats.


Treating your car to an ultimate car wash not only makes it look better but helps the longevity of your vehicle’s finishes. This thorough process isn’t necessary each time you wash your car, but you will want to wax and buff your vehicle at least twice per year to protect your paint from the seasonal elements. To learn more about how to best maintain your vehicle, check out the link below!