Article by Justin Pritchard

Spring has sprung, and car buffs everywhere are making the annual pilgrimage to the car-care isle in search of products that’ll honour, shine and glorify their rides with glimmering, lustrous paint and wheels and tires.

This sacred activity is one of great importance for enthusiasts, and very much a springtime ritual. It typically involves standing in front of an array of car cleaning stuff for up to an hour, reading labels, smelling the formulations, and devising an idea of which will leave your ride the most protected, shiny and coveted by your fellow man.

Thing is, there’s so much selection, the task of choosing the proper products can often be a tough one fraught with promises, alternatives, terminologies and flashy packaging.

So, I talked to Karen Fuoco, the Category Business Manager of Car Cleaning for Canadian Tire. Those products you see every spring on the shelves? Karen’s the lady who makes sure the best, hottest and most popular ones are available.

I asked some questions to help sort through the ever-evolving world of car-care products ahead of the hallowed springtime car cleaning pilgrimage. Some practical cleaning advice is provided, too.

JP: Can you help decipher the confusing terminologies. What’s a wax? A polish? Which will make my ride the sexiest?

KF: Polish is slightly abrasive and removes slight imperfections like swirl marks or water spots in a vehicle’s paint surface. A wax is non-abrasive and coats the paint finish to enhance and protect it. To fully enhance and protect your vehicle’s paint work, both of these products are needed. It’s a two-step process.

Note: A ‘glaze’ treatment is typically considered optional, and is applied between the polish and wax steps to perfect the paint surface ahead of the wax layer. It can enhance shine and eliminate haze, but a glaze isn’t a replacement for a polish or wax. Don’t attempt to use a polish or glaze with a high-speed buffer, or without reading the instructions fully. You could ruin your paint.

Super Resin PolishHigh Definition WaxCleaning Towels
Super Resin Polish, High Definition Wax, Cleaning Towels. Click image to enlarge

JP: What is the best sort of car-wash soap to cleanse my ride of impurities? Can’t I just use some Palmolive from the kitchen sink?

KF: No! When washing your car, avoid using dish soap/detergent at all costs! It can strip layers of protective wax on your car as a result of their grease fighting chemicals. In terms of the best type of car wash soap – it’s really a matter of preference, but keep in mind that it’s not the amount of suds that is important, but rather how well the soap cleans your car. It needs to be strong enough to get rid of all the road grime, dirt and bugs, while not removing wax from the paint.

Notes: That protective layer of wax on your ride’s paint? Palmolive thinks it greasy thanksgiving turkey stuffing on a porcelain plate – so it strips it clean. One wash with dish soap will leave your vehicles paint dry and unprotected and fully exposed to the elements.

Custom Wheel Cleaner Rim Protectant Endurance Tire Spray
Custom Wheel Cleaner, Rim Protectant, Endurance Tire Spray. Click image to enlarge

JP: Wheels are the only moving part of the car. What can I do to make mine look great?

KF: Start with a rim cleaner like the Autoglym Custom Wheel Cleaner, which will help to dissolve brake dust, corrosion and traffic film – you may want to also use a tire brush to help loosen up the dirt and grime that have become stuck on the rims. After the rims have been cleaned, polish them using a wheel polishing kit that attaches to a regular drill and will safely polish delicate and tricky areas. Seal the rim with a Rim Protectant that will help to repel brake dust, road grime and dirt and keep your rims looking great for up to four weeks. The finishing touch is a tire shine – try the new Meguiar’s Endurance Tire Spray. It gives tires a high-gloss shine that lasts for weeks and helps to prevent tires from browning.

Notes: Brake dust is nasty stuff – so be sure to use a different rag or brush to clean your wheels than the one you’re using on your paint. Wash your paint with a brake-dust soaked rag, and you’ll scratch and damage it. Use a newspaper or other ‘shield’ to keep tire-shine from spraying on your freshly waxed paint, where it will smudge and smear. A light coating should keep it from ‘flinging’ off of your wheels.

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