by Paul Williams

Now that summer’s here, you want your car looking good. Here are some suggestions that will make your car sparkle.

My standard kit includes car wash (shampoo), cellulose sponge, chamois, polish, wax, terry towels and tire dressing. Oh, and bucket.

Here’s how to make a nice job of it.

First of all, when using polishes and waxes, do it in the shade, while the surfaces of the car are cool. This is very important.

Now, squirt some car wash in your bucket, and add water until it’s about half-full. Then, throw in your sponge. I prefer a car wash that doesn’t include wax, like Mothers California Gold car wash, Zymol auto wash, or Armor All car wash. These are all good. It’s just soap, but it doesn’t leave a film. These washes start at $9.99 (all prices from Canadian Tire Corporation).

If you want to get more aggressive, and remove all the old wax and polish, try Ivory dish detergent with Dawn. It won’t hurt your paint, and it’s designed to remove grease, right?

Now, hose down your car. You don’t have to blast the dirt off, just get the car wet.

Start washing at the top of your car, and work your way down. Use lots of soapy water and gently sponge the roof. Then work your way around the car.

Don’t go crazy, but don’t work so slowly that the car dries. If this happens, wash off the soap as you go. Otherwise, hose the car with a gentle but steady stream when you’re done. Again, start at the top, so it all flows down.

Now open the doors and use your sponge to clean the ends of the doors, the doorjambs and sills. Dribble water from the hose so it doesn’t splash too much, and wash everything off.

Now dry the car. Lots of people use a leather chamois (pronounced “shammy”) for this task. Pittards makes a nice one that stays soft after it dries out (starting at $19.99 at Canadian Tire). You can also use a Simoniz drying cloth ($14.99) or one of several artificial chamois. These products last for several years.

Start with the roof. Lay the chamois flat, hold the two leading corners, and pull it over the panel. Squeeze out the water, and repeat. You can do the whole car like this — lights, windows, and all painted panels.

Remember, though, don’t clean with a chamois — it’s for removing water.

Next up, the windows. Do them inside and out. EagleOne 2000 clear works well ($5.99), and Stoner invisible glass is nice, but has to be ordered online at stonersolutions.com. Paper towels are fine for this job.

I leave the wheels until last. Use what’s left of your car wash if you want, but certainly use a different sponge. This is because there’s typically grit on your wheels, and you don’t want that getting into your washing sponge. If you’ve got alloys, make sure you wash all the brake dust off. Now hose down the wheels using a gentle stream, and dry them, too.

By this point your car will be looking good. To complete the job you can go a couple of ways. Either polish and wax, or use an acrylic finish. You’ll get excellent results with both.

Remember, polishes and waxes are not the same product. Wax goes on top of polish. Wax by itself will protect and preserve a dull finish. No good!

Meguires makes fine products, favoured by many exotic and classic car owners. Their Number 2 or 7 liquid polishes ($9.99) and Number 3 or 26 liquid waxes ($11.99) require very little elbow grease and give great results. Or go for Mothers sealer/glaze ($9.99) followed by their Original liquid carnauba wax ($8.49).

It’s very important how you apply and remove the polish and wax. The absolute best material is soft terry-towel, same as your bathroom towels. In fact, old hand towels are ideal. If you buy new ones, just run them through the wash-and-dry a couple of times to soften them. Use two, one for the polish and one to buff.

Apply a thin layer of polish to the roof of the car. Allow it to dry, then buff. Do the rest of the car section-by-section. Keep polish off the glass and unpainted trim, but anything painted is fine. You can polish your alloy wheels, no problem.

Now the wax. It goes on top of the polish to protect the shine. You’ll find modern polishes and waxes require very little effort to apply and remove, and you’ll get a terrific shine.

Alternatively, an excellent acrylic finish, and Canadian-made, by the way, is Crystal-Glo Acrylic Car Polish. Too bad these guys make it so hard to find. Try specialty automotive shops. If all else fails, order it from crystalglo.com. You can skip the wax with this product, which starts at $14.99.

Finally, the tires. The familiar foamy products are being replaced with aerosols or sprays. EagleOne is good at $9.99; Stoner tire shine is terrific, but it doesn’t last long. Meguires Endurance tire gel is pricey at $14.99, but lasts. The foams work well, but tend to brown your tires after a while. This year, sponge tire swipes are available, and look useful.

One more thing. Just before you stand back and admire your work, move the car forward a half-meter, and look at those tires again. A missed spot on each tire will become exposed by moving the car, so get rid of those.

Now, enjoy your car in the complete certainty that you’ve single-handedly changed local weather patterns. You should be able to see rainclouds in a couple of hours.

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