Well ladies and gentlemen I believe that Spring has FINALLY sprung here in Idaho. It's been a long torturous road filled with blind hope and snowy letdowns but I believe we're at the end of the frozen tunnel and that means one thing to car guys, it's WASH TIME!
The winter months here in Idaho are long and ruthless, the snow arrives early and stays long after it's worn out it's welcome. For those of us with a truck the winter is no big deal, in fact it can even be a hell of a lot of fun!
But freezing temperatures don't go well with car washes, unless you like the idea of using WWF moves on the frozen door of your vehicle it's best to call the car wash a luxury item that has to wait until spring. While on the subject of winter driving I'd like to take a moment to advise that you drive your vehicle in a safe and responsible manner during the winter, not like this:
Probably not this either
Fine.......don't do this either
Ok so basically don't drive like me in the winter or you'll get your shit dirty and have to wait a long time to wash it! Back to the story
The down side to this is that not only does our vehicle have to look like crap all winter but the road salt used to keep our highways safe has MONTHS to eat away at our babies. So as soon as Spring shows her pretty face it's time to get your butt to the car wash and get rid of the things you did all winter (you should be ashamed of yourself).
The first wash of the year is no time for you to be a cheap ass, this is the big one and it's really important that you dig deep and get the job done right!
Now I don't want to hear any whining about how cold or windy it is outside or how the automatic wash actually does a "pretty good job". Hike up your big girl panties cream puff and pull into the do it yourself bay at the car wash, it's time to get wet!
During the first big wash of the year I always use "Pre-Soak" option first, I know it seems like a waste of money but it really does do a good job of getting things loosened up for the heavier pressure soap you'll be using next. I use the "Foaming Brush" for my wheels and rocker panels as well as the nerf bars, bumpers and tires, those little bristles really help with the stubborn caked on stuff. After these steps It's time to get soaking ass wet, I kneel way down and spray the entire undercarriage of my vehicle REALLY well with the "High Pressure Soap" setting, then work my way from top to bottom very very slowly taking care to spray every crack and crevice until clean soapy water comes out. If you want good results you need to spend extra time washing and rewashing , otherwise you'll get home and find spots you missed.
After the soap I go straight to the "High Pressure Rinse", I spend a good amount of time making sure I've gotten ALL the soap washed out of the cracks and off the surfaces. We have hard water where I live (no I'm not talking about ICE lol) so just using the rinse cycle doesn't cut it unless you like the way water spots look on your rig. Luckily there's a setting called "Spot Free Rinse", for years I thought that this was just a low pressure tap water rip off! I was wrong. While there aren't really any "universal" methods for creating a spot free rinse most car washes that offer this use an advanced filtration system that filters out the minerals that cause water spots, there are also systems that use an additive like rain-x to help the water "bead" off. Either way it actually does work! After you rinse with the high pressure (don't let it dry in between) switch over to the spot free rinse and give it a good once over.
When it comes to drying obviously the best solution is to use clean forced air because nothing physically touches your paint so it won't get scratched, but the drying systems at the car washes around here are a joke so I opt to dry by hand. Before I delve into this too far I have actually achieved "OK" results by rinsing with the "Spot Free Rinse" then hitting the highway and air drying when I've been in a hurry but overall it doesn't compare to drying by hand.
I've used a million different types of "magical" vehicle drying systems and I can tell you from experience that nothing compares to "the absorber" drying towels for consecutive long term use. I have an absorber for every vehicle I drive and I wouldn't trade them for any other system, there just isn't a better option in my opinion. Before you take the time to tell me about the squeegies, the cotton, clothless, terry cloth, leather chamois, microfiber, imported, exported, lambskin, whale skin, mermaid skin, virgin unicorn blouse that you use, please rest assured that I have tried it and it is not as good as my absorber.
Once the body and windows are clean it's time to address the wheels and tires. Unfortunately nothing beats a little elbow grease when it comes to cleaning your wheels so I just count it as a part of the process. For my chrome wheels I like to use a good cleaner at the car wash (Mothers and Meguiars both make good ones) then I use a terry towel to polish them by hand. If my wheels don't come clean with the terry towel then I'll move to a buffing pad and wheel polishing compound. Every year I get compliments on my wheels looking like "mirrors" because I take the time to clean them up, it's not because they're perfect it's because they're clean!
The last part of this first wash is a little tire shine, I prefer the foaming aerosol type that doesn't leave the tires looking greasy or wet but that's a personal preference.
Although I've spent a good amount of time with this first wash I'm not going to wax it yet, some people think this is crazy but the reality is that the surface of my truck isn't completely clean yet. This vehicle was driven all winter and has had crud caked all over it for months on end, I'd be a fool to think I got everything off with one wash and I definitely don't want to find out the hard way that there was still a thin layer of grime on my paint as I was rubbing wax all over it. This may be paranoia or excessive overthought but my preference is to wait for wax until at least 2 good thorough washes just to make sure I'm not rubbing paint fogging micro scratches into my finish. You can disagree with me if you like (I WILL add wax later) but if you look closely at the photo above you'll notice that the side of my well maintained UN-Waxed truck looks like a big red mirror, you can see half way around the damn block in that thing!
Well however you go about doing your "Spring Wash" I hope you enjoy it, I hope that when you pull the cover off the "ol gal" in the garage or knock the mud off the truck, when that water hits the surface and you see that beautiful paint shine through that get to have that moment, that feeling, that excitement that reminds you what you love about your vehicle and why you're a car guy.
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