Friday, August 16, 2013

How-to: Maintenance Washing/Wheels & Tires/Glass Care

After seeing many people have questions on exactly how to wash and dry a car, take care of wheels and tires, and glass cleaning I decided to make this step-by-step process with pictures which I find to be the most effective.

So you're paint is all corrected and in great shape, but how do you maintain it? How do you prevent swirls and scratches from returning or at least minimizing them.

Note: This is my process and is technique only.  If you find another way that yields great results by all means stick with it.  And post it up so we all can learn.

First off I begin by filling a bucket with roughly 1-2 gallons of water with 1-2 oz of ONR depending on how soiled the vehicle is.  ONR recommends 1 oz per 2 gallons of water.  But in this case, better safe than sorry.

I use reusable wash media, so instead of a wash pad or mitt, I use multiple wash towels, usually 6-8 for a medium sized vehicle.

These towels are 360g/m and can be found at microfibertech for 10 for $23.

Next I soak them and let them sit in the solution for the time being.

Next I move on to wheels and tires while these soak.

For heavily soiled wheels a dedicated cleaner like Sonax Full Effect or Poorboy's Spray and Rinse works great.  Mine weren't too covered in brake dust so I went with Meguiar's D101 All Purpose Cleaner at full solution.  Before trying any product it is important to do a test spot in an inconspicuous place to check for any discoloration or damage to your wheels.

Here is the D101 in action

You can see the dirt being lifted off.  Then using a variety of brushes such as Wheel Whoolies, Raceglaze brushes for the lugs, and different wheel brushes.  For the tires using a foaming sprayer works great then brushing it off with a Tuff Shine tire brush.

Here's the type of gunk, tar, and various other things that your tires pick up daily.

After I'm done cleaning the wheels it's important to get your tools into a cleaning solution, I just use water and APC.


Often cleaners will cause rusting and oxidation to start on brake rotors.  So I'll take the car for a quick spin before a wash it to clean the rotors, the problem is that the wheels take the brunt of the grime on the brake rotors as well as any leftover dirt that wasn't washed away. After parking it again I just take a microfiber towel and clean up anything left over on the wheels.

Now the last thing to do is dress the tires.  Here I'll be using Wolf's Blackout Gel, it provides nice sating sheen that doesn't look greasy and lasts for 2-3 weeks depending on your driving style.

Tire Before


For a glossier shine go over the tire again until it meets your desires, for a more satin shine use less product.

Now it's time to move on to washing the car.

For this take your towel soaked in solutions and gently wring it out. You want it wet but not completely soaking and dripping water.  With towels with a short nap and long nap side use the longer nap.  This lets the more dirt get trapped deeper and since you're trying to minimize swirls and scratches you want to avoid dragging dirt across the paint surface.

When you first start washing your car lay the towel folded in 1/4s flat on the surface and drag with absolutely zero pressure as so.

Now you're going to be picking up dirt and grime as seen here.

To avoid dragging this back across the surface lift slightly on the front of the towel

When you're done lifting 2 or 3 times your towel will have lines of dirt similar to this.  After each panel is complete I dry using a Cobra Guzzler HD, again as little pressure as required folded in 1/4's.

If you're towel still has solution you can continue using a different 1/4 of the towel.  You can see here where I used all 4  of the long nap side.

Lastly is the glass.  Right now I'm using Meguiar's D120 Glass Cleaner, it works very well and is extremely cost effective at 1:20 dilution (1 part concentrate to 20 parts water) and a Microfiber Madness Cloudbuster, by far the best glass cleaning towel I've used.  For the windshield I spray directly on the windshield and clean and buff with the other side of the towel.  I also clean the windshield wipers.  For the side windows and mirrors I spray on the towel so the solution avoids the paint, it's not dangerous but just means less to clean up.

Thanks for reading, let me know if you have any questions or tips!


  1. What are the advantages to no rinse washing vs the standard methodology?

  2. No rinse washing allows people without access to a hose or running water externally to wash their cars effectively. So it's great those that live in apartments or park in a parking garage.

    Also it is great for people that live in high TDS (total dissolved solids) areas, or hard water, which lead to water spotting issues. By using rinseless washing, you aren't fully covering your car with water and are working a much smaller area. This reduces the amount of time that water sits on your paint, thus reducing possible water spotting.

    You can find your TDS rating at just input your zip code at the bottom. The EPA allows up to 500ppm, the higher the number the harder the water.