from Goss’ Garage by Pat Goss

The days are getting longer, daylight savings time is here yeah it’s my time of year. I love spring I love sunshine and warm weather, but what I’m really saying is, I hate winter and what it does to my cars. Anyway, the trees are starting to bud and the cycle of renewal is beginning again. But there is no renewal for cars without our help. Perhaps you’ve noticed the grey/white dust all over your car. It looks nasty and it can do substantial long-term damage if left on the car.

Although our winters have been really mild the last few years, there has still been a lot of road salt and chemical pretreatment spread for snow and ice that never arrived. In addition to the salt dust there’s a general accumulation of winter road crud that clings to the paint and undercarriage of our vehicles. Without cleaning, this mess will slowly deteriorate various expensive parts, the paint and contribute to overall vehicular ageing. Cars stay younger longer if every spring you put a couple hours into getting rid of and neutralizing the nasty leftover winter stuff.

Begin with a thorough exterior hand-wash which is easy but often riddled with mistakes. Always use a quality soap designed and pH balanced for washing cars. Never use laundry or dishwashing detergent as these products can strip away the paint’s natural oils leading to premature fading, streaking and peeling.

Even if you’re one of those people who always use the right soap do you apply your soap and water mix properly? In other words do you use a sponge or a wash mitt? I hope you use a mitt because sponges collect small dirt particles in their pores which cause fine scratches in the paint. I’m sure you’ve seen nice clean cars that look like they have spider webs on their paint. These ultra-fine web-like scratches are usually the result of using a sponge for washing. The best and it should be your only way to wash is with a deep-pile wash mitt. Due to the lack of closed cells like a sponge and their deep knap, mitts keep dirt particles far away from the paint. It’s also a good idea to use two buckets and rinse frequently. One bucket filled with plain water is exclusively for rinsing your mitt to keep harmful, abrasive dirt out of the wash water. Also never wash your car in direct sunlight as this can cause irreparable paint damage.

After washing a very thorough rinse is imperative. Take plenty of time and run lots of water behind body side moldings, emblems, and into every crack and crevice where unseen dirt can hide. This is important because dirt holds moisture and wet dirt is what causes rust and paint blisters.

After washing and thoroughly rinsing make sure you get the car really dry. To avoid damaging moisture from being trapped behind the moldings and in the recesses you so painstakingly rinsed use a leaf blower or an Air Force Master Blaster Getting water into spots you can’t see and could never touch is easy, getting it out usually requires forced air either from driving or from a blower.

Last is cleaning the underside of the car where salt dust settles and slowly eats brake lines and other bare metal parts. To do this use a lawn sprinkler placed first under the front of the car for an hour then in the middle and finally the rear. In each position an hour of soaking water will dislodge and flush away most of the salt-dust and other winter chemical residues. Don’t however make the mistake of driving over a perforated hose and consider the job done. Unfortunately about the only thing this does is wash the underside of the floor where very little dirt accumulates. Your salt free car will last longer, look better, and be less prone to rust.