How To Clean Your Car Exterior

Britain’s roads can quickly turn your shiny paintwork into a grimy mess and even damage vehicle components over time.

Giving your car a good clean every now and again will not only keep it nice and shiny, but also go some way to removing the films and particles that can eat away at your car’s exterior.

Here’s how to get the perfect finish every time.

Car cleaning essentials:

  • A bucket filled with warm water
  • A sponge
  • Some cloths (Microfibre cloths work best)
  • An ultra-absorbent towel
  • A wheel brush
  • Car cleaning products and formulas (Shampoo or Wash and Wax)

Optional extras

  • A pressure washer (to make life easier)
    Polish, wax or other detailing products

How to clean your car exterior - step by step:

Step One: Spray your wheels

Cleaning alloy wheels is a good place to start as they can become the dirtiest parts of your car. As well-being closest to the road, the iron oxide dust that comes off your and other car’s brake pads can build up on each wheel, leaving shiny alloys looking dull. This dust can be difficult to remove, so using an alloy cleaner like Meguiar’s Ultimate Wheel Cleaner can make life easier. Just spray each wheel and leave the foam to do it’s work. With this type of product, you’ll notice that it changes colour once all of the dirt has been broken down, leaving you to simply wash and rinse.

Step Two: Get the worst of it off

Even for the dirtiest of cars, a good rinse will go some way to get the worst of it off. Start at the top of the car and let gravity to the work, pushing loose dirt away with your pressure washer, garden hose or bucket of water.

Step Three: Start scrubbing

Once the loose dirt and mud has been rinsed, it’s time to break out the elbow grease and start scrubbing. Get your bucket of warm water and add your cleaning solution (see bottle for recommended measures). We stock a huge range of soaps and specialised car cleaning formulas that break down the toughest and most damaging dirt, including iron oxides that can damage paintwork if left for a long time. Then, dunk your sponge or cleaning cloth and start working away at every inch of your paintwork

Step Four: Rinse (and possibly repeat)

After a good scrub, your paintwork should be looking a little better. If there’s still a film of dirt or a few corners of dirt that are still being stubborn, don’t be afraid to start again. Another clean should dislodge even the worst bits so you can move onto the next step.

Step Five: Clean the windows

Washing your car can leave windows looking streaky if you aren’t careful, so use a specific window cleaning formula to get them looking clear and shiny. If your windscreen is covered in caked-on bugs, then a bug remover is a good option, breaking down even the toughest baked-on insect graveyards.

Before you start, remove any excess water using your absorbent cloth or towel, then spray each window and give it a good wipe.

Step Six: Detail

If you just want a nice clean car, then this is the point where you can pour your bucket of water away and pack up, but if you want to impress the neighbours with an extra-shiny car, then it’s all about the detailing.

One easy way to get your car looking brand new is to polish the paintwork. You can do this with a specialised buffer and brushes, or just grab some polish and a cloth and do it the old-fashioned way.

Shop all Exterior Car Cleaning

Now that your car is all shiny and clean, you may have spotted a chip or scratch you didn’t know you had.

Not to worry, Halfords have got loads of products and advice on Body Repair, everything from the simple 4 step process of Prep, Prime, Paint and Protect to touch up pens and scratch repair kits. We even offer Windscreen chip repair, ask one of our expert colleagues for advice on the size and position of your chip and you could be all fixed in as little as 20 minutes.

Shop Car Paints & Body Repair

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Or choose our Premium membership for a small monthly fee (or a one-off payment) to unlock exclusive member pricing on all motoring products and services online and across our stores, garages and Halfords Mobile Experts, as well as a variety of other benefits that will help you to keep moving for less.

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