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Washing Your BMW

I am endlessly amused and saddened by approach supposed BMW (and car enthusiasts in general) take to washing their cars. Drive by any car wash and you'll see cars waiting in line to go through the carwash conveyor, which will scratch the crap out of your paint and damage heretofore pristine finishes quickly. Here are a few tips and best practices for washing your BMW the 'right way'. Of course, there are concours d'elegance anal retentive purists who only wash their pride and joy with plain wash water and a 130 year old cloth diaper owned by the Quandt family or something ridiculous, but that's a story for another day.

You must rinse off the dirt before washing a car. Any dirt that is rubbed into the surface can cause scratches. I recommend, if using a garden hose, to spray water on the car lightly, not full blast. Use the 'shower' or 'mist' setting. You don't want to grind the dirt in more. Under the wheelwells, I do just blast away. Never use dish washing detergents as they are designed to strip grease and grime, and they will actually strip the wax from your car. Unless you are beginning a multi-stage detailing or paint treatment process (like a Mother's or Meguair's 3 stage process), always use soap solutions designed for car washing. When I'm preparing to do a full detailing job on any car, I actually do like to use Palmolive or similar since it helps strip any existing wax right off.

Use a large bucket so the dirt particles sink to the bottom of the container and the fresh suds and water you apply are clean and free of contamination. Or you can use two buckets, one for rinsing and one for the suds.

Make sure your car surface is cool (preferably in the shade) by hosing the entire vehicle. Apply suds to the upper areas first using thick, terry cloth towels or a wash mitt and work your way down. Rinse the car clean by running a slow stream of water instead of a high pressure spray to reduce water spots and drying time. When washing your vehicle by hand, take the time to run your wash mitt along the inside bottom edge of the doors, lift gate, hood and trunk, etc. These areas trap dirt and moisture. Make sure you use a separate sponge or towel for the wheels or you risk rubbing wheel grime and brake dust into the paint of your BMW!

Clean the tires first, then the wheels. Cleaning the wheels, especially those with BMW's high-quality finish, is important since brake dust and road salt can cause irreversible corrosion. I like to wash the wheels/rims last. I do an initial rinse, then let them soak with diluted (50/50) Simple Green. Simple Green is safe and non toxics and will not damage expensive stock or aftermarket BMW wheels.

Once the entire vehicle is washed and rinsed, take a clean, dry towel or cloth and wipe the vehicle down, again starting at the top. You can also use a product like a synthetic chamois. Don't use a leather chamois since it can pull oils from the paint and remove the wax. I am fond of the synthetic chamois products like 'The Absorber' but be careful to ensure it is clean or you can make ugly new scratches in your paint by dragging it across the surface. I like to re-wet each section ahead of me before I get to dry it, making sure no water spots are there before I can get to it with a chamois or towel. When using towels, make sure they are 100% terry cotton, and rip off the little tag on the end as it can cause scratches as well. We will discuss paint cleaning, polishing, and waxing techniques in future articles.

Now, you'd think you already knew this stuff, but lets be honest: there's a sad number of folks out there scrubbing their paint with the brushes at the pressure washer, or pressure-wash initial rinsing their vehicle. Yikes!

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