Incorrect car washing techniques play a major factor in the introduction of swirled paint marks or "swirl marks". As every car owner has their way of washing, there are a few key behaviours the team at Snow Foam have experienced over our many years of washing that can lead to swirl marks.
Here's our top 5:
1. Coin operated car washes or Automatic Car Washes
A pit stop to the coin-operated car wash is definitely convenient for many Australian car enthusiasts. They're accessible, cheap and saves the hassle of cleaning up. As car enthusiasts, we totally understand this and have been plenty of times as a group after a nice drive on the weekend.
Where the problems lie are in two major areas
Not everyone cares about their paintwork as much as you do, so it is a big no no when it comes to the brushes at coin operated car washes. As many coin-operated services function 24 hours of the day, there are plenty of customers who could have used the brush to rid sand, brake dust and dirt whilst leaving the brush on the floor before you. What could be seen as a quick way to remove some dirt or bird droppings off your car with the brush could lead to swirls galore for your paint due to the extreme amount of dirt on that brush, scrubbing up against your paint.
Stay away from the brush, even if you high pressure rinse it.
The Use of Cheap Chemicals
Coin operated car washes tend to use the cheapest chemicals they can find for maximum profits. This generally means using chemicals that may not be safe for paint protection such as ceramic coatings or waxes, that require a pH neutral formula or non-caustic formulas.
Cheaper chemicals can contain salts, alcohols and even health degrading chemicals that we, as car enthusiasts, wouldn't wish upon anyone's car.
We have experienced car wash companies who use soaps filled with salts that can eat away at the longevity of your paint, clear coats or ceramic coatings. These businesses thrive on customer's ignorance toward chemicals and are after a quick clean for the cheapest possible price. A quick, cheap clean will now cost more in the long run to be fixed by a detailer who will need to perform multiple staged paint corrections to get the paint looking its best.
2. Skipping The Pre-Washing Stage
When we explain to our customers the importance of pre-washing, we give the analogy of washing dishes. If there were to be dirt on a plate that was immediately scrubbed, the dirt will simply scrub up against the plate causing micro-scratches. There is no difference here with car washing.
By taking off as much dirt as possible on your car before physically touching the car with a dedicated soft-microfibre wash mitt, you minimise the chances of these baked-on dirt particles scrubbing up against your paint. Snow Foam is a relatively new step for many car enthusiasts who grew up with a bucket, sponge and a bit of elbow grease. A layer of foam to breakdown dirt and grime and rinsing this layer off each wash, is a simple yet effective step to ensuring your paint is as swirl-free as possible.
3. Lack of Lubrication
When physically touching your car, lubrication is your friend. Lubrication will create a slippery layer between your wash mitt and the car's surface allowing the dirt sitting on your paint to slide off with less friction. With less friction, we reduce the chances of scratching the paint. We can create lubrication by wetting the car, and using a soap with plenty of suds to create a layer between the paint and your wash mitt.
You do not want to use a dry wash mitt, towel or even your finger to rid dirt from your car's paint as there is little lubrication and a much higher chance of having the dirt cause swirl marks. Resist even dusting off a car without using all the right tools for a proper wash.
With Snow Foam, we apply two layers of foam on our cars. The first for pre-washing and a second to maximise the suds we have whilst doing a two/three bucket method wash.
4. Two Bucket Method Wash
The Two Bucket Method Wash is simple, have one bucket for soap + water and another with clean water for rinsing.
Mistakes are made when only one bucket is used when washing a car. When you use only one bucket, you are essentially dunking your mitt into a bucket that is getting dirtier and dirtier each dunk. You are using the same bucket to get more suds to your wash mitt as you are to clean the mitt after a scrub.
By implementing a two buckets, you use one bucket to get the suds and scrub your car then go to the rinse bucket to get all the dirt you've accumulated on the mitt off. Then go back to your wash bucket and wash the next panel. You are now ensuring no dirt you've picked up from one panel is being transferred to the next panel. Your wash bucket should be as clean as possible.
A Grit Guard is extremely helpful here too, in order to trap the dirt and restrict it from rising when dunking your mitt into the bucket.
A third bucket is also recommended which can be used for solely for wheel washing and to avoid having any brake dust travel onto your paint panels.
5. Drying Techniques
Our fifth tip to avoid swirls when washing your car actually comes after the wash step. When you dry your car, you are still physically touching the car once over.
We see far too many customers using any old towels to dry their cars even after safely washing with a pre-wash and two bucket method wash.
You want to use a towel that is dedicated for drying your car. One that has soft fibres yet is effective enough to absorb the water, not just drag it off the car. We have tried and tested a lot of towels during our years and it is all about finding the right towel with the right GSM (grams per square metre), along with the right blend of fabrics to get a safe but effective drying process.
When you have picked your towel of choice, mist a rinsing aid or spray wax onto your towel to create a layer of lubricity to your towel and dry. Be sure when you are done, you wash your drying towel (and your mitts) and leave them to dry in the shade. We don't want your car washing tools to become hard from leaving them in the sun only to scratch your car next wash.
Have questions? Feel free to ask the team at Snow Foam for any car washing related questions you may have, we are always happy to help.
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