Looking after your cars paintwork will not only keep it looking shiny, but also protect it so that it lasts longer. However if the wrong techniques are used you can actually do more harm than good, so here is my favourite method.
GET SET UP
You will need: around 30 minutes of free time, a hose or pressure washer, car wash shampoo, 2 large buckets, a car wash mitt, an alloy wheel brush, and several clean microfiber cloths or cotton towels.
Park the car out of direct sunlight if possible - this stops the water drying out too quickly.
Make sure all the windows are closed, and pull the windscreen wipers out until they click into their propped position away from the glass.
Squirt car wash shampoo into one bucket, and then fill both buckets with warm water.
WASHING THE CAR BODY
Use the hose (or pressure washer) to loosen and soften the dirt - try to get the worst off the car now, before rubbing the bodywork with the wash mitt.
Soak a wash mitt in the soapy water, and then start to wash the car, starting with the roof.
Rinse the mitt in the plain water bucket to get rid of any grit before getting more soap from the soapy bucket each time – this is an important step to reduce scratching to the cars bodywork.
Work your way around the car several times, washing lower each time, leaving the lowest part of the cars body until last as that's the most dirty and gritty part of the car.
Hose off the whole car now to wash away the soapy residue and keep the car wet until you dry it later.
CLEANING THE WHEELS
If you have alloy wheels use a thin wheel brush with the soapy water for cleaning inside the spokes of the wheels.
Hose the wheels off, and then use the wash mitt to clean the face of the wheels and tyres.
If there are stubborn deposits of brake dust, an alloy wheel cleaning spray will help break them down.
Use the hose to rinse inside the wheel arches and the underneath of the car - this is especially important in the winter as salt left on the car will help rust develop.
DRY THE CAR
Dry the vehicle with clean microfiber cloths (or cotton towels) - this will prevent unsightly watermarks that tap water would otherwise leave after drying naturally.
Once the bodywork and glass is all dry use the damp towels to wipe inside the door shuts and inside the tailgate or boot.
WAXES & POLISHES: Your paint will look shinier and be better protected if you regularly treat it to a coat of wax or polish. There are many different types, so just follow the instructions on the box.
GLASS CLEANING: Use a fresh microfiber cloth and a glass cleaning spray to clean the inside of all windows as deposits build up over time and cause smearing.
STONE CHIPS: If you spot any stone chips on the front of your car treat them with a kit from your dealer as soon as possible to stop rust developing.
CLAY BAR: If after washing, your paintwork doesn't feel completely smooth, use a clay bar kit to remove the deposits that have stuck to your paint. The difference afterwards is amazing!
After you have finished, thoroughly rinse both buckets out. Put the wash mitt and drying cloths through the washing machine to get them clean for next time.
If the car is very dirty, let the soap and water do the work, and use 'bug and tar remover' where needed. Do not scrape hard or use a brush, as that will leave marks in the paint. Ultimately, a few stubborn bits of dirt will look better than scrapes from trying too hard to remove them.
Bird droppings and bugs can damage the car's paint. Get them off as soon as possible with a damp rag or when washing the car. Soften bugs by dabbing with a sponge that's loaded with warm water.
I wouldn't recommend using a sponge to wash your car, as the grit sticks to the flat sides of the sponge and marks your paint with fine scratches. The design of a wash mitt stops this happening.
Don't be tempted to use dishwashing fluid on your car, as the harsh chemicals in it will strip any wax from the paint and may leave streaky deposits. A car shampoo is milder and often includes wax to protect your paintwork.