Foam Car Shampoo

What is a Maintenance Car Wash? (For Beginners)

Understanding the correct way to wash your car is one of the most important skills you can learn if you want to protect its shine and keep it looking new for as long as possible.

Weather you are washing your own car at home or you are a professional car detailer its worth understanding just what can cause scratches and how you can prevent them. 

Quick Answer

A maintenance car wash is performed when you want to protect your existing shine and you are not planning on doing any paint correction such as polishing or applying a ceramic coating to your vehicle.

Using the proper technique will allow you to fully remove dirt without washing off wax, sealant, or coating.  Your goal is to wash your car without causing any further swirls and scratches.  

Do am a maintenance car wash when you just want your car to look clean and you’re not playing on claying, compounding, or polishing.  You also want to try to protect your ceramic coating, wax, or sealant.  

What are the Steps in a Maintenance Car Wash?

There are a number of ways you can do a maintenance car wash but it really depends on how much dirt you are dealing with.  You should always try to park in the shade and let the paint cool.  This helps prevent soap and water from drying out and forming water spots.  

Use a ph-neutral car shampoo to dissolve dirt and road film and also protect any existing wax.

Always do the wheels first.  Brake dust is corrosive and can scratch the paint.  So after you have washed your wheels and tires throw away the water and use different mitts to wash the paint.

These are the basic steps involved in a maintenance car wash

For light dust and dirt

  1. Rinse down car with water to remove dust and soften the dirt
  2. Perform the two-bucket car wash method or use the multi-mitt method.
  3. Apply a spray wax on the wet paint
  4. Dry car with a microfibre drying towel.
  5. Apply tire shine.

For heavy dust and dirt

  1. Apply wheel cleaner to alloy wheels
  2. Pre-wash with foam cannon & pressure washer
  3. Power wash away the foam.
  4. Wash wheels, tires & wheel wells.
  5. Perform the two-bucket car wash method or the multi-mitt method.
  6. Apply a spray wax
  7. Dry with a microfibre towel or a car drier.
  8. Apply tire shine.

Further Reading:  Here are 3 super-fast ways to wash your car.

What do I need to do a Maintenance Wash?

The two-bucket method is the most popular safe car washing method and for this, you need the following items at a minimum

If you really want to get the best results possible you should consider some of these items

Steps Not Usually Included in a Maintenance Wash.

Just so you know the difference between a maintenance wash and a non-maintenance wash, here are some steps that are generally saved for when you are doing some paint correction such as polishing and compounding.

A clay bar is usually not part of a maintenance car wash.  A clay bar is great for removing bonded contamination from your paint that does come off when you wash it.  A clay bar can cause some scratching or marring so you might need to polish your car after you use it.

A fallout or iron remover is not usually included because it doesn’t need to be done that often.  An iron remover will dissolve iron particles that could cause rust spots or could come off your paint and scratch it when washing.

A strip wash shampoo is not usually used in a maintenance wash because it’s designed to remove existing sealant or wax.  In a maintenance wash, you generally want to protect your existing wax and may add some more.

A traffic film remover or TFR is not usually used as it also strips wax.

An all-purpose cleaner is not usually used on paint as it strips wax.  It’s fine to use on wheels or tires.

Compound or polish is usually not used after a maintenance car wash as the paint has not been fully decontaminated.

How Often Should I do a Maintenance Car Wash?

A maintenance car wash should be performed every two weeks to be most beneficial.  

Keeping your car clean and applying a simple spray wax will make each wash easier and keep it looking good.

If you let too much time pass and your car gets very dirty it will be harder to clean.  This makes it more likely that you will scratch your car when you wash it.

Not doing a maintenance wash frequently enough can result in oxidization forming on paint.

Bird poop can eat into paint and cause problems.

Traffic film from other cars and trucks will cause paint to fade.

Can I Wax my Car After a Maintenance Wash?

Yes, you can wax your car after a maintenance wash.  A spray wax is the best way and here’s why.

A spray wax requires a lot less buffing than a paste wax.  Less buffing means fewer scratches.

You can easily apply a spray wax or a spray and rinse wax after most maintenance washes.  It makes your paint look amazing in no time.

Benefits of Using a Pressure Washer to do a Maintenance Car Wash

A pressure washer can help keep scratches to a minimum.  It can do this by getting rid of as much dirt as possible without touching your car.

The contact wash is where scratches happen.  So applying blasting away mud and dirt will keep your car looking good.

Some people think a pressure washer can damage car paint but in my years of experience, it’s completely safe to use.

Final Thoughts

A maintenance car wash is a basic car wash that’s simply meant for removing dirt from your car without scratching it.

If your car looks good or has been recently detailed you need to protect the shine by learning the safe way to wash it.

Failure to do a good maintenance wash will result in scratches and swirls and loss of shine.

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