So you’ve decided to invest in long-term paint protection for your car. That’s fantastic. But you have some questions about the next steps:
How do you wash a car with Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating? What are the proper washing techniques? How can you avoid damaging or shortening the life of your Paint Protection Film or Ceramic Coating? How can you maximize the longevity and appearance of your long-term paint protection?
There are a number of things to note when discussing the proper care of Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating, but we should start with one simple guideline that may surprise you: In general, you care for your Paint Protection Film or Ceramic Coating in the same way as you care for your vehicle’s factory paint.
How to wash your car:
We’ll get into some specific guidelines for the care of Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating, but let’s make sure basic car-washing principles are sound first.
Keep your vehicle clean with regular washes
A lot of people think now that you have Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating you do not need to wash your vehicle regularly. Nope. Everything starts with a proper washing and frequent washing of your paint’s exterior.
Don’t wash your vehicle in direct sunlight or when the paint is hot
While washing your car in direct sunlight water can evaporate quickly possibly leaving water-spots on your car. The heat can also cause the top coat of the film to become damaged as it is softened in the heat to “heal” swirls and small scratches. Dirt and other debris can damage the top coat if it is hot and cause irreversible damage.
Use a premium wash mitt
This could be a microfiber mitt, or one of the many other options on the market today. The choice is yours. But find one that is good, and make sure that it is always clean before using it. Start at the top of the vehicle and work down, that way the mitt does not become covered in dirt when you are just starting.
Use a dedicated car wash product
A dedicated car wash product will be best suited for loosening debris. Some household cleaning agents can damage your finish. Many companies sell products made for washing cars with ceramic coatings or paint protection film. Chemical guys car soaps are fine to use and can be purchased from Amazon.
Rinse your vehicle thoroughly
You want to make sure you remove as much debris as possible before touching the vehicle with a wash mitt or other wash media. This will reduce the chance of getting debris trapped under your mitt, resulting in swirl marks. If you are going to use a pressure washer make sure and keep the nozzle three feet back from the film, as it can cause damage if too close!
Use the two-bucket method
In this set up you have two buckets, one with your car wash soap, and one with pure rinse water.
The idea behind the two-bucket method is very simple. Once you have washed a panel with your wash mitt, it is very possible that there is dirt on your mitt. Before placing your mitt in your car wash solution, rinse the mitt thoroughly in your rinse water. This will reduce the possibility of reintroducing debris that has been removed from the car.
Establish a rhythm of washing a panel, rinsing your mitt in your pure water, dipping your mitt in your car wash solution, and then returning to wash the next panel. Working one section at a time reduces the possibility of getting debris in your mitt, resulting in swirl marks.
Don’t let your vehicle air dry
There are many ways to dry your car. You could use a waffle-weave towel or an air-blower. Whatever you do, don’t let the car air dry, because this will result in water-spotting.
Don’t go to an automated car wash
Those giant brushes are hard and filled with dirt. Automatic car washes can inflict swirl marks or deep scratches on your car. Also, if there’s a chemical failure in their lines they can result in chemical stains to your finish. The car is never completely dry and can result in water-spotting.
Hand washes can be ok. But you do need to be careful. The vehicle is usually run through a touch-less wash which may not get all the dirt off the vehicle. It is usually then hand-dried, with rags that cab be dirty or swirling left over dirt from an improper wash all over your paint.
Additional tips and tricks!
If you’re following the basic car-washing principles we’ve outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to maintaining your long-term paint protection. But here are some additional principles that are specific to the care of Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating.
Do not wash your vehicle within 7 days of it being ceramic coated
You need to give the Ceramic Coating time to fully cure on your vehicle. If you wash or otherwise agitate the surface, that can inhibit the curing process or cause water-spotting.
Immediately remove any bird-dropping, bug-splatter, or tree-sap
Paint Protection Film and Ceramic Coatings are not indestructible. Natural acidic contaminants can damage them. That means you should still remove any bird-dropping, bug-splatter, or tree-sap immediately. You might want to keep in your car some kind of quick detailer and remember to blot as opposed to wiping.
Do not use aggressive force or aggressive chemicals
Just because your vehicle is covered in paint protection film or ceramic coating does not mean it is free to abuse. You want to be gentle with the coating or film. Furthermore, be sure to keep aggressive chemicals like bug and tar removers off your film or coating. These can cause damage to either product. You will want to “wash” off any aggressive chemicals immediately after use with a spray detailer or water.