You spent a lot of time and money putting in your vehicle’s aftermarket parts. The last thing you want to do as you regularly wash your car and keep in it good condition is subject those parts to potential damages. Here’s a quick and easy guide to protecting everything from your antenna to those great new tail lights you had installed.
- Car Antennas: Most antennas can either be unscrewed or pushed down so they no longer protrude from the car’s exterior. They’re flexible enough to withstand the occasional automatic car wash, but it’s best if you get in the habit of removing these items before you head in. (If you want to make sure the antenna screws on tightly, be sure and keep a wrench on hand.)
- Side View Mirrors: If your car has the ability to fold or pull in the side mirrors, always do this before you go through a car wash. If they don’t have the built-in flexibility, you’ll need to inspect them both before and after the wash. Make sure the mirror is secure and firm, and always adjust the mirror afterwards so you have a clear line of vision, as the water sprays may move the angle.
- Windshield Wipers: By nature of their purpose, windshield wipers are designed to withstand a little moisture and high pressure. However, if you want to protect the wiper blades during a wash to increase their longevity, you can purchase windshield wiper cover bags that easily slip on and remove.
- Rubber/Plastic Trim: Because the trim on your car’s exterior is made of different materials than the body itself, it requires a different kind of clean. While these items don’t have to be removed prior to a car wash (in fact, because they provide sealing protection, this is a bad idea), it’s best to apply a specialty trim wax every few months. This will prevent the trim from fading in the sun and keep the rubber from cracking over time.
- Tires and Wheels: Your new tires can go through the car wash just fine, but if you want to make them gleam, you’ll need to perform a deeper clean and even apply a tire shine. Over time, UV damage can crack and fade the rubber, and dirt and grease can build up. Extra scrubbing and tire soaks on the wheels will go a long way in helping you keep the quality up.
- Taillights: If your taillight has a poor seal or has a tiny crack (possibly even invisible to the naked eye), the high-pressure spray of water in an automatic car wash can push moisture into the light and cause condensation to form inside. You can opt to remove a taillight cover after a wash to dry it out, or simply tighten and seal it so that no moisture can get in the next time.
- Tinted Windows: The tint on windows is applied on the inside, so you shouldn’t have to worry about protecting them when you visit a car wash and use the regular sprays and chemicals. As you head into the interior, however, you’ll want to avoid traditional glass cleaners, which can damage the tint over time. Avoid all ammonia-based products (which can discolor the tint) and stay away from the edges to avoid peeling.
- Exhaust Systems: Exhaust upkeep is important to keep rust away and ensure your investment in your vehicle stays sound. Take your car through your usual washing steps, being sure to remember to clean the undercarriage. Then, when the wash is through, you can detail the exhaust pipes. Avoid harsh steel wool and other scrapers that will scratch the metal, and be sure to apply a metal shine or metal wax afterward.
Car washes are designed to make a car shine without damaging the features and products that you’ve installed, but it’s always a good idea to take extra precautions when your car has been considerably upgraded. With a little extra planning and care, you can keep your investment running in perfect form for as long as you want!