Second-hand Style, with Richard Cooke
CARS available for test drive have been a bit thin on the ground recently, so normal service won’t be resumed until next month. Sorry.
In the meantime I’ve ventured over to the dark side. Or at least the clean side. Yep, I’ve washed both our cars, inside and out. I did mine twice!
“Big deal” you say, but trust me, this is an event. I never wash our cars. I don’t even pay someone else to do it, they just get really dirty, outside at least, and stay that way for months. This is because cleaning your daily driver, or at least being seen to clean it, was viewed rather suspiciously in my house when I was growing up. Caring about something as petit-bourgeoise as a clean car? The late motoring enthusiast Alan Clark never washed any of his cars (maybe not such a great recommendation): this was something that people in the suburbs did. And when I say people I mean men, on a Sunday, to avoid their wives.
Well, whatever, I’ve cleaned ‘em both down and hoovered them out and can now report back to you dear reader on the efficacy of the potions and lotions I used under that hot COVID-19 sun:
Water and an old cloth. Sponges don’t seem to give me enough purchase, brushes make me think I’m going to scratch the paint. There are all manner of shampoos to add to the water; some even smell nice. The one I used was a fluorescent green. Don’t use washing-up liquid by mistake – it’s not good for the paint. And never use a pressure washer; that’s asking for trouble. I even gave the door jams a wipe down.
Not yet! See below. Before waxing, the avid car detailer must first ‘clay bar’. Neither a dodgy cocktail nor a Scottish reel, this means spraying the surface with magic liquid and then taking a – surprise – bar of clay and gently working it over the paint. My neighbour lent me his kit and it works. The clay takes off all the fine grains and particles you missed when washing. Fold the clay over after each panel, reform it and the result is paint that feels new from the showroom, utterly smooth to the touch. Market leader is the American ‘Mothers California Gold’ clay kit: $17 over there, a rip-off £25 here. More research needed.
By this point I was feeling knackered, but if you want to do a proper job you have to wax. That came out wrong, but anyway waxing is mighty hard work in the heat. I tried a German product (‘Sonax’, not bad) and then good old Autoglym (better). If you can find a spray-on wax you’re winning, as it takes most of the effort out. Time for a beer and a sit down really, but there was more to do…
My usual cheat is to only clean the windows and the wheels, as to my eyes it makes the car itself look pretty clean. Any old window cleaning product will do. For the wheels you need a spray and ideally a hose, or even a pressure washer, but a cloth will do. I like Sonax’s spray here, and although it smells funky it gets all the brake dust off. Don’t underestimate how much difference a tyre blackener (Simoniz) and plastic trim spray (Autoglym Silicone) will make.
Energy levels seriously flagging now, so I simply got the hoover out and, after cleaning the carpets and boot, used a duster and a spray (Turtlewax Fresh Shine) to go over the dash, steering wheel and screens. This spray is great and lasts a long time, much better than a simple dust.
As we slowly emerge from our homes, back to workplaces and the daily commute, I wonder briefly if I should keep up this fastidious cleaning routine. Not a chance; this experience has reminded me why I rarely clean our cars, and why there are so many reasonably-priced car wash shops around: It’s hard work, quite boring and usually there are so many other more important things to do. Quick, someone give me a car to test…