Yes it’s the time of year for rain, wind, snow and ice. Hardly conditions to inspire even the most hardened car cleaner to fill their bucket. But we show you how to achieve a showroom finish, in half the time.
This has to be the worst time of year to keep your pride and joy clean and perfectly polished; the cold, damp conditions seemingly turning your car into a magnet for the most stubborn muck and grit. Despite all the current rust-proofing techniques of modern cars, regular washing will stop corrosion and salt damage to areas of the paint and trim.
So what do you do if you want a showroom shine, but haven’t got, or don’t want to spend lots of time giving your car a full valet? We gave this almost new MINI Countryman a well deserved wash, to demonstrate how the latest products can restore that shine. Almost new, it has been used throughout the winter months and washed when time and weather allowed. We thought it would be interesting to see what it would look like after we’ve spent just an hour on it.
If you can, before starting on the suds, power wash the car to blast off the worst of the winter salt and loose muck. Pay particular attention to spraying under the wheel arches too. If you don’t have access to one, a hose or buckets of water almost work as well.
MER returns the gloss
MER Autoshine Technologie, High Shine Shampoo (£6.99, 500ml), which needs just 25ml (or three capfuls) per 16-litre bucket, was used on the MINI’s bodywork and impressed by gliding over the bodywork, leaving a glossy finish when dry.
Two buckets are better than one
We’re using a two bucket method to wash the MINI. One filled with shampoo, the other with water to clean the sponge, which despite the power washing or hosing should keep any grit away from the paintwork. Washing from the roof downwards is the best technique.
Clean those wheels!
These 17-inch alloy wheels are distinctive, but difficult to clean. Before you start, they shouldn’t be hot, so if yours are, hose them down or pour a bucket of water over them.
Britemax’s Iron Max Cleaner and Iron Remover (£15.95, 709ml); is also safe to use on the bodywork, but it was at its most effective on the alloys, removing the toughest brake dust after just one application. You won’t miss where the brake dust is either, as a clever colour change formula turns the muck red. It smells like marzipan too.
We also used MER Autoshine Technologie, Rapid Tyre Shine (£7.99, 500ml), which covered well and brought back a natural shine to the low profile rubber.
Open the doors?
Don’t forget the door shuts! It might seem odd to open the doors of a wet car, but the result adds to that ‘new car feel’ and should be done at every wash. Just watch you don’t get any water on the upholstery. Plus, make sure you dry them off well afterwards.
Dry off and polish in one!
After rinsing off the suds with the power washer, hose, or a couple of buckets of water, it’s time to dry and in our case, polish our Countryman
If you’re happy the car is totally clean, using Autoglym’s Aqua Wax kit (£14,50, 500ml), you can polish at the same time as drying. Spray a light mist over all the bodywork whilst still wet, is all that’s needed. Then careful polishing with the microfibre cloths supplied reveals an impressive, durable shine that should last a couple of months with regular washing. Downsides of Aqua Wax? Use it sparingly, if you put too much on, it is difficult to get a streak-free finish.
If you don’t fancy waxing at this point, just dry off the bodywork using microfibre cloths or a chamois. Although Aqua Wax is fine to use on all of the bodywork – even windows, if you still want to polish your glass, Autoglym’s latest Car Glass Polish (£6.75, 325ml) cuts through the worst road grime without marking or scratching. If you don’t have that to hand, screwed up newspaper also works very well.
Don’t want to polish, but instead maintain the wax that’s already on the car? Well, those clever chaps at Dodo Juice have cracked it with their Red Mist Detailer (£9.95, 500ml). Yes, there are other detailers on the market, but unlike those, Red Mist protects as well as polishes. 500ml might not seem a lot, but a little goes a long way and like other Dodo products, it smells lovely.
Considering it took just an hour to get here, we think the MINI looks almost like it has come straight from a showroom. If you’ve got more time you could go further and clean the interior.
Apart from the impressive shine from the Autoglym Aqua Wax, our favourite product in this test was the Britemax Iron Max Cleaner and Iron Remover. The alloy wheels on the MINI look as good as new and we like the fact it is durable enough to also be used on the bodywork.
Sadly, with the unpredictability of our winter weather, it started to spit with rain just as we had finished. So even after we’ve put all this effort in to make it look this good, we don’t think it will be too long until we have to get the bucket out of the back of the garage and start washing it all over again.