Car washing

How to effectively machine polish with a dual action polisher

Polishing a car is the one step that can truly make the paintwork shine like new. When you clean your car you remove all the dirt from the surface, but you leave behind all the little scratches (also known as swirls) that are marked in the paint. These have generally appeared as a result of poor wash technique or general driving/parking issues (such as scrapes in car parks or vandalism).

A swirl mark or scratch is usually cut into the paintwork of the car and thus cannot be cleaned away. Instead, polish is needed to work on the paintwork itself:

These catch your eye as the sun reflects off the peculiar angles on the paint. Your eye expects the paintwork to be flat, however the reflections from the swirls reveal the true state of the surface.

How polish works

Polish comes in two forms:

  • Filler polish
  • Abrasive polish

Filler polishes infill the scratches making the scratches much less obvious. The swirls do remain on the paint however.

Abrasive polish rubs away the clear coat of the paintwork working to level the surface. This removes the scratch by bringing the surrounding clear coat down to the same level.

Either type of polish can be worked either by hand or with a machine polisher. Generally it is best to work from least to most abrasive polishes, stopping when you have achieved the desired level of correction. This prevents over correction e.g. wearing down the clear coat unnecessarily deep.

When working polish it is important to consider the thickness of paint, as too much abrasive polishing will remove the clear coat all together requiring a bodyshop to correct.

Filler polish

Usually filler polishes have little to no abrasives in them therefore there is no limit on the frequency of polishing with these. One of the most popular available is Auto Glym Super Resin Polish. It’s very easy to use so I would recommend it to a beginner.

To use this polish you will need the product, applicator pads for application and microfibre towels to buff off once cured. I usually apply and buff off by hand so this is a great introduction to polishing without breaking the bank:

  • Foam applicator pad
  • SRP
  • Microfibre towels

Apply a handful of dots of product to an applicator pad and place this surface on the paintwork (still working from the top down of course). Work your pad in small circles using a light pressure; you will be able to see the cream cloud over the surface of the car. Work over each panel evenly topping up the pad as it runs dry.

I cover the entire car in product before beginning to remove. Taking a microfibre towel, gently buff the surface to a brilliant shine using moderate pressure and circular movements.

The paintwork at this stage should look great, however deep swirls and any serious scratches will remain. If you are happy with the finish, move on to waxing to seal this brilliant shine in for good!

Abrasive polish

The following method can cause damage to your car so be careful. Too much abrasive polishing will break through clear coat into the paint layer (known as strike through), which will need a bodyshop to repair. That said, if you are careful it can be rewarding to properly correct paintwork on your car.

Working through this tutorial I will be using an entry-level dual action machine polisher (Kestrel DAS-6), Meguiars polishes (105 and 205) and Meguiars machine polishing pads (cutting, polishing and finishing pads).

  • Kestrel DAS-6
  • Meguiars 105
  • Meguiars 205
  • Cutting pad
  • Polishing pad
  • Finishing pad

Having a range of cutting power available allows you to work from least to most abrasive to find the correction level required. If you are looking to start out, try the least abrasive set up and add more abrasive pads and polishes in future. A good combination would be a Kestrel DAS-6, Meguiars 205 and a finishing pad. This combination would give a very light level of correction.

Most polishes have grains that are rubbed against the paintwork by the polisher, as these are worked they break down slowly until they are completely gone. Working the polish until these are gone is important, as not doing so could leave a number of smaller swirls which are inflicted by these grains (known as marring). If fully worked, as the grains break down they polish out their own marks until they are completely worked. 

Recently, some polishes are now non-diminishing which means the grains do not break down. Instead the effect of diminishing is replicated through the user altering the pressure and/or pad. 

How machine polishers work

There are two mainstream types of polisher for cars. A rotary has a fixed centre point and orbits in perfect circles only whereas a dual action polisher circles in random elliptical motions. 

With the more concentrated force, a rotary generates more heat and correction than a dual action in the same length of time, but is generally a higher risk tool as strike through is easier with a rotary. A dual action doesn’t repeatedly hit the same area of paint therefore heat and correction levels are lower and it is safer, however correction takes longer. Both have pros and cons, however I have used a DA for this guide.

Pads attached the polisher will have different cutting strengths as well as indicated on the packaging, the difference will usually involve density of foam (denser pads cut harder).

Controlling the polisher we will work in a taped off section of around 1.5 square feet in size. We will move back and fourth in straight lines applying pressure to the head of the polisher with our right hand.

Working a case study

Here we have a number of swirls on the rear quarter of a Focus RS. The paint on Ford is usually medium hard so we should be ok to use a DA without any major concern. The swirls are quite prominent:

We are using Meguiars 105 and 205 which are non-diminishing polishes. We therefore control the cut by varying the pressure applied to the head.

Apply 8 dots of polish (yes, that few!) to the polishing pad and spread using DA speed 1 over the area. The polish will cream up on the area. Now working at speed 3 we apply moderate to heavy pressure to the head of the polisher working slowly (around 2 feet/minute) from side to side, then move down and repeat. I work over the panel twice in this fashion. Before moving on, apply a light spray of quick detailer and buff off the remaining residue with a microfibre towel.

To finish working 105 which is non-abrasive, we will reduce the cut. Turning the DA speed up to 8 we will apply very light pressure to the polisher and work the panel at about the same speed. This less harsh cut removes most of the polishing marks from the heavier passes.

The 105 will have turned from creamy white to clear when it is worked appropriately. We do not want it to dry up when working. If this happens a quick squirt of quick detailer will dampen it up.

At this stage, you could complete the polish and wax the car up. However in order to get a really good mirror finish we will go the extra mile and use a very gentle finishing pad with a very gently 205 polish to repeat the above steps with two slow and two fast passes. This will buff up the finish with a very, very slight cut. Ultimately we are left with a fantastic mirror finish:

Once finished, ensure the surface is clear of residue by using quick detailer and a microfibre to wipe down. Move on to seal the finish under a wax to compete the look.

Car washing

Advanced cleaning – the dark art of claying

Clay bar theory

Following on from the guide to removing bug splatter and tar using chemicals, we will look to using car specific clay bars to clean the final bits of dirt off of the paintwork. We will therefore pick up after a treatment with Tardis, with few contaminants left:

A clay bar is used as a firm, flat surface that is run across the paintwork with a liquid lubricant used to mitigate damage to the car. The firmness will catch on the few remaining contaminants pulling them into the clay bar and off the paint. The obvious risk is that clay does not have a pile (like microfibre towels) so the dirt stays on the surface of the bar and therefore any dirt will be exposed to the paintwork while the clay bar is used.

The steps before this such as a good wash and chemical treatment will mitigate the risk by getting rid of the vast majority of contaminants. The other safety net is that we will work in small areas, frequently kneading the clay to reveal a clean surface.

Clay can be used on the paintwork, light covers, glass, wheels, virtually everywhere. If using a bar on wheels then do not recycle this bar and use for bodywork again!

How to use a clay bar

Clay can damage the paintwork if not used correctly so please be careful. To clay a car you will need a bar of your choosing and a suitable lubricant – usually quick detailer. My preference is Bilt Hamber clay, this is the only clay I know of that uses water as lubricant which is great on the wallet. I’ve also used Meguiars clay with Quik Detailer.

I usually cut the bar into pieces about a square inch in size and a centimeter thick, this is usually enough to do a car (or half a car if it’s particularly dirty!). Before making contact with the car, knead the clay bar until it is warm and malleable (can help to stand in hot water for 15 minutes). Form into a flat surface that we will use on the car.

Working in an area around 9 square inches in size, spray a generous helping of lubricant onto the surface of the paint and place the clay bar on top of this. Using finger light pressure, pass the bar over the area. You will feel the bar catch on the dirt the first few passes but this will subside and it will glide over the paint. This is when you know you are done with an area, as there is nothing left to pick up. The paint is perfectly clean.

As the clay picks up dirt the surface becomes soiled, in order to prevent doing damage the bar is kneaded which will reveal a clean surface. Eventually, the bar will become completely soiled, you will know as you won’t be able to knead to a clean surface. At this point dispose of the bar.

Note: If you drop the clay bar on the ground DO NOT use it again – bin it immediately. Too much dirt will be picked up on the bar.

As you work round the car in 9 inch areas you will leave a residue behind of lubricant and any diluted dirt. I usually wipe down each panel with quick detailer and a microfibre as it’s completed before moving on to the next section.

Work your way around the car panel at a time. If it is taking too long for you, you can always do the car in sections over a number of cleans.

Car washing

Intermediate cleaning – last stage protection

Assuming you have followed all the previous cleaning guides and are now at this stage you should have very clean paint – congratulations! The next step is to apply a suitable layer of protection to lock the fresh paint away from the dirt and grime of the road. This will make future cleaning sessions a lot easier as a two bucket wash will clean down to this wax layer automatically bringing the brilliant finish held beneath the wax back.

When it comes to the last stage of protection there are a myriad of choices available ranging from a few pounds worth to thousands of pounds worth of product. Ultimately, the choice of product is down to the individual and the car to find a finish (and often a balance of durability, finish and cost) that is the best balance for them. I am currently using Collinite 476. I chose this wax as it is very hard wearing (some claim it lasts for up to six months which is incredible) and very cheap.

You will need a wax of your choice, applicator pads (although microfibre cloth could be used in place of a pad if required) and a microfibre cloth.

When applying wax take the product and a pad to the car and work your way around as you do when cleaning i.e. start from the top and work down and around. Using an applicator pad, swirl this in product and rub the pad across the paintwork in small circles with finger light pressure. To ensure you are getting even coverage, view the paint from angles to ensure even coverage in the wax which will appear cloudy on the surface of the paint.

Top the applicator pad up with product as required and continue working around covering all painted surfaces. I also wax the light covers. When applying, try to keep the layers thin as excess will be hard to buff off and will produce a lot of dust. Generally a tin of wax will do many cars so do not be alarmed if you barely scrape the surface of the pot!

Once applied, the wax will need to cure to the paint surface and then be buffed off.

The curing times for wax will vary greatly depending on the product so check the label of your chosen wax. For Collinite, it bonds near immediately so I apply to two panels at a time then buff off. Others will allow you to coat the car and then wipe off.

Buffing is the final stage and involves using a microfibre to rub off the wax layer. Using a towel, work around the car rubbing off all the residue in small circles.

Once the car has been completely buffed, this stage is finished. Congratulations!

Car washing

Intermediate cleaning – removing tar and bug splatter with chemicals

After two bucket method has been done you should be left with largely clean bodywork. Inevitably however there are going to be bits of resilient dirt. Commonly these include tar from the road and bugs that have sealed themselves to your car that are too ingrained to be removed with a mitt.

The easiest and safest way to remove the majority of these imperfections is to apply a chemical solvent such as the popular Tardis. These are very strong chemicals that will soften virtually all tar and bug residue allowing it to be wiped off with a microfibre towel.

Once you have your chosen product (in my case Tardis) apply it to your car as instructed on the bottle. Usually I will apply it by spraying the entire lower section of the car (from the side bump strips down) all round the car working around it side at a time. 

I apply the solvent, leave until it turns cloudy and the tar is running, then wipe it down with a microfibre. At this point I will rinse the side with the power washer to ensure the solvent I not left on the paint for long durations.

It is recommended that this process shouldn’t be performed too frequently as the paint would end up being damaged by prolonged exposure to the strong solvents. I tend to do this about quarterly, however if you wanted to do it more frequently you could dilute the concentration or reduce the dwell time to reduce the impact.

While this will eliminate a lot of the stubborn marks some elements will remain. These will require a slightly more advanced technique to remove known as claying. This is covered in depth in the advanced tutorials section.

After I have chemically removed tar and bug splatter I will move on to a last stage protection to try and lock the great finish of the paint down for as long as possible. See the LSP tutorial for more details.

Car washing

Intermediate cleaning – quick detailing

Quick detailing is essentially a waterless wash process. A spray of cleaner is liberally applied to the bodywork then this is wiped down with a microfiber towel. As you will hopefully have identified this is a ‘high risk’ method of cleaning a car as there is no rinse process and no deep woolen pile mitt used to remove dirt!

I will never suggest using a waterless wash technique as a means to clean a genuinely dirty car as there is just too much scope for dirt to clog the microfiber then mar the surface of the paint inducing the scratches we are trying to avoid and/or correct.

Where quick detailing does have a use is in top-up cleaning. If I fully clean the car this will take about an hour and at the end of this I am ready for a sit down inside! If I decide I want to polish the car or similar either later that day or perhaps the next I will quick detail the recently cleaned paint (assuming the car hasn’t moved) then begin polishing.

Why is this safe? Because I have already removed all the major risks by performing a full wash. Quick detailing will remove any dust and light fall out ahead of polishing.

As a cleaning tool quick detail spray is very versatile. Per above I use it if I am leaving the car before polishing/waxing but I will also use it to clean the car after it has been clayed, if I notice a random spot of dirt. Further most clays require quick detail as lubricant and it is useful when polishing to lubricate pads and remove stubborn bits of polish so it is useful to have around.

I use Meguiars quick detail which is excellent at what it does, however I try and avoid this technique where possible due to the risky nature of it.

Car washing

Intermediate cleaning – caring for wheels and tires

Best practice dictates that wheels should be cleaned first as this means any splatter on to the body from when rinsing with the hose can be mopped up and cleaned as part of the regular two bucket approach to bodywork. My approach is to power hose them as part of the rinse stage and then foam them during the pre-wash stage. Once the snow foam has been rinsed off, I then clean the wheels before rinsing again and following the two bucket method.

Wheels are generally one of (if not the most) dirty area of a car. This is due to brake dust from where the pads wear out on the disks (and vice versa to a certain extent). This can bake onto the wheels forming a very hard layer of dirt on the rim. I bought a car with this before and ended up having to sand the area of build up back, as washing simply would not penetrate the dust once it had cooled. The moral of that story is to try and keep on top of your wheels!

I will flag just now that there are different types of wheel – I am dealing with one piece alloys however there are lots of split alloys wheels out there. A lot of wheel cleaners will specifically exclude use on split rims so be sure to check the label before proceeding. The Muc Off cleaner I use here is suitable for split rims I believe.

Recently I have been using Muc-Off wheel cleaner. While this is very gentle on the alloys it can lack bite if there is a build up of tar and brake dust. Generally, once every few months, I will treat the wheels with a tar remover such as Tardis to get more stubborn marks off. 

Given the pre wash routine I apply to the wheels a lot of the dirt is already washed off, therefore when cleaning the wheels with Muc Off I usually apply and agitate with a microfibre cloth. This minimizes scratches that can come from wheel brushes and preserves the wheel protection by not aggressively rubbing it off.

Generally the approach for all wheel cleaners will be the same. I liberally hose down each wheel one at a time when rinsing the car, then apply snow foam leaving it to dwell for a few minutes. Once rinsed, I apply wheel cleaner liberally to a wheel at a time and agitate with a microfibre.

Now leave the wheel with the suds on it for a few minutes. I usually do the same on the next wheel in this time then return to the original wheel with the hose. Once the settling period is over rinse thoroughly ensuring all the suds are gone. Repeat this process on each wheel.

At times I will leave the process here, however for full protection there are additional steps to follow.

At this stage I then perform the two bucket wash method on the body of the car, and return to the clean wheels once the whole car has been dried.

At this point there are a number of options available to add a layer of protection as there are numerous wheel sealants on the market. I have Autoglym Wheel Sealant lying around so have been using it. I’ve not been blown away by its performance however so will try alternatives once finished.

For these follow the instructions on the container as they can vary. Generally the product should be applied to a microfibre towel and worked into the wheel surface. I avoid spraying directly on to the wheels as I don’t want any protective layers building on the brake disk. 

Car washing

Intermediate cleaning – plastic trim

Plastic trim is identifiable as the textured black/gray plastic which is often present on the exterior of cars.

This can fade and become tired looking naturally over time in the sun and exposed to the elements. If this is the case there are a number of products that can be used to rejuvenate the areas. 

In my experience I have found that I usually end up cleaning the plastic trim when polish or wax has come into contact with it. These compounds stick to the plastic and the textured surface prevents them from being rubbed away – as a result they tend to leave an unattractive white residue on the plastics.

I currently use Autoglym bumper restorer which is a green paste. Autoglym themselves recommend using their Autolym fast glass product on the plastic trim however and it does work at least as effectively therefore if you have that already there is no need to expand your range of products.

Using a clean microfiber apply some of the product directly to the towel. I tend to work this in my hand slightly to get an even spread of the cleaner over a patch of the cloth about five centimeters squared. 

Carefully apply the cloth to the textured surface keeping it away from the paintwork as far as possible. I apply a very light passing to the plastic surface then go back over the area working it into the trim with the microfiber. When doing this I apply moderate to hard pressure working with one or two fingers.

Once this is complete I will give a quick passing over with the clean side of the microfiber to get any excess product off of the car before moving on to the next area of plastic.

I also use this product for restoring the roof rails and window seals around the car.

Car washing

Intermediate cleaning – glass

As part of the two bucket overall clean I perform a quick wash down of the windows with the bodywork shampoo. I find this removes any smears and surface dirt effectively and acts as a pre-cleaning process for a proper glass cleaning session.

I currently own a selection of glass cleaning products including Autoglym and RainX products each with their own merits. I think the concept of RainX is interesting in that it would provide good quality beading however the product seems to be quite short lived. For speed and ease I usually use 3M glass spray – this effectively cleans the windows then wipes off instantly leaving streak fee finish with no misting.

For most glass products (including the 3M spray) I apply the product to a regular microfiber towel and work it into the glass surface in medium sized circles. Best results are usually obtained if you then turn the microfiber to a clean area and buff off in similar circles with hard pressure. I finish by doing a light pressured, large circled wipe down of each area with the permeated cloth.

It should be noted that glass surfaces can be clayed and polished as per bodywork. If you are having problems with haze and getting the desired cleanliness of windows you should follow the advanced clay and polishing guides.

Car washing

Basic wash – Washing the car: Two bucket method

I’m going to cover the famous two bucket method of cleaning a car now. This is the basic wash technique and will be used as a base point for virtually all intermediate and advanced car cleaning tasks. Assuming you take good care of your car, most washes will only involve a rinse/two bucket wash/dry cycle with the other techniques being far less regular. 

To properly clean cars bodywork using the two bucket method you will need the following products:

  • two buckets
  • wash mitt (preferably two woollen ones)
  • selection of microfiber towels with tags removed
  • drying towel (optional)
  • bodywork shampoo (I currently use Autoglym but you may prefer another)
  • detailing brush (optional)

Two bucket method – why it works

The two bucket method employs the use of one suds bucket and a separate rinse bucket. Theoretically this means dirt is lifted from the car via the wash mitt and deposited in the rinse bucket to fully remove dirt from the car. The mitt is then dunked in soapy water meaning that every batch of soapy water applied will be as clean as the first.

I believe in this method and suggest you use it. I find I may need to change the rinse bucket a few times throughout the wash (usually 1-2 times) but the soapy bucket will remain virtually perfectly clean throughout demonstrating that this method does work provided you rinse very well. If you find the clean bucket gets dirty you will need to try and be more rigorous at rinsing your mitt before getting it soapy again. At this point I would recommend replacing the soapy water to avoid moving dirt back on to the car.

When using either bucket you should avoid dipping the mitt into the bucket too deep. Any dirt and grime will naturally drop to the bottom therefore plunging your hand right in will encourage the dirt back onto the mitt. I tend to use only the top five inches of either bucket. 

Note there are two different schools of thought on this with many believing that a ‘grit guard’ is a necessary bit of equipment. This guard sits in the bucket a few inches from the bottom and gives a course surface to rub your mitt on shedding the dirt. Personally I think sticking to the top five inches of water and rinsing properly achieves the same so that is what I do. If you think having an expensive bit of plastic in a bucket will help feel free to give it a try.

Two bucket method – The technique

First get a warm bucket of soapy water ready. Personally, I am using Auto Glym bodywork shampoo at the moment which is a very gentle detergent so as to protect my wax layers as much as possible. You may prefer other brands, however. The rinse bucket should just have cold or warm water. I position these next to me and move them round as I work over the car.

Using your wash mitt make sure and saturate it with the soapy water. Without losing too much of the water, move over to the car and work from the top (roof) downwards. Inherently the top of cars is less dirty as there is less exposure to dirt on the road and other debris being flung up onto it. Think of it as cleaning your cups and glasses before you work on the frying pan.

In terms of order I work on the roof then around the glass down to the “fold” on the sides and the tailgate. I then do the sides down to the half way point which for me is indicated by the bump strips on the car. At this point I tend to switch to a new mitt and clean the front of the car first and then the lower section we haven’t done yet consisting of the back bumper, front bumper and lower part of the sides.

While washing I apply liberal amounts of soap and work in large circles applying a light amount of pressure initially to scoop up as much dirt as possible but applying moderate pressure as required on subsequent passes once the mitt has been rinsed. Anything which doesn’t come off with a light to moderate pass I will come back to as part of a later stage to lift off the paint carefully.

I try and do several passes over each area. Where there tends to be a lot of grime like the lower part of the front doors I will usually take extra care to pass very lightly initially and rinse much more frequently to deposit the dirt.

When not using your mitt I suggest rinsing it and hanging it on the edge of the soapy bucket.

I suggest rinsing your mitt regularly. Whenever the rinse bucket gets discoloured I change it. If you notice the soapy bucket start to change as well then change this immediately and try to be more vigorous when rinsing in future. It is also very important not to let the car dry naturally in the sun while washing – this can lead to hologram marks where the chemical residue is ‘burnt’ on to the paint. This can be tough to remove.

Once the entire car has been washed it must be rinsed. I will arm myself with the hose or power washer depending on how I initially had pre-washed the vehicle and work from the roof down. I rinse very thoroughly and will do it until no more suds appear which usually takes about five minutes. I work all over the car taking care over each body seam which can hide soapy residue. Once this has completely gone the car should be a clean base. Congratulations, that was the two bucket method! Now do not forget to dry the car!

Two bucket method – with protection applied

Using the two bucket method when there is already a base layer of wax applied will remove most of the dirt back to the wax or sealant finish which has been applied leaving the same fantastic finish as was achieved previously.

Consider the following picture showing a simplified version of dirty paint with wax applied:

Washing will remove the debris leaving only the wax layers and, unfortunately, a few elements of ingrained dirt. Don’t worry about these last few bits of dirt they are usually not visible and will be taken care of when you strip and reapply the protection in future.

The result after the two bucket method will therefore be paint which is brought back to the lovely state it was in previously.

There are a few hazards when doing this though. Obviously shampoo is set to remove dirt from paint however it is not quite clever enough to tell the difference between protection and dirt. This means frequent washing will erode the protection and ultimately strip it off completely. This is a combination of the chemicals in the shampoo and the abrasive washing process of rubbing the medium on the protective layer.

Selection of shampoo can therefore be important to the longevity of the protection as you will want a relatively mild and soapy shampoo. I’m currently using Autoglym which seems to preserve the Collnite 476 wax I have on the cars. This does not seem to damage the protection however at times I feel it can lack the required bite when getting a car suitably clean in the first instance. This is the trade off when it comes to shampoos.

I also suggest layering protection at regular intervals to ensure the above process constantly gets the desired results. The exact timeframe will depend on multiple factors such as mileage, protection used, shampoo used, frequency of washing etc. I currently use Collinite 476 as my protective layer which is very long lasting (some say up to a year), I would expect to layer this every two to three months or so to keep the car in top condition.

See the protection section for more details on this process.

Drying the car

When drying the car I recommend using high quality microfiber towels with a thick pile as this will absorb more water and avoid having to do too many sweeps over the car. Some microfiber towels are specifically for drying. I recommend having at least one such towels around as they really are much better at drying.

The absolute best practice for drying is to take a towel like the one above and dry the car by dabbing it. This avoids having any rubbing motion on the newly cleaned paint. When armed with a large drying towel this is actually quite quick and easy as you can spread the towel over the body and dab the surface. Once done you can pick it up and over the next area. Working like this I can quickly dab dry a whole vehicle.

When drying often you will find the microfiber towel will be saturated with water. At this point simply ring it out away from the car and it will become absorbent again and you can continue.

At this point the basic cleaning process is complete. There are further advanced cleaning techniques for glass, plastic trim etc. which can be followed to make the clean more in depth. Additionally if you want to make it an advanced clean there are several articles on polishing cars you can follow from this point onwards.

Stand back and admire your hard work as the two bucket method has done the job of keeping your suds bucket clean!

Car washing

Basic Wash – Rinsing and pre-washing


Before stating the process of wiping the car with the wash medium it’s best to remove as much dirt and dust as possible with a rinse and, if possible, a pre-wash. When rinsing the car it is advisable to try and blast off dirt and grime at acute angles so as not to hammer the particles against the paint but rather propel them off.

It is best practice to rinse the car with a hose to remove the obvious dirt. Personally I use a pressure washer for this stage and I find the results have been much better, however they are far from essential as long as you have a hose. I currently use a Karacher pressure washer but it doesn’t need to be an expensive one.

As noted I consider a pressure washer a luxury item for cleaning the car, I would not be concerned if you did not have access to one but they can be quite useful if you have some spare cash or vouchers to use up! Do not feel disheartened if not though.


Pre-washing to me is defined by washing the car as far as possible without every actually touching it. One of the most popular ways to do this is by using a foam lance with appropriate mixture to cover the car. What this does is propel foam over the car which then clings to the outside. The suds sit on the car penetrating into the dirt and then, when you wash off after a while (usually three to five minutes) a considerable chunk of dirt comes away as part of the rinse. A foam lance usually requires a power washer to operate and the lance will need to be the correct fitment for the power washer.

A foam lance that attaches to a hosepipe directly is available and comes highly recommended by other detailing sites. I personally have not used it, however.

I am currently using Meguiars Hyperwash which is a fairly gentle, multi-purpose detergent. This is useful as it preserves my wax layers from previous cleans (see later) while still taking off the dirt. If the car is dirtier a stronger mix can be used. One suggestion is to combine Meguiars Hyperwash with a part mix of Meguiars Multi Purpose Cleaner.

When using a foam lance I fill it up with 150ml foam and 850ml water. You then attach the lance to the power washer and apply liberally all over the car from three to five feet away working from the top of the car to the bottom.

After about five minutes (in this time I often prepare the next step of my wash by getting my buckets ready) I rinse the car with the power washer thoroughly until no more suds come off of the car. Take particular care around the body seams that can trap dirt and soap.

Please also be careful not to fire the hose or pressure washer directly off the ground as this can spurt dirt up onto the car!