CHICAGO, Michigan – When shelter-in-place orders (Americanese for lockdown!) hit cities across the USA at the end of 2019 a hobby renaissance began with images of people comfort-baking, knitting and puzzling flooded social media.
Car enthusiasts, however, began showing off their new DIY car-detailing projects.
Jared Toops from E-Commerce at Car Supplies Warehouse, a subsidiary of the Chicago Auto Pros detail shop, told The Corner in a media release: “Our business was doing some doomsday planning – as many small businesses were at the start of the ‘flu pandemic.
”We were waiting for the wall to close in but it never did.”
How come so?
Toops explained: ”Solving problems and learning new skills online are ways many of us are coping – keeping busy during unprecedented times. Our viewership was increasing on our YouTube channel and a lot of people were asking how to clean their cars now that they couldn’t go to a car-wash or a dealer.
100 000 FOLLOWERS
”Our e-commerce sales kept increasing month by month as DIY-ers dived into car-care themselves for the first time.”
Co-owner Jason Otterness, who launched his YouTube channel with Chicago Auto Pros’ detailing business 12 years ago, said the channel has 100 000 followers.
“I fell in love with detailing before I fell in love with cars,” he explained, ”and now I’ve been doing it for 17 years. As I’ve chronicled our business in recent months, the No.1 question we now get is ‘What do I need to make my car look the way it does when you all do it?’.
”The easiest thing for people stuck at home to do was regular maintenance – things such as washing, tyre polishing, and vacuuming.”
Whether you’re a newbie or an avid detail-DIYer, Otterness and Toops (who own a VW Golf Mk7 and 2020 Tiguan respectively) we sat down with an expert Carman’s Corner correspondent to share their best tips to help readers maintain their car(s) at home:
WASHING YOUR EXTERIOR LIKE A PRO:
• Use soft towels: “One of the biggest things I think people don’t understand is how delicate their car’s paint car – how easy it scratches,” Otterness warned. ”Bath towels won’t cut it when it comes to washing and drying your vehicle.
”It’s best to use microfibre towels or mitts – they’re designed for gentler care.”
• Use two buckets: If you’re only using one bucket to wash your car chances are you’re going to wipe dirt, salt and sand back to the paint. This can create little scratches on a car’s clear coat – “spider webs”.
Toops suggests having a bucket to use only for rinsing your towel or washing mitt to remove debris, and a soap bucket to dunk it in before going back to work on the car’s surface.
OIL AND WATER – BOTH COUNT
• Wash from top to bottom: No surprise that most of the dirt and grime on your car is on the bottom half of your vehicle. Start washing from the bonnet then work your way down to wheels and grille to limit the amount of debris being dragged across the paint.
• Lubricate properly: Owners will often grab whatever is close to hand to clean their car – even using dishwashing liquid. Otterness warns that this stuff can dry out and strip the rubber seals and wax that help to protect your car.
Avoid it at all costs. Even if your resources are limited, he suggests buying and using a car-dedicated shampoo product.
• Don’t wash your car in the sun: On a nice summer day it’s tempting to go outside to wash your car in the driveway but Toops advises against that – it can damage your car’s clearcoat.
”If you allow your car to dry naturally in the hot sun – even after washing it with water – the minerals left behind can eventually etch their way into the clearcoat. Toops says it’s best to minimise sun exposure by hand-drying your car with a towel whenever possible.
WATCH THE PAINT DRYING…
• Leave paint correction and buffing to professionals: Using a machine to polish out scratches and swirls can be done by newbies but Otterness and Toops warn of many risks involved.
”Owners not familiar with the equipment risk damaging the vehicle (i.e. taking off too much paint, leaving dull spots, or discoloring plastic trim).” They suggest holding off on these fixes until your next visit to your dealer.
• Lastly, wash often: Otterness says that while it differs depending on how much you drive, on average consumers should aim to wash their car every other week to help keep it looking new and free from contaminants – pollen, iron particles that can damage the cars’ paint.
KEEPING YOUR INTERIOR IN TIP-TOP SHAPE:
According to Toops, vehicle interiors are often overlooked when it comes to detailing, but should be regularly maintained.
“It’s kind of gross, but when leather seats, steering-wheels or gearshifters are dirty inside a vehicle – especially higher quality materials – it’s mostly dead skin piling up.”
Interior maintenance, he says, is incredibly simple:
• A microfibre towel and water go a long way: These items do an adequate job of helping to keep debris off the seats and avoiding build-up, especially if done regularly. Focus on high-traffic areas – steering-wheels, shifters, door panels.
Avoid using household cleaners – they can dry-out quality materials and strip the grip on car’s pedals and steering-wheel.
A car is the second-biggest purchase for most families. “Cleaning your car does matter,” Otterness said, ”especially when it’s one as nice as our Volkswagens.”