Man painting the carIt’s a joy to look at your car years after you drove it home from the dealership, and see that it still hasn’t lost that like-new finish. Not all cars stay quite as attractive, however. In most cases, a car’s paint will lose its original shine because the owner doesn’t know how to care for it properly.

To make sure your ride stays looking fresh and shiny, here are some tips on how to clean it the right way:

Wash Your Car with Quality Shampoo

Swirl marks are often the effect of poor washing technique and cheap car shampoo and other products. Buy a top quality shampoo, a wash mitt, microfiber cloths, and a leather chamois. Use the two-bucket system: one for your shampoo and water solution and the other for rinsing the wash mitt. Work in sections; shampooing the entire car allows some sections to dry before you can rinse the shampoo off, leading to ugly water spots.

Pro tip: To help prevent water spots, which are often caused by hard water (water with high mineral content), install a water softener — a Utah plumbing company can install it for you. Use microfiber drying towels or a leather chamois to thoroughly dry the car. Don’t just leave it to air-dry.

Clay-Bar Your Car

Clay is not for old cars alone. In fact, you should clay your brand-new car the first time you wash it, which should be when you take it home from the dealership. Surface contaminants are present on all cars — new or old. Contaminants make the paint rough and even blemished. Look for a clay system at your favorite auto supply store to remove contaminants and water spots.

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Polish the Paint

What washing doesn’t remove, clay usually does. And what clay doesn’t remove, a good polishing will. Polishing gives your car a deeper shine and takes care of those ugly swirls and other imperfections. Polishing may also remove minor scratches on the clear coat.

A brand-new car or one with good paint may not need polishing. You can, however, use a cleansing lotion to deepen the shine and prepare the paint for sealing.

Protect the Paint

To protect your car’s shiny paint, use a high-quality wax, paint sealant. Wax your car every four months. Some paint sealants are more advanced than wax, so they may last a lot longer.

Maintain the Shine

Wash your car once a week or every two weeks with quality car shampoo (not dish washing soap, which strips off wax) to keep it protected from oxidation and to prevent stains and water spots from etching the clear coat. You may use a spray wax between applications of wax or sealant.

By following these tips, you can keep your car looking like new for a longer time.