Seven tips for car care

The car roof is adorned with paw prints of martens and the neighbour’s cat. And the pollen has left streaks on the windows: high time for a car wash. Experts provide tips for proper care and explain why shine sprays are dangerous and what helps against animal hair on car seats.

There is no federal regulation for car washing in front of the front door. In some communities, hand washing on unpaved ground is prohibited because the washing process could release chemicals, fuel and lubricant residues into the groundwater. But there can also be problems with a car wash on solid ground: Permission must first be obtained from the responsible authorities. If you want to save yourself the bureaucracy, you should either head for so-called self-service wash boxes, where you still have to wash the car yourself. Or the driver drives to a car wash or car wash. According to the ADAC, the cleaning effect is the same for both.

Check washing quality

car wash

As practical as a car wash or car wash is, drivers should pay attention to the cleanliness of the brushes. The best way to do this is to take a closer look at the ends of the nylon threads: If they are frayed or brittle, dirt can get caught in them more easily. Then such brushes act like emery paper and cause small scratches in the paintwork during washing. However, this risk also exists with car washes or car washes that clean cars with cloths instead of brushes. Also, neither the price nor the washing time are quality features for car wash systems or lines. It is therefore worth taking a look at cars that are already running before you wash them to see how good the quality is.

Prevent damage

If drivers break something in the car wash, they have to take responsibility for it. It happens again and again that customers step on the brakes during the washing process or drive the car wrong into the facility. Some also fail to remove the antenna, which can break off and cause damage. However, the liability rules are less strict than in road traffic. The following applies here: It only costs money if the owner of the system can prove that the customer is at fault (Cologne District Court, Az. 272 C 33/12).

Conversely, damage can also occur during washing. It is therefore important to take a close look at the vehicle afterwards – whether the paintwork has not been damaged. In this case, you should report the damage to the operator of the facility before leaving the property, advises the ADAC. However, the customer must prove that the damage occurred in the car wash. If it is clear that the damage was caused in the car wash, the car wash operator is generally liable for damages. However, he can exonerate himself if he can prove that the customer has not used the system correctly. Plant operators often try to avoid liability by referring to the general terms and conditions. However, not every clause is admissible.

Select washing program

For heavily soiled vehicles, an individual pre-wash is advisable. Dirt that has dried on must be soaked before the actual wash cycle. there is a risk that the rollers will scratch the paintwork. Systems with manual pre- and post-treatment, for example with a steam jet, deliver particularly good results. However, caution is advised when pre-washing near the tires, experts from Dekra warn. Because tests have shown that a sharp jet of water at close range could endanger the rubber of the tires. Dekra experts recommend keeping a distance of at least 20 cm with the high-pressure cleaner and using a wider water jet by angling it.

It doesn’t have to be the most expensive program either. According to ADAC, if you want to save costs, you should choose a simple foam wash. If it is heavily soiled, it makes sense to wash it twice. Most car washes offer preservation with hot wax, which is sprayed onto the vehicle before it dries. According to ADAC, however, such wax treatments do not last long. It is better and also more economical to polish the paintwork yourself with hard wax after washing. Washing the underbody is mainly important in the winter months: According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Paint Technology in Bremen, road salt can clog the underbody and engine parts. If the salt accumulates in a sheet metal seam, it can lead to corrosion in combination with moisture.

Treat immediately

The brushes and cloths of a car wash only get into all the cracks and joints to a limited extent. Therefore, vehicle owners should clean the entrances, hinges of the trunk lid and the mirrors by hand after machine cleaning. To do this, put some car shampoo in a bucket of water and clean with the sponge. Then wipe with the kitchen sponge cloth. Then clean the wiper blades with a damp cloth and dry well, recommend the experts at the German Motor Vehicle Trade Association (ZDK). It is also important to open all doors, the bonnet and the trunk and to dry the car with a cloth.

Clean interior

car wash

Pet hair on car seats is stubborn. According to Tüv Süd, they can only be removed from the upholstery with a lint brush or a powerful vacuum cleaner. The suction power of vacuum cleaners in car washes is usually stronger than those in your own household. Chewing gum residues are also annoying: These can be easily removed if they are sprayed with cold spray from the pharmacy beforehand. The panes can be cleaned inside and out with conventional glass cleaner. Dirty plastic parts are best wiped off with a damp microfiber cloth. According to TÜV Süd, household cleaning agents and dishwashing detergents are taboo. You should generally avoid using shine sprays. They make plastic surfaces shine like new, but make them slippery. This can have fatal consequences on the steering wheel or on the pedals. Be careful with detergents that contain plasticizers. They can attack the predetermined breaking points of airbags and make them porous. Special care products for upholstery, leather and plastic are available from specialist retailers.

Save engine wash

According to TÜV Süd, washing the engine with your own high-pressure cleaner is not a good idea. The electronics in the vehicle in particular can easily be damaged in this way. In addition, washing the engine on the street or on one’s own property is prohibited, as this can allow oil to get into the groundwater and sewage system. This also applies to washing the outside of the car. If you like to wash your car yourself, you should go to a car wash. There, the dirt is separated before the water enters the sewage system.

Remove animal tracks

If there is bird droppings on the paint, it should be removed as soon as possible – preferably with water. If that is not enough, the ADAC recommends soaking the dirt in warm water and a little washing-up liquid before wiping it off. By the way, this also helps against dead mosquitoes on the windshield. Only with honeydew, the secretion of aphids, is it not enough to wipe away. Here, the ADAC recommends soaking the dirt for a little longer – and first putting a damp cloth or a damp kitchen towel on the dirty areas. If you want to wipe away cat or marten tracks, you should use a fine cloth. Because if you rub too hard, you risk rubbing fine stones into the paint – and that causes scratches.