Car Washing, Cleaning Products & Tips For Dirty Trucks - Clean Up Your ActPosted in How To on October 1, 2009
Let's face it: four wheeling is a dirty job, but somebody has to do it. If you just took a bucket of mud and smeared it all over your 4x4 to make it look like it had been somewhere-well, stop reading here. The Turtle Expedition trucks have been following backroads through mud, snow, salt, grime, dust, slop, and everything in between for 35 years. That's a lot of dirt! A frequently asked question by readers has been, "How do you keep them so clean?" The short answer is, "Take a rag, apply elbow grease, and wipe off the dirt."
That is essentially still a good answer, but now on our fifth truck, the Tortuga Expedition Vehicle, a.k.a. The Turtle V, we have had some experience in "wiping off the dirt," and being somewhat fanatical about keeping our expedition trucks clean, we have searched for easier ways to get the job done quickly. Since most of us are not running out to buy new rides today, here are some tips to keep yours looking great.
Cool Stuff We Use: Exterior
Let's start with a bucket, but not just any bucket. A couple of years ago, we found the Grit Guard bucket. It has a big grate in the bottom that allows sand and grit to fall through, instead of turning your wash mitt or brush into a piece of sandpaper. Great idea! Add soap and water. No worries.
Of course, you need to rinse off the chunks first, and the soap later. The hose is obvious. Sprayer nozzles help direct the water and concentrate the power. Carrand makes the Water Snake that can redirect the adjustable spray in any direction, great for getting under the frame and on top of the cab.
Soaps: we used Joy dishwashing detergent for years, at the risk of stripping the wax off our paint. It works, but several companies have products specifically for washing vehicles. Our favorite is Armor All Ultra Shine Wash & Wax. It just seems to make the rinse water sheet off, which means less work and fewer water spots.
If your rig is seriously dirty, you cannot clean it with a hose. Remember the secret? Take a rag and wipe off the dirt. Rags work, but Clean Tools, C.A. Roberts, and Carrand make special tools that vastly improve and speed up the job. Wash mitts made of some combination of natural wool or polyester will carry a load of soap from the bucket to flush away dirt. Carrand has a wash glove that adapts to all wood, metal, and plastic poles for a longer reach, and they just introduced a flow-thru extension wand with a soap reservoir in the handle that adapts to a wash mitt. Another interesting tool we use is the Truck & Cap Window Washer by C.A. Roberts. It gives us a 48-inch reach to clean between the cab and camper, and the other end has a built-in dual squeegee.
Wash mitts and gloves are important, but for big jobs, a brush works wonders. Both Adjust-a-Brush and Carrand make regular wash brushes and more elaborate flow-through models that allow you to attach a hose. Most adjust to any length with a twist-lock handle. Our favorite by a mile is the Carrand Deluxe 10-inch Flow-Thru. The huge soft head carries loads of soap and water, and the click-lock handle is super easy to adjust. We seldom use its three-position flow-thru feature, but some people will like it.
So now you've rinsed the big stuff off and washed thoroughly with a soft brush and mitt. Maybe a bug sponge will help with the guts on your grille. The next step, and perhaps one of the most important, is drying. If you've done a good job with the soap and rinse, grab a California Original Water Blade. This is one amazing tool! If you're still drying your truck with an old bath towel, I mean really. Are you still playing 8-track tapes? The Water Blade's patented T-Bar silicone edge easily removes 90 percent of all water from most surfaces in seconds. They come in two sizes: Regular and a large 18-inch model, great for big surfaces like your toy hauler. A clip will adapt the Water Blade to most extension handles for a long reach.
For the 10 percent the Water Blade leaves behind, the Absorber is next in line. Made by Clean Tools, the Absorber has replaced all our chamois and most of our towels. It's the perfect tool for final detailing and lint-free windows, and it can be washed and reused forever. Some of ours are over 10 years old.
Speaking of glass, there are some tricks we've learned. A good coat of Rain-X really does keep bugs, ice, wet snow, road grime, and yes, even rain, from sticking on the windshield. After that, almost any spray glass cleaner will work. Often, just water is fine. The 20-inch-long handle combination squeegee and scrubber by Carrand makes cleaning the middle of a lifted pickup's windshield easy. We carry one on the road. It saves paper towels, and rescues us from using the greasy wash sticks often poking out of gooky soups in service stations.
We all know how difficult it is to clean the inside of some windshields. Now there are two products that make that awkward job almost fun. The inShield Wiper slips on the back of your hand to get those corners in front of the instrument panel. Interchangeable wipes attach to the Velcro surface of the pad. A second cool tool is the Reach & Clean wand by Invisible Glass. This multi-purpose cleaner also has interchangeable cleaning pads, which attach to a wand for going where your hand has never gone. The Reach & Clean wand can also be used with an extension handle.
Over the years, we have discovered an interesting phenomenon. If you can't clean your car, at least clean the tires and wheels. For some reason, clean rubber makes everything look better. There are several products by Mothers, Armor All, Meguiar's, and Turtle Wax that will remove some of the brake dust and road grime from rims with just a hose, but what it really takes is a stiff brush. We have found that a bead of Soft Scrub and/or a little Simple Green does the job. With all of these, a stiff bristle brush is mandatory. (Natural bristle is the best if you can find one.) For getting into places where you may not want to stick your fingers, Carrand makes a selection of long round wheel brushes that are just right for cleaning around the spokes of your mags. Clean Tools offers some good tire and wheel brushes, too.
Once your tires are clean and dry, there are many products that will put the "new" back on old rubber. Which one you use is really a matter of choice. How much shine do you want? Is it the look of "John's Used Car Lot" you're seeking, or do you, like us, just want the tires to look like, well, like new? It's all in the shine, or lack of. We have used the Original Armor All for 35 years. Old habits and results are hard to break. Vinylex by Lexol, Mothers Protectant, and Turtle Wax F21 also give us the look we like. The trick is, you can't just spray it on and walk away. To get the "new tire" look, you need to wipe it on and buff it off.
If you've let your aluminum wheels become scratched or pitted, there are some great tools and products that will give them back a blinding shine. X-Treem Products, Luster Lace Polishes, Griot's Garage, and Mothers, to name but a few, all work well. Mothers has three PowerBalls that are used with a variable-speed hand drill. The PowerBall Mini MD is specifically made for taking scratches out. Choosing the right polishing product can make the difference.
By the way, if you have plastic windows on your Jeep, both Mothers and Meguiar's have excellent plastic polishing products.
More Cool Stuff: Interior
Turning our attention to the inside, there is leather and vinyl. For leather, though there are several one-step foams and liquids out there, we like the two-step approach. Lexol has always been our favorite. Lexol Cleaner is used first, followed by Lexol Leather Conditioner. Works great and smells like the tack room on the ranch where I was raised. For vinyl dashes and other plastic areas, Lexol's Vinylex cleans and seems to keep the dust from collecting.
Everything is spiffy now. What about a good wax job? There are so many choices from companies like Mothers, The Wax Shop, Protect All, Griot's Garage, Turtle Wax, and Meguiar's; it can boggle your mind. Often what it amounts to is how much work you want, how long do you want it to last, and what results you want. Do a quick half-baked job, get quick half-ass results. That doesn't mean you have to do the clay bar treatment, but you could. Some products claim to do everything in one-step: Wash, clean, wax, and polish. Others may involve different products for each of those steps. We have used Wax Shop Super Glaze for years, and it's still our favorite. It's fast and easy, and it doesn't leave a white residue on trim. A similar product that's easier to find is Turtle Wax Ice Liquid Wax.
Application is what waxing is all about. An orbital buffer takes most of the danger out of burning holes through the paint, but large buffers won't reach into tight curves. Griot's Garage offers a 3-inch electric orbital buffer that is extremely versatile for getting into small areas, yet still powerful enough to polish the whole RV or vehicle. Reusable Lexol Application Sponges are ideal for waxes and Lexol leather care products. The old bath towel returns as a soft terry cloth to finish the job.
I guess all that's left is the engine. Frankly, we have had very bad results with any so-called spray-on engine cleaner or degreaser. What seems to work best, if the engine is not really trashed, is a little Simple Green or similar degreasing product and a hose. Then take a rag and wipe off the dirt.A product like Armor All will give hoses and other plastic or rubber parts a new look.
Never mind the "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" stuff. Clean 4x4s run better. And in the process of cleaning, we often find little problems before they become major. The only product missing hasn't hit the market yet: Instant Elbow Grease in a spray bottle!