How to Wash and Care for a Car with Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating: Maintaining Your Long-Term Paint Protection

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So you’ve decided to invest in long-term paint protection for your car. That’s fantastic. But you have some questions about next steps:

How do you wash a car with Paint Protection Film (also known as Clear Bra) or a Ceramic Coating? What are the proper washing techniques? How can you avoid damaging or shortening the life of your Paint Protection Film or Ceramic Coating? How can you maximize the longevity and appearance of your long-term paint protection?

We answer those questions and more in the video above.

There are a number of things to note when discussing the proper care of Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating, but we should start with one simple guideline that may surprise you: In general, you care for your Paint Protection Film or Ceramic Coating in the same way as you care for your vehicle’s factory paint.

Everything starts with proper car-washing technique.

How to Wash Your Car: Principles Behind Proper Car Washing Technique

We’ll get into some specific guidelines for the care of Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating, but let’s make sure basic car-washing principles are sound first.

Wash your vehicle regularly!

A lot of people think now that you have Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating you do not need to wash your vehicle regularly. Au Contraire. Everything starts with a proper washing and a frequent washing of your paint’s exterior.

Don’t wash your vehicle in direct sunlight or while the paint is hot.

While washing your car in direct sunlight water can evaporate rather quickly leaving the possibility of water-spotting on your car. The heat can also exhilarate the car wash chemical and reduce its effectiveness.

Use a premium wash media.

This could be a microfiber mitt, or one of the many other options on the market today. The choice is yours. But find one that is good, and make sure that it is always clean before using it.

Use a dedicated car wash product.

A dedicated car wash product will be best suited for loosening debris. Some household cleaning agents can damage your finish.

Start with the wheels.

The wheels are often the dirtiest part of the vehicle. You want to get this out of the way before moving to your painted surfaces.

Rinse your vehicle thoroughly.

You want to make sure you remove as much debris as possible before touching the vehicle with a wash mitt or other wash media. This will reduce the chance of getting debris trapped under your mitt, resulting in swirl marks.

Use the two-bucket method.

The use of the two-bucket method has been around and been very popular with enthusiasts for a very long time. In this set up you have two buckets, one with your car wash soap, and one with pure rinse water.

The idea behind the two-bucket method is very simple. Once you have washed a panel with your wash mitt, it is very possible that there is dirt on your mitt. Before placing your mitt in your car wash solution, rinse the mitt thoroughly in your rinse water. This will reduce the possibility of reintroducing debris that has been removed from the car.

Establish a rhythm of washing a panel, rinsing your mitt in your pure water, dipping your mitt in your car wash solution, and then returning to wash the next panel.

Thoroughly wash and rinse one section at a time.

Working one section at a time reduces the possibility of getting debris in your mitt, resulting in swirl marks.

Don’t let your vehicle air dry.

There are many ways to dry your car. You could use a waffle-weave towel or an air-blower. Whatever you do, don’t let the car air dry, because this will result in water-spotting.

Don’t go to an automated car wash.

Automatic car washes can inflict swirl marks or deep scratches on your car. Also, if there’s chemical failure in their lines they can result in chemical stains to your finish.

Principles Specific to the Care of Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating

If you’re following the basic car-washing principles we’ve outlined above, you’ll be well on your way to maintaining your long-term paint protection. But here are some additional principles that are specific to the care of Paint Protection Film or a Ceramic Coating.

Do not wash your vehicle within 7 days of application.

You need to give both Paint Protection Film and a Ceramic Coating time to fully cure on your vehicle. If you wash or otherwise agitate the surface, that can inhibit the curing process.

Stay away from film edges when using a pressure washer.

If you’re using a pressure washer to wash your car, I’m going to assume that you’re already familiar with the PSI of your pressure washer, and you want to be careful not to use one that can possibly damage your finish. As it relates specifically to Paint Protection Film, you want to stay a good distance from the film so as not to get high pressure under the film, which can cause the edges to lift. The general rule for distance with pressure washers is 8–12 inches away, but you can be the best judge of that. Just stay far enough away so as not to cause damage.

If you’re using compressed air or any kind of powerful air-moving equipment, utilize the same principle as the pressure washer and keep it away from the edges.

Immediately remove any bird-dropping, bug-splatter, or tree-sap.

Paint Protection Film and Ceramic Coatings are not indestructible. Natural acidic contaminants can damage them and reduce their life-span. That means you should still remove any bird-dropping, bug-splatter, or tree-sap immediately. You might want to keep in your car some kind of quick detailer, and remember to blot as opposed to wipe, to minimize swirls and scratching in your finish.

Don’t wipe your film or coating when it is dry.

Make sure that the surface is hydrated in the process of wiping.

Utilize a premium sealant if the film is not covered with a Ceramic Coating.

For maximum performance and protection, consider applying a Ceramic Coating on top of your Paint Protection Film. However, if you decide not to go that route, make sure you still utilize a premium protective sealant.

Just don’t use wax on your Paint Protection Film, as the application of wax can result in build up along the films edges, which can become unsightly.

Do not use aggressive force or aggressive chemicals.

Always be gentle with film and coatings, just like you’d be gentle with factory paint. Furthermore, be sure to keep aggressive chemicals like bug and tar removers off your film or coating. These can cause damage and shorten the lifespan of either product.

Don’t use a powered buffer on Paint Protection Film.

This may sound obvious, but some people try to do it.

Drive protected my friends.

If you want to learn more about the history and technology behind Paint Protection Film, check out this article on the subject. Also, learn more about Ceramic Coatings, and about using film and coatings together.

If you’re in Charlotte, NC and you’re looking for long-term paint protection options, contact us today. We’d love to partner with you for the good of your car.

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