At the car wash…

There’s something about keeping my car clean that makes me feel good.

People ask quite often why I’m so particular about my vehicle. Most assume it’s a quality inherited from my dad. This is definitely not the case. A car nut, you’d think my pops would have it down to a T. However, he’s more the type to let cars go 10,000 or more miles before an oil change. He drives his tires to the point where they’re as bald as Howie Mandel. He rarely, if ever, has over 1/8 a tank of gas – usually only when my mother borrows the vehicle and puts gas in for him. And as far as cleanliness goes, “clean” to him is when a portion of the license plate is still legible and there are less than three empty Burger King containers stuffed under the driver’s seat.

Thankfully, I picked up zero maintenance tips from him.

Where the detailer in me came from, I don’t know. But I must say I thoroughly enjoy vacuuming it, washing the windows with the squeegees at gas stations, and on the best days, bringing it to the car wash.

* Cue Rose Royce “Car Wash”*

Okay, not yet. I usually wait until I’m at the wash to start rocking out to this 70s tune, but seriously – car washes have become somewhat of an addiction for me, especially during the winter. And summer. Well, okay, fall and spring as well.
I know what you’re thinking. “What’s the point in the winter? You wash it and it’s dirty again in two blocks.” Either that or, “Whenever I wash it, it rains or snows the next day.”

Okay, here’s the deal. Washing your car in the winter is a science. It’s tough. You have to find the right day, time, place and conditions to do it. First of all, the roads need to be completely clear and dry or have ice packed down so hard you couldn’t get a jackhammer through it. Washing your car during the slushy, sloppy road phase is pointless. You’ll find if you wait a day or two, you’ll have the perfect conditions.

Second, you’ve got to keep an eye on the weather. If it’s going to rain, snow or a mix of the two tomorrow, hold off on the car wash. Wait until there is no precipitation in the forecast.

Third, once the car is spick-n-span, drive slow. I do this for two reasons. First, your vehicle will stay cleaner on the drive, leaving you with a better opportunity to admire the cleanliness when you get home. Second, driving two miles per hour gives a greater percentage of the community an opportunity to see how great your car looks. Be careful not to go too slow, though. For if some tool gets impatient and cuts you off, road crud is going fly, ruining your wash job. This is not only irritating, but embarrassing as well.

If temps are in the neg, you’ve got to pick the right wash or know how to dry it down yourself. I’ve learned that some washes wipe out your door jambs for you. You’ve still got to be careful, though. Having your car door frozen shut is no fun, I’m sure. I’ve been careful (or just paranoid of being “frozen” out of my car), so this has never happened to me. I came close when I washed with temps around -35. I drove about a mile to my destination and had to put my shoulder into the door to get ‘er to crack open. Thankfully I was on the inside when it happened.

This is just one reason why it’s so important to dry it off when you’re done. My brother has told me, tossing me a towel, that even in the summer, “drying your car is the most important part.” Besides helping to avoid rust and/or the “ice cube” effect, it prevents you from driving off with water spots, making your car look like a Dalmatian. It’s worth the time it takes to towel it down.

I’ve become so prone to washing my car that I’ve mastered which washes are good on what days. Depending on time, temperature, discounts, and the desired level of involvement, it’s fun to choose a place to take your car for a treat.

For example, if it’s too cold and I’m too lazy to put work into my car, I’ll go to a place where paying for the wash is my biggest task. On the other hand, if it’s decently warm and I’ve got time to kill, I enjoy filling up the ol’ Cass-Clay ice cream pail with hot soapy water, grabbing my sponge, towels, quarters and tire cleaner and heading to a manual wash. On those days, I spend about an hour making the car shine. I’m so in love with washing my car that this is usually my favorite hour spent that entire week.

Friends are beginning to catch on to my madness. I’ve received gift certificates, tokens and punch cards redeemable at car washes in the area. Usually not very fired up about gifts, these had me jumping up and down like a four year old receiving a toy they just spent hours begging for.

I’ve got all the supplies, too. I recently purchased a microfiber sponge, chamois and car soap. Yes… soap for cars. Don’t use dish soap. I did this for years in my Geo-owning days and was recently informed that dish soap strips your clear coat. Oops. Sorry Geo.

Okay, hit it! Keep those rags and machines humming – at the car wash, working at the car wash, girl. Sing it with the feelin’ ya’ll!

There – now you can’t get the “car wash” off your mind, either.

Shootin’ the Wit is a weekly column about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.

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