How to Wash a Classic Car

Extreme closeup of a freshly cleaned classic car

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Owning a classic car can be great fun, but one of the great dilemmas of ownership is managing the wear and tear. The patina on a rat rod is one thing, but for most owners, the goal is to have a clean car that presents well.

You could choose not to drive your car as a means of keeping it clean. However, you will only encounter more problems with the car’s mechanical systems by neglecting to drive it. Instead, it’s best to find a happy medium. Enjoy the car when you want to without abusing it, and understand the way to preserve its good looks.

Slow the Sands of Timeclean

Ideally, when you purchase a classic car, you get it in pretty good shape. Yes, some people choose to restore classics, and we love them for it. However, if you have had the good fortune to find a car in clean shape, step one is knowing how to preserve it.

Never store your classic outdoors. The temperature changes and exposure to weather can wreak havoc on the car inside and out. Instead, always keep your classic inside, in a ventilated, climate controlled area. For most people, the easiest solution is to use your properly equipped garage.

In addition to where you store your car, you can add a layer of protection with a cover. You can buy them for just about any shape of classic car, and while they might seem expensive, it’s a good investment compared to a new paint job.

Rinse and Repeat

Keeping the paint on a car clean prevents harmful substances from eating away at it and keeps particles from discoloring the paint. When you wash a classic car, you can’t just take it down to the local drive-through wash, though. It needs to be by hand.

Always wash your car with dedicated auto detergent using a soft sponge or wash mitt. Periodically, you should perform a clay bar treatment to remove small particles from the finish and then protect the paint by applying a coat of quality wax. You can also consider newer, high-tech sealing compounds, such as Ceramic Pro, but make sure you understand how to care for them if you go that route.

Depending on what production year your car is, it may use single-stage paint. This type of paint, found primarily on cars built earlier than 1990, does not include a clear coat. If your vehicle has single-stage color, it will require special treatment to look its best, and you should understand its unique needs compared to a clear-coat car.

Treat Your Wood and Leather

As a car aficionado, there’s nothing more disappointing than walking up to a car that looks intact only to discover that the interior has been destroyed. As the place where you spend most of your time, a car’s interior deserves as much attention as its exterior.

Classic cars often have interiors made of quality materials like wood and leather, and these materials require care to look their best. Leaving them to dry out, crack and warp will significantly detract from your ability to enjoy your vintage car.

Instead, apply leather treatment regularly to keep your hides supple and retain their color. If leather is beginning to dry out, consider using a restorative product. The same goes for wood trim, which will require oil and other products you can learn about from the community around your marque and model.

Knowing How to Wash a Classic Car is Essential

Ultimately we own classic cars because they make us happy, but allowing your car to tarnish and rot makes it hard to put a smile on. Stick to these simple suggestions and you can show your classic off with pride for many, many years.

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