Caring for your car, wether Mercedes or not, is something most of us on here like to do i would imagine. After all a car is, for the majority, the next biggest purchase you make after a house. When caring for the car there are certain things you can do and certain products which will help maintain the look. This guide is for Maintenance care and NOT detailing. The two are completely different. However if you have just paid out a chunk of money, or even detailed the car yourself, following this guide will help restore and maintain the look. Maintence washes should be carried out ideally once a week. However in the real world once a fortnight is adequate. Background Why do cares get dirty? All sorts of reasons for a car to be dirty. Traffic Film (particles from old trucks and cars that don’t have modern filters in the exhaust system), industrial fallout (be it tar from roadworks, dust from building sites, road salt in winter etc). Natural elements (tree sap, bug splats, bird droppings etc). Due to a cars body not being non-stick then all of the above will adhere to the car. The other thing to understand is that most rain over the UK is moisture that has formed around a particle of Dust/sand in the atmosphere. Hence when it rains on your nice clean car and then dries out you see a residue. Now rain water can be excellent for rinsing a car as long as it’s been filtered. It doesn’t have any of the calcium or salt deposits found in tap water around the UK. Known as how soft or hard the water is. The harder it is the more residue is left behind when it dries out. No matter what you do to a car unless you store it in a Hermetically sealed container it will get dirty. However the certain products on the market will help make it markedly easier to clean. Winter is usually the worst time as the dirt/grime etc will go through numerous wet and dry cycles leading to it sticking to the paintwork. Why should i not just use the local carwash? No matter what anyone tells you there is not a mechanical car wash in existence that will not scratch the paint. The worst ones are the ones with the rotating brushes. Some of the newer ones have softer bristles and claim scratch free. But trust me on this they’re not. What about the local hand car wash? Again these are not scratch free. They employ 2-3 guys to wash a car and they are doing it for profit and not care of the vehicle. The faster they work the more cars they wash ergo the more profit they make. Yes it will look good when initially done. But study the paint in sunlight or under the lights of a petrol station and you will see the damage caused (which is not intentional). What about a jet wash? A jet wash is ok for rinsing or power washing a car off. I wouldn't ever take a brush to the paint work and you need to be careful of the hoses banging against the car. They have thing wire braiding in a lot of them to make them robust to repeated use. These sometimes fray slightly and they scratch the car when you drag it round. What damage is being caused to the paint? This is usually referred to as swirling or micro marring of the paint. Basically what is happening is dirty etc that is on the car is being picked up by the wash medium (rotating brush, sponge etc) and dragged around the paint. This starts to create marks in the clear coat. Ignore the ‘Johnny aged 5’ drawing but hopefully this pic explains what these marks are. Basically a swirl is a scratch that has been created in the clear coat. This pic is a cross section of a panel on the car. You can see that a swirl is a minor ‘Trench” created by the dirt. The random deep scratch (RDS) is something that is deeper but still hasn’t broken through to the paint. When the paint is corrected by detailing the clear coat is removed by machine polisher to the level of the base of the scratch. So the dotted red line shows how much is removed for swirls and the dotted blue shows how much is removed to remove the scratch. This looks extreme but in reality it is at most a couple of microns. This pic demonstrates the above picture. It's a 50/50 shot on a car i detailed. Left side polished and right side still full of swirls. The polishes etc you buy from the likes of Halfrauds etc are full of fillers. So these fill in the marks and when you buff over they go clear. However a couple of washes removes the fillers and we are back to square one. Hence why people have a car detailed. Cleaning your car Now that you have a bit of background knowledge you can understand the importance of the rest of the guide. This guide will assume the car has got dirty over a couple of weeks of winter use. I will talk towards the end about steps to miss out/alter in the summer. The whole aim is to remove as much dirt as possible by touching the car as little as possible. Hence the process detailed below. Bu the time you get to using the wash mitt all the big bits of dirt should be gone or softened to the extent they come off with little pressure. First thing to do is soak the car with a pressure washer. Never get more than a couple of feet from the car with the end of the lance. Spend a good 5 mins just going around the car giving it a good soaking. Especially the lower half of the car which gets the dirtiest. Once the car is wet the next thing to do is use a pre wash. Some use dedicated traffic film removers and others use snow foam. I use snow foam and add the TFR to the foam. A common misconception is that the snow foam will clean the car in lieu of washing. Short answer is it won’t. What it is designed to do is remove any large dirt deposits and loosen everything else. Snow foam doing it's thing. In Winter time you can leave the foam to dwell for as long as possible (i usually leave it for around 20-30mins) in the summer however you will reduce the amount of foam fed through the lance so that it is watered down a bit more. Leaving it to dwell no more than 10 mins as this stops the sun baking the soap onto the car. During this time you can clean the wheels. I use a product called AutoSmart Smart Wheels. Diluted 5:1 and spray it onto the wheels. Leave it to dwell for a couple of minutes and then using a wheel brush give the wheel a good scrub. After the foam dwell is over then rinse the car and wheels with the pressure washer. The next thing to do is then wash the car. I use Sonax Deep Gloss Shampoo. It won't add any gloss but it is a super slippy soap and it suds up well on the car. Follow the instructions on the bottle but generally i use 1-2 capfuls in a bucket. This is done using a 2 bucket method. One bucket has the soapy water the other has clean water. Most will tell you to get grit guards. But as long as you’re not dragging the mitt around the bottom of the bucket you should be ok without one. You should use something like a lambswool or microfibre mitt never a sponge or cloth. You soak the mitt with soapy water and then wash one panel at a time. Start in a systematic manner. It doesn’t matter where you start but generally i start with the roof. Then work down the windscreen. Then the bonnet and then around the car in a clockwise manner. As long as you follow a system that works for you it doesn’t matter. I would advise leaving the dirty lower half to the end though. I have 2 mitts one for the top half and one for the lower half and sills. So soak the mitt and then wash the panel. Then rinse the mitt in the clean water. You then stick the mitt back in the soapy water and move to the next panel. Repeat this process until the car is washed. By panel i mean a bonnet, a door a wing etc. When you have finished the bucket of clean water should now be dirty and the soapy water should still be clean. DO NOT THROW THESE OVER THE CAR. Washing using a lambswool mitt. Rinse the car again with a pressure washer. This is where filtered rain water is excellent as it won’t leave water spots on the car if it dries out in the sun. Now as you go around the car you may see you still have tar on it. There are two ways to remove this. A dedicated tar remover (i use AutoSmart Tardis) or using Clay. Just bare in mind that if you use clay you will marr the paint and it will require a polish afterwards. Tar remover just spray on let it dwell for a few mins and then wipe off with a microfibre cloth. For the odd random spot spray a little on a microfibre cloth and then gently rub the spot in a circular motion until it is removed. Just be aware tar remover will also remove any wax on the car so it will need to be coated over again. Some sealants can resist it. For clay i use Bilt Hamber Clay. The main reason for this is it is the best clay i’ve used (i’ve tried loads). You get a 200g block which you can cut into smaller chunks. Also it doens’t require any fancy ‘Clay Lube’. All it requires is the panel to be wet. There are clay mitts and cloths around these days. Which are good but i find they marr the car more so than using clay. Bilt Hamber clay doing it's thing. Once the tar is removed it is then a case of drying off the car. I use a deep pile (600gsm) microfibre towel as it will pretty much dry a full car without needing to be wrung out. Once the car is dry then depending on preference you will either wax the car, apply a sealant or just apply a quick detailer. I wax/seal once every 4-6mths and maintain in between with a quick detailer. You shouldn’t need to polish a car more than about once every 12 mths. I polish mine about once every 12-18 mths. Using a quick detailer will help to preserve the look of the car. Using the method above should take you no more than an hour to clean the car. Wax/Sealant will add time depending on ease of it’s application. Detailing a car turns them from this (all cars i have detailed) To this However i don't detail my car more than once every 12-18mths. But maintenance washes make my car remain like this Hope this helps and if anyone wants me to answer any specific questions feel free to ask. Carl.