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I thought I knew how to wash a car...

I recently bought my FiST, which was also the first brand new car I have purchased or owned and I decided I really wanted to get a good wash and wax on my new car, so I didn't have to worry to much about cleaning it as much. I haven't ever put much thought into how I washed cars, my first truck, a 1980 Chevy C10, got washed by hand, but without much thought, and definitely no waxing. As I got older and had more money and less time I just started taking my later cars to mechanical car washes. After recently refurbishing and completely stripping, priming, and painting a 1954 Willys CJ-3B I realized there is a lot about paint and paint maintenance I didn't know. And now with the internet, there is no reason not to know how to properly wash and maintain a paint/clear coat if you want to know. So, with a thirst for more knowledge to feed my recent Fiesta obsession, I started digging into how to wash and wax a car. And all I can say is wow, there is a TON of things I would have never considered. Just to summarize my findings in one spot and hopefully get some feedback here is what I found. This forum was a very good resource as usual, but it seemed like I could summarize some it in a single place.

I assume the Fiesta ST as most modern cars have a base coat, and then a clear coat on top. When we wash our cars we are really washing the clear coat, and when there are scratches or marks it should hopefully only be in the clear coat. With this in mind we are really washing and waxing the clear coat. My assumptions are the following, the wash/clay is to remove dirt and debris obviously, and the polish is to smooth out scratches in the clear coat, the wax or sealant is just to provide an extra layer of protection, make it shine, and fill in any left over scratches in the clear coat. There are also cleansers to remove any residual wax from previous wax coatings to get back to a base clear coat. I am obviously not a professional detailer but all that makes sense to me. So here is my current thoughts on a process I am going to use to wash and wax/seal my brand new Fiesta. I won't do this full process every time, maybe twice a year at most.

Washing the Car (Always work from top to bottom, and cleanest to dirtiest to avoid pushing dirt around and scratching the clear coat during the washing process. Keep a light touch, and only scrub when you have to, make sure whenever touching you have lubrication.)

I found this great link that describes many of the processes I used in detail. Some other great information comes from https://www.autogeekonline.net/forum and Ammo NYC.

Step 1: Rinse Car (with warm water if you got it) I did this with regular hose pressure.

Step 2: Foam cannon and let the foam sit on the car to soak into any dirt.

Step 3: Rinse car (this time I did it with my pressure washer, with the wand a couple feet a way at an angle) I figure the pressure washer would be able to push quite a bit of the soaped up dirt off on it's own.

Step 4: 2-Bucket wash with microfiber mit, use grit guards. I am thinking I might foam cannon the car again and then wash with the 2-bucket method. This would evenly distribute a nice layer of soap to keep track of where I have washed already.

Step 5: Rinse Car with sheeting method, use the full hose stream and run it over the car so the water sheets and doesn't leave as many drops.

Step 6: Blow dry, I have an 80V battery blower, others have recommended a heated filtered blower. Then hand dry with a waffle weave microfiber towel. I would probably use two, one to get most the water, the other to pick up the leftover. The waffle weave is to supposedly keep the dirt in the waffle holes, and off the clear coat. The AMMO video posted by pirite below, has a good section on how to dry using microfiber and some lubrication. This includes an interesting tip to dampen the microfiber to allow it to pick up more water. It also has a recommendation as with all things when touching the car to have a very light touch, and only touch it enough to remove the dirt or water, no back and forth scrubbing, and if necessary use running water to lubricate while scrubbing where scrubbing is necessary. Make sure everything is dry, you do not want water spots.

Added Step: Iron-X and rinse/rewash/dry to help remove an ferrous contaminants prior to the clay bar/mit.

Step 7: Clay Bar or Mitt with lube to remove any left over particles, and maybe wash again if you have the time. I was thinking that I might re-foam cannon one more time and hit the whole car with a clay mitt after the Iron X to save some time.

Step 8: Cleanser/Polisher like Klasse All-in-One, as I understand, this will clean off any more gunk and get to a bare clear coat, and also polish and provide some protection. Only need to do this once. I used the process described in this link. I used the manual method.

Step 9: Sealant like Klasse Sealant Glaze, this will add an extra layer of protection to the clear coat. I used two coats of Klasse Sealant Glaze spaced a week apart. I used the method described in this link. Also before applying any sealant or wax I applied 303 Aerospace Sealant on the trim and rubber. This was to help with any "overspray" from waxing. It seemed to help as I was able to just wipe off the white wax spots that I accidentally got on the trim.

Step 10: Carnauba Wax, this will add more protection, but will mostly just ad "depth" and shine. I used three coats of Collinite 845 spaced at least a week apart with a good wash prior to applying. I used the method described in this link. I went back and forth with a DA, and then up and and down. Then I went and wiped it with a microfiber foam pad. I waited about 40 minutes and wiped the residue with a microfiber towel. I realize this isn't a pure Carnauba wax, but I was looking for protection more than looks. I will probably apply another layer after every few washes.

Maintenance: Carry quick detailer spray and a microfiber cloth to clean up any bird droppings or bugs as soon as possible to avoid damage to the paint.

I'm sure I don't have all this right, but based on my research this is my currrent plan. If anyone has more advice or recommendations I would really appreciate it. Thanks.
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gonna be using this method one its above freezing here in Buffalo
Granted I may not use these specific chemicals but you get the idea


Senior Member

gonna be using this method one its above freezing here in Buffalo
Granted I may not use these specific chemicals but you get the idea
Larry @ AMMO is a excellent and nice guy. I buy his products. He knows what hes talking about thats for sure.
Just wanted to chime in as I spent all day today detailing the Fiesta. Process below...

Step 1: Rinse down to remove large debris, then wash with Dawn dish soap (budget strip wash). I use a single bucket, but rinse out the mitt after each panel. No drying.

Step 2: Mothers Clay Bar using the clean water from rinsing the car off as lube, along with some light misting of Mothers Instant Detailer. Using just water will allow the clay bar to leave very light scratches on the clear coat, not a huge deal since I was going to be polishing right after but didn't need the extra work.

Step 3: Blow dry remaining water off with leaf blower, then Chemical Guys Waffle Weave and leftover puddles to avoid spots.

Step 4: Polish using Griots Complete Polish with a white Buff N Shine 5.5" pad and speed setting 5 on the Griots DA Orbital. Wipedown with microfiber

Step 5: Complete wipedown using a 70/30 IPA mixture.

Step 6: Wax using Griots Liquid Poly Wax (their sealant) with a red Buff N Shine 5.5" pad and speed setting 2.5 on the Griots DA Orbital. Let sit for 10-15 minutes, then buffed off with a blue edgeless towel (forget the brand).

Step 7: 70/30 IPA wipedown of all glass to remove any leftover residue.

At this point, I was very pleased with the results. With the car being new enough I did not need or want to break out the compound and orange pads as those have some real cutting power, no need to shave off clear coat until it''s neccessary. When I detailed my Mustang last month using the exact same steps as above, I finished it off with a quick coat of Mothers Carnuba Spray Wax. However this time, I wanted to do a second coat of the Poly Wax but ran out of time. Going to drive the Mustang this week while the Fiesta sits in the garage and will add a second, potentially third, coat of Poly Wax next weekend for max protection this winter. I have no experience with how the Griots products compare to others as I bought this kit in the Spring as my first ever detailing setup. I do really like how the Klasse products sound and will likely try their AIO and Glaze once I run out of my current products. Klasse's Glaze is more arcylic which is great for protection, almost like a budget ceramic coat.

I have Suntek PPF Ultra on the entire front bumper and hood, which I did not touch with the DA or any abrasives. It's easy to damage the self-healing topcoat so I only use spray wax and a Chemical Guys microfiber to "treat it".


1000 Post Club
South West Ohio
Best thing to do is to get the highest power pressure washer and aim it directly at your vehicle. Put the nozzle up *real* close. High volume and/or pressure water might be able to carve out caves and cut steel, but it ain't gonna hurt your clear coat one lick. [targetpractice]

Ford ST

1000 Post Club
Pleasant Garden
Use a high quality Car Wash, two bucket method, dry with a high quality microfiber towel, put some type of wax, paint sealant, glaze on whatever you would like on it once or twice a year and your car will be in better shape than 95% of the cars on the road. I like car detailing but I don't have the time to spend all day with a buffer polishing my paint out, or puting on three coats of Wax.

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It seems everyone has their own method of washing their car- and they are very particular about it. My GF and I differ very much how we wash our cars. I do a quick wash, sometimes multiple times a week. It only takes me 15 minutes. I was top to bottom using a decent grade of car wash, rinse top to bottom then use an artificial chamois to dry it. I wash the wheels with a different cloth than the car. I also wax it often- once every 2 weeks with a spray wax and every month a hand wax. It only takes me 15 minutes with the spray and 35 minutes with the hand wax. I only let the wax dry to a haze per the instructions. My GF washes once a week, extra meticulous, two bucket method, it takes her an hour. She waxes once every two months, hand wax, lets it completely dry. it's so hard to buff off and it takes over 3 hours. I feel my car always looks better and cleaner although she does not have a single paint swirl. The biggest difference is letting the wax dry- it is so hard to remove and leaves streaks.
Best thing to do is to get the highest power pressure washer and aim it directly at your vehicle. Put the nozzle up *real* close. High volume and/or pressure water might be able to carve out caves and cut steel, but it ain't gonna hurt your clear coat one lick. [targetpractice]
I agree with You!..[;)]..Hoping that our fragile paint will not be damaged by water high pressure...[:D]
I have three kids and an insane job, so this is all I have time for:

  1. Spray bumper crud with bug and tar remover.
  2. Let sit for a few minutes.
  3. Spray the car off.
  4. Wash with two bucket method (microfiber mitts), top to bottom, ending with the wheels.
  5. Dry with regular old cotton towels. I do keep them in a sealed bag between uses and I wash them twice.

In six months, I don't see excessive swirling. My plan is to pay for an annual detailing to correct anything I do to damage the paint.


Staff Member
SFV, So.Cal.
I just take mine to the local car wash once a month and have it hand washed and waxed.
I do not have them take it down their tunnel but done completely by hand.

Then if I need a quickie in between, I hit up my other favorite place.



Active member
Rock Creek
I spray down with water, and I use purple power on the wheels, and undercarriage and under the hood, pressure wash those bits clean, I then do the wheels, lug nuts, exhaust tips and hitch receiver, then I degreased the calipers and pressure wash them by putting the car in neutral and rolling it forwards or backwards to get the best angle on calipers.

At this point, I re-rinse the car, and now have clean soapy water, I will wash the wheels by hand with a fuzzy mitt. Dump the water, wash the bucket out, make new soapy water, and wash from top to bottom with a very soft bristled brush from a local detail supply. Then I rinse. Repeat process with a different fuzzy mitt, and I clean my wipers at this point as well.

I dry from top to bottom with thick towels. I wipe the door jambs with the first towel since it’s the wettest and use the last towel to dry them.

I do this quarterly. I don’t do tire dressing.

My in betweens are garden hose, bucket, and mitt or brush, depending on temperature.
AMMO NYC take car washing to an almost scientific level. He drops lots of knowledge.

Couple things i don't do: foam cannon. I find it wasteful of both water and soap. I can't discredit that it does work better than a standard 2-bucket wash, so maybe this is something I'll employ on major detail days, which is about every 3 months or so. But on a weekly basis, IMO it's just wasteful. Water is a luxury item in California these days.

I also don't clay unless i visually see or can feel any sort of roughness after a dry and wash. Because of where i park, I may likely never have to do this on ny new FiST.

I also have an entirely separate set of rags and a wash mitt for the wheels. Basically, any towels deemed unfit for the paint, that don't have any hardened fibers or grit embedded into the towel, can now be used on the wheels, tires, fender wells and underside of the sideskirts.

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