How many of you can remember the old days when we washed our own cars? When only the well-to-do, those whom we considered the lazy, and of course, those who didn't care much about their cars, would subject them to the evils of the automatic car wash?
When a bucket of suds, a garden hose and a Saturday morning meant washing that American Iron, or even that little foreign car, with every inch carefully washed and wiped clean of dirt and grime. Then, for the lucky vehicle, there was the anointment with polish or wax. For those with muscle to spare, the Simoniz Wax job was the supreme gleaming effort, where taking the wax residue off was much harder than putting it on. Those who dared open that yellow can, and smear that concoction on their paint, were treated to a shine that seemed to last for months, or at least longer than the cheap and quick waxes and polishes on the market. Or, maybe it just seemed that way, because of all the hard work.
You knew every inch of your vehicle. Every tiny flaw, every scratch, ding and imperfection. The pride of ownership, the knowing that you personally had maintained the finish and put heart and soul into making it look its best. Same with the interior as you cleaned, vacuumed and polished. Especially important for those with a Saturday night date, or other important social schedule, such as cruising the car hops.
The "quarter car wash" came into being in the 1960's and it truly was a quarter. Not that you could wash and rinse your car for a quarter, but all it took was a quarter to get it started, and for fifty cents, you could get the winter salt off your car or at least the heavy grime. Sometimes your car became encased in a block of ice if you lived in the colder climes, but what the heck, it was a cleaner block of ice anyway! Many learned the trick of putting tape over the drivers' door keyhole so the door lock wouldn't freeze! (Remember, the only "remote" door locks was on de-chromed custom 1950's Mercs with solenoid buttons hidden in the rocker panels!)
The ubiquitous car wash that it seems everyone now uses seems so generic. What'll you have, brush or brushless? Car pummeled by plastic brushes, alleged soft cloths that just cleaned a muddy 4X4, or high pressure water that could peel the paint off an Army tank? Of is it the "hand wash" by a group of people that really don't care how clean your car is, who allow it to sit in the sun and water spot after it leaves the wash bay, haphazardly clean the windows, (don't even ask if they clean the window on the fastback or hatchback) and watch in horror as the dropped towel is again used to wipe the $50,000 vehicle in front of yours...or was that yours? All for a mere $12.00 including tip, with coupon.
No, thank you. Today I washed both our cars, and had a major appreciation for fine automotive craftsmanship. The flowing lines and the finish, several hair thin scratches that only show up in certain light, the location of each tiny rock chip that has been carefully touched up, and the appreciation of looking at the finished work and being pleased with the results. It took me back to my boyhood washing my first car, and all 38 cars since then. It's a pleasant tiredness when I wash and shine two cars in a morning, a feeling of satisfaction that still comes about after all these years.
I must confess that some have, shudder, gone through the car wash, due to circumstances which were unfortunately unpreventable. Such as the vehicle which had to be parked outside and under the pine trees, and saw the soft touch car wash often. But it was a work vehicle and I waxed it often and tried to use only one car wash, but the ravages of the wash still showed in the swirls in the paint.
A point to make about the washes with the plastic brushes is that the rough plastic brushes will actually strip the wax off your vehicle. It's like sanding the paint with a weed whacker with thousands of tips. I felt the outside of a vehicle after a wash and the paint actually felt rough, needing to be clayed and waxed again, only weeks after a thorough waxing. Not what you'd want to do to your finish!
There are some great automotive products out there to make your job easier and more enjoyable. I don't hawk labels, but the products from Griot's Garage fill my cabinets and not only do they work extremely well, but they back everything with a super guarantee. For wheel cleaner for factory wheels, however, I really like Hot Rims by Meguiars. Dissolves brake dust immediately, virtually no scrubbing and leaves wheels with a shine.