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Fall: it's time to wash off summer's grime

YOUR Great Canadian Roadtrip is all wrapped up now. You saw the world's largest Ukrainian Easter egg, you listened to your iPod's roadtrip playlist 1,146 times, and your car has 13 levels of dirt, one for each province and territory.

YOUR Great Canadian Roadtrip is all wrapped up now.

You saw the world's largest Ukrainian Easter egg, you listened to your iPod's roadtrip playlist 1,146 times, and your car has 13 levels of dirt, one for each province and territory.

Even if you didn't drive across the entire country this summer, fall is still a good time to do a thorough detailing of your vehicle.

Washing and protecting your car not only keeps it looking good, but according to experts, it also maintains the integrity of your car's finish.

Paint that is neglected for long periods of time becomes more difficult to restore later on, and more prone to fading, getting spotty and rusting away.

You can't just grab your bucket and dish soap either. Washing incorrectly or with the wrong tools is a surefire way to damage paint.

Dish soaps are more harsh than automotive soaps, and while they may not cause any immediate harm to paint they are likely to dry out your rubber and plastic trim, and may dry the paint out if used for long periods of time.

An automotive soap is essential. These are relatively inexpensive and last a long time, they're much more gentle than dish soap and are designed to help lift dirt off paint so you don't drag it across the paint as you wash it away.

Even more important are the tools you use to do the job. If you've ever seen a car with swirl marks, then you've seen a side effect of improper washing. If you're starting to notice fine scratches and swirls in your paint the likely culprit is improper washing.

A proper wash mitt is the best return on investment you'll spend on your cars finish. 100 per cent sheepskin wash mitts are soft and their nature fiber is conducive to lifting and holding dirt away from the paint so it doesn't touch it as you wash. Soft brushes on wheels and in tight crevices are equally important. Using a toothbrush to remove dirt from a body line is asking for trouble.

Finally, use proper drying towels. Dragging an old polyester T-shirt across your paint is like dragging dirty cardboard across your face. Polyester is one of the roughest substances on earth and it has no place near your car's paint. Microfibre or 100 per cent cotton towels will not only hold more water, but they're much less likely to scratch paint.

Proper technique is also key.

- Wash your car in the shade - washing it in the sun will dry the water and soap on the surface and can create water spots which are difficult to remove.

- Use the two bucket method: fill one bucket with the appropriate amount of soap and water; this will be your wash bucket. Fill another bucket with clean water. Why? As you wash the car your wash mitt will become very dirty. In between panels it's a great idea to rinse the mitt off in the bucket of clean water, or at the very least with your hose. This will remove trapped dirt that can cause scratches and swirls. This will also help the soapy water to remain soapy longer.

- Wash the wheels first. Washing the car first means you'll need to take time to dry so you don't get water spots, then you'll have to clean your wheels. It's much easier to do it the other way. Plus, if you're using wheel cleaner and any gets on the paint you will wash it right off.

- Along the same lines: pre-treat any hard-to-clean areas. If you have caked-on bugs on the front of the car, windshield, and rearview mirrors, make sure to spray those areas with a bug remover before you begin washing. If you've got tar on the fenders, spray those areas with a tar remover. This will allow them to soak before you begin washing.

- Pre-rinse thoroughly. Get the entire car wet and spray dirty areas with some wash solution before you begin.

- Wash from the top to the bottom, cleaning the least soiled areas first. This will help you keep your mitt clean as you move towards the soiled areas. Also, since the bottom of the car is almost always dirtier than the top (and because moving from bottom to top would just pull dirt up the cars surface) you want to start on the roof and move to the hood and rear decklid, then to the doors and fenders, then to the bumpers and rocker panels.

- Rinse your car often. You want to keep it wet until you decide to dry it. If it's drying in the sun you're running the risk of water spots.

- Before you start drying detach your nozzle from the hose and let the water run freely. Hold the hose over the car and let the water sheet off the car. This trick will remove a large portion of the water before you even begin drying.

- Dry your car. If you let the sun do it, you'll be left with water spots. Grab your towels and start from the top. It's often easier to use one towel over the entire car leaving it a bit damp, then come back with a dry towel to go back over the damp areas. When you're done, make sure to open your gas cap, doors, hood, and trunk and get all the puddles of water that have collected in these areas - they're water spots waiting to happen.

- Carnauba car wax produces a deep shine that you can't attain with a sealant, but only has the longevity of eight to 12 weeks. Paint sealants give you longer lasting protection and will not melt, wash off or wear away for about six months.