In the first column in a series to come, we chat about the dos and don’ts at washing bays. Car washing can be fun but also stressing. That said, we sometimes expose our cars to gradual damage by using detergents instead of some recommended liquid soaps. We all like a clean car but when it fails to start when doused with water, we should look for ways of avoiding such incidents.
Jude: I heard that washing one’s car every single day may not be a good idea. Could it be the detergents people use or how they wash the car itself?
Mustafa: The question is why people want to wash their cars every day. It could be the detergents because I have heard that some people only use water, I use Omo.
Jude: I use Aerial.
Paul: What matters is how one washes the car and what they use. Detergents are abrasive and can damage the paintwork gradually. But like Mustafa hinted, sometimes only water is needed and no detergents.
Mustafa: In fact some new cars have a coating that deals with the dust, it kind of deflects dust, so only water is needed.
Paul: The issue shouldn’t be how often but what detergents you use. Some like liquid soaps mixed in small quantities are not as abrasive as say Omo and other strong soaps. The cleaning of the interior is also crucial. If you are always wetting carpets on a daily basis, it is hazardous, you only need to hoover. Sometimes you only need to vacuum clean the interior. Wash and wax usually costs between Shs15,000 and Shs20,000 for a one litre can at leading supermarkets.
Jude: there is a reader who asked about using the jet spray for cleaning the engine and whether or not there is any problem.
Paul: Generally speaking, using the jet spray is bad for most cars because it damages some components. The pressure is too high and it sometimes penetrates crevices that are vital such as electric components.
Even the most basic engine with an alternator, distributor etc will suffer. Modern engines are the ones that suffer most. You only need to use a damp piece of cloth and not an overly wet one. In other markets, they use steam cleaning which we don’t do here.
Jude: I think the jet spray was ideally meant for hard to reach places such as underneath the mudguards.
Paul: Yes, that’s why hand washing, comes in.
Mustafa: Right now if you have a washing bay that doesn’t have a jet spray, you won’t be in business. So the issue is do I park the car and tell the washing attendant what to do and what not to? I have seen guys literally jet spray the alternator. It is a case of ignorance. What do consumers need to do?
Jude: Paul the other time you told me how several people call you and ask why their cars have failed to start and in most cases when you ask them where they are, they say they are at the washing bay.
Paul: They tell me, the gears cannot shift, water has gone into the sifter etc. the Mercedes bower fans are the most affected. I think there are supposed to be rules on how to wash the car.
Mustafa: Are their specific anchor points such as telling the attedants not to touch the alternator among other parts?
Jude: Some have learnt on the job and therefore may not now which parts are sensitive and which ones are not.
Paul: They should instead use a damp cloth dipped into soapy water. Moving forward, I prefer the hand wash but if one were to use a jet spray, areas to avoid include in front of the car grille and the headlamp seals.
That is why some cars have water in their headlamps. Electrics, sensors, underneath the bumper... you don’t direct the jet spray to such places. They tend to have weakened rubber seals.
As well as harnesses of wires which might trigger short circuits. Underneath the floor carpet of most cars is where most wire harnesses are. If you douse the floor carpet with water, you are damaging the car.
Mustafa: But realistically speaking, how many cars will be affected by these water contact
problems, aren’t today’s cars more resilient? Are we going to advise people to avoid some washing bays?
Paul: Some of the damage is instant and some of it is gradual.
Mustafa: But even car owners should exercise some precaution. You just don’t trust these guys entirely.
Paul: Someone crashed into my car and two other cars were also hit. So, the washing bay management ended up paying for three cars. People should be careful about whom they leave their cars with.
Jude: I use hand wash guys but only for the exterior. So I lock up the car and ask them to clean the rest of it. I do the interior myself.
Mustafa: Do you know how tiring washing a car is?
Jude: It is an exercise. I was telling Paul how one can involve their family. Let your two boys wash the tyres on one side and let the girls do the same for the other side, make it fun. But winding up, the thing is most of these water related problems are gradual, so you may not notice them immediately.
Mustafa: For how long are you going to have the car before selling it off? You may never see these problems at all.
Paul: How do you want to sell your car? I have seen some poorly done paint jobs, and such problems affect the car’s value. I have seen some cars’ paint looking like a skin disease. So like Jude is saying, although some problems are gradual, we should always strive to take good care of our cars including washing them properly. Let’s avoid using detergents and instead use recommended car washing liquids.