Everyone wants their car to look nice, and many drivers who care for their vehicles invest in various washes and waxes to keep their vehicle looking good. Unfortunately, a number of myths and half-truths have popped up surrounding the act of cleaning a car, and this can steer drivers in the wrong direction when it comes to keeping their vehicle looking nice. This is especially helpful for the novice car owner who may be just getting into the process of caring for their vehicle.
For example, it's a common misconception that polishing and waxing have the same effect. Many drivers have gone out and bought an expensive wax and used it on their car to find that it looks no better than it did before. That's because waxing a vehicle doesn't improve how it looks - it just preserves the body of the car from damage, serving as a protective shell that prevents dirt and other grime from building up and causing scratches.
Yet waxing a car won't make it shine like new - for that, you'll need to actually polish the vehicle. And even if the car shines well enough and it doesn't look like it needs a polish, this can still be beneficial to a vehicle. One of the trickier things that drivers will have to deal with is referred to as "bonded contaminants" - these are dirt or grime particles that won't come off with a regular wash and are literally stuck to the car.
The only real way to get rid of these contaminants is to go over the surface with a clay bar. Many mistakenly believe that these bars are only for professionals, but they can be found at most auto parts stores. To really make the car look good, use the clay bar, give it a nice polish, and then wax it to preserve the look you just worked hard to achieve. Those who skip the first two steps only to wax the car aren't really doing themselves any favors, although waxing the car is still better than nothing.
Another myth surrounding car waxes is the use of carnauba. Carnauba is the hardest natural wax available, and was greatly prized as being the absolute best wax in the old days. Now, however, many drivers have not freed themselves from the old way of thinking. While a paste wax made of carnauba will get the job done, the natural wax is simply not as effective as the new-school synthetic and polymer mixtures (many of which include carnauba). A high-quality liquid wax will likely offer more protection than carnauba, yet those who grew up waxing their car with the substance still erroneously claim it's the best way to get the job done.
Several fictitious pieces of information surround car washes as well. For example, many people believe that it's okay to use dish detergent to clean their car. Yet the people who make car washing soap aren't trying to scam you - it really is the way to go when washing a vehicle. Drivers might get away with washing their car with dish soap once in awhile, but this type of detergent is designed to strip just about everything off of whatever it touches. That works well for grimy food, but not so well for the paint of your car. Don't be surprised if using dish soap in place of the real stuff leads to a rusty vehicle much quicker than you expected.