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Pelican Technical Article:

Washing Your Car


1 hr






Bucket and hose

Applicable Models:

Porsche 911 (1965-89)
Porsche 912 (1965-69)
Porsche 914 (1970-76)
Porsche 930 Turbo (1976-89)

Parts Required:

Car washing soap, four or five cotton terry towels

Hot Tip:

Don't use household detergent, and don't use a chamois

Performance Gain:

Slicker looking 911

Complementary Modification:

Buy a cover
101 Projects for Your Porsche 911

This article is one in a series that have been released in conjunction with Wayne's book, 101 Projects for Your Porsche 911. The book contains 240 pages of full color projects detailing everything from performance mods to changing your brake pads. With more than 650+ full-color glossy photos accompanying extensive step-by-step procedures, this book is required reading in any Porsche 911 owner's collection. See The Official Book Website for more details.

One of the most basic maintenance tasks for your car is cleaning it. While this includes the art of washing your 911, it also includes the reconditioning and protection of both the exterior paint and chrome, and the interior. No one is more qualified to give hints and tips on cleaning their car than Beverly Frohm of the Orange County Region of the Porsche Club of America. Bev's 1970 911E has won several national concours awards: this despite the fact that her car has more than 300,000 miles on it! The majority of this project is compiled from a series of "Concours Corners" articles that she has written for many publications.

The first step in washing your car is to determine exactly what it needs. If the car is simply dusty, and has been sitting in the garage, then you probably only need to wash it with plain water (no soap). Wet the car down and use a wash mitt to remove any dust that might have settled on the car inside the garage. This mitt should be tossed into the washer in-between washes in order to remove any residual dust or dirt that may be left at the end of the day.

It's not recommended to use a chamois to dry your car. The chamois can trap small particles of dirt in their porous material, and can actually cause scratches in the surface of the paint when used to dry off the car. A really good alternative is the 100% cotton terry towels. Make sure that the towels have been washed at least once, and don't use a rinse or softener. The softener is an additive that can cause streaks, and also retards the absorbency of the towel. The softener won't hurt the paint: it's primarily a nuisance.

When washing the car, remember to get the valance panels, and the lower rockers too. Seeing how these panels are closest to the ground, they have a tendency to get the dirtiest. If your car is dirtier than simple dust accumulation, then you will need to use a bit of car wash soap. Make sure that you don't use normal household soap or detergent, as this will remove the wax from the surface of the paint. Since the wax is oil-based, normal detergents will attack and remove it. The car wash soaps are very mild, and shouldn't remove the layer of wax that you have on your car.

Rinse the car completely with water from a hose, taking care not to spray the water in any areas where your seals may be cracking. If you're like many Porsche owners, your 911 usually doesn't see much water, and the overall watertight seal of the interior may not be as solid as desired. If your car does leak water, then toss some towels inside the car near the windows to make sure that you catch any water before it reaches the carpet. I also like to put a towel over the engine compartment grille. Make sure that you remember to remove the towel before you start the car! The 911 owners are not as fortunate as the 912 owners to have a rain tray over this grille.

After the car is completely rinsed, start drying it immediately. Contrary to popular belief, it's best to dry the car off out of the sun. Pull the car into the garage and dry it off in there. Removing the car from the sun helps to keep those ugly water spots from appearing on the finish of the car.

The key to keeping the paint free of scratches is to make sure that the towels are clean and free of any debris. Handle the towels like they are going to be used for surgery. Don't leave them outside, or if you drop them on the ground, then use them again until they have been washed. Small particles of dirt trapped within the towels can cause nasty scratches in the paint. If you happen to encounter a water spot, then use a section of a damp, clean terry cloth towel to gently rub it out.

When you are finished with the cleaning ritual, it's time to tuck the car away. It's recommended that you use a car cover if your car is spending most of its life in the garage. The cover will protect it from dust accumulation in the garage, and it might also help protect against items falling on the car, or cats jumping on the car. At the very least, covering the car significantly reduces the amount of car washing that you will have to do. For cars stored outdoors, covers usually are not a great idea. They have a tendency to trap water, and the wind can make the cloth cover wear against the paint. If your car is not perfectly clean, then dirt particles trapped between the car and the cover will have a tendency to scratch the paint.

Truly a sight to be seen, Beverly Frohm's 1970 911E has held up over the years very well thanks to meticulous care and attention.
Figure 1

Truly a sight to be seen, Beverly Frohm's 1970 911E has held up over the years very well thanks to meticulous care and attention. This car is living proof that you can place miles on a car (more than 300,000 to date), and still maintain a fabulous concours-quality shine. By following common sense-guidelines, and washing the car often, the 911 can theoretically last forever.

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Comments and Suggestions:
pfijcali Comments: A critical missing element in this discussion is using a water filter to remove impurities in the water that will leave water spots behind.
July 25, 2015
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: Thanks for the additional info. We appreciate it.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
rockryno Comments: whats a good wax to use?
December 9, 2012
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: These days, the best recommendation that I have are the SmartWax brand of products, shown here: http://www.pelicanparts.com/catalog/shopcart/CARE/POR_CARE_SMTWAX-detail.htm - Wayne at Pelican Parts  

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