Car's Body Has Gotten a Little Out of Shape

(ARA) - With warm weather fast approaching, you might be noticing that your car's body has gotten a little out of shape over the winter. Before plunking down $18,000 or more on a new set of wheels, consider less drastic measures - like sprucing up your car at a professional car wash or detail shop.

That's the advice of Ben Alford, president of the International Carwash Association (ICA), an industry trade association representing more than 25,000 professional car wash operations from around the world.

"From the minute you put your car on the road, it is attacked by acid rain, caked-on mud, air pollution, bird droppings, and ultra-violet light, just to name a few," says Alford. "If you live in colder climates, you have the added problems of road salt and ice. Warmer climates must deal with the damaging effects of ultra-violet light. All of these factors send automobiles to an early grave."

There are thousands of professional car wash and detail shops around the world offering a wide range of services that protect your car's finish from deteriorating and help you maintain the value of your automobile.

"Most car owners understand the value of changing their motor oil regularly to protect the engine," says Alford. "The same kind of maintenance should be in place for saving the exterior of your car. Keeping your car looking good helps maintain its value, an especially important factor at resale or trade-in time. The best way to keep your car looking good is regular washing and waxing at a professional car wash."

Prices for professional car washes range from $2 at a self-service wash to $250 for a full-service car detailing. For quick, low-cost service, self-service operations provide a variety of effective, self-cleaning services from which to choose. For best results, follow the step-by-step instructions posted in the self-service bay and don't forget to choose the presoak option to loosen the road grime. If you don't want to wash your vehicle yourself, there are a variety of automatic car washes to chose from, ranging from the local gas station "rollover" where you stay in your car and have the car wash equipment roll over your car, to the full-service conveyor operation, where a car wash attendant takes your car through a tunnel with various wash stations.

At any type of professional car wash, it is best to include as many services as possible for optimum results. Services include a high-pressure wash, fresh water rinse, tire and wheel cleaning and spot free rinse. Most cars should be washed at least once every seven to 10 days, and always after it rains.

"Many people believe that rain can serve as a "natural" car wash," says Alford. "But compounds in rain from chemical, fossil fuel, internal combustion and power plants create a state commonly referred to as "acid rain." Even when the rain has evaporated from your car, deposits are left which can seriously damage your car's finish and paint. You must wash these particles off to preserve the life of your vehicle."

Most car wash operations also offer interior cleaning services, like vacuuming, interior window washing and upholstery and carpet cleaning. These services can be vital in removing winter's wear and tear.

The International Carwash Association also advises consumers to wax their vehicles at least once every three to six months, depending on climate. If your car is red, black or white, you will need to wax more frequently, as these colors are more susceptible to the effects of acid rain and ultra violet light.

"The entire process, form presoak to wax, can be accomplished in less than 10 minutes," says Alford. "This is far less time and a far better wash then you could ever do in your driveway. And professional car washes dispose of wastewater according to federal and state regulations, instead of letting dirty water and soap flow into storm drains untreated, like driveway washing. As a result, professional car washes are much easier on the environment."

For more information, or to locate a professional car wash near you, visit

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In today's economy it is important to protect all of your assets, including your car, truck, SUV or van. The following information compiled from the International Carwash Association (ICA), a trade association with over 3,000 car wash and detail professionals, will help you keep your vehicle looking new and help preserve its long term value.

Question: Isn't rain a natural, cost-effective car wash?

Answer: Rain contains acid that can eat away at car paints and finishes. Even after the rain evaporates, acid is left on the surface. Concentrated by the strong summer sun, acid can become so corrosive that it will "eat" through the finish, ruining the vehicles paint and appearance. The only way to completely remove this acid, and protect the value of your vehicle, is to have it washed at a professional car wash. According to car care standards set by the International Carwash Association, consumers should wash their vehicles every seven to 10 days, and an auto should always be washed after it rains. So after those spring showers, get your car to a car wash to protect its finish and maintain its shine.

Question: If my car has a clear coat finish, do I still need to wax it?

Answer: Many new cars have a high gloss clear coat finish that is very thin and easily damaged by ultra-violet light, road wear and the elements. Regular waxing is the most effective way to protect your clear coat and keep your vehicle shiny. A wax at a professional car wash is the most efficient way to get a wax job. Most cars should be waxed two or three times a year to maintain its gloss; for those who live in sunnier parts of the country, more frequent waxing may be necessary to protect your auto against the aging effects of the sun. A professional car wash or detail shop that offers waxing services is a high quality low cost option to machine (dealership) waxes and easier than doing it yourself.

Question: Isn't washing my car at home just as effective as a professional car wash?

Answer: Washing your car at home can actually promote damage to your vehicle. A hose does not supply enough water pressure to effectively remove soap residue and stuck on grime. Rubbing your car with sponges or towels will etch dirt into your paint causing scratches and dullness. Washing you car at home is also hard on the environment. Unlike professional car washes, many home-use products are not biodegradable and soap and dirty water run off your driveway untreated, directly into sewer systems that flow into our lakes and rivers. Professional car washes use environmentally friendly products and follow federal and state regulations for proper wastewater disposal.

Question: There are many different kinds of car washes - self-service, gas station car washes, drive through - which one will do the best job cleaning my car?

Answer: Any professional car wash can effectively clean your car without damaging it. There are several different types of professional car washes using variations of touchless, semi-touchless, soft cloth or brush methods of cleaning. All of these types use high-pressure water and detergents to remove dirt and other potentially damaging particles form your car's finish. A final rinse will leave your car spot-free. Blowers or hand drying will remove excess water from your car and prevent spotting without scratching or dulling the finish.

Question: I don't have the time or the money to wash and wax my car regularly.

Answer: You can't afford not to protect your investment. A professional car wash offers safe, fast, high quality washes at affordable prices. Prices at self-serve operations start as low as a few quarters. For those interested in selling or trading in their vehicle, an appointment at a detail shop can greatly increase the value of your car, and more than pay for the cost of detail services. A few minutes and a few dollars a month will save you hours and hundreds of dollars in the future, and extend the life of your vehicle.

For more information, or to locate a professional car wash near you, visit

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