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View Full Version : Washing Question? Start at the top or start on the wheels?



Mike Phillips
Apr 25th, 2008, 07:49 AM
Poll: Car Washing Style? (http://meguiarsonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=23554)

When you wash your car or a customer's car,

Do you start at the top of the car and work your way down?

Do you start with the wheels and tires and after you're finished with the wheels and tires you switch to the exterior body starting at the top and working your way down.

Or do you have some other method to your madness?


Meguiar's recommends starting at the top and working down, for example starting on the roof of your car and working your way down the car.

Some people like to wash the wheels and tires first and after washing and rinsing the wheels and tires then they start at the top of the car and work their way down.

The reason for this is because if you wash the car starting at the top and working down, you have a wet car with water on the paint in the process of drying. While this water is sitting on the paint drying and potentially leaving a water spot, you're washing 4 wheels and tires, this takes time and while you're doing tis some water may dry on it's own before you can finish the wheels and tires.

If after washing the car you then dry it, and now start washing the wheels and tires, you usually get water spray on the paint and this could include dirt from off the wheels as you were spraying them, so now you'll have to wash and rinse the affected area again.

So for the above reasons, some people will wash the wheels and tires first, then wash the car. By doing it like this you don't have to dry the paint twice, nor rinse any of the paint a second time around the wheel wells. Then immediately after you give the car a final rinse you can being drying the water off the car. Since you're finished with the water hose and you won't be spraying water any more, then you won't be getting the car wet again and you should have enough time now to dry the water of the car without any risk of water spotting.

Personal preference.

:)

CWM3
Apr 25th, 2008, 07:57 AM
Typically, I spray down the wheels and tires with a cleaner first and then prep my cleaning supplies. With the product still on the tires/wheels I proceed to wash the car from the top down using whatever soap water is left to brush the wheels.

I then rinse off everything at one time.

Murr1525
Apr 25th, 2008, 07:57 AM
I do wheels first, the roof, then hood/trunk, then sides....

BlueZero
Apr 25th, 2008, 08:33 AM
I work top down. If the wheels are nasty I'll spray them with some cleaner first so they have time to soak. Then I use the left over wash water to do the wheels then tires. If they are chrome or something that will show swirls or the left over water looks pretty dirty, I'll get clean water.

Suprem01
Apr 25th, 2008, 10:15 AM
I usually do the rims first due to washing the wheels last water gets on the car and you have to clean it again.

Derrick
Apr 25th, 2008, 10:27 AM
I clean the rims, tires, and wheel wells first then move onto the body and move from top to bottom. Finally after its all done i dress the tires and wheel wells.

Kooz
Apr 25th, 2008, 10:37 AM
:iagree: This is exactly what I do. Couldn't have said it better.

Jokeman
Apr 25th, 2008, 11:44 AM
I clean the rims, tires, and wheel wells first then move onto the body and move from top to bottom. Finally after its all done i dress the tires and wheel wells.

Yup, that way there is no "overspray" on freshly cleaned paint.:coolgleam

armas78
Apr 25th, 2008, 12:04 PM
mmmm ... well now i'm a little worried, looks like i'm the crazy one here .. :shocked1

I usually wash my car once a week (if weather isn't bad). This takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I start by jacking up the car and take the wheels off, wash the wheels and tires both sides, wash wheel wells. Then exterior car wash top-down doing one panel at the time (wash and dry).
Dress wheel wells and tires ... put them back and lower the car.
:woohoo1

roushstage2
Apr 25th, 2008, 12:48 PM
Option 2 for me.

Jeepster04
Apr 25th, 2008, 01:18 PM
Wheels and fender wells are done first on my Jeep.

The following is done in this order:

-Wheels and fender wells
-Spray entire Jeep off throughly
-Half of roof(stand on rear tire)
-Paint+windows down to bottom of windows(A,B,C,D pillars)
-half of windshield
-half of hood
-Paint on the doors down the to trim on the sides
-Repeat the above on the other side
-Front end
-Rear end
-Below the trim on the sides(bottom and back are always the dirtiest)
-Door jambs

Ryan L.
Apr 25th, 2008, 01:58 PM
I do the wheels/tires/wheel wells first for the reason Mike stated. I'm not so worried about the wheels water spotting as I am the paint. Usually I use a cleaner on most wheels then once I'm completley done I use the left over water/soap to clean the wheels once more quickly just in case of dirt transfer or a film left by the cleaner.

Ryan

J. A. Michaels
Apr 25th, 2008, 02:40 PM
It's option 2 for me. Until this poll came up, never really gave it much thought. As far back as I can remember I have always done it this way.

acsuppa
Apr 25th, 2008, 06:07 PM
I like to do the tires and wheels first. Then get a fresh bucket of soap and water. Then I do the top and all the glass. I usually do one entire side at a time. I like to do the front area together. Hood, grill, lights, bumper etc. I do the rear the same as the front. Even thought I never wash in the sun, I like breaking up the vehicle into about 5 sections and throughly rinsing it off before moving on. Then, I follow up with a nice complete rinse of the entire vehicle before even thinking about drying the vehicle. Such fun!

Wolf-Strong
Apr 25th, 2008, 06:48 PM
Defiantly option two. I don't use any of the same materials when doing the wheels, so there is no cross contaimination problem for me. I just spray the wheels than use a brush/sponge to clean them, rinse down, and than go from top to bottom.

However, lately I have been doing ONR washes (due to living in an apartment) which means I use some Quick Wheel Detailer (or ONR in a spray bottle) and wipe down the wheels with a dedicated cloth, than proceed to do an ONR wash top to bottom.

angeloabbattista
Apr 25th, 2008, 11:30 PM
I clean the rims, tires, and wheel wells first then move onto the body and move from top to bottom. Finally after its all done i dress the tires and wheel wells.

:iagree:
exactly the same as I do.

So it's option 2 for me.

Bunky
Apr 27th, 2008, 02:31 AM
Defiantly option two. I don't use any of the same materials when doing the wheels, so there is no cross contaimination problem for me. I just spray the wheels than use a brush/sponge to clean them, rinse down, and than go from top to bottom.

However, lately I have been doing ONR washes (due to living in an apartment) which means I use some Quick Wheel Detailer (or ONR in a spray bottle) and wipe down the wheels with a dedicated cloth, than proceed to do an ONR wash top to bottom.

I follow a similar approach. If I do the wheels first, I wash the wheels with soap and but then toss and make a new batch for the rest. With ONR, I do them last but I find ONR is not as good as a car soap on greasy wheels so I use spray on cleaner such as Meg's Wheel Cleaner then scrub.

Nappers
May 14th, 2008, 04:39 AM
I wash top first and work my way down.

I may change my ways as some of you wash the wheels first.

I guess wash wheels then change water depending on severity of dirt on them eh.

L8R

Aaron

christian6984
May 14th, 2008, 08:45 AM
If i have alloys then the usually come first but plastic wheel trims usually get done after the car. only started doing wheel arches recently and other peoples cars dont notice (they probably do think we are mad cleaning bits you cant see)

I have a hatchback and the rear gets filth so that is one of the last.

-Alloys and Tyres + Wheel Wells Cleaned (need to get a cheap Microfibre to do these rather than suffer (of a PW and Snowfoam even better))
-Rinse Car and Spray Wheel Arches (the lip of the arch that holds plenty of dirt and go right round to down and spray into the mudflap hole, this is what causes alot of rusty arches on cars over here due to the mud holds water for longer periods of time. kink your hose and spray you will be suprised how much dirt there is and also do near the fuel filler cap it holds dirt too and can cause premature rust)
-Two Buckets etc GC LW, Wash order:

-Roof
-Windows, Pillars, Mirrors
-Bonnet (careful of bugs) and Lights
-Upper Doors and Wings
-Boot Lid
-Front Bumper
-Rear Bumber
-Lower Sides and Sills

I do have a question, can you tell me what a FENDER is we dont have that word in the UK (Front wing? Sill?)

Joe's detailing
May 14th, 2008, 12:36 PM
Working top to bottom is just common sense...:doublethumbsup2

Mike Phillips
May 15th, 2008, 09:20 AM
I do have a question, can you tell me what a FENDER is we dont have that word in the UK (Front wing? Sill?)



The Fender is the panel around the tire and wheel, it is where the wheel well, or fender well is located.

How's that? :xyxthumbs

Boss_429
May 15th, 2008, 04:09 PM
I prefer to do the wheels, wheel wells, tires, mud flaps, lower air dam, and the very bottom of the body panels/moldings that get really dirty first. Then I work the paint from top to bottom.

Essentially, the "dirty" areas get a good cleaning... the paint and glass get a gentle "bath". :D

Of course, I used dedicated washing tools and suds for each section. :bigups

Sydster
May 19th, 2008, 02:58 AM
I do wheels first, the roof, then hood/trunk, then sides....

Exactly what I do!

HagFan
Jun 9th, 2008, 08:04 AM
I said I do top-down... On second thought, that's how I do the first vehicle. If I'm washing a 2nd vehicle, which is usually the case, then I do the tires and wheels first using the soap and water from the first vehicle. Then I change the water in both buckets and go top-down...

I guess my intention is to keep the brake dust out of the water going on the paint, without using a 3rd bucket. On the other hand, it can be tough to keep the paint from drying while washing wheels.

TKDDAD
Jun 10th, 2008, 01:50 AM
I use three buckets...two for the paint and one for the wheels and tires...all four wheels first, then all four tires, then the paint from the top down...for all the reasons alreay listed..

AeroCleanse
Jun 10th, 2008, 06:15 AM
Wheels first, because I don't want any change of that stuff spraying up on the just washed paint. Then I wash top to bottom.

Now I'm switching to ONR this may change.

jonjon_u
Jun 14th, 2008, 10:19 PM
The situation described in option 2 is what I prefer and usually do.

BigLouie
Jul 14th, 2008, 04:32 AM
Since joining this board and see Mike's video, I wash wheels first. This approach is sensible in so many ways, I can believe I ever washed the car's before its wheels. Sheesh:scratchhead1.

Nolan_k
Jul 21st, 2008, 05:15 AM
Tires, rims, and wheel wells, then a full water change and bucket rinse and top to bottom. Dressing after drying.

b2bomber
Aug 4th, 2008, 10:46 AM
Both ... ofcourse depending on the scenario.

I do the second option (wheels first then body) during regular wash and maintenance days. Note ofcourse that I use separate mitts (1 for wheels, 2 for body), soap solution, brush (only for wheels) and buckets (1 for wheels, 2 for body) for wheels and body.

I do the first option (top to bottom of body then wheels) during my full detailing sessions or if I'll do my "home underwash". I jack up the car, put the stands on, take out all the wheels, set it aside, do the body (wash and detail) and do the wheels inbetween applications of products (say, while waiting to haze, etc., etc.).

Malo83
Aug 4th, 2008, 10:52 AM
Working top to bottom is just common sense...:doublethumbsup2
X2 :chuckle1

Andre
Sep 30th, 2008, 02:29 PM
I myself start with the wheels first then the rest of the car:

(1) Wheels,
(2) Roof
(3) Windows
(4) Bonnet
(5) Trunk
(6) Sides

Andre

Megafast13
Nov 15th, 2008, 06:12 PM
What I do is:

-Hose entire car down
-Start on a Side of the Car, work my way around
-Roof
-Wheels/Tires Last

akimel
Dec 17th, 2008, 07:41 AM
My routine has changed since switching to Optimum No Rinse for my winter washing. I now leave the wheels and tires for last, using the now "dirty" ONR solution on them. Since I'm not using a hose, I don't have to worry about splashing wheel dirt onto the newly washed paint surface.

But when summer comes around I will return to my usual practice of washing the wheels and tires first with a dedicated bucket of car shampoo.

Al

Zach W.
Dec 17th, 2008, 08:27 AM
I use a third bucket filled with a cheapy car wash soap first for wheelwells, wheels, tires.
Then I rinse the whole car down top to bottom, then I start washing the body.

Steward
Jan 4th, 2009, 10:38 AM
yes wheels first then the rest:xyxthumbs

gjohn28
Jan 6th, 2009, 12:42 PM
My routine has changed since switching to Optimum No Rinse for my winter washing. I now leave the wheels and tires for last, using the now "dirty" ONR solution on them. Since I'm not using a hose, I don't have to worry about splashing wheel dirt onto the newly washed paint surface.

But when summer comes around I will return to my usual practice of washing the wheels and tires first with a dedicated bucket of car shampoo.

Al

+1: Just tried ONR myself and used the same routine... :xyxthumbs

To be named later
Mar 21st, 2009, 06:26 AM
On my wifes RX8, I basically do anything from my knee on down first: rear bumper with a bunch of molded plastic honeycombe, floorboards, front bumper with lots of nook and crannies and honeycombe, fog lights, chrome exhaust shrouds, wheel wells, wheels and tires, in that order.

And while those areas may be only be +/-30% of the car surface, they tend to be the dirtiest, and they are the areas that take the most time and are the hardest to clean, and require maybe 75% of the elbow grease. In that order I go from using clean wash water on painted surfaces that could scratch, to less clean water on surfaces that won't scratch.

Then I empty the bucket, new wash mit, and then wash the upper part of the vehicle, which is all flat or rounded surfaces and is much easier to clean.

In my experience I have found that if I work top down, by the time I finish everything below the knee, the hood, trunk, glass etc will already be drying. Plus I don't have problems with the wash drying or water spots on what I washed below the knee, because as I wash the top and upper sides of the car, the runoff re-wets the sections I worked first.

MyFirstES300
Apr 5th, 2009, 05:27 PM
Since I never let my wheels get to the point where they are too filthy, I wash the car first, and then last do the wheels and tires.

I simply do not know the reason to the method of my madness, other than since I don't really use wheel cleaners much, car wash soap works just fine from the same bucket I used to wash the car. I have a tire brush and a wheel brush I break out at the end.

I don't worry much about water marks as I have a water softener system, so that's not an issue. Cars are usually washed in the shade, so they don't dry as fast. Anyway, at the end, the car gets a final rinse off before being dried with MF towels.

roger 668
Apr 22nd, 2009, 04:04 PM
I clean tires,wheels,wells,lower panels,front,rear and jambs using a direction of progression cleaning and rinsing as i go . I use allpurp,
degreaser,wheelbright,bug sponge,5 different brushes and a brass brush if white walls or letters are involved. I then rinse,foam,and wash top to bottom with a hand mitt,then flush rinse.:detailer

Honda Fit
Apr 22nd, 2009, 08:19 PM
-Presoak car and wheels.
-Wash wheels. Rinse.
-Roof.
-Pillars down to the side skirts. Repeat around the car.

kesawi
Apr 24th, 2009, 03:59 PM
mmmm ... well now i'm a little worried, looks like i'm the crazy one here .. :shocked1

I usually wash my car once a week (if weather isn't bad). This takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. I start by jacking up the car and take the wheels off, wash the wheels and tires both sides, wash wheel wells. Then exterior car wash top-down doing one panel at the time (wash and dry).
Dress wheel wells and tires ... put them back and lower the car.
:woohoo1

I congratulate you on your dedication :xyxthumbs my better half would leave me if I did that :chuckle1

I wash the wheels, then start at the top, then onto the sides starting from the rear, working around the car to the front and bonnet, down the other side and then the rear tail gate.

ceyko
May 25th, 2009, 06:17 AM
For my dailies, top to bottom with special attention to wheels before drying.

For my cars I really like (My Mustang and my mo-in-law's Mustang), wash the car, dry it. Pull into garage, put it up on jackstands and pull the wheels for their own attention in the lawn. Clean front/back, dress tires as desired and slap some wax on the wheels.

I only do that a few times a year. Not once a week though. :)

Also allows for special attention to the fender wells....which I have not figured out how to get those just right yet.

Eddie6th
May 25th, 2009, 04:41 PM
i simply wash the car,roof down,then dry it,then tackle the wheels.I don't get the problem of contaminents splashing onto the bodywork.I use one bucket,but when i get to the wheels,the car sponge is removed and replaced,and never touches the bodywork again.I suppose i would start with the wheels if i was using a seperate bucket.

supercharged
May 31st, 2009, 02:51 PM
wheels first.

Alfist-GTV6
Jun 30th, 2009, 07:38 AM
Here's how i do it:

1st i'm cleaning the wheel wells and undercarriage with a pressure washer.
After that's done, i start washing the car from top to bottom.
Ofcourse ending with the wheels and tires.

dope92cc
Jul 16th, 2009, 02:45 PM
I'm surprised to see so many votes for #1.
I mean that's exactly how my brother washes. What a newber.
You can't really take time to clean the wheels without getting water spots on the body and glass; and tyre dressing on dirty tyres. Not for me.

rusty bumper
Jul 16th, 2009, 05:39 PM
If the tires have not been dressed in a while, I clean them 1st with APC+ and then do the rest of the car.

Otherwise, I do the car 1st, and clean the tires with what's leftover in the bucket.

THERAPY
Nov 12th, 2009, 03:29 AM
I start of the top,roof and wash down..

speed3blackmica
Nov 17th, 2009, 09:54 AM
i never clean the rims and tires last !! i always start by spraying my own diluted degreaser on one rim and tire..scrub the tire good..use my brush to scrub the rim..and then i rinse that wheel and tire...then move to the next wheel/tire until all 4 are done..then i go to initial rinse of my vehicle...then i wash the roof, sides, trunk, hood and dry. then i dress the tires...tire dressing always looks amazing when the tires are clean. i hate when the tires are dirty and you put dressing on and all you get is brown gunk on your fingers.

rusty bumper
Nov 17th, 2009, 10:28 AM
...tire dressing always looks amazing when the tires are clean. i hate when the tires are dirty and you put dressing on and all you get is brown gunk on your fingers.

Hmmm....I usually get the brown gunk on me anyway. :chuckle1

Must be some leftover dirt that APC+ could not remove.

speed3blackmica
Nov 17th, 2009, 03:12 PM
really? i use a very hard brisstled brush to scrub the tires "only"...gotta scrub em good !

Bill Davidson
Apr 7th, 2010, 07:56 PM
I clean the wheels, tires, and wheel wells first, then move onto the body and move from top to bottom. Finally after its all done i dress the tires and wheel wells.

Same. I like to do the wheels first, this allows me to get in and clean the wheel wells etc. while the vehicle is generally dry and my driveway is generally dry (not paved). My truck is black, so I don't like to have the water sitting on the body too long, forming water spots.

Ryan_Bihun89
May 5th, 2010, 03:23 PM
I wash the wheels, wheels wells, and tires first. With APC and a brush, and some soapy water.

Then i move to the Roof, Hood, Trunk then Sides...

Thanks

Garage Troll
May 5th, 2010, 08:01 PM
Wheels and tires then roof hood, trunk, windows, sides, and finally lower plastic body cladding.

griff8
Oct 7th, 2010, 07:08 PM
I do the tires first. Then wash top, then windshield and hood, followed by drivers side, rear windshield, panel and bumper, then passenger side. I use the leftover wash water to clean the wheel covers. I squeegee the windows and use Costco Microfiber Towels to dry the car.

therdrman
Feb 10th, 2011, 04:25 PM
i wash top-bottom. but once i reach a tire and rim i clean it so basically im going around 4 corners i dont leave the wheels till last

woody.01
Feb 11th, 2011, 12:57 PM
snow foam everything first, then whilst that's doing its thing, get two grit guard buckets, one with warm Gold Class, the other just water, spray down from roof to remove snow foam and most of the dirt, then start with the roof and hand wash with microfibre mitt, finishing with door jams and then wheels. Then dry with water magnet and, or Chemical guys towel.

Does anyone continue to dry their car even if it starts to rain lightly, I do and I think everyone thinks im mad !

weavers
Jul 5th, 2011, 09:30 PM
Most washes I do an ONR wash with 1 bucket and 2 sponges. I do the wheels last so I can use the ONR to wash the wheels.

If its a proper detail or if wheels are really dirty I start with the wheels. a 2 gallons of water and ajax and spray with purple power 1:1 and add some elbow grease. Really dirty wheels flicks brake dust on the paint. Also for a detail I will vacuum and the interior first, otherwise I track dirt inside.

vetted
Jun 25th, 2012, 03:03 PM
tires and wheels first, then top down.....dress tires and wheels last.....