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Personally, I just spray waterless wash onto the dirt and wipe it all off with microfibre towels. However, if you want to clean your car the anally retentive (proper) way, read on.
Due to the “venturi” effect, the back of the smart can get dirty very quickly
Cleaning a car is basically an 8 step process. Most people will skip step 6 and most will have probably never heard of step 4.
It’s also worth mentioning that polishing and waxing are two different processes. Polishing will remove any slight imperfections in your car’s paint and also restore valuable oils to the paint. It also creates that shine that we all try to get on our cars. A wax will protect the shine and extend the life of the shine.
Seeing as the majority of our smarts aren’t painted, any method of either waxing or polishing and waxing will work. I’ve used both and both do work. It’s a matter of opinion which one you want to use. My process at the moment is to:
Claying the car is done after drying. It removes all the crud that washing alone cannot remove. It leaves the panels/tridion as smooth as glass and therefore is an ideal base for the application of polish/wax.
A number of smart owners have followed my advice and clayed their cars after washing and have been very impressed with the results. Best clay to use is the Meguiars Quik Clay Detailing System. Within the box you get the clay bar and a bottle of quik detailing spray. Full instructions are included, so you shouldn’t have any problems.
Expect to pay around £12-14 for this.
8 simple steps to have your smart looking spotless
1. Wash car
2. Rinse car
3. Dry car
4. Clay car
5. Polish car
6. Wax car
7. Clean wheels and tyres
8. Clean glass
Step 1 & 2 – Washing / Rinsing The Smart
Required: 2 buckets, car shampoo, good quality wash mitt, hosepipe or watering can.
Washing is done using the “two bucket method”. One bucket is filled with the shampoo solution; the other bucket is filled with water. Dip the wash mitt into the shampoo solution and wash the car, then rinse in the clean water. This way, the grit then falls into the bucket with just the water and not the bucket with the shampoo.
By washing the smart in this way, you have less chance of inducing scratches and swirl marks. If you have a smart in black, you’ll know that’s a real pain.
Try to avoid washing the smart in direct sunlight, and never wash a hot car. It is best to hose down the car with a constant stream of water to loosen the build up of dirt. Have a watering can on stand by already filled with water. You should avoid letting water dry on the car, this will cause streaking and water spots.
Use a wash mitt. I tend not to use a sponge on the panels/Tridion. A sponge can hold grit and therefore cause scratches.
Start from the top of the smart and work your way down. There is no point in starting from the bottom and working your way up the car.
Step 3 – Drying
Required: Meguiars water magnet
I used to use a good quality chamois to dry the car. This is now used only for the wheels, door shuts and underneath the doors. I now use a Meguiars water magnet.Using a
chamois can cause too much friction on the panels, thus causing scratches and swirls.
Whats a water magnet? It’s a basically a large towel. It allows you to dry the entire car without having to wring it out in a bucket of water.
Drying the entire car can be done in less than 10 minutes.
Also, don’t use one of those ‘hydra blades’ to dry your car. You only have to get a tiny piece of grit in front of the blade, and as you drag the blade to dry the car, you’re scratching the panel/tridion. Not good, especially if you have a darker coloured smart.
Step 4 – Claying The Car
Required: Meguiars Quik Detailing System, good quality microfibre towel
Claying the car is optional. I recommend it. I’ve recommended to a few smart owners to clay their car and they say the difference is well worth it.
The Meguiars Quik Detailing System is the easiest clay to obtain. Your local Halfords or car accessory shop should stock it.
A little tip. Once you’ve removed the clay bar from its wrapper, cut the bar in half. If you happen to drop the bar on the ground while you’re claying the car, that bar is ruined for life. A bit of a waste if you didn’t cut it in half!! At least this way you have the other half to carry on with. Drop the remaining half, and you’re stuffed. It’s back down to Halfords you go.
With one half of the clay, spread it out, spray some of the QD onto the clay bar and also some onto an area of a panel. Now rub the clay bar over the panel. There shouldn’t be any friction as both the bar and panel are lubricated. As soon as friction is felt, spray some more QD onto the panel.
After a while, take a look at the crud that’s now on the bar. That’s what was on your car. Buff the panel using the microfibre towel. If the clay bar starts to get too grubby, simply fold it in half so you have a clean side, and then start again on another section. Work a small section at a time, spraying, claying and then followed by buffing off.
Step 5 – Polishing The Car
Required: Polish, applicator pad, microfibre towel or 100% cotton towel
There is a wide range of polish available and they all do a different job, but seeing as the majority of our smarts have the standard panels and are therefore not “painted” like a normal car, I’ll miss out the bit about different grades of polish.
For example, Autoglym’s Super Resin Polish contains a very mild cutting action while Meguiars #7 Show Glaze is a pure polish that has no cutting action.
If you’re using Autoglym’s Super Resin polish, then I recommend sealing in the polish with their Extra Gloss Protection. When applying Extra Gloss Protection it’s recommended that it’s left on the car for at least 30 minutes before buffing off. It needs this time to “bond” with the Super Resin Polish.
When applying polish use a 100% cotton towel, foam applicator pad or a good quality microfibre cloth. Apply the polish to the cloth/pad, not the bodywork. Don’t use too much. The key to polishing is to have a thin layer of the product, thin layers work better.
Apply the polish to one panel at a time, don’t try and do the whole car. You can use either circular movements, or horizontal movements to apply the polish, it doesn’t really matter.
Remove the polish with a good quality microfibre cloth. Turning the cloth frequently as you go. For a better result, do a final buff with another cloth.
Step 6 – Waxing The Car
Waxing has two benefits:
1. It protects the shine produced by polishing
2. It extends the life of the shine
And if you use the Meguiars NXT wax, it’ll “fill in” any slight imperfections that you have on the panels/tridion. I’ve got some noticeable swirl marks on my tridion and this wax filled them, making them less noticeable in sunlight. It doesn’t remove them, but simply hides them.
If your smart is either red or black, I recommend Pinnacle Souveran Carnauba wax. The “bling” factor that this wax provides is quite amazing. It’s not cheap, it’s about £40 for an 8oz tub, but I believe the results it provides are well worth the initial payout. The 8oz tub should also last quite well. After all, the smart is only half a car.
Applying and removing wax is the exact same in removing polish. Applicator foam pad and a good quality microfibre cloth.
What it should look like after washing, drying, polishing, sealing and waxing.
A polish is more like a paint conditioner that restores valuable oils to the paint, eliminates fine scratches and creates incredible high gloss not possible with waxes. An application of a pure polish should be followed by waxing to protect the shine and extend its life.
Step 7 – Washing Wheels / Dressing Tyres
Required: Tyre dressing and wheel cleaner, bucket of water, wheel brush, sponge, microfibre cloth
Meguiars Hot Shine tyre spray and Meguiars Hot Rims wheel cleaner.
Autoglym’s Clean Wheels and Autoglym’s Instant Tyre Dressing
There is no point in having a nice shiny car and then seeing dirty tyres and wheels. Cleaning the wheels and “dressing” the tyres is one of the last stages to be done.
Brake dust is highly corrosive and if left on the wheel, will pitt and eventually start to corrode your wheels. It’s therefore well worth a few extra minutes in looking after your wheels.
Ensure that the wheels are cold to touch. Some of the wheel cleaners contain acid. Therefore this must be done when the wheel is “cold to touch”. Fail to do this and you run the real risk of ruining your precious alloys.
Spray the wheel with the wheel cleaner. Agitate the wheel with the brush, making sure you get in all the nooks and crannies of the wheel. Rinse with the sponge and water. Dry with the microfibre cloth.
If the wheels are still dirty, a second application may be needed.
Another useful tip is to coat the wheels in a thin coat of polish. This will make the next clean a lot easier as the dirt etc will stick to the polish and not the wheel.
It therefore has two benefits.
1. It protects the wheels
2. It makes cleaning next time easier and quicker
Dressing The Tyres
Now that you have the car and the wheels clean. It’s time to add the finishing touch and dress the tyres. This has to be the easiest part of car detailing.
Tyre cleaners all basically work the same. You simply spray and leave. Autoglym and Meguiars both do good tyre dressing sprays.
Tyre and wheel after cleaning and dressing.
Step 8 – Cleaning The Glass
Required: Glass spray / polish, microfibre cloth, applicator sponge
The very last job to be done.
Glass cleaners come in two types. Spray or a cream. I use two products by Autoglym. Their Fast Glass which is a spray and Car Glass Polish. Both work very well and are recommended. If using the cream, apply some cream to a applicator sponge and apply to the glass as if you’re polishing the car. Buff off using a microfibre cloth. Stand back and watch your car glisten!
A BIG thanks to Neil Osborne (Neilos) for doing this how-to!