Several months back I wrote a blog post on tips for washing your car in cold weather during the winter months. This post received many positive reviews and reactions, which I was happy to see.
With summer around the corner, I thought it might be a good idea to do something similar around how to wash a car during summer, and in particular while the sun is shining.
Washing a car in direct sunlight and hot weather is something that has been frowned upon by professionals and know-it-alls for years. In a sense, it’s quite funny, because as soon as I see the sun shining on a hot summers day, the first thing that goes through my mind is that I would love to clean my car!
What about us regular folks who are not lucky enough to own a garage to store and wash their car’s in the safety of some shade and hidden away from the outside elements?
Now to clear things up a bit- Can you wash your car in the sun? Yes!, you can absolutely wash your car in sunshine and hot weather, but there are a few precautions you should take and some best practices you should follow to make sure you end up with the best finish.
I have been washing my car during the summer months for as long as I have been driving, and have never had any disasters. Along the way, I have picked up some tips which I will share with you in this post.
Firstly let us look at the reasons why sunshine and hot weather make it a slightly less ideal time to detail your vehicle.
Why You “Shouldn’t” Wash Your Car in the Sunshine
There are some reasons why washing in high temperatures and direct sunlight make it more difficult for car detailing.
Water Evaporates Quickly In Higher Temperatures
The biggest difficulty you will face while washing your car in direct sunlight/heat is that shampoo residue and rinse water can quickly dry onto the surface of the paintwork resulting in unsightly water spotting, streaking and drip marks which can often be difficult to remove and which can actually damage the paintwork in some instances.
While working your way around the car with your shampoo and wash mitt, you will notice that some panels which were wet a mere few moments ago, and are now completely dry. The water will have evaporated but the products (Shampoo or Foam ) will remain on the car’s paint. Not good! These deposits can be difficult to remove and can stain the paintwork if not taken care of quickly.
Even if you manage to wash your car and remove any shampoo or foam before it dries, you are still faced with the problem of drying the entire car quickly before you are left with any water spots. If you have ever washed your car in extremely high temperatures during the summer you will know how difficult it can be.
You would be surprised just how quickly the whole thing can dry out before you have a chance to towel dry the car.
If you have experienced water spots before, you will know how much of a pain they can be to remove, and they can tarnish the look of a freshly detailed car.
It may seem silly to mention this, but I have often spent a few hours cleaning my car in the sunshine and have gotten really badly burned ( mostly down to my own stupidity ).
I’m not sure if it is something to do with the sun reflecting off of the car’s paintwork or what, but I have managed to get some of the worst burns of my life ( especially on my face ) while cleaning the car in the summer.
If you are using sunblock, make sure you have no residue on your hands before washing your car, as you will know from my previous post(here), that sunscreen can be EXTREMELY damaging to the paintwork of a car.
Tips For Washing Your Car in the Sunshine and Hot Weather
Use a Pressure/Power Washer
When washing, you should always use a pressure washer where possible. This is especially true in hot weather because when you apply prewash or snow foam to your vehicle, you will need to get it off quickly and with some power. This reduces the risk of the prewash product staining your cars paintwork if it dries out too quickly.
Do One Section or Panel At a Time
Although doing one section of the car at a time is best practice regardless of the weather, it is especially important during hot weather. If water from a previous section stays on the car for too long you risk staining the car or having it covered in water spots.
Do one section at a time, start with the roof and wash thoroughly, then before it dries, rinse the shampoo off as quickly as you can. Repeat this step for the rest of the sections of the car
Wash In The Shade If Possible
I know this is not always possible if it was there would have been no need to write this post in the first place. However, I have found that if you try to wash the car as early as possible in the morning, you have the best chance of being able to work in the shade before the sun starts to get high in the sky.
Aside from that, I find that the early morning is the most peaceful and enjoyable time to wash my car.
Use a Specialized Shampoo
Believe it or not, there are specially manufactured products which are indeed safer to use during sunshine and hot weather. As a general rule of thumb, You should pick a car wash product that has a mild, gentle, PH neutral and wax friendly formula that contains only high-quality ingredients, which are preferably natural, at least in part.
One product I put to the test not too long ago was “AngelWax Self Drying Shampoo“. This product is specially designed to prevent water spots if the shampoo dries too quickly on your car, and I find it an excellent product for washing in hot weather.
You can check that test out HERE
Use a Quick Detailer or Drying Aid After Washing
A quick detailing spray or drying aid should ideally be applied to the wet car before actually towelling it dry as this will further help to reduce water spotting and streaking. One drying aid I have used recently was “After Wash” by Chemical guys. I found this to be quite effective in keeping water spots to a minimum on a freshly washed car.
Regardless of whether it is sunny or not, I have incorporated this into my overall cleaning routine with great success and has made a much bigger difference to the overall finish than I would have imagined.
Detailing You Shouldn’t Do In Direct Sunlight
Ok, now that I have demonstrated that it is indeed possible to wash your car in direct sunlight, there are some things I would never recommend doing to your car in sunshine and hot weather. Some of these can end in disaster for your paintwork, and I have seen it first hand myself.
Never Wax Your Car in Direct Sunlight
Due to the increase in panel temperature in direct sunlight, I would never recommend you try to wax your car in direct sunlight. The wax typically won’t behave as intended on the application and it can quite literally bake onto your cars paintwork making it an absolute nightmare to remove.
This advice applies to all types of sealants/glazes/coatings.
Some products are more forgiving than others but as a general rule of thumb, I try to avoid it. In very high temperatures I tend to lean towards something that can be sprayed on while the car is wet and removed instantly like Gyeon Wetcoat or similar.
Never Polish/Compound Your Car in Direct Sunlight
Another thing you will never want to do is Machine or Hand Polish your car in direct sunlight. This is pretty much due to the same reasons I have mentioned above in regards to waxing. Polishes and compounds are not designed to be used in direct sunlight and can end up doing more harm than good to your paintwork.
A general rule when polishing your car is to always work indoors/in the shade where possible to achieve the best results.
Never Use Ceramic Coating in Direct Sunlight
Although it should be fairly obvious, you should never attempt to Ceramic Coat a car in direct sunlight. Ceramic Coating can be tricky enough as it is trying to apply it outdoors, you should not consider doing it in sunlight and hot weather.
Although there have been some products released recently which are more beginner-friendly and designed to be applied in your driveway, I would still not recommend trying to apply them in these weather conditions.
With these products, you would ideally work indoors, but at the very least wait for a cool, dry day and work in the shade for best results.
Summary – Can you Clean Your Car in The Sun?
Hopefully, this post has helped to clear up a few myths on washing and cleaning your car in the sunshine and hot weather. Once you understand some of the tricks and best practices it becomes a lot easier. You just need to adapt your method of cleaning slightly and work with the elements to achieve the best results.
Once you have gained some experience, it becomes pretty obvious the types of detailing work that you should never attempt to do in those weather conditions.
In my opinion, going outside and washing your car on those sunny summer days is one of the finer pleasures in life, and you certainly should not be put off doing so!
Have you got any tips of your own that you would like to share? If so I would love to hear about them in the comment section or over at the DriveDetailed Forum.
Until Next time,
About the Author – Darren O Hara
Darren is the founder of the DriveDetailed blog and is a keen detailing enthusiast living in the rainy south of Ireland. When he is not cleaning his car he is always researching ways he can improve his techniques and enjoys testing out new products.
Darren currently drives an Audi TTRS and is a big fan of performance cars.
You can follow Darren on Instagram @darrenoharacork