Still keeping it sharp

Ongoing care and maintenance of my Citroën DS3

Having got my DS3 back to a looking-good-as-new condition, and with better performance than when it left the factory, I wanted to keep it that way. I’m doing that with a combination of

Keith’s car wash™

I’ve set out my own tips and techniques below. Nothing earth-shattering to devoted petrolheads, but it’s amazing how many people have no idea how to clean a car properly. I try to wash my cars weekly, though the Scottish weather often defeats me…

Perfect conditions

Don’t wash your car in direct sunlight or on a day when it’s particularly hot, or else your wash or rinse water will dry too soon and you’ll be left with “spotting”. In particular, you don’t want foam, shampoo or any finishing materials to dry out. A little warmth is useful, though, to help the final drying along. Early or mid-morning and mid-to-late afternoon are good times for washing.

Return to top

Paraphernalia

Nothing fancy in the way of equipment — I don’t use a pressure washer, for example. Some people love them, but I feel they are a bit too vigorous (vicious?) to point at your pride and joy. I’ve seen badges being blasted clean off by a power wash. A hose fed by decent water pressure is sufficient, combined with a good quality, adjustable jet spray gun. I use a Hozelock Jet Spray Pro, which has three basic spray patterns and full flow control.

You will need a foam gun and container to apply snow foam. I use a gun that came with a product that I haven’t listed below because I don’t know anything about its formulation. Don’t put any cleaning product on your car unless it is pH neutral; that is, the pH of the concentrate is close to 7. Some shampoos — especially “heavy duty” types intended for use on particularly dirty cars — are on the acidic side and can attack and strip wax or other protective coatings you may have applied to the bodywork, and you wouldn’t want that, would you? (Trust me, I’m a chemist.)

Here’s a list of the stuff I use (no, I don’t get anything from Amazon or anyone else for linking to them):

Return to top

Products

And here’s a list of the cleaning products I use:

Return to top

Process

My step-by-step guide:

1. Rinse

Don’t. Unless the car is exceptionally dirty (but if it’s washed every week, it won’t be, will it?), don’t rinse the car to begin with — because if the car is wet, the snow foam to be applied next won’t cling.

Return to top

2. Prewash

Prewashing with a good quality, pH neutral snow foam like Polar Blast listed above loosens and removes as much surface dirt and grime as possible without you making any physical contact with the paintwork.

Mix up some snow foam and add it to the container for the foam gun. Polar Blast can be made up to various dilutions, and it’s worth experimenting to strike a balance between economy (greater dilution) and richness or “clinginess” of the foam produced when sprayed on the car. I find that between 1:1 and 1:2 concentrate to water works well enough; YMMV.

Connect the foam gun to the hose (or pressure washer, if you must 🙂), and begin spraying the snow foam evenly on to the car. Spray from the bottom upwards, from the sills to the roof. In this way, the dirtiest bits of the bodywork get the longest exposure to the foam, and as the foam gradually slides off, foam from the higher, cleaner parts of the car “wipes” down to the sills and valances. Spray the windows, wheels and tyres too.

Once the car is completely covered, leave the foam to do its work for five to ten minutes. (If you find the foam does not cling for long enough, you need to reduce the dilution on your next attempt.) Don’t agitate the foam with a cloth or mitt — the objective is not to make contact with the bodywork at this stage.

Now connect the spray gun to your hose or pressure washer. Rinse from the top downwards, from the roof to the sills. Rinsing from the bottom up risks “backwashing” dirt from the sills up parts of the body you have just cleaned. I use a moderately powerful jet for rinsing, in a narrow, conical spray pattern, to carry away dirt and foam together.

Return to top

3. Contact wash

Mix some Bodywork Shampoo Conditioner as listed above in a clean bucket of water in accordance with the product instructions for dilution. As Autoglym describes it, this is a low foam, deep cleaning shampoo that provides a water repellant finish for ongoing protection and easy rinsing, and being pH neutral, it cleans your vehicle without stripping away any polish or wax you have previously applied.

Rinse the lamb’s wool mitt thoroughly before dunking it in the shampoo bucket. Many folks adopt the “two bucket method” when washing; keeping a second bucket filled with clean water to rinse the mitt periodically, making sure it is cleaned of any dirt before putting it back into the shampoo or on the paintwork. That’s good practice, but I prefer simply to turn my hose on the mitt to rinse it thoroughly. A rinse bucket can eventually become contaminated; rinsing the mitt off with a hose avoids that possibility.

Using the mitt, shampoo the car from the top downwards — this eliminates the risk of bringing dirt from the muckier parts of the car up to the cleaner parts. A few specific pointers:

Next, shampoo the dirtiest part of the car — the wheels. Don’t use the mitt you have been using to clean the bodywork. I use a combination of the microfibre mitt and the microfibre wheel brush both listed above. The mitt has “noodles” that get into the awkward little recesses and crevices, and there’s no point in buying a more expensive example — the Halfords brand product is good enough. The brush is good for more stubborn dirt or more open slots in the wheels (though a different size might be more suitable for you). I hate cleaning wheels, so I had them ceramic coated in my 2019 refresh, and the protection has been “topped up” by application of a compatible sealant in later detailing. Brake dust and road dirt don’t stick to the wheels the way they did before coating, which makes them a lot easier to wash. I don’t use any “wheel cleaner” products, as they can be quite aggressive and I have concerns about their effect on any protective coating, or on the lacquer on uncoated alloys.

Return to top

4. Rinse and dry

Rinse the bodywork and wheels with your hose or pressure washer. I set my spray gun to a wider conical spray pattern than I used for rinsing after the foam wash, so the pressure per unit area is a little less.

If your paintwork has been protected with a ceramic coating or polymer sealant, or has been well polished with a good quality wax, the rinse water should sheet off or bead as shown in Fig. 1 below. My DS3 has a polymer sealant applied.

View a higher resolution version of Figure 1.
Figure 1. Water beading on the protected paint surface after gentle rinsing.
Photo by author

To dry the vehicle off, I recommend a really plush microfibre towel. Either of the two I listed above is good; I like the Carpro towel because it is a little bigger, but they are both very absorbent and will pick up a lot of water before needing to be wrung out. On large, flat panels like the roof or bonnet, spread the towel out on the surface, pat it down, then drag it slowly towards you, gripping it by the corners. This is remarkably effective in drying off a large area in one simple action. For the vehicle sides, do something similar. You may find it easier to fold the towel, before holding it against the car and dragging down from top to bottom. Finish off areas missed by the towel with a microfibre cloth. It’s worth buying better quality types like Meguiar’s as listed above as they have a deeper pile; cheaper cloths are thin, don’t do as good a job, and won’t last as long. Needless to say, your towel and cloths should be clean before use.

Don’t use a chamois leather! They push water around more than they absorb it, and they have no pile — so in the event that there are any dirt particles left on the car after rinsing, a chamois will drag them around the surface and may scratch the paint. They are also a nightmare to clean and keep in good condition. Remember that horrible, dried-out, brittle thing your grandad used to clean his windows with?

Actually, don’t use any kind of cloth on your paintwork unless it’s a good, soft, clean, microfibre type!

Return to top

5. Door shuts

I know, you’ve been saying, “But what about the door jambs, Keith?” The fact is, if you keep them clean to begin with, they don’t get very dirty. So I prefer to clean and dry the rest of the car first, before opening the doors and tailgate. I dry off any shampoo or rinse water ingress, and if any further cleaning is needed, I use a microfibre cloth and a waterless car wash. My former favourite, Eco Touch, appears to have gone out of business. Luckily I had bought several bottles beforehand, but I’m now trying another — the Triplewax product, also listed above. Alternatively, I go straight to a detailing polish to clean and shine in one step. Demon Shine from CarPlan is my “old faithful”.

Return to top

6. Interior

If, like me, you can keep children and animals out of your car (and you don’t eat, drink and sleep in it!) the interior of your car should stay pretty clean from week to week. I vacuum the floor mats and carpets (including the boot) when I wash the car; the seats I vacuum from time to time when I think they need it. Any vacuum cleaner will do if it has suitable attachments to get into all the awkward little corners.

For the hard surfaces — the steering wheel, dashboard, centre console and door cards — I’ve used many cleaners over the years, and found them all to be much of a muchness. I don’t see much point in buying a particularly expensive product given their generally similar effectiveness. I use Demon Clean as listed above, which works on shiny or matt surfaces — useful for me, as the DS3 has both — and you can use it on exterior plastics too. Don’t spray the cleaner directly on surfaces, because the spray is likely to go everywhere. Instead, spray it on to a microfibre cloth and wipe over the surface to clean. Buff with a dry cloth if necessary.

Meguiar’s and other car care companies sell glass cleaners, but these can be pricey for what they are. I’ve always found Mr Muscle listed above to be perfectly effective for cleaning the interior glass — the Platinum version is “fortified” with extra vinegar. Apply sparingly (otherwise you’ll spend ages buffing off the excess and you might end up with streaking). Wipe with a microfibre cloth to clean, and buff with a second, dry cloth.

Return to top

7. Shiny protection

As my DS3 is protected with a polymer sealant, simply washing and drying the car properly means it sparkles without need of polishing. If I do want to give it a bit of a lift, perhaps between washes, I use a detailing polish. More expensive products are available, but I've used CarPlan Demon Shine as listed above for years, and it does the job well enough. It’s pretty much a “spray on, wipe off” solution. Use a microfibre cloth, of course. Demon Shine is fine for all exterior surfaces: paintwork, lights, plastics, chromey bits — even windows, if applied sparingly.

If you have a polymer sealant or ceramic coating and it seems to be losing its efficacy (nothing lasts forever), or if you have no protective coating at all on your car, I heartily recommend Meguiar’s Hybrid Ceramic Wax, listed above. I think this product is named for its effect rather than its composition, because it’s not really a ceramic or a wax. A picture paints a thousand words, and a video even more, so head to YouTube for a no-nonsense demonstration of how to apply the product, on the DocMack Car Channel. Make sure that the first time you use it, you put down a foundation coat as shown in the video. You don’t need to re-apply every time you clean the car; maybe once every 4 or 5 washes will suffice. YMMV.

Return to top

8. In between washes

Sometimes I want the car to look its absolute best in between full washes — if it’s going to be seen by someone I want to impress, for example (yes, I know how sad that is).

If the car is still essentially clean, but is covered in just a light coating of dust, the Nénette polisher listed above is ideal for quickly brushing it off — five minutes to run around the bodywork, flick flick flick, and it’s done. Fine on the chromey bits too.

If it’s not quite sparkly enough after the Nénette treatment, ten spray-on, wipe-off minutes with Demon Shine and a microfibre polishing cloth brings back the full lustre.

If the car is still just dusty rather than dirty, but the dust resists removal by the Nénette doofer, then I turn to the waterless car wash product. Spray on, wipe gently with one microfibre cloth, buff with another. While on the subject of waterless car wash, it’s useful for a few other “in between washes” tasks:

Return to top

Spring cleaning in summer

I’ve described above my as-near-to-weekly-as-possible cleaning regime, which keeps the car looking good as well as preserving its condition. (Neglected cars just seem to fall apart, like empty buildings.) But I confess that I don’t dig deep into every crack and crevice, and what’s under the bonnet stays under the bonnet.

To make up for my deficiencies, I turned the car over to Jason Burt at Privilege Detail again for a comprehensive valet, which takes around half a day for a vehicle this size. I didn’t feel the upholstery needed shampooing, so I asked Jason to use the time on sprucing up the engine bay again instead. It might have been nice to carry out this “spring clean” actually in springtime, after the ravages of winter and as the better weather comes in, but I had it done in August 2021, a year after Jason’s previous deep clean detailing efforts. Some sort of annual schedule sounds like a plan, as Jason’s valeting returned the car to absolute tip top condition.

Return to top

Deep clean detailing again

My own cleaning routine kept the car in good shape for the next several months. In August 2022, one year after it was valeted, I returned the DS3 to Jason for deep clean detailing. In addition, to top up the paintwork protection, I had Jason apply fresh polymer sealant. How long polymer sealant lasts depends on the use and conditions your car sees, and the care you take of it between applications. It was two years since it was last done, and that seems to be about the limit of its effectiveness in my case; so a programme of valeting and full detailing on alternate years — with polymer sealant included in full detailing — should do the trick. Maybe with an occasional intermediate valet to supplement my own cleaning if I feel it needs it.

Again, I’ll let the pictures in Figs. 2 to 13 below bear witness to Jason’s work.

De-badging and re-badging

In 2016, Citroën separated its DS models into a new marque, DS Automobiles. Alongside that, the DS3 was given a face-lift: revised badging on the tailgate, and a new front grille featuring the DS logo instead of the Citroën chevrons. I thought that this detailing presented an opportunity for a little updating of the car’s looks. Jason is experienced in de-badging vehicles and cleaning up the paintwork afterwards, so I arranged with him as part of his detailing work to remove the “CITROËN” badge, and the small “3” adjacent to the “DS” badge — which he did, leaving no trace of their previous existence. I bought one of the new “DS3” badges, and affixed it after detailing: see Figs. 8 to 10 below.

If updating the front of the car had been a simple matter of switching out an old grille for a new one, I would have done that too — but the revised front styling is a bit more extensive, with modifications to the front valance. So the car only looks younger from behind. 🙂 Not so much a face-lift as a bum-lift, then.

I have a few ideas for other enhancements, but those can wait a while. In the meantime, here are the post-detailing pics.

View a higher resolution version of Figure 2.
Figure 2. Engine detail.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 3.
Figure 3. Engine detail.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 4.
Figure 4. Engine bay, nearside.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 5.
Figure 5. Engine bay, offside.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 6.
Figure 6. Front interior, viewed from offside and showing front seats.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 7.
Figure 7. Front interior, viewed from nearside and showing dash, console and footwells.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 8.
Figure 8. The DS badge, after removal of the small figure “3”.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 9.
Figure 9. The new “DS3” badge.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 10.
Figure 10. Rear view of the car. No more “CITROËN” badge!
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 11.
Figure 11. Three-quarter rear nearside view.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 12.
Figure 12. Nearside view.
Photo by author
View a higher resolution version of Figure 13.
Figure 13. Three-quarter front nearside view.
Photo by author

Return to top