HomeAll BMW ModelsBMW Car Wash Guide - (BMW Care Part 1)

BMW Car Wash Guide – (BMW Care Part 1)

BMW Car Wash Overview

BMW always tops the list of most expensive cars to maintain for a reason, and it helps to be capable of lightening that load. We decided to create this guide to help budding enthusiasts master the correct BMW car wash and detail procedure – swiftly, flawlessly, with the right tools, and as straightforward as we can.

Driving your BMW is merely the tip of the ice-burg when you add maintenance into the equation. Everything shrouded under the icy surface like repairing and tuning – the hobbies that consume our lives and bring us together – are the real reason why we own the Ultimate Driving Machine. 

Though we constructed this guide for fresh fanatics, it isn’t intended solely for new Bimmer fans or even exclusively for BMW owners. It’s for anyone who is passionate about his/her car and takes the utmost pride in its overall health. Whether its technical repairs under the hood or detailing your car – we wanted to make sure enthusiasts at all levels of expertise are confident in their ability to take proper care of a BMW.

This guide – part 1 of our 4 part BMW Car Care series – concentrates primarily on washing and protecting your whip skillfully and efficiently. We’ve spent hundreds of hours compiling information from across the internet, sorting through the mayhem, and producing not only a palatable but relevant source of information. 

We’ll start with our BMW car wash procedure with a spotlight on certain “problem areas”, while simultaneously reviewing the best cleaning products. Later on, we divulge the detailing process in the same manner. Feel free to skip around as much as you need to, and let us know if you have any comments or suggestions through our Contact Page!

BMW Car Wash Guide - how to clean bmw alloy wheels

How to Make Your BMW Last Forever

If we were forced to provide you with only one piece of advice, it would include stressing the importance of cleaning your car on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter how hard you scrub, if you don’t wash your car consistently you can throw all the other advice out the window.

Dirt, bugs, bird droppings and even rain can damage the paint on your BMW if left in outside for too long. Road grime can dull the paint’s clearcoat, causing it to eventually peel. Most people also seem to forget that the sun’s UV rays can wreak havoc mummifying your leather and spotting your paint.

In a perfect world, we’d all have a drive-thru car wash attached to our garages keeping them in perfect condition. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most of us, therefore compelling us to remain attentive.

BMW Car Wash Frequency

The secret behind making your BMW last forever is vigilance and consistency. You must rigorously keep an eye on your paint’s health until it becomes a habit. Bugs, bird droppings, and other acidic compounds should be removed ASAP before they sit into the paint and cause irreversible discoloration. We recommend washing your BMW at a minimum every two weeks to avoid paint damage. 



 Proper BMW Car Wash Procedure

When washing your BMW it helps to take the “Bottom-Up” approach. Begin by scrubbing and rinsing the wheels and tires before continuing to the body. This will save you valuable time and annoyance of having to inevitably re-wash or dry sections of your BMW over and over again from water splashing. A standard hose or pressure washer will work on typical BMW alloy and aluminum rims. We recommend Sun Joe’s Pressure Washers because of their compact size and high water pressure ideal for all situations.

Note: While using a standard hose will work fine, it’s not quite as successful as a Pressure Washer at rinsing off a lot of the tiny bits of dirt and grime.

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Exterior Basics

Avoid washing your car in hot weather as water and shampoo residue will dry prematurely, resulting in spotting and streaking that can ultimately damage your paint. Ideally, you want to wash your car inside or in the shade. It’s imperative that you keep your car wet throughout washing, allowing you to dry it blemish-free with a squeegee or microfiber.

Start by thoroughly wetting down the exterior of the car, making sure to spray off any loose debris and dirt. Meanwhile, scrub and rinse from the roof down making sure all the dirt flows toward the ground. Make sure to get inside the gas cap and both sides of your mirrors, as well as every nook and cranny of your front bumper grilles. 


BMW Cleaning Products Review 2020

Always use a high-quality BMW car wash soap (avoid using dish detergents). Car wash soaps and shampoos are specially formulated for use on auto paint, and will not strip off wax, and are easy to rinse off. A car wash shampoo is considered a “luxury” or “top-shelf” brand of car wash soap. In our opinion, there isn’t much of a difference besides the price, as most standard car wash brands are exceptional at what they do.

Always scrub the exterior of your BMW with a high-quality microfiber mit or car wash brush. With most of the dirty work being done using a brush or mit, it’s critical you select a premium product. We prefer using the brush here at the BMW Repair Guide…it is less messy and easier to clean hard-to-reach places like the roof. There’s a myth floating around uninformed circles claiming brushes damage your paint – this couldn’t be further from the truth. 

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An Amazon customer raised the question about the dangers of using a bristled nylon BMW car wash brush.

“How could anyone wash their car with a nylon brush? Don’t they know it leaves scratches?”

The supplier of the CARCAREZ 10″ Car Wash Brush listed above – who also happens to be a professional car detailer – clears things up succinctly.

“In fact, using a brush like this will actually diminish the risk of scratches versus using a mitt or sponge, which will actually just rub dirt on the car back into the paint and cause scratches. I’ve been an avid detailer for over 30 years, and these “Flagged” brushes are all I use. When you wash your vehicle you fleck or lift the dirt off, you don’t grind it back into the paint. These type of brushes (Always use “Soft” flagged brushes), also get into all the nooks and crannies of your car. Exceptional around headlights, trim, windows, edges, badges, logos, window cowls, grills and exceptional for wheels (especially around the lug holes).”

Bmw Car Wash - how to clean bmw alloy wheels


How to Clean Bugs off the Car

If your BMW has a bug problem, spray down the infected areas with some bug remover and let it sit while you begin washing. Come back and scrub those areas last in your BMW car wash rotation. Use it as liberally as you need – you can use bug spray to clean car headlights, taillights, the bumper, mirrors, and chrome.

If you don’t have any bug spray on hand there are a couple of “hacks” using everyday household items. WD-40 is an effective low-cost replacement bug cleaner and is widely used throughout the BMW community. Apply it the same way – spray your front bumper or mirrors and let it soak before rinsing. Dryer Sheets are a terrific hack with surprising results. Apparently, they are instilled with properties tailor-made for removing bugs, tar, sap, or anything sticky. Simply moisten a sheet with some water and scrub the infected areas like you would a typical bug spray.

When it comes to purchasing the best bug remover you really can’t go wrong. They are all comparable in terms of value. Bugs N All and Armor-All Bug Removers are probably the best bang for your buck. However, some people swear by Turtle Wax’s Bug & Tar Remover while others prefer3D’s Bug Remover. It’s really what works best for you, so try a few different solutions out and see what you like.

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What is a Clay Bar?

Your car’s upper layer of paint – the clear coat – is a deep protective coating that gets peppered with tiny contaminants as you drive your car. A clay bar is exactly as it sounds – simply a block of clay, similar to “play-dough”, that you use during a BMW car wash to pull these tiny contaminants out of your paint. The BMW Repair Guide has used all five of the clay bars listed below at some point – however, we personally prefer Mother’s Speed Clay 2.0 because of the plastic shell that makes it easier to maneuver.

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What does a Clay Bar do for a Car’s Paint?

Washing and waxing your BMW goes a long way in caring for your BMW. Unfortunately, regular washing only does so much in removing harsh contaminants. Putting a clay bar to your BMW’s paint is probably the best thing you can do for your car along with periodic wax.

We like to use the skin analogy when thinking about why to use a clay bar on your car. Think of your BMW’s paint like your skin. You wash and moisturize (wax) your skin. In between moisturizing you must exfoliate (clay bar). It’s like putting on a facial mask or using a cleanser.

There are contaminants within your paint that a normal BMW car wash isn’t going to remove. Bit’s of metal, microscopic dirt particles, and built-up wax are all removed using a clay bar. It irons out that “bumpy” feeling you get when running your hand over the paint and basically brings it back to a showroom finish.     

BMW Car Wash Guide - Car Care


When & How to Use a Clay Bar 

Claying your car is meant to be the step during/after washing and prior to waxing. You want a squeaky clean car purging as much dirt as humanly possible beforehand with a regular old car wash. Check yourself to see if your BMW needs claying – run your hand across the paint after washing! If the paint feels rough, then you are ready for a clay bar treatment.

Most clay bars come packaged with some form of lubrication to assure you do not scratch your paint. Never ever clay your car dry – a lot of people clay their car during washing to kill two birds with one stone. Identify the areas of your BMW that are still rough or bumpy and rub them down after lubricating with moderate pressure until they feel smooth again. Flip the clay over after a while and all those tiny contaminants will be stuck in the bottom. Reshape the clay every so often so you’re always working with a fresh piece. You may want to put aside a day to do this – the process can take some time.

Pro-tip: Work in small areas to ensure every square inch of the car has been clayed.

How to clean BMW Alloy Wheels

When it comes to cleaning BMW alloy wheels, it helps to know what we actually mean by “alloy”. Alloy simply means a combination of two or more metals. The majority of wheels in the world today are made out of an alloy of 3 metals: mainly aluminum, nickel, and magnesium. So the word “alloy” is simply a generalization of any wheel on any car out there today. Virtually every BMW – every car for that matter –  comes equipped with alloy wheels that are painted and clear-coated just like your car. 

BMW alloy Wheel Cleaner

Most guides on how to clean BMW Alloy wheels are longer and more convoluted than they need to be. We’ve simplified it for you. First, find yourself a quality wheel cleaner and wax. Because BMW’s wheels are clear-coated just like the paint, you can use the same wax interchangeably. There are a bunch out there that do the job well. We’ve listed our favorites below – We recommend using wheel cleaners that come in spray form, as well as specialized wheel brushes that will get into those hard-to-reach places. 

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How to clean BMW alloy wheels the Right Way

As we said before, you want to take the bottom-up approach when washing your car. Begin by rinsing down each wheel one by one. Then, take your wheel cleaner and spray each one down liberally and let it sit for about 10-15 minutes. Let the powerful formula do the work for you. Meanwhile, you can work on the rest of the car while you wait. Once the time is up rinse each wheel. After that, soap them down with your car wash if you want and scrub them with the special wheel scrubber. Purchase some tire-shine and apply it to the actual tires after washing to get that nice sparkly finish.

Apply wax or sealant

This part would come after you’ve completed washing and claying your entire car. Your wheels are coated with the same kind of clear-coat as your BMW, thus waxing is done in the same manner. In fact, lots of people use the ceramic coating sealant that they use on their paint on their wheels too. Metal/chrome shiner also gets’ the job done if that’s what you prefer.

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BMW Detailing

Few of us have the time to spend countless hours meticulously shining our BMWs. However, with just a tiny bit of effort and the right car products, you can transform your dull paint into a professional finish. Waxing protects your paint against future damage from the environment and maintains your car’s value and beauty.

Most wax consists of carnauba wax, which comes from Brazilian palm leaves. The carnauba wax is typically combined with several other synthetic and natural waxes that give your car that deep glossy shine. In this section, we’re going to cover how to properly wax your BMW’s exterior. We will get into everything concerning the interior in future BMW Car Care articles. 

Car detailing is a vast subject and we could dedicate an entire post to it for more advanced “concepts”. For that reason, we’ll keep this short and sweet with a brief overview of the essentials ensuring you know how to properly protect your paint. 

There are a plethora of different waxes on the market that all do what we’re trying to accomplish here in this car care series – i.e. buying an expensive wax isn’t going to change how well you can wax your car when you’re just starting out. In all honesty, if you ask most car people they’d probably tell you there’s not that much of a noticeable difference among waxes unless you’re a real stickler for a certain brand.

Don’t get caught up in the fanfare of all the different kinds of ceramic waxes and coatings. Unless you invest in a polisher –  which is easily a $150+ investment – the brand of wax you use by hand won’t improve the outcome that much.

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How To Detail a BMW

The best way to apply hand wax in our opinion is with polishing pads. Use the pad to apply the wax panel by panel at a time. Then, take your microfiber and buff it out. A crucial point that can be missed while waxing at first is not dividing the car into sections by the panel. Again, make sure you’re well inside or at least in the shade and less exposed from the sun. 

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BMW Car Wash Guide - Car Care



Congratulations! Thank you for taking the time to learn more about maintaining your BMW. If you’d like to learn about more technical repairs visit the main blog on our site.