The dirty work of cleaning the car

The dirty work of cleaning the car


I WANTED to wash the car this week. A job worth doing, I thought, but I was wrong. Very wrong. Usually someone comes in to do it for me. The van pulls up outside and the cars that need washing get washed, and vacuumed, and generally tidied up and made to gleam. I cannot abide arriving anywhere in a dirty vehicle. 

And I cannot allow The Companion to take care of it because he doesn’t share my views on keeping cars clean and invariably does a second-rate job. As you may have gathered from previous columns, I like to keep the insides of my cars as spick and span as the outside. If I’m going to spend time and money keeping them all mechanically sound, it seems pointless, to me, to then allow them to rot from the outside.

‘Imagine my distress on discovering that the only car washes within 22km of my home are those automated places with the brutal rubber-brush things that tend to flog the dirt from the Duco rather than ease it away.’

My usual car cleaner is away this month. I thought I could last that long, but after a trip into the countryside recently one of the cars came back positively filthy. I thought I’d give it a go myself – how hard can it be?

The first issue was that the tap closest to the garages has no hose connected – the cleaner supplies his own. And of course, I lacked rudimentary equipment such as a bucket (at least, one that had not previously been filled with feed for the chickens), shampoo, a sponge and a chamois leather cloth.

Rather than face the local car accessories warehouse, a place matched in its hideousness only by the local Bunnings hyperstore, I turned to Google to locate a car wash nearby. Imagine my surprise, and distress, on discovering that the only facilities within 22km of my home are those automated places with the brutal rubber brush things that tend to flog the dirt from the Duco rather than ease it away with water, gentle detergents and care. In addition, they pull the car through the wash bay on a sort of conveyor and I have been assured by mechanics that it’s not good for a car with automatic transmission. OK, so it only moves a few metres, but you can never be too certain.

What I wanted was one of those places where you feed your plastic notes into a rusting machine in return for some slightly misshapen tokens, which you then feed into another machine adjacent to the wash bay and work like billy-o to get the car soaked, shampooed and rinsed off before your time runs out. They remind me of those school camps where we were allocated two minutes of running water each morning. 

The smarter among us ran the water for 30 seconds to get thoroughly wet, turned it off, lathered up without any running water, and then turned it on again to rinse off as well as possible in the remaining 90 seconds. It took me time to learn this particular trick and the first few times I emerged with shampoo still in my hair and soap in my eyes – it made the rest of the day most uncomfortable.

After some further Googling and a few phone calls I found a suitable place about 12km from home, threw the wellies in the boot and headed off. The first issue I encountered was the queue (it was a Sunday afternoon). With time to spare I sat and waited. But it took simply forever for the cars in front to move, and when I noticed an automatic wash bay which had no brushes and promised that nothing but water would touch the paintwork, I decided to go for it. 

I manoeuvred into position, fed my tokens into the slot and when the lights went green in I went. The doors closed, the water sprayed and splashed and it progressed brilliantly to completion of the final rinse, whereupon the light went green and it flashed a jaunty “Thank you!” sign at me. My heart sank – what about a drying cycle?

There wasn’t one. I drove 12km home in a wet car, and succeeded only in making it dirty in a completely different way. It was a waste of time and $17. Next time I’ll leave it for my man to attend to, and spend my time doing something more productive – like reorganising my sock drawer.