Back in high school chemistry, you may have heard the teacher refer to water as the universal solvent.
Exactly so. It dissolved a mile of rock at the Grand Canyon, for instance.
And it will eventually dissolve your car, too.
Your old car, especially.
A fifteen-year-old car is an old car – but it’s not an old car for purposes of this discussion. No car built during the past 30 years or so is really an old car, nor will ever be one. Not in the sense that matters.
Which is the build quality/body integrity and rust-protected sense.
Cars built since about 30 years ago – ’90s and up – are almost hermetically sealed against the intrusion of water into places where it will foment rust. Their panels usually fit tightly and precisely.
As a result, they rarely leak. And if they do, the metal is generally better able to withstand the Ancient Enemy . . . rust.
On the other hand, cars built prior to 30 years ago – anything made earlier than the ‘80s – are typically rust traps. They have gaskets that didn’t fit very well and so leaked when new, letting water rivulet into places like the inner rocker panels and trunk – where it does to your car exactly what the Colorado River did at the Grand Canyon.
They have trim that seemed designed to catch and retain moisture, the grossest offender being windshield molding. Their sheetmetal was poorly aligned, insouciantly rustproofed, shoddily painted and easily chipped – exposing the raw, unprotected metal.
Get them wet and they will rust.
And rust faster.
That’s probably the main reason why you don’t see them around much anymore. It’s the real planned obsolescence. Engines in those old cars can can be rebuilt fairly easily – and pretty cheaply. Rusted bodies and frames are the opposite. Welding in new metal is hard – and expensive. Body and paint work isn’t cheap.
But how to keep an old car clean if you don’t use water to wash it?
If you’ve been to an old car show you probably already know the answer. It is to use a spray detailer and a soft, clean cloth rather than a garden hose and sponge.
The advantages are several.
First, you’re not using water – which isn’t formulated to protect your car’s finish. Tap water can actually stain your finish if it’s pH unbalanced, lime-laden, too alkaline or acidic. And especially if you wash the car with it in the hot sun, where it acts like a magnifying glass, focusing the sun’s radiation like Dr. Evil’s laser bream, leaving liver-spotted fade/burn spots in its wake.
With the spray detailer, you can work on one panel at a time – and not have to worry about water boiling off the parts of the car you couldn’t dry off in time. It’s also pH-balanced, specifically made for the job at hand. Formulated to not hurt the finish. Or remove wax.
Use a hose and water goes everywhere. It will get everything wet – not just the parts of the car you want to wash off. It will seep into the channels behind trim and moldings, drip into dark places inside the trunk, behind the door panels, inside the rocker panels. Which is like feeding a teenager a six-pack of Red Bull.
A reaction will ensue.
You could take the car for a long drive to air it out, post-wash. And that will definitely help. But water is recalcitrant and persistent. There are places that airflow doesn’t reach.
If there was any rust in those dark, hidden places, getting those places wet will accelerate the rusting process.
And if you don’t take the car out for a long drive to air it out – and just roll it back in the garage after a wash – all that moisture will help rust take hold in places not yet rusty but soon to be.
With the spray detailer, you avoid all of that.
No worries about accelerating your rust woes. If you start with a completely rust-free car, it may never rust. Regardless, the drier you can keep your old car, the more slowly it will rust. My ’76 Trans-Am has sone slight surface rust along the edges of the rear windshield molding – a common place for rust to begin on these cars. But it’s still free of Swiss Cheese and looks damned good – including its mostly original paint – because I keep it dry by rarely washing it.
It is sound policy.
. . .
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