How to Safely Wash Your Car in the Winter

By Mike Cardenas

mike-detailGreetings fellow detailing enthusiasts! It’s that time of the year again, and so far we’ve been pretty fortunate to keep old man winter away this season. But inevitably, the snow will soon pay us a visit along with some pretty cold temperatures. Pretty soon, vehicles begin to look like powdered donuts with so much salt being laid down on the roads. In this edition of Shift, I’m going to address one of the most common questions I hear during the winter season, “How can you safely wash your car in the winter?”

Having worked in the car washing industry for 15 years, I know winters are typically the busiest time of the year, partly because washing cars at home would turn a driveway into an ice rink. Certainly automated car washes have a purpose for vehicles with no paint or finish concerns, or simply when time and convenience become a factor. But there are many of us who simply prefer the safety or tradition of hand washing a vehicle. Here are two methods for safely washing your vehicle in the winter. 

The Bucket Method

Having worked in the car wash industry, I will tell you that some car wash companies won’t allow the use of buckets in their wash bays. Of course, this is to keep everyone pumping quarters into the machine for more water, but even with this bucket method, it’s not uncommon to spend anywhere from $5 to $9 to wash your vehicle in a self-service bay if you’re planning on washing correctly. It’s always good to speak to the attendant and explain your reasons for your method to get approval first. Trust me, you’ll be thanked for asking and for assuring that you’re going to spend good money in the bay.  

So let’s assume that you have access to a high pressure wash bay during the winter. You will need two buckets with grit guards, a car washing mitt, microfiber drying towels, a wheel scrubbing mitt or brush, wheel cleaner, and a proper wash detergent. The detergents in most self-serve wash bays use chemicals that are pretty harsh or too strong, and they can cause issues over time on plastic components, or in some cases even strip the wax off a vehicle. Also, avoid using wax or sealant products as they may interfere with what you currently have on your vehicle. Using warm water from the wash bay, fill your buckets and wash as you typically would using a two bucket method, with one bucket as your wash water and the other to clean wheels. Spray your vehicle’s wheels, and rinse the vehicle first of heavy dirt, salt, and debris. Wash the vehicle from the top to just about the top of the lower sections; you’ll leave those bottom sections until the very last. Rinse, and if possible use a “soft rinse” or reverse osmosis rinse function.  

Finally, use a proper drying such as the “blotting” method to dry your vehicle, using separate towels to dry wheels and door jambs. Remember, it’s winter, and those surfaces are not going to be the cleanest thing this time of year. Lastly, use this method if the temperature is preferably above freezing, or at least no lower than 25 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The Rinse-less Wash Method

If you don’t have access to a wash bay, or the conditions are too frigid to wash outside, then this method works extremely well. Advancements in washing detergents now allow you to wash your vehicle within the confines of your garage, or virtually anywhere, without the need for a water hose. For this approach, you will need the same materials as we previously mentioned in the bucket method, with one big difference. The wash detergent will need to be a rinse-free type, such as Optimum No Rinse or, my favorite, Rinse-Free Car Wash from XPEL.

Follow the directions on how to create your wash solution, as dilution ratios vary among brands, and you’re ready for washing.

Rinse-free wash systems allow you to take a dirty vehicle and begin washing with a mitt, with one major difference: they don’t require rinsing. So how does it work? Most use natural ingredients to safely lift up dirt and encapsulate it, while incorporating lubricity to help prevent scratching or harming the paint surface.

These products are extremely popular in the Southwest United States and in other drought-prone regions. It’s important to have some rinse-free solution available in a spray bottle to treat extremely dirty areas prior to washing with a mitt, to help prevent contamination on the wash mitt. A grit guard is absolutely essential when using this method, and you have to make sure that the mitt hits the grit guard properly to keep contamination away as much as possible. Again, wash the vehicle starting with the top sections, but it’s important to dry each section as you go as much as possible until the lower sections are completed. Don’t allow the rinse-free wash solution to dry onto the surface.

The rinse-free method is one that we use quite often when we detail on location and washing conventionally is not possible. Keeping a bottle of rinse-free mix is also great for long road trips or for cleanings where a quick detail is not enough to get the job done. So if winter is causing a bit of washing anxiety in your garage, not to worry. Hopefully these methods will bring back some detailing bliss to your vehicle. Until next time, take pride in your detailed ride!

How to Maintain Your Glass-coated Vehicle

Winter is drawing near, and with it comes the nasty weather and salty corrosive mess that we must deal with. Over the past 5 years, we’ve coated countless vehicles with glass coatings to protect them from such elements. But regardless of what coating is on your vehicle, we get some pretty common questions in regards to maintaining glass-coating protection. In this edition of Shift, I have some helpful tips for keeping your glass-coated car looking its very best.

The most common question we get is, How do I wash it?  First of all, let’s start with the number one issue most people run into: water spots. It’s no secret that one of the biggest attractions to having a glass-coated car is its ability to protect with high durability, and the hydrophobic effects are amazing! But there’s no changing the laws of physics. All vehicles, whether they are coated or not, face the impurities and qualities of the water being used to clean them. A coating will certainly resist damage from such impurities that would easily create havoc on the typical paint finish, but if the vehicle is left to dry on its own, those impurities will remain.

In our Ceramic Pro Installers group, we’ve noticed this is something that’s pretty common for first time customers. The solution is simple: dry the vehicle with a proper drying towel, preferably a microfiber waffle-weave variety. Pat dry the water left behind, and you will eliminate those water impurities from becoming an issue. For a more effective approach, use the appropriate maintenance spray for your coating during the drying process. For example, if your vehicle is coated with 22PLE, use VS1 during the drying process to help build a sacrificial layer of protection against things such as water spots.


The next question we get is, How do I maintain the finish in between washes? And this has a pretty simple answer as well. Keep in mind that coatings chemically bond to your paint, and in many ways they become the new finish of the paint. The vast majority of coatings, if not all of them, contain some degree of Silica Dioxide. This is glass in a very pure form, and the physical ability to go from a liquid state upon application to a solid on a paint finish is what gives them their component of scratch resistance and durability. Controversially, the hardness or scratch resistance can range from light to extremely resistant from brand to brand. But regardless of the brand or hardness, coatings are not a suit of armor and still need to be cared for appropriately. If the vehicle is merely dusty in between washes, use a detailer maintenance spray with clean microfiber towels to gently remove dust. Traditional dusters from “the west coast” are never a good option. Ask any true professional detailers, and they would agree with me on this. Those dusters hold so much dirt and debris, it’s like taking a shop broom to your paint.

Lastly, we do get customers who enjoy waxing their vehicles and love giving them some extra TLC. For these coatings, though, waxing is not recommended because the wax simply coats the paint surface for a short time without much added benefit other than a temporary slick surface. As an alternative, many glass coating manufacturers have developed sprays that help maintain or serve as a booster for their specific coatings. These sprays are super easy to use and help those who enjoy kicking up the gloss a notch on the weekends. Most sprays give added protection from UV, help with water spotting, and give a slick feel that lasts from 4 to 6 months. In the case of products such as Ceramic Pro Sport or Kamikaze Over Coat, these products can even be applied as a stand-alone coating on a vehicle that isn’t glass coated, providing awesome lasting protection that is easy to install by anyone at home.

This past spring, I had a chance to meet and spend time with the inventor and developer of Kamikaze Over Coat during his visit from Japan. Kai Morita developed Over Coat to be extremely neutral, and this makes it a product that can be used with any brand of coating, as a stand-alone protection, or as an application during the final rinse in a wash process. An ingenious approach, Kamikaze is one of our top-selling sacrificial coatings in our Driver’s Edge store at SweetCars, and we keep both sizes in stock.

The detailing industry can move faster at times than the cars that we work with, and competition is fierce in the industry. But it seems that glass coatings are pretty much here to stay. As a product, glass coatings have certainly changed how we look at protection, and they continue to develop rapidly to keep their competitive edge. But once the coating is applied to the consumer’s vehicle, understandably there are some questions that will come up from time to time. At SweetCars, we keep in constant communication with Ceramic Pro and 22PLE to keep up on the latest application techniques and products. And we’re proud to be part of a great network of detailers that install these products. So until next time, take pride in your detailed ride!

Here we grow again! Construction is well underway on the addition to our shop, and we are excited about our growth here at SweetCars. I’m also looking forward to attending the 2015 SEMA show this year and checking out the latest detailing products and technology. SEMA is the largest convention in the country for specialty and aftermarket products. For those who are attending SEMA this year, I have been invited to be a guest detailer for SONAX. Stop by and say hello at their booth (#12161) from 2:30PM to 3:30PM on November 4 & 5, where I’ll be demonstrating the latest products from SONAX. 

SweetCars, Northern Indiana’s 1st and Only, XPEL Ultimate Paint Protection Factory Trained Installation Center!


Many of us can still remember those old black car bras from the eighties and early nineties. It’s funny to remember that those things were all the rage back then, and people were extremely proud of maintaining them shiny and glossy. But people quickly learned that those bras were notorious for holding dirt behind them and usually caused more harm then good. And let’s face it, they weren’t the best attribute on a car. So they quickly went the way of the rear window louvers when the clear bra made it’s appearance. PPF was developed by 3M for use on military helicopters during the Vietnam War and was then later adapted for automotive use. 

There was little doubt that protection film was a better alternative. But it also had a lot of drawbacks such as excessive texture or “orange peel”, and add to that the difficulty of the installation. Then clarity and yellowing soon became an issue after a short time of being on the vehicle. To make matters worse, these early films were difficult to remove and sometimes caused damage to the paint it was intended to protect in the first place. Understandably, there were a lot of mixed emotions about this type of protection. For many of us in the detailing world, we were not huge fans either.

Fast forward a decade and the PPF industry’s evolution brought about XPEL. XPEL was a company that first developed PPF technologies for companies such as 3M, but in the early 2000’s devoted themselves to now compete in the PPF market. The company went forward to specialize in PPF and developed much improved adhesives, clarity and technologies such as self-healing film.

It was apparent to everyone that this newly developed film was far more advanced than anything that had come before it. After all, it’s a little know fact that all PPF film urethane base technology is created at the same company. From there, each company adds their own adhesives, layers and so forth. So it’s really up to those PPF companies to build their own product from that base product. XPEL takes it’s film to another level by adding polyurethanes that maximize flexibility and coupled with their reengineered adhesives that resist distortion, can be easily removed without damage when being removed, and with a clarity not previously achieved by it’s competitors. Then topped off with XPEL’s layer of elastomeric polymers to create a clear coat that resists discoloration and can repair itself from swirls and light scratches! This gives Ultimate the ability to fearlessly go through automated car washes without that damaging effects that would otherwise be noticeable on other films. XPEL Ultimate is 2 mills thicker by comparison of the 6 mills commonly found on other film.

With nothing more than heat from the sun, heat from the engine bay or even warm water, it can heal the swirls in mere seconds! XPEL even offers a 10 year warranty on their film when installed by an authorized installer. When SweetCars visited XPEL’s Headquarters, we quickly recognized XPEL’s passion, confidence and pride in their product. It’s no doubt the best of the best in my opinion. Being convinced of PPF was not easy for me personally, as I was never a fan of PPF from the detailer standpoint. XPEL’s Ultimate product changed all of that for me. For about a year I researched, monitored and consulted numerous detailing colleagues of mine that had started installing XPEL. At the same time, the demand for XPEL was growing within our area and so we decided that we were ready to move forward.

We were excited to learn that our glass coating services can also be installed on top of XPEL Ultimate for UV protection and added benefits of glass coating. XPEL’s Design Access Program (DAP for short) gives us the ability to manufacture our own precision-cut kits in house. We can manipulate the design to delete sections or even stretch the size for higher quality installations. Our DAP allows us to custom cut on the spot without having to wait for pre-cut kits to arrive, pay shipping and then hoping that the correct kit was ordered and sent. One more big advantage is that every installer at some point will have a piece that may need to be redone, we simply go into the software and cut that piece on our plotter and move on. Instead of having to order a piece, wait for shipping and so on.

Installing PPF is no easy task. It requires extreme patience and extensive knowledge of the mechanics of manipulating a 2 dimensional product on a 3 dimensional component. Needless to say, XPEL gave us the training skills necessary to tackle on even the most challenging of installations. As factory authorized installers of XPEL, we are committed to ensure that all of our installations are of the highest quality. We take pride in our studio’s highly regarded reputation. So if XPEL sounds like the solution to your paint protection problems, stop in and see us and say goodbye to rock chips! 

-Mike Cardenas


SweetCars XPEL Packages & Pricing

*All kits are cut in-house using XPEL’s Design Access Program for superior installation and fitment.

Headlight Protection Package: $100.00 USD

Includes: Headlights in Ultimate XPEL Protection Film.

Wear & Tear Protection Package: $200.00 USD

Wear & Tear Protection Package includes: Door Edges, Door Sills, Door Cups and Luggage Area in Ultimate XPEL Protection Film.

Standard Protection Package: $600.00 USD

Standard Protection Package includes: Partial Hood, Partial Fenders and Mirrors in Ultimate XPEL Protection Film.

Extended Protection Package (Partial Front Clip):  $1,000.00 USD

Extended Protection Package includes: Partial Hood, Partial Fenders, Front Bumper, Mirrors and Door Cups in Ultimate XPEL Protection Film.

Full Protection Package (Full Front Clip): $2,000.00 USD

Full Protection Package includes: Full Hood, Full Fenders, Mirrors, Front Bumper, Headlights and Door Cups in Ultimate XPEL Protection Film.

*Please allow 1 to 2 business days for installation. Pricing for PPF does not include detailing services such as paint correction or glass coating applications. Prices are applicable to most vehicles but may change depending on what components are covered in PPF, vehicle size or specialty type. 

To schedule an appointment, contact SweetCars at: 260-207-2277 or email Mike Cardenas at

SweetCars Ceramic Pro Services & Pricing

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Ceramic Pro is SGS Tested!

Tested and certified by “SGS”


Ceramic Pro has been officially tested and certified by “SGS”. SGS are the world’s largest and leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company trusted by millions.

Ceramic Pro is constantly tested to ensure it meets the highest  standards.


Gloss Level – High (depends on substrate)
Viscosity #2 Zahn Cup – 12~14 seconds
5% Salt Spray (ASTM B117) – 350 hrs
Pencil Hardness (JIS 5400) – Above 9H
Adhesion  Cross-Cut Tape (ASTM D3359) – 5b (no coating loss)
Mandrel Bend (ASTM  D522) – 0 mm coating loss at 180° rotation
Impact (ASTM D2794) – 80/80 inch-lbs

Official SGS Test Documents

Hardness by Pencil Test  (500g), Alkali Resistance, Acid Resistance, Salt Solution Resistance –

Hardness by Pencil Test  (1000g) –

Toxicity Test  (Non Toxic)Scratch tests/Hardness –

Pricing & Warranty

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SweetCars is an authorized certified installation center for Ceramic Pro.

SweetCars: 22PLE Factory Authorized Center of Excellence & Pricing


In the summer of 2011, SweetCars Detailing was approached by 22PLE to try their VX1 PRO. The results were extraordinary! 22PLE VX1 PRO and VX1 offered gloss that was unmatched by anything else we’ve ever used before. The durability was also something that added to the quality of the product. At that time, high end waxes and taking numerous steps for paint correction were en vogue. Glass coating was not as common in the United States as it had been in Europe and Asia. The quality and results we were achieving with 22PLE were enough for us to make it our go-to coating. Since then, SweetCars has been working closely with 22PLE in support of these amazing products. Together, our two companies have come a long way since then. From our days of using VX1 PRO to the present time being the first studio to introduce and name the new but exclusive ZX Mistico Elemento. So what is 22PLE?

22PLE ZX Mistico Elemento, photo by Isaac Fingerle for SweetCars

22PLE ZX Mistico Elemento, photo by Isaac Fingerle for SweetCars

22PLE is product based on the highest quality Silica available today. Unlike a wax or a sealant, when exposed to air 22PLE literally turns to glass. Hence the name 22PLE, (that’s name you see in the reflection of the logo on a surface). This glass surface makes the vehicle’s finish highly hydrophobic which gives optimal water beading and gives the surface a resistance to light swirls and scratches. Once applied and cured, the coating will give a wet-look gloss that is breathtaking. The coating can be safely handled and washed after 24 hours but takes about 5 days to fully cure. Before glass coatings became available, paint was being painstakingly corrected and then it was totally up to the client to maintain that corrected finish. Unfortunately, waxes and sealants don’t offer much in terms of scratch resistance, and with old habits being hard to break, the finish was back to it’s old state in a matter of months. Glass coatings such as 22PLE give clients a fighting chance to maintain that paint corrected finish.

Mini Cooper S coated in 22PLE ZX Mistico Elemento

Mini Cooper S coated in 22PLE ZX Mistico Elemento at SweetCars. Photo by Isaac Fingerle for SweetCars

SweetCars is an authorized and factory approved installer by 22PLE. Our experience and performance with 22PLE has made SweetCars an approved Center of Excellence by the founder and developer of 22PLE. Your vehicle will go through an expertly performed process which ensures a proper installation of 22PLE. We also provide trim restorative treatments using 22PLE VR1, coat wheels and calipers to resist brake dust using VM1. When coating wheels and calipers, we remove all wheels and then they are cleaned, polished, prepped and finally coated with 22PLE VM1. With wheels removed, the suspension and wells are also detailed. Wheels are then re-installed and torqued to factory specs.

Lamborghini Diablo VT coated in 22PLE VX1 PRO. Wheels coated with VM1

Lamborghini Diablo VT coated in 22PLE VX1 PRO. Wheels & Exhaust coated with  22PLE VM1   Photo by Mike Cardenas for SweetCars

SweetCars is the first detail studio to offer ZX Mistico Elemento from 22PLE for the ultimate in gloss with extended durability. At SweetCars, we are more than just an installer of one of the best glass coatings on the planet. Our contributions to 22PLE and in-field testing of upcoming products make us one of the leaders in the glass coating.  Count on SweetCars for knowledge, experience and our commitment to excellence in every installation. This is the SweetCars difference!


*paint correction not included in pricing

22PLE VX1 PRO Application ——————————————- $400.00 USD

22PLE ZX Mistico Elemento ——————————————– $500.00 USD

22PLE VM1 Wheel Application —————————————– $200.00 USD

22PLE VR1 Trim and Plastic Restore ———————————– $100.00 USD

22PLE Maintenance Package (Wash & VS1 Final Coat)—————–$75.00 USD

Call us at 1-260-207-2277 for information and scheduling.