Next to baseball and barbeque, there's no greater American summer ritual than washing your car. But do you really have the time for the whole bucket of suds and a wax job? Get a gleaming ride in minutes with a few key products and a roadside car wash.
Before dropping coins into the machine, start by spritzing your grill and front bumper with a gunk-removing product like Surf City's Road Trip Grim Destroyer ($10). Like a laundry pre-treater, this paint-safe spray will dissolve bugs, tar, sap and road grime without scrubbing. Now, fire up the high-pressure hose, beginning at the back of the car and working your way up front. Rinse using the "streak-free" option.
While the car's still dripping, spray both tires and wheels with a cleaner that's made to treat them both. We like this one by Wolfgang ($23), and apparently so do others—it's a top seller on AutoGeek.net. Mist each wheel and tire. Take a large (out of commission) beach towel and dry off the car, starting from the top and working your way down to the hood, trunk and sides. Don't forget under the side mirrors and inside the gas tank. Then, take the towel and rub down the wheels and tires. With the towel now saturated with water and cleaner, wipe down the exhaust pipe and toss the soiled towel into the trunk.
Mist inside windows with a glass cleaner—preferably one without the telltale smell of cleaning products. We use Method's glass cleaner ($4), which gets rid of streaks while leaving a subtle minty aroma. With a second towel, wipe down the windows, instrument panel and dashboard. Concentrate on such flat, grime-gathering surfaces as the cup-holders, door kick plates and the spot under your headrest. Finish by brushing off the seats.
Pop some coins into the vacuum cleaner. Take out floor mats and shake them off. Give 'em a once over and move onto the floor of the car, in between the seats and rear window.