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3 Rules & 5 Steps

Video produced by BMW (Copyright 2019)

Panel One has been an accredited BMW bodyshop for 30+ years. In that time, we've come to learn that the best way to protect your investment in a BMW is to keep it looking good. This means protecting the paintwork against scratches, bird/bat droppings and your local car wash. The solution to this can be found by applying 3 Rules and by following 5 simple Steps. It's a conclusion drawn from our expert knowledge in car paint finishes and years of experience working with the German car maker.

Whether you prefer the DYI approach or prefer to take your BMW to a professional car wash, our recommendations apply equally to both. This article explains how to clean your BMW while protecting the paint, rims, tires, and brakes. It covers the steps to follow with general advice on the type of products to use. It does not refer to the BMW Seal & Protect product line, simply because these will be covered in a future article.

Following this advice will deliver the best results, save time and save water.

3 Rules

Before you start, 3 Rules apply to cleaning a BMW and these should require no further explanation. They are:

  1. Do it weekly

  2. Do it by hand, and

  3. Do it properly

Before You Reach For The Hose

Contrary to popular opinion, Panel One recommends washing your BMW from bottom to top. By starting with the wheels, you can avoid the need to wash and dry the vehicle’s body twice which saves both time and water.

When cleaning the wheels, splashing the body of the car with water or cleaning agent is inevitable. So, it makes sense to wash and clean the wheels before you wash and dry the body. If not, the water that splashes on the body of the car will dry at different rates and this can cause unsightly watermarks.


Step 1: Wheels & Tires

Wash each wheel one at a time before washing the body of the vehicle. If your BMW has M Carbon Ceramic Brakes or M Compound Brakes, you will need a steam jet or high-pressure cleaner to clean the brake discs and calipers. This makes cleaning them much easier and prevents the formation of salt crystals.

Step 2: Rinse Well & Apply Car Shampoo

After the wheels, rinse the rest of your car thoroughly to remove surface dirt and particles that can scratch the paintwork. Then apply car shampoo or car wash solution. We recommend using a mild car shampoo that is PH-balanced and doesn’t contain detergents that can harm the paintwork and accelerate oxidation. It should be gentle enough to protect your car’s paint but works effectively to remove dirt and hardened grease.

Use a soft, lint-free, scratch-free microfiber car wash mitt or sponge to apply the car shampoo evenly and avoid using cloths with heavy polyester thread as these can scratch the paint.

Remove the cleaning solution by showering the car with clean water.

Step 3: Dry the Car & Wheels

To remove excess water and dry your BMW, use a soft, non-scratch microfiber cloth. For the best results we recommend using two microfiber cloths at once; one in each hand. Use one to soak up any excess water and the other to wipe the surface dry.

Don’t use any old microfiber cloth. Make sure to use a high quality cloth that won’t shed or scratch the surface of your car.

TIP – Keep a good stock of clean and dry microfiber cloths handy so you can replace the ones your using when they become too wet.

Step 4: Window Cleaner

For the best results use a proper car window cleaner that does not contain streaky soap, dye or additives that leave a residue. Choose one that delivers a mist spray for even application together with a high-quality, non-scratch microfiber cloth.

The product you use should remove tough dirt, fingerprints, smoke haze, and grease easily and without scrubbing. If not, then buy one that does.

Step 5: Wax & Sealant

It is important to use a good wax or sealant for added protection after washing. How often, depending on the weather conditions but as a general rule we suggest twice a year (do so in Spring and again in Autumn).

As well as making the paint look shiny and new, applying wax or a sealant protects the top coat of the car paintwork from a build-up of dust and the damaged caused by UV rays from the Sun.


  • Bird and bat droppings are corrosive and the longer they are left the greater the damage they can cause to the paintwork.

  • Equally damaging to a cars paintwork is tree sap. Certain trees produce this sticky substance that can drip onto your car while parked and then burn the paintwork if in direct sunlight.

  • Insects can have the same effect if left sticking to automotive paint. This is more common with country than city driving. In such a case, use a specialised insect remover so they can be easily wiped away before they damage the paintwork.

  • Avoid car washes that use brushes and those you suspect may not be using supply of clean cloths. Brushes should only be used for cleaning tires while only clean soft cloths and sponges should be used for the rest of the vehicle.

  • Extremely high pressure water hoses can damage your cars paintwork and should only be used on tires and wheels. As a general rule, if the water jet is to painful when directed at your hand then it’s likely to damage the paintwork.

By adopting these 3 Rules and following these 5 Steps you can dramatically improve the durability and long-term appearance of your BMW's paintwork.

Video produced by BMW (Copyright 2019)

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