The picture above was taken by Ian Magbanua, our classics and customs editor. He frequents The La Mesa Watershed Reservation often to hit the MTB trails. What you are looking at is pretty serious.
The photo above is how the watershed normally looks (with some quick photoshop courtesy of Ian).
Now I love having a clean car as much as the next guy, but after seeing these photos, I've decided to not have my car washed until this crisis is over.
My trips to the friendly neighborhood car wash have always been few and far in between, though. Back in the day, I took pride in washing my own car. When married life happened and family time became more of a priority, I decided to just visit the car wash instead. But in the interest of saving even more time and money, I've resorted to just keeping these three items in my car: a microfiber cloth; a quality duster; and a small bottle of liquid wax. With them, I've managed to avoid getting a car wash for weeks at a time, at least as long as the weather cooperates and it doesn't rain.
Look away if you are into expert auto detailing. But if having a relatively clean car is good enough for you, read on. Here's what you can do to keep your car presentable for months at a time without any water.
This has become a habit of mine. The thinking is, as long as the dust doesn't build up on the surface, those intermittent rains that we used to have won't dirty up the car. When raindrops mix with the dust, and it stops raining all of a sudden, your car will look filthy. Now that it isn't raining at all, just dusting the car off should do the trick. When a car is sitting in an indoor parking spot for a long time, surface dust comes off quite easily with a quality duster.
This is also why I wipe down the engine bay whenever I clean my car, too. It's so that the dust doesn't accumulate.
Experts will probably disagree with this method, but it works fine for me. The crud I'm talking about here is bird shit and tree sap. As soon as I see any of this on my car's paint or glass, out comes the liquid wax/quick detailer and away the sliminess goes. Yes, that one spot will be shinier than the rest, but I don't mind.
If you can avoid parking in unpaved and dusty parking lots, do so. Waiting in line at a covered parking area or paying a few extra pesos is a small price to pay for saving precious liters of water that can be used for more important things. Please note that the aforementioned duster might not be the best thing to use when your car is coated in harsh dust from an open, unpaved parking lot (which is surely more abrasive than regular covered parking area dust). So, choose where you park wisely.
If your car looks filthy on the outside, at least it will be bearable on the inside. A damp cloth and a vacuum cleaner
Clean wheels and tires really do it for me. If I must clean something, it will be what my car rolls on. I imagine it's like how most guys can get away with worn-out jeans and a scruffy shirt—by having nice and clean shoes. But then again, I'm not a writer for Esquire. I don't mind using a waterless cleaner for wheels and tires. Once that is done, quality tire dressing will go on the rubber.
Let's not take water for granted, guys. I do hope the crisis abates soon, and water levels return to normal. I acknowledge that there are lots of scientific ways to keep cars clean without water. This is just how I prefer to do it. Do you have any tips to share? Please do so. In the meantime, let's be responsible motorists until the rain returns. In the immortal words of Joni Mitchell: You don't know what you've got til it's gone.