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How to Properly Clean Your 4×4

Soap and water is your basic ticket to keeping your 4×4 spunky clean. But are you doing it the right way?

In this article, we’ll specify which parts of your vehicle need thorough cleaning and how you should be doing it, without accidentally reducing their service life.


Basic car wash and 4×4 cleaning is around $10-$20 because it’s quicker and simpler to do as it involves automatic bristles and high-pressure water jets to remove dirt from your vehicle. 

If you want to be more careful in the cleaning process, you can always go for the hand wash method as this can be done by either you or a professional team that’ll be thorough but conscious in cleaning. But since it obviously requires more effort, expect to pay around $20-$30


average time to wash a car

Hand car wash normally takes 2-3 hours. This is when you need a 4×4 cleaning that only affects the exterior parts of your vehicle. But if you want to extend it to the interior, make it double the regular time. 

Bear in mind, the duration of 4×4 cleaning depends on your location. If you live in a city where pollution and other elemental factors are always present, expect you’ll need more tools for extensive cleaning, as opposed to when you live in the rural areas.


How often you do a 4×4 cleaning depends on how frequently you use your vehicle. If you normally subject it to different types of abuse like, mudding, water crossing, rock crawling, etc., it’s best to clean it every 2-3 months. But if you only use it on regular travels like going to the office or on weekend shopping, cleaning it every 6 months is fine.


There is no magic formula in cleaning your 4×4 because it depends on your location and vehicle usage or preference. The key lies in following the necessary steps.

Visit a Self-service Car Wash

self service car wash

It’s always easy to clean your 4×4 in your garage or in your backyard whenever you need to. The problem though is you don’t have all the necessary tools to keep your vehicle clean because some of them are found only on self-service car wash.

Aside from the complete cleaning tools, many people turn to self-service car wash because they’re less expensive than hiring a professional to do the cleaning for you. In fact, cleaning experts can charge you more than $15 for the service, which you’ll often only get half the price when you do it by yourself.

Insert Hose into the Chassis Rail

cleaning chassis rails
Photo courtesy of The MX5 Restorer

The chassis rail is a part of the chassis frame that’s made from pressed or folded steel. It helps support your 4×4’s body and other parts as well as binds them together. Once you let it deteriorate or get damaged, you compromise your 4×4‘s overall safety and performance.

If you usually go water crossing, whether on the river or on the beach, salt water can build up in your chassis rail, which makes it difficult to remove. The technique is to place the hose in your chassis rail.

This allows you to easily flush out the salt water inside your vehicle, which is an important factor to remove not only the water itself but also excess sand and rocks that can clog it. It also helps you protect it from early rusting.

Avoid Spraying Hose Too Close When Under High Pressure

high pressure hose

It’s tempting to use a hose in cleaning your 4×4 because you can just increase its water-pouring intensity, to quickly remove the dirt. However, spraying a high-pressure hose that’s too close to your vehicle can cause its paint to chip. This will eventually force you to have your 4×4 repainted more often than necessary.

Plus, once its metal parts have been exposed, you’re also making it prone to rusting because it lacks protection against the harsh elements.

Use a Degreaser in Cleaning the Engine Bay

engine degreaser composition

Accumulated amounts of dirt, mud, and other stains on your engine bay are hard to remove. Because of this, you may also be wondering, is it good to expose them under high-pressure water? The answer is NO. Your engine bay consists of special sealants that prevent water intrusion and placing them in such a kind of water pressure can break them.

So if you’re having trouble removing stubborn stains on your engine bay, your solution is to apply a degreaser on them. It gently dissolves the stains making them easy to remove. Take note, when you’re washing the engine bay, make sure the motor is running for even cleaning.

Clean Thoroughly the Wheel Arches

muddy four wheeler

Doing this removes the dirt that’s present on the wheel arches and the same goes on the inside and bottom of the rims which are crucial in maintaining the optimal wheel momentum, by the time you get back on track.

What Can I Do to Prevent Tire and Wheel Damage?

non-acidic cleaners

While many cleaners have acid content to make them truly effective against stain removal, more auto detailers prefer using non-acidic cleaners when it comes to rinsing the tires and wheels because of the same result but without damaging the surface.

You can even make your own non-acidic cleaner by mixing a teaspoon of dish washing (liquid) soap with half a cup of baking soda in warm water. Put the solution in a bottle and spray it on the tires and wheels. Then, use either a paint brush or toothbrush to gently scrub them.  

Check the Door Drain Holes

door drain holes
Photo courtesy of

It’s also important that you inspect your 4×4’s door drain holes. Many off-roaders had them overlooked since they’re usually located at the bottom of the doors. But this shouldn’t be an excuse because door drain holes automatically flush out water, dirt, mud, etc., when they penetrate the door seal. Therefore, cleaning them will help maintain their purpose. Otherwise, you risk reducing your 4×4’s lifespan.

How to Check for Clogged Door Drains?

door drain holes

To see if your door drain holes still serve their purpose, check out the instructions found in the infographics above.

Use an Air Hose to Clean Interior Vents

Photo courtesy of Flexzilla via

Aside from the usual wiping that you’ll be doing on your 4×4’s interior, don’t forget to keep an air hose handy in cleaning the vents. Using an air hose to remove dirt particles on the vents contributes to a clean and unrestricted air flow that goes in and out of your 4×4.

You may keep it running for more or less than 15 minutes, depending on your cleaning needs or as recommended. Moreover, you may use it on your vehicle’s floor. As for the mats, remove and wash them separately.

8. Use a Semi-Gloss Black Paint on Rusted Suspension Parts

painting suspension parts

In the event that you notice minor rusting on some parts of your 4×4’s suspension, apply a semi-gloss black paint on the affected areas. Doing this conceals the rust and makes them looking new again.

Afterwards, you need to top them off with a rust-resistant lubricant to help preserve their lifespan. You may use WD40 or any lubricant that matches your preference.

9. Spray Ceramic Coating on Your 4×4

ceramic coating spray
Photo from Turtle Wax Store via

Adding ceramic coating on your vehicle not only provides it with the shiny appearance but also protects it against the harsh abuse of nature.

What Do You Need to Know About Ceramic Coating?

ceramic coating spray

Ceramic coating is a special substance that you can spray on your 4×4’s surface. It contains silica and titanium dioxide that combine together to form a film where; water, grease, and other stains, easily slide away.

There are 2 ways of applying it on your vehicle; either you spray it directly on the surface and rinse it with hose, or you spray it on a dry microfiber cloth and wipe it gently on the surface. Remember, if you’re doing the latter, make sure you use another microfiber cloth to pat your 4×4’s surface dry because the coating will get smudged and unevenly spread.


If you’re not interested in buying a degreaser for your 4×4 and are curious enough on how you can make your own, here’s a simple guide on how to do it. Click here for the complete tutorial.

homemade engine degreaser


  1. What other Methods are involved in 4×4 cleaning?
  • The process of 4×4 cleaning involves disassembling the four-wheel drive system and cleaning all of its parts.

2. Why is 4×4 cleaning necessary?

  • 4×4 cleaning is necessary to keep the four-wheel drive system in good working condition.

3. Is 4×4 cleaning difficult?

  • 4×4 cleaning is a relatively simple and straightforward process.


These are some of the things you can do for proper vehicle cleaning. By ensuring that not a single dirt particle escapes your eyes and your 4×4’s given adequate lubrication, you prolong your vehicle’s usefulness. If you have other ideas on how to properly clean your ride, drop us a comment below.



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