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How to wash a BMW M3

Learn tips and tricks for how to wash a BMW M3. See tips for wheel cleaning, paint washing, drying, and protecting the paint.


Who do I hang out with a lot? Detailers! That means I’ve picked up a lot of tips on how to both keep a car clean, and protect it without causing a lot of swirl marks. Just like how I stored my E92 for winter, this is meticulous. I’m going to show you the basics on how to wash a BMW M3.

G80 M3
I know it looks shiny, but it’s pretty dirty.

Before we begin

  • This guide is meant to cover a basic maintenance wash, so it shouldn’t take you more than two hours to complete.
  • I suggest using a coating like AMMO REFLEX PRO, or something similar, to aid in water beading and dirt removal. I coat my car once a year.
  • I’ve washed every car I’ve had with these steps for many years, so it works for me. I emphasize to do what works for you!
  • The paint on this G80 is the same as it was on the E92, the F30…nothing special just because it’s newer.
Detailing tools
Get your tools ready.

How dirty are you?

If you are able to wash your car once a week, then this should just be a quick thing. But before we do anything else:

  • Park your car out of the sun
  • Make sure it’s cool to the touch

I shot these in the sun for better lighting, but normally I wash in the shade. Once you’re parked, walk around the car and visually inspect for any bad areas. Bugs, bird poo, water spots and mud can be a little harder to get off, so know the areas you have to attack.

G80 M3 dirt
G80 M3 dirt
Take note of the heavily soiled areas.
Brake dust
Built up brake dust and road dirt on the wheels and calipers.

Wheel me

BMW wheel designs have always been intricate, but the G80 takes it to another level. That makes the process more complex than it needs to be. We’ll use:

G80 M3 wheel
A special wheel bucket is essential. A wheelie stool makes cleaning a bit more comfortable.

Work on one wheel at a time. Spray on PLUM and let it sit. While that works its magic, fill up your bucket with wheel soap and water, and throw in your Wheel Woolies. Start at the top of the wheel and work your way down, going inside the barrel. The G80’s brakes are large, especially in the front, so use smaller sizes to get all the nooks and crannies of the calipers, along with a wheel brush.

Once done, hose the wheel off, and then wash it again; You’ve undoubtedly missed something. After two wheels are done, I’ll empty the bucket and refill with new mixture. The soap breaks down the dirt inside the bucket instead of the wheel, and it looses its potency.

G80 M3 wheel
Hose off the wheel to start
G80 M3 wheel
Starting at the top of the wheel, work your way down.
G80 M3 wheel
The brush will help get in all those little crevices.
G80 M3 wheel
All clean!

Suds me

So the wheels are clean and you know where the dirty spots are. Next, lets get soapy.

Foam cannon
Fill up the foam cannon reservoir with a 50/50 mix of soap and water.

How you wash your car will be the difference between a clean finish or nasty swirls. Make sure your wash mitt is clean, spray down the entire car with water, and fill your buckets (one with water, one with soap and water mixed).

Next, foam down the entire car, and you can let the foam sit on the paint for a few minutes to help release the dirt. Dip your mitt in the soap bucket, and start from the top down (roof, windows, hood, doors, and then the bottom). Don’t start at the bottom ,which is always dirtier and will bring that dirt up to scratch your paint.

Break the car down in sections. After each section, dip your mitt in your wash bucket and scrub it against the Grit Guard. This will keep the mitt free of debris and dirt to ensure a scratch-free wash. Then, dip it in the soap bucket and attack the next section.

Why do I use Meguire’s as oppose to more expensive soap? It’s cheap, readily available and works just as well, without stripping any finish away. If the car is really dirty, I’ll spray AMMO FROTHe on it as well to help lubricate the paint.

Once done, hose off.

G80 M3 wash
Rinse off the entire car before you soap it up.
G80 M3 wash G80 M3 wash
G80 M3 wash
Soap porn.
Letting the soap sit for a minute will help dislodge some of the dirt.

Dry Me

I’ll do this step quickly, as we don’t want the water to dry on the car and cause spotting. Grab:

  • MF Towels
  • California blade. Mine is 20 years old and still works. I can’t find it online anywhere, so I’m not going to recommend one.
The MF towels need to be wet in order to dry the car. No I don’t know why this is.

Soak 2 microfiber towels completely. Grab one and wring it out until it’s just damp. Then, grab HYDRATE and go to town as you dry the car. Do one panel at a time, top to bottom. Straight lines, never circles. Use it on the entire car – wheels, exhaust, just not glass.

See streaking? That’s ok – watch up close and you’ll see that HYDRATE helps to absorb the excess water and leave zero streaks.

Use the California blade to clear the glass, but DON’T use it to dry the car. Might scratch the paint if any dirt is left on it.

water beading
Watch for spots that drip after you dry.
AMMO Hydrate
HYDRATE is a viscous drying aid that will help prevent scratches.
water beading
Water beading helps dry the car off quicker.

Make sure to get the door jambs, trunk, and engine bay, least water fling off as you drive and leave water spots. On the G80, the B pillar door hinge holds a lot of water, and opening it will cause it to drip onto your Shadowline trim, so make sure to dry that area well.

By now you  should be looking pretty good.

G80 M3
The M3 all dry, but more work remains.

Make it nice

We have to protect the finish and make the paint pop a bit, so let’s grab:

water spots
Some water spots will develop on the glass, but SPIT will get them out.

First, spray the car down with REBOOT, one section at a time. This is a ceramic-type spray that adds shine and depth. Wipe down. Super easy. You can do the wheels too.

Next, take SPIT and clean the windows. This helps bead the water off the glass and makes it crystal clear. No streaking. I also like to do the wheels here too.

Use new MF towels often (you can always wash them later), to help in avoiding any streaking.

Finally, use MUD on the tires. I love MUD because it doesn’t slick off, and doesnt make my tires look oily or overly shiny.

MUD gives the tires a nice matte finish.
Don’t worry about rust on the rotors, that will clean off as soon as you drive.
G80 M3
Normally, reflections are bad, but here, we want them.
G80 M3 mirror
The mirrors can be just as dirty as the front of the car, so check for bugs here too.
carbon roof
Gotta love the carbon roof.
G80 M3 G80 M3 G80 M3 G80 M3 G80 M3

Walk around

With SPIT in hand, walk around the car and check for any water spots, and wipe clean as needed. That’s it! Honestly, the wheels take the longest time. Do this once a week, and the car will not only look great, but be easy to maintain.

All clean! Now let’s go drive it!

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