The odds are good that if you have a Jeep, you enjoy off-roading. Models like the Wrangler are among the most off-road capable factory-built vehicles in the world, but every modern Jeep vehicle is offered in some variety of off-road trim, making every vehicle in the lineup a great candidate for off-road fun. While some people like rock crawling or playing in desert sand, deep mud is the preferred playground for many Jeepers. In many cases, a modified Jeep Wrangler caked in mud from top to bottom looks cool while also making it clear that the vehicle in question is used as it was intended. However, leaving your vehicle dirty after a day of mudding can have unpleasant consequences.

Why You Should Wash Your Off-Road Jeep

Your Jeep looks cool all covered in mud, but as it dries, it becomes much more difficult to remove, especially after a few days baking in the sun. Worst yet, rocks and other debris in the mud can dry in places where they will create friction against the body, wearing through the paint or leaving gouges in the trim. Finally, loads of mud accumulating and drying in the engine bay can create all sorts of headaches going forward, so while your lifted Wrangler might look cool completely caked in mud – it is a wise idea to clean that vehicle immediately after some muddy fun.

Today, we take a look at the best processes for cleaning your Jeep after a day of mudding, including some products that will lead to be best possible results.

Step 1: Loosening Up the Mud

The first thing that you will want to do when cleaning the mud off of your Jeep is to loosen up and remove as much of the dirt, rocks and debris as possible without rubbing the paint. This can be achieved with an average garden hose with a pressure nozzle, but for the best results, a proper pressure washer is the way to go. A pressure washer offers far more spray pressure that any garden hose with a pressure attachment, allowing you to blast more debris out of small gaps and off of the body.

You simply start at the top of the vehicle and work your way down, focusing the pressurized water on tight spots where debris accumulates, such as the areas around the wheel flares and other trim pieces. If you have warm water, that will accelerate the process, but even with cold water, a pressure washer like this unit from Simpson will knock off the majority of the heavy mud and debris.
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The pressure washer will get much of the heavy dirt off of the body, but what about the undercarriage? Getting under the vehicle to spray things off is difficult without a vehicle lift, which few people have, but in the long run, there are fewer moving parts under your Jeep that really need to be cleaned off. However, you might not want loads of mud piling up on the different components under the vehicle, so rinsing the undercarriage is a concern. Fortunately, an active garden sprinkler will provide a thorough rinse.

While pressure washing the exterior, slide a sprinkler like this one under the vehicle and turn on the hose. As you rinse the body, the spray from the sprinkler will remove much of the mud and debris from the underside of the vehicle. As you progress in cleaning the body, keep moving the sprinkler to get the water to hit and rinse different areas of the underpinnings.

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Step 2: Wheels and Tires

Once you have power washed the exterior and rinsed the undercarriage as best as possible, it is time to start the more detailed cleaning. We like to start with the wheels and tires, since they are often the dirtiest components and as you wash them, you will often fling mud and other dirt around.

Start cleaning your wheels and tires with the pressure washer, making sure to get in around the spokes of the wheel, the lugnuts and other smaller crevices around the face of the wheel and tire. This is also a good time to work on removing any mud and debris from around the braking system components.
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Next, you want to coat the wheel in a good, heavy duty wheel cleaner, like this spray-on product from Griots. Some wheel cleaner brands claim that they are touchless, but those often leave the surface looking cloudy and dirty. Griots tells you to spray it on, wait 3-5 minutes and then work it with a non-metallic brush. What kind of brush depends on the shape and design of your wheels, so we suggest a kit like this one, which comes with many different shapes, sizes and styles of brushes and cleaning applicators. This kit does have some metallic brushes, but you will want to stick to the soft-bristled brushes that won’t scratch the wheel face. Once you have worked the Griots in with the appropriate brush, taking a large brush to the sidewalls of the tires will remove any other dirt there, you will rinse the wheels and tires with the pressure washer, at which point the rollers should be nice and clean. If the wheels are still a bit dirty, apply another round of wheel cleaner.
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Step 3: De-Mudding the Engine Bay

If you are in deep enough mud, you are going to get dirt throughout your engine bay. Since every vehicle engine bay gets wet from time to time, mud, debris and other moisture from off-road fun won’t do severe damage, but over time, an accumulation of mud and debris can cause functionality issues. The caked-on mud can also make it hard to work on your engine in the future, so it is a good idea to give the engine a good spray-down from time to time.

Technically, you can rinse your engine bay without damaging anything, as all components are designed to get wet, but washing with any pressure can force debris into some places that may cause issues. Because of this, we suggest covering the alternator, the fuse box and the engine air inlet with plastic bags before cleaning the engine. With that in mind, you obviously want to wait until your engine is cool before tackling this task.

One of the most popular brands of cleaning products for your engine is Simple Green. You simply spray it onto the dirty portions of your engine bay, wait five minutes and then attack with some of the brushes mentioned above. The idea is to use the brushes to agitate the mixture of cleaner and dirt, allowing the cleaning product to do its job more efficiently. Once you have given the engine a good scrub, you rinse everything down with a garden hose. You can use the pressure washer here, but be careful with how much pressure you apply, as you don’t want to damage electrical connections and hoses fittings. Once the rinse is done, an air compressor and an air fitting is the best way to dry off the engine bay and components.

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Step 4: Washing the Body

Now that the heavy mud and debris have been removed from the body, the wheels are mud-free and the engine is clean, it is time to start on the body of your Jeep. Start by connecting a foam cannon like the one from Trinova, which comes with a bottle of Chemical Guys Snow Foam Auto Wash. Apply the foam to your Jeep with the help of your pressure washer, coating the entire vehicle from top to bottom. Wait a few minutes for the foam to work its magic, then use the pressure washer to remove all of the foam. At this point, the body should be clean enough for most devout off-roaders. However, if you want a car show shine, you will want to take one more step.
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Using a bucket with a debris divider like this one, mix warm water and your favorite automotive exterior soap. The debris divider will cause rocks and other things that would scratch your paint to settle at the bottom of the bucket, away from the area where your wash mitt will rest when soaking.

Once again starting at the top, clean an area of your Jeep with the wash mitt, followed by a quick rinse. Once you have cleaned each section of the body with the mitt and soap, rinse the entire vehicle once more and begin drying everything off. Microfiber towels are the best option for hand drying, but if you have an air compressor with a basic air nozzle, that will remove any excess moisture quickly and easily.
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Step 5: Aftercare

Realistically, there are no waxes that will protect your paint from repeated branch strikes or a big rock scraping along the side of the body, but there are some steps that you can take to protect the paint of your Jeep from lighter scuffs. This spray-on wax from XPS Care has polymers that are intended to stand up to light scuffs, helping to keep your vehicle looking great during softer off-roading sessions.
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The best option to protect your paint from scratches is a proper ceramic coating, but Jeep owners should beware of some ceramic coating products on today’s market. Proper ceramic coating is a slow process that requires a great deal of skill, which is why it is generally so expensive to have a vehicle coated. You may want to attempt to apply ceramic coating yourself, but it is important to do your research and learn how to apply the product. Incorrectly applied ceramic coating will make the paint look worse and it is not easy to remove, which is why most drivers opt for a more traditional wax. That being said, if you are willing to pay for professional ceramic coating or you want to learn how to apply it yourself, this extra layer will provide better protection than any wax.

Finally, the ultimate way to protect the paint on your Jeep is vinyl wrap – whether it is clear to show the factory paint or colored to provide a unique look. Once applied, you simply care for it the same way that you do with paint, and as the wrap is damaged, you can remove and reapply those portions. This is the most detailed and the most expensive route, but if you do a ton of harsh off-roading, a vinyl wrap is the best way to keep your Jeep looking great for years to come.

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