Keeping your car clean is an important preventive maintenance step. This video from Drive may go over the top for those of you used to a hose and sponge, but it's packed with tips to make sure your car is well taken care of.
All of the tips in the video are useful, but I'm a big fan of number 7 (around 2:30), since I've seen a lot of people washing their car with horribly dirty rags dipped in soapy water. Tip number 5 (around 3:35) is useful for those of us who hate cleaning the inside of the windshield; it suggests you lay over the passenger seat (not the driver's seat) and never spray the windshield with cleaner -- instead, spray your cleaning cloth and apply that to the windshield. The video also explains the best way to get bird poop off your car -- namely, with spray wax and a microfibre cloth (taking paper towel or a napkin to your car will inevitably result in scratches).
Not too long ago, I told a friend and coworker about how I just took my car through the auto-wash and didn't care much about what happened -- he explained the sheer amount of damage I was doing to my car's paint and clearcoat. He pointed out that if you want your car to retain its shine and avoid scratches, dings and criss-crossing scuffs in the clearcoat, you should wash it by hand (or have it detailed). The video above is long, but you'll know the best way to keep your car clean, the right way, by the end.
Top 10 Detailing Mistakes - /Drive Clean [YouTube]