Your car is one of your most significant purchases, after your home, and although washing it may seem pretty basic, there are a few tips you should know to protect your investment.
Wash your car on a regular basis, not just when you have company coming to town or you plan to take your boss to dinner. Keeping your car clean and free from dirt and debris will cut down on rust and help to keep the value of your car up.
Cleaning the Outside
Choose a soft, automotive sponge and a sturdy bucket filled with cool water to tackle the car wash project but stay away from harsh cleaning solutions like dish or laundry soap that can harm the finish on your car. Better yet, invest in the myriad of top quality car care products like car wash soap, tire dressing, wheel cleaner and other products designed to clean your leather or vinyl interior.
– Choose a shady spot to wash your car, as direct sunlight can be absorbed by the finish of dark color cars and cause water spots.
– Start by soaking the car with cool water to remove excess dirt and debris from the finish.
– Rinse out the wheel wells to remove mud and dirt that may have become packed into the body and may lead to trapped moisture causing premature rust.
– Start at the top and work your way down the car.
– Use cool water as warm or hot water will remove applied car wax.
– Wash the tires as well as the wheels. Car wash soap and water will never damage a chrome or specialty wheel.
– Rinse the soapy water and towel dry. I have found a nice old soft bath towel does a wonderful job.
Special Note: The only thing that will remove tree sap from a car’s finish is cold water.
Dings and Scratches
As soon as you notice a small ding or scratch in the paint, use a dab of touch up paint. The touch up paint will help keep the spot from rusting. Larger dings, dents and scratches should also be taken care of as quickly as possible to avoid rust developing.
Touch up paint is available at most after market auto part supply shops, however, if you have a specialty color check with your dealer. They should be able to order a tube for a minimal cost.
Lubricate the Doors
Here’s a quick trick for getting the squeak out of your car doors. Use new motor oil on the joints of your hood, rear gate and doors to keep them adequately lubricated. Pour the oil in the bottom of the door and also run it between the layers of steel to avoid sticking and rusting. Some have found that shooting the oil into the holes in your doors is also helpful but keep it away from the window tracks to avoid oil smearing the glass.
For the best results use a pump can of motor oil that you can pick up at an auto parts store. However, avoid using old oil which contains acids that will cause your car to rust.
Don’t Forget the Inside
You’ve heard the phrase “carry in, carry out” related to camping or picnicking in a State or National park, but many find that same philosophy helpful when it comes to keep the inside of your car clean and free from clutter.
Here are a few more tips for cleaning the inside of your vehicle:
– Be prepared with plastic garbage bags in the glove box for trash and sealing organizer boxes for toys, tools and first aid supplies.
– Keep your carpet floor mats clean by covering them with inexpensive plastic floor mats that can easily be wiped clean.
– Multi-task: When buying fuel it is a great time to empty the trash in your car. Most gas stations have trash cans right by the fuel pumps so why not take advantage of them and get rid of the junk that may have accumulated.
– Sweep the carpet and dust the dashboard.
– Treat the leather or vinyl with products designed for the task.
– A damp, soft cloth is a great tool for dusting the dashboard without causing any damage.
Cleaning Stains from Upholstery
Before you can effectively clean a stain, you first need to identify what it is. Tar and oil stains will require a cleaner that is solvent based (Petroleum). Pour some of the solvent onto a cloth and lightly rub in a circle fanning out until it disappears. Repeat if necessary.
Food, soda and other non-petroleum based stains will respond best to mild soap and water. I have found an automotive product called Tuff Stuff that works great on everything from fabric to vinyl and carpet. However, it is not a solvent-based product so it won’t remove tar or oil stains.
Cleaning the Windows
There is nothing like looking through a clean windshield. Use a good glass cleaner and soft cloth when washing the windows. Try this trick – clean the inside of the windows with a horizontal motion and a vertical motion on the outside of the window. This way if there is a streak you can quickly identify which side of the window it is on.
Just in Case
Always have a pencil and paper in your car in case you should have an accident. Also, have all your car documents in a folder for easy access. Most cell phones are equipped with cameras, however, if yours isn’t, keep a disposable camera on hand to take pictures of the scene of the accident for use with the police or your insurance company.
My Car is TOO dirty – I Don’t Know Where to Start
If you have neglected the upkeep of your car, fear not. Invest in a car detailing for your automobile or truck. For a fee ranging from $75 – $150, they will clean your car like new and make it easier for you to maintain your vehicle going forward.
Once they have you back on track, just keep up the normal washing, vacuuming and dusting to keep your car in tip top shape. A well maintained car adds value when it comes time for resale.