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Top tips for a squeaky-clean car
You’re a bit on the lazy side, so when it comes to cleaning your car you often opt for the easiest route (pun intended) via a commercial car wash. But they’re SO expensive, can actually degrade your car’s finish and often won’t do the job as well as a good ol’ DIY number.
Find it boring? Get out in the sunshine, crank up the tunes, and roll up your sleeves. You’ll gain a huge amount of satisfaction coupled with a good dose of I-got-it-done therapy … that’s got to be a win-win.
When should I wash it?
Don’t wait for layers of crud to accumulate before you take action. Bird droppings, dead bugs, tree sap and chemicals from the air all leach acids that can strip away wax and eventually damage your car’s paint job. The simple act of frequently washing your car is really the first line of defence when it comes to protecting it from the elements.
How often a car needs washing is dependent on factors including how often you drive it, the type of driving you’re doing (off-roading it etc.), and whether it spends long periods of time basking in the sun. Experts recommend a weekly wash to keep gunk from embedding itself on the exterior, and a monthly wash, wax and internal clean to ensure a shiny shield and an interior that’s less prone to wear and tear.
How do I go about it?
First things first – you need to evaluate just how much work will be involved. New cars will obviously still have a decent coat of wax on them, so you may only need to wash and wax to maintain it, however older cars with neglected exteriors may need a decent clean and polish as well.
Inspect your vehicle once a week (ideally in direct sunlight) for scratches and imperfections, check headlights for hazing, examine the splash guards for road grime build-up and analyse the interior for serious signs of random rubbish tip action.
Don’t use household cleaning agents like dishwashing detergent or hand soap when washing, as they aren’t formulated for use on a car’s paint and may strip off its protective wax. A dedicated car wash product (applied with a soft, natural sponge or microfibre cloth) is always a safe bet, however use your common sense here. You don’t need to shell out heaps of money for top brand products if a cheaper one will do the job.
Dealing with the interior
If you plan to give your car a thorough once-over, start with the inside to avoid the potentially fatal combination of water and electricity that can result from vacuuming. Get rid of all those pesky takeaway wrappers and years-old receipts, tackle the dog hair factor with a spray bottle of water and a squeegee, then move onto cleaning the seats and carpets.
Most household vacuum cleaners will do the job fine (one of those thin crevice tools helps as well). If you’ve got a build-up of sand or dried mud on the carpets, a dry scrubbing brush will help to loosen it up, and pesky dirt and crumbs in your seat cushions can be banished by using a fine-bristled brush (like a toothbrush).
Marks on your car seats can be removed with a bit of soap and water and a scrubbing brush (use a towel to soak up the excess water), and if your floor mats are a lesson in pure filth, spray them with a stain remover and chuck ‘em in the washing machine.
To remove grease, ink etc. from your vinyl trims, use detergent water combined with a bit of steel wool scrubbing action (go gently!), then treat them with a vinyl restorer. Use this sparingly though and wipe off the excess with a dry rag.
Sparkle up your dashboard with a quick chamois wipe (olive oil is a good conditioner), then dust out your air vents and switches with a dry paintbrush, then give it a good vacuum afterwards.
Washing the outside
Firstly, don’t wash your car immediately after driving or if it’s been parked in direct sunlight. Because heat speeds up the drying process and makes washing more difficult, you’ll just be increasing the chances of spots or deposits.
Park your car in a grassy area if possible (it’s better for the environment), rinse all surfaces with water to remove loose dirt and other stuff that could cause scratching, and work up a good lather with your car wash solution which will provide lubrication on the paint’s surface. Concentrate on one section at a time, moving your sponge lengthwise if you can to avoid swirl marks.
Wash and rinse each area completely before you move onto the next one (so the soap doesn’t dry), rinse your sponge often and use a separate bucket to rinse so that dirt doesn’t get mixed into your soapy water. It’s also worth having separate sponges or cloths for the exterior, wheels and windows.
Start at the top, work your way around your car, rinse with a nozzle-less hose that will allow the water to flow over the vehicle rather than pooling in puddles at your feet, and make sure you use a separate sponge for the wheels and tyres (again, to avoid dirt-induced scratching). While you’re at it, you should also check your tyre tread and depth and tyre pressure.
Use a chamois to blot the water up (air drying will just leave unsightly watermarks), then give it a good waxing with a polymer-based wax (less hazy aftermath), which will add a layer of UV protection.
One-step cleaner/waxes are also worth a go if you want to save time, as they clean, polish and protect your car in one go. And to round things off in a suitably atmospheric way, forget the commercial air fresheners and grab a down and dirty wooden clothes peg. Sprinkle it with your favourite essential oil, attach it to one of your air vents, and you’ll have a wonderful smelling car for weeks.
Finally … window and wheel action
Swerve the household glass cleaners as their ammonia could damage window tints, and wipe the outside of each window first. Polish off the remaining moisture with a clean, dry rag. Wipe down your windshield wipers with rubbing alcohol (it prevents smeared windshields), shiny up your cloudy headlights with a bit of toothpaste and water (environmentally friendly!), wash your wheels and tyres, then finish off with a bit of vinyl restorer for a sparkling finish.
If you want to up the ante or you have a car in pretty bad shape, car detailers are your go-to. Prices will vary according to the type and condition of your vehicle (do your research), but these professionals will spruce up your four-wheeled baby to a standard that’s as good as new. No sweat (on your part).
You’ve got a clean car but you have a dirty breakdown. We’ve gotU. Just pay as you go … as you need it!