It’s spring, and if you’re tackling the annual chore of household spring cleaning, don’t forget your car, truck, SUV or minivan. After all, months of snow, ice, freezing rain, salt and general muck can easily transform any vehicle into an environmental hazard.
With a couple hours and just a bit of effort, you can give your vehicle the day at the spa, aka a professionally detailing that will prepare it for the good times that warm weather brings. Difficult? Nope. But there are some things you should know so that your car looks its best.
The cabin of your vehicle is where you spend all of your time while driving. Making sure its spic and span makes for a far more pleasurable experience. Make sure to start by cleaning the inside of your ride first; you’ll need time for it to dry.
1. It’s finally time to eradicate accumulated rubbish from your vehicle’s various crevices, cubbies, map pockets, glove box, center console and trunk.
2. Wipe down the instrument panel with a mild cleaner. How many coughing, sneezing, germ spreaders rode in your car during the winter? Be sure to use a disinfectant for door handles, the steering wheel and dashboard buttons using a soft, damp cloth; tackle climate control vents and panel seams with cotton swabs.
For touchscreens, check your owner’s manual for how to clean it without damaging the surface. There are commercial screen cleaners available, but you want to make sure the cleaner won’t damage your vehicle’s screen.
3. Vacuum upholstered areas and carpets, including headliner and the rear parcel shelf. Be sure to reach under the seats. And don’t forget to vacuum the trunk, frunk and/or cargo area.
4. Shampoo the carpet and floor mats with a scrub brush. Keep the doors open to let them dry out.
5. Use upholstery cleaner or a steam cleaner to clean cloth seats. For leather seats, use a mild leather cleaner or saddle soap, followed by a leather conditioner. This prevents the leather from drying out and cracking.
6. Clean the glass by spraying window cleaner on your towel. This way, the mist won’t fall on your clean dashboard. Follow with a second towel to avoid streaks.
7. Congratulations! You’re halfway done. Grab a cold beverage and check your social media feed while the interior dries.
Now, tackle the outside
You’ll need multiple sponges or chamois for this job, one for each cleaner. If you drop one while cleaning, get a clean one; small bits of debris from a dropped rag, sponge towel or chamois can scratch paint.
1. Time to wash the exterior of your car. It’s best not to wash a car in direct sunlight or when the body is hot. That increases spotting. Use gently flowing warm water to rinse your car thoroughly and loosen dirt and grime. Avoid using high pressure or hot water, which can damage paint.
2. As for the cleaner, use a car washing liquid not household cleaners, which can harm modern paint finishes. Wash the car from the top down, using a car washing liquid and a natural sponge or chamois.
3. Move the sponge or chamois lengthwise across the car, not in circles. Rinse thoroughly, starting at the top and working your way down.
4. A bug and tar remover can be used to remove stubborn dirt or tar from bumpers. And don’t overlook cleaning your wiper blades when washing the car. It will keep your windshield cleaner.
5. Next, using a foam kneeling pad, shine your car’s shoes. Clean brake dust from wheels using a wheel cleaner designed for your type of wheel, be it chrome, aluminum or painted. Rinse. However, make sure that the wheels are cool. Cleaning a hot wheel rim can stain or etch it.
6. Direct the hose into the underside of the wheel well to remove dirt or debris. Wipe down the door jambs and the channel around the trunk and sunroof to remove dirt and debris.
7. Dry the car using a chamois or soft terry towel in a back-and-forth motion, not in circles as this can lead to swirls in the finish. Remember to dry the door jambs, sunroof and trunk channels. Don’t let the car air dry, this will leave water marks.
The finishing touches
1. Polish the car, then wax as this yields the best results versus an all-in-one product. Polish is slightly abrasive and removes fine scratches while adding luster to the finish, while waxing protects the paint. And again, never rub in circles as it will create swirl marks in the paint. Instead, use a back-and-forth motion. If you have an older car, consider using a more abrasive cleaner wax. If your car is newer, use a less abrasive glaze wax. If you have a dark-colored vehicle, look for polishes formulated for darker colors.
2. Apply a silicone spray to your car’s weatherstripping in the door jambs to keep them moistened and prevent air and water leaks.
3. Spray tire-shine products on your car’s rubber to give that finishing touch to your wheels.