By Mike Meredith
you're an avid do-it-yourselfer and would like to invest a couple of
hours in your vehicle's appearance, these tips will help you achieve
Of course, the quickest and easiest solution to getting a sparkling clean car inside and out is to take it to a detail shop for a professional job. But at $75 to $300 a visit, there's plenty of incentive to learn what you can do on your own to optimize your car's appearance.
Be Careful How
Don't make the mistake of using dishwashing soap or a household cleaner on your car—they contain harsh detergents that can strip wax and damage paint.
As Craig Burnett, chemist for Mothers Polishes-Waxes-Cleaners, put it, "Car wash products are designed to remove automotive dirt from cars, not grime from clothes or grease from dishes. Don't confuse your kitchen with your garage."
Luckily, car wash products are carried by a range of retail outlets, from auto parts shops to hardware stores. Even some grocery stores carry a limited stock.
And, before you start, if you suspect that you may have unique paint or other accessories that may require special attention, check your vehicle's owner's manual for any manufacturer recommendations.
It's All About
"You should wash your car a minimum of once a week, due to the fact that your car is constantly bombarded with contaminants such as tree sap mist and bird droppings," Pennington told CarPoint. "If the contaminants are not removed quickly they can bond to the paint and even etch the paint."
If at all possible, park your vehicle in a cool, shaded location before getting started. Washing your car in the sun can cause some surfaces to dry faster than you may want them to, leaving residue and unwanted streaks.
Basic guidelines to bear in mind:
After the final rinse, wipe the excess water from the vehicle surface to prevent water spotting. A soft terry cloth towel or a high-quality chamois are recommended. Keep the towel or chamois clean to help prevent scratching, and wipe the vehicle lightly to soak up water without abrading the surface.
Wheels and Wheel
Luckily, there are a number of car care products on the market that do a good job of removing brake dust. Choose wisely and be sure to read the directions carefully.
A spray-on cleaner designed for premium alloy wheels, for instance, will begin to strip a wheel's protective varnish if not rinsed off in the prescribed time frame. And the same spray applied to wheels with plastic wheel covers could have serious corrosive effects.
If you're not sure what kind of wheels or wheel covers you have, refer to your owner's manual for instructions. But once you've identified the right product for your wheels, you'll find it very quick and easy to keep the wheels looking bright and new. With a typical wheel cleaner, you simply spray it on and rinse after 30 to 60 seconds.
Tires Look Like New
One of the easiest and most effective ways to improve the appearance of your vehicle is to apply a protectant to the tires. Many tire dressings simply spray on and require no wiping—giving the tires a clean, slightly glossy look that highlights your clean wheels.
Similar protectants are available for black rubber or vinyl trim pieces on the outside of the vehicle. For the final touch, polish any chrome trim with a product specifically for chrome. Chrome polish is designed to help remove any oxidation that has developed, restoring the chrome's sparkle.
When Should I
Wax My Car?
But clearcoats themselves need attention, too.
"Clearcoats can give drivers a false sense of security by appearing to protect the underlying base coat," Matthew Broderick, group vice president of marketing at Turtle Wax Inc, told CarPoint.
"Clearcoats are fragile and susceptible to scratches, abrasions and swirls. When a clearcoat surface is scratched and pitted as a result of not waxing, the light can't reflect evenly off the surface, which makes the paint look dull."
Most manufacturers recommend that you wax your vehicle twice a year to protect it from damage and maintain the color and shine. Some auto-care suppliers recommend monthly waxing.
"Ideally, a vehicle should be waxed three to four times per year," according to Pennington, to maximize the protection provided by the wax. "A good strategy is to start right before the winter and get on to a three-month cycle."
Waxing your vehicle will help remove paint oxidation and surface dirt, while adding a protective coating. Wax will improve or remove minor damage such as surface scratches or light contaminants and provide a high-luster finish. Again, consult your vehicle's manual for specific recommendations.
For additional shine between wax jobs, several manufacturers offer spray-and-wipe products to quickly enhance the vehicle's shine, such as Turtle Wax Emerald Series Premium Detailer and Meguiar's Quik Detailer.
If your vehicle's paint has been damaged, the paint may need additional work requiring the use of other types of products. You should consult a professional detail shop, auto paint repair shop, or car care product manufacturer for advice before using any products that contain abrasives.
Sprucing Up the
First, thoroughly vacuum the car's interior to remove all loose, dry dirt. And be very careful when you reach under the seat—you may have forgotten what you placed under there.
Lint-free towels and clean water will be the main tools for the dash area and seats. Cotton swabs are helpful for getting dust out of tight spots. For the carpet, a clean, stiff-bristled brush is indispensable.
Pennington suggests you always use a product that is designed for the surface you want to clean, whether it is leather, vinyl, plastic, wood, simulated wood or upholstery. Each product is specifically formulated for a particular surface and will not work effectively on other surfaces, and may even damage them.
For carpet areas, use a small amount of a carpet cleaning product and a small amount of water with a stiff-bristle brush. "The biggest problem with interior cleaning is that many people over saturate the carpet when they shampoo," explained Pennington. "A wet-dry shop vacuum is useful for removing excess water. It is very important to let the carpet dry thoroughly before closing the vehicle up tight.
For cleaning windows, avoid products that contain ammonia, because ammonia can damage window tint film on the inside of the windows. Although the tint may have already been in place when you purchased the vehicle, you may not realize that it is a film that needs to be protected. Clean water and lint-free towels are effective for quick window touch-up.
Don't use ammonia or any similar harsh chemical to clean seatbelts, either. They could weaken the webbing, affecting the belts' ability to protect you during a crash.
If you use a protectant or dressing on the dash pad, be sure that it does not leave the surface shiny. A shiny dash can reflect light and be a safety hazard while driving.
Armor All Products Corp., a leading supplier in the auto protectant category, also advises that for safety's sake keep important parts of your car clean and dry—but not slippery. For example, don't put protectant on the steering wheel or the pedals.
If you carry out all of the procedures outlined above, the hours you invest will result in a vehicle that will be considerably easier to keep clean in the future with a routine of weekly or biweekly washing. Combine your washing regimen with a good waxing and interior detailing every three months and the whole process will become quicker and easier each time you do it.
Article from Carpoint.