Winter can be rough on your vehicle. Cold temperatures, road salt and other deicing chemicals take their toll, both inside and out. Late spring is the ideal time to give your car some tender loving care as the threat of snow has passed and the days are not too hot, allowing you a comfortable environment in which to work. Sure, detailing your car involves some hard work, however, but with these tips, you can work smarter and save money.
Periodic detailing of your vehicle is important to keep the exterior looking brand new, prevent rust as it ages and remove harmful allergens and dirt from the interior. Follow these helpful hacks to get a better-than-professional detailing.
Get Rid of Hidden Interior Dirt
Before getting to the nitty-gritty, remove all garbage from the interior and vacuum thoroughly with a hose attachment. Don’t forget the area between the seats and underneath where a lot of food crumbs fall. An old toothbrush is one of your best friends for cleaning the interior because you can use it to pick up dirt that your vacuum hose won’t reach. Cleaning air vents prove to be a little trickier, so a foam paintbrush is an affordable tool for that job. Keep the vacuum hose near as you clean with the toothbrush and paintbrush to suck the dirt away immediately.
Once loose dirt is removed, deep clean your mats and carpeting. Apply stain remover to dirty floor mats and then you can place them in the washing machine. Use an all-purpose detergent and a scrub brush to thoroughly clean carpeting and cloth upholstery. Use a wet/dry shopvac to get the soapy water out of the floors and upholstery.
If you have leather upholstery, make sure to use a cleaner that won’t damage it. One inexpensive way to polish leather interiors is to simply use olive oil, although be sure not to use oil on the steering wheel as it may cause you to lose grip while driving.
Stubborn problems need special care. You can use paper and an iron to remove crayon wax. Magic erasers can lift goo from vinyl and leather, but use gently so as not to damage the fabric. Take that toothbrush and use a mixture of baking soda and vinegar to scrub stains on vinyl.
Keep the interior smelling good and the air quality high by changing the cabin air filter, often found under a panel below the glove box. However, in some cars, such as in some Volkswagens or Audis, the cabin air filter can be found directly under the windshield on the passenger side in a compartment under the hood or sometimes inside of the engine cover (as with a 2012 VW Jetta) depending on the model. Check your owner’s manual if you are unsure.
To freshen up the interior and not damage air quality, avoid using chemical air fresheners. Keep a fresh clean smell by using a DIY air freshener made of baking soda or attach a wooden clothespin soaked with essential oil to the vents.
Make the Exterior Shiny and New
Thoroughly washing the exterior of winter salts and chemicals as well as dirt is the first step to keeping it looking good. Microscopic scratches and dents can cause rust to form when the exterior is not cleaned. Start by hosing down the exterior with water. Be sure to use a gentle car washing soap, not dish soap, which can strip away paint. Use clean microfiber towels rather than paper towels, old shirts, sponges or bath towels which may harm the paint and always clean in one direction.
Don’t forget to thoroughly clean the undercarriage to help prevent rust. After rinsing, wipe the exterior dry with a clean microfiber cloth. Use an approved car wax and buff to a shine. Be sure to work in small areas waxing then removing then move on to the next area.
Even a thorough washing can leave grime and bugs behind. Try these tips to get your exterior as clean as possible:
- Use a clay bar to remove stubborn contaminants bonded to your vehicle’s surface
- Remove scratches and etching below the surface with a compound made for that purpose
- Use steel wool and glass cleaner to shine your windshield, then finish with a product like Rain-x
- Clean your wipers’ edges with rubbing alcohol to keep them from streaking the windshield
- Remove grime from dingy headlights with toothpaste and a cloth
- Dryer sheets can help remove bugs stuck on the grille
- Clean tires and wheels with products specified for the job
- Try rubbing toothpaste on the headlights to make them a little less hazy, although for like-new headlight restoration, you should consult a professional
Now that the inside and outside of your vehicle are clean, don’t neglect its condition under the hood. Here is where you should certainly know what you’re doing because there are many vulnerable components. These include the air intake, the alternator, electrical connections, filters and more that need to be protected. This may be an area where you want to trust certified professionals.
Now that the spring cleaning is complete, don’t forget the important spring and summer maintenance such as a radiator clean and flush and an A/C checkup. Bring your VW or Audi into your certified, trusted mechanic, such as Hillside Imports if you’re in the Portland area, for a complete preventative maintenance check before you head out for your summer road trip.
Executive Director, Hillside Imports
Krista Rodriguez is a Portland native working in the automotive industry for the past 18 years. An active member of the community, Krista volunteers within Tigard Tualatin School District and serves as the Treasurer for the Foundation for Tigard Tualatin Schools.