If you own a car, keeping it in good repair is usually uppermost on your mind. That is, until you have been elected as the designated driver for a bunch of Little Leaguers, or have to drive the in-laws to this year's family reunion.
Then the quest to impress turns panicky attention to removing dings and scratches and giving your car a good wash and waxing.
The interior probably needs a once-over, too - including getting stains out of upholstery after vacuuming up the trash from the car mats and floors.
Do-it-yourself car wash
While more car owners are apt wash their cars, giving it a thorough waxing (at least twice a year, in the spring and fall, recommend the experts) helps protect the finish from wind and rain, as well as snow melting chemicals during the winer.
When washing the car before waxing, always avoid harsh dish washing detergents, abrasive soaps or degreasers or you may risk stripping away the car's finish. Instead, again say the experts, use a mild soap like Ivory Liquid or a commercial car-wash product which is specifically designed for use on automotive paint.
Additional tips and tricks to washing your car include:
To protect from scratches, always wash your car using a soft sponge, terrycloth or a washing mitt.
To avoid soapy water from leaving deposits on the finish, never wash your car in direct sunlight or when the engine is hot.
To further protect against soap buildup, wash your car in sections and rinse often.
Avoid using a swirling motion with the sponge, which can result in small scratches on the finish which will become evident later. Instead, use straight, even strokes.
Use a separate sponge to clean the wheels and tires, which may be coated with sand, dust, and other debris that may damage the car's finish.
How to keep your car's interior clean and organized
If you regularly schedule a good cleaning on the weekends or on a week night, keeping your car's interior clean and organized can be easy and less time-consuming than you think.
You can start by making it less of a chore by storing all your car cleaning materials and equipment in the trunk in a separate box or plastic bag.
An ideal car cleaning kit should include a portable car vacuum, upholstery cleaners, soft clothes, paper towels, cotton swabs (for cleaning interior AC vents and tight corners), a small sponge, cleaning wipes, spray bottle and mild soap.
Cleaning spills or stains as they occur will help reduce the need for pulling out the heavy soap and shampooing artillery later. Use harsh detergents and spot removers sparingly, and not before applying to a small area to test for color fastness. Ammonia especially is not recommended for cleaning seatbelts (which may weaken fibers), or for interior windows which have been tinted.
Apart from the social stigma of driving a 'dirty' car, regular cleaning can also extend the life of the interior and exterior. Should you wish to sell your car someday it may also contribute to your car's overall resale value by keeping your car looking brand new, both inside and out.
6 Car Waxing Tips of the Pros - Expert tips on where to wax, application, buffing, polishing, double waxing, and how to avoid streaks. Plus surf down to the bottom of the page for an extensive cache of related how-to articles on car waxing and washing. How to Safely Remove Fine Scratches from Your Car's Paint