After a long winter, it’s important to go out to your car and knock off some of the winter rust. But where do you start? What is, or should be, the first order of car-care business?
Below are the ten most important things you should do to make sure your car is running in tip-top shape.
1. Check the Carpet and Upholstery
Using a damp cloth, wipe down the seats to pick up any loose gravel, mud, or dry dirt you may have picked up over the winter. The mixture of dirt and melted snow sometimes allows things to get inside the cracks of your car seat where you didn’t know they were there. If necessary, vacuum first to get the big particles up, and then use a glass cleaner to blot the stains out. Soak the stain spot for about five minutes, and then wipe a towel or cloth.
2. Clean the Console
It’s important to not get any liquid or chemicals on the electrical parts of your car system, but at the same time, they most likely have collected dust and other particles over the last few months. Use a soft duster to get the loose debris off, and then spray a little bit of polish on the wood grain and plastic components to give it that new car shine.
3. Organize the Mess
If you’re like most people, your car eventually becomes a repository for the stuff you don’t want to bring inside, as well as the things that you need for everyday life. Alleviate this pain by investing in a car organizational unit for between the seats or one that drapes off the back of the car seat. And of course, don’t forget to remove all those empty gas station cups that you’ve been tossing in the back seat too, as well as the gum wrappers in the seat back pocket.
4. Inspect the Trunk
Springtime is a perfect time to clean out all the garbage that has collected in your trunk over the winter, so be sure to vacuum the carpet and wipe down the plastic. While you’re there, pull the spare tire out of its slot and make sure it’s in good shape as well, and throw an emergency kit in the trunk if you don’t have one already. Those types of little things can make a huge difference if you find yourself stranded on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere.
5. Wipe the Glass
Car windows are notoriously tricky when it comes to a full, deep clean. You would think a simple household window cleaner would be enough, and while that might do for the windows, the mirrors are a different story entirely. Grab a good quality glass cleaner and a lint-free cloth (not newspapers or paper towels, you barbarian), and move the car into a shady spot. Heat causes the cleaner to evaporate quicker, leaving streaks and spots where there should be shine. Be sure you’re actually using a glass cleaner, not a multi purpose cleaner, as those products tend to create sudsy after-effects, and no one wants that. Clean your mirrors in small circles instead of huge wipes, and spray the cleaner on the cloth directly instead of on the glass.
6. Spray the Exterior
A thorough car wash is usually the first thing people think of when they decide to clean their car, but the first one after a long winter is often the most difficult. As you do your regular cleaning, make sure you get the grime out from underneath the cracks and edges of your car. This is the main reason that a manual wash, as opposed to the automatic ones you drive through, are superior; those simply wipe the top layer, and hardly ever get in the crevices.
If you’re unsure about how to clean your car the right way, here are some tips that will help.
- Grab buckets, soap, brush, and other supplies
- Hose the entire car once-over, working from the roof down.
- Apply shampoo solution with sponge, one side at a time, hosing the shampoo off before moving to the opposite side.
- Wash bumpers with shampoo and rub a cloth wet with vinegar on chrome to give it an extra shine
- Hose the entire car off again, opening and closing the doors and trunks to make sure no standing water remains.
7. Shine the Wheels
Wheels are another tricky area, so make sure to spend a little bit of extra time here. Remove the hubcaps so you can better clean in between the rims, and dip those in a baking soda solution to give it an extra shine. Scrub the tires thoroughly, removing any jagged rocks and checking for punctures that could produce slow leaks. Check the tire pressure while you’re there, and tighten up any lug nuts that may have rattled loose.
8. Pop the Hood
In no situation will you ever want to take a water hose to the inside of your engine. Besides the possibility of causing real damage to the car, it’s also completely unnecessary. The main thing you want to do here is remove any leaves or dirt that may have found their way underneath the hood, primarily in the air filter and other similar places. Wipe down the edges, and if necessary, bring your car to a professional to have that area specifically cleaned. It may be that debris is clogging up some of the processes of the engine; if so, you should notice a significant improvement in your car’s performance after a thorough cleaning.
9. Wax On, Wax Off
If you really want your car to pop, consider following up all the deep cleaning with a thorough wax job; this is usually the difference between a car that looks good, and a car that looks GREAT. Make sure you apply the wax out of direct sunlight, as the heat can cause it to dry before you smooth out the liquid, and choose a spray or liquid wax to get the best results. Always be wary when testing out a new product as well. Test it on a small, unnoticeable part of the car to make sure it does what you need. Here is a list of some good car buffing kits to get you started.
10. Install New Wipers (if necessary)
If it snowed during the winter, you most likely used your wipers to clean your windshield, but that means they also have had time to sit and possibly ice over. If you haven’t used your wipers yet in the springtime, check their condition to see if they have rotted or cracked at all over the previous few months. Replacements can be obtained any auto parts store for a relatively minimal price, and are usually installed in minutes.
BONUS: Extra Considerations
If you want to give your car a nice little bit of extra attention, consider the following steps as well:
- Change the oil
- Treat your engine to a tune-up
- Test the air conditioning
- Check the interior and exterior lights
- Raplace the tires (if necessary)