How to: Detail Your Car at Summer’s End

Have summer trips left your car looking a little worse for wear? Keeping your car clean isn't purely for comfort and aesthetics. Regular detailing will keep rust at bay and make your interior last longer, extending your vehicle's life and protecting its value. Right after the weather extremes of summer and winter are perfect times of year to give your car a thorough cleaning.

You will need:

Vacuum with attachments Car wash solution
Bucket Upholstery or leather cleaner
Garden hose All-purpose cleaner or specialty dash product
Paper towels or microfiber cloths Sap/Tar remover if necessary
Sponge Dish soap or specialty wheel and tire cleaner
Terry cloth towels Touch-up paint
Window cleaner Automotive wax


Begin your detailing from the inside out.

Remove the floor mats, any leftover trash, trunk contents, and any compartment clutter built up leftover from summer road trips. Vacuum from top to bottom, starting with the brush attachment on the dashboard, and work your way down the seats to the floor. Use a wand attachment to get in the tight spaces under the seats and between the seats and consoles. Don’t forget each door compartment and the trunk. (An empty trunk is a good opportunity to check the pressure in your spare tire!) Use upholstery cleaner or leather cleaner/conditioner on the seats as needed. Wash the insides of the windows and use all-purpose cleaner on the hard surfaces. If you have any specialty or high end materials on your interior, consult your manual for care instructions. Clean off the bottom of the doors and inside the window channels to remove any residual grime.

When the interior is finished, give your car a good wash.

Road grit can damage your car’s paint and will coat the bottom of your car with grime that can cause corrosion. Corrosion can lead to rust problems and affect the safety of your car.

Wash your car when the metal isn’t hot, so the soap doesn’t have time to dry onto the paint. Before beginning rinse off any loose grime. Use a dedicated car wash solution for best results. Dish soap and household cleaners can strip off the paint’s protective wax finish and make it look dull. If you are contending with difficult to clean substances like tar or tree sap you’ll need a specialty product. You can find these in the automotive section of big box stores or at your local Advance/AutoZone. Wash in long strokes lengthwise across the body panels. Using a circular motion can cause noticeable swirling scratches. Work in sections, washing and rinsing each area before moving on. (This is also a good time to check your wiper blades. The intense summer sun dries out and cracks the rubber, which can then scratch the windshield and limit visibility. Don’t wait for the first snowfall to find out they’re past their prime.)

Save the wheels and tires for last.

Wash the body before moving to the tires and rims, or use a separate sponge and bucket. Sand and brake dust from the tires can mar the paint. Wheels and tires can be cleaned with a mild dish soap or a specialty product. Be sure any cleaner is compatible with your wheels’ finish.

Don't forget the finishing touch.

After rinsing, dry off the surface with a soft terry cloth towel to avoid any hard water spots. Fill any large chips with touch up paint to stay ahead of rusting. The final step is to apply a coat of wax following the manufacturer's instructions. Waxing your car 2-4 times per year will bring out the shine and protect against minor scratches. A spray waxing in between regular waxes will help maintain the glossy sheen.
Giving your car a good pre-winter cleaning will extend its life and protect the value of your investment.

Source: NAPA

Written by Hillside Automotive

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