Spring is here! (Well, in some places. Sorry, New England.)
Now is the time to refresh and renew. To clean out your house, clear the winter debris from your yard, get your garden ready to bloom, maybe get that hair cut you’ve been putting off for so long.
Why leave out the place where you probably spend at least an hour every day: your car!
Cars are destined to get dirty, especially during winter. The outside picks up everything that’s thrown up by the road, while the inside gets filled with whatever people’s shoes track in. Not to mention trash, food crumbs and pet hair.
Especially if your have kids or dogs, your car’s interior can go from ok to embarrassing in very short order.
Don’t feel bad, we’ve all been there. Just set aside an afternoon and follow these tips – plus some truly ingenious hacks – to get your car as clean and shiny as new.
Give your car a good wash and wax. Scrub it all over with soft towel and mild detergent, getting into all the cracks and edges with a clay bar. (This is a resin mixture that removes all contaminants from your car’s paint, glass, fiberglass or metal.)
Over time, build-up of dirt and road salt can cause damage to your car’s paint and rust to its underbelly.
Corrosive road salt under the car is a big problem, especially after a harsh winter. Wash it off with an undercarriage cleaner, or an angled shower head from your garden hose.
Finish it off with a coat of spray or liquid wax. This looks nice and will help protect your car’s paint.
The car interior is probably the biggest job.
Start by cleaning out the trash, wiping down seats and vacuuming everything. Take out the mats, vacuum them and the carpet underneath. To get the mats fresh and clean, spray them with stain remover and send them through washing machine.
You might not look at your car ceiling so much but it’s just sitting there over your head, collecting dust. A regular cloth won’t do the trick: clean it with a microfiber cloth. (Like you’d use to polish your glasses or phone screen.)
What about all the cracks and crevices? All these little spots get filled with dirt and food crumbs. To get everything out, cover the end of a screwdriver with a rag and dig into those tricky places.
Leather seats are especially good at collecting junk in their cracks and edges. Get in there with a toothbrush and a mixture of water and baking soda.
Removing dog hair might seem daunting, but there a few tricks you can try. Many vacuums have a small brush attachment with rubber bristles that works well for hair.
A more fun option is to blow up a balloon and rub it across your car’s upholstery. Static electricity should make the hair stick to the balloon.
Or, put on rubber gloves, spray some water on the upholstery and sweep the seats vigorously with your hands. The hair will stick to your gloves.
To save trouble in the future, you might get a seat cover to protect the upholstery from the inevitable influx of fur and mud.
For a super-clean windshield, try this clever combination of glass cleaner, steel wool, Rain X. (Tempered glass is harder than steel wool, so it won’t scratch your windshield.)
Windshield wipers should be replaced every 6 months to a year, and spring is a great time to do it. A neat trick to keep your wipers from smearing across the windshield: douse them in rubbing alcohol.
4. Windows and mirrors
Clean all mirrors and windows, inside and out, with glass cleaner. Shine them with a dry towel to finish.
You car’s air vents can get pretty gross, and they’re tricky to clean. Considering you’re breathing what comes out of them every time you turn on the heat or AC, it’s well worth clearing them out.
You can get in there with a foam paint brush to sweep out all the dust, cobwebs and whatever else ends up in there. If that’s not enough, blast them with compressed air.
They’ll be good as new and you can enjoy fresh air again while driving.
So much junk ends up in the compartments of my car. Out of sight, out of mind… until you’re looking for something and you have to dig through archaeological layers of old receipts, broken CD’s, and who knows what else.
So grab a garbage bag and clean out everything you don’t need. Organize what’s left so you can actually find it when you need it.
While you’re at it, set up your car so the interior stays cleaner. Leave a designated trash bag in the car. If you have kids, get a big plastic container for them to eat out of in the back seat, so they won’t spread crumbs everywhere.
Cup holders tend to get especially revolting and they’re hard to clean. So put cupcake liners in them! They fit perfectly and collect all your clutter. When they get dirty, just remove and replace.
8. Under the hood
Lots of stuff can accumulate under the hood: leaves, dirt, road debris, and all sorts of grime. Just wiping away debris is often enough, but if it’s really dirty around the engine you might need to get it professionally cleaned.
It’s important to take good care of your battery, since if the terminals get corroded, you’re looking at a big problem. You can clean it with baking soda and a toothbrush (baking soda cleans everything!).
Unfasten both negative and positive cables before you do this. Check for any cracks that are leaking acid or rips in the cables or clamps. This might mean you have to replace those parts or the battery itself.
Make a mixture of 1 tablespoon baking soda with one cup of very hot water. After you scrub all the clamps and posts, rinse with cool water and lubricate all exposed metals with petroleum jelly or a commercial battery terminal protection spray, to minimize future corrosion.
Remove the hubcaps and give them a good wash. Scrub down your tires before replacing them. Now’s also a good time to check tire pressure and tighten any loose nuts.
Tire pressure increases with warmer weather. If you added air for the winter, take the pressure down now. It makes a big difference to your fuel efficiency and how well your car handles.
Dirty headlights aren’t just unsightly, they’re dangerous. Unless your lights are clear, it’s hard to you to see and for other drivers to see your car. Fortunately, you can get them clean and bright again with toothpaste!
The baking soda in toothpaste gets rid of dirt and grime, and repairs oxidation.
You will need first to clean the headlights with soap. Then use cloth to rub a mixture of toothpaste and water across them. Finally rinse with water.
Now that your car is squeaky clean, your next challenge is to keep it that way!
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and if you often do a little bit to clean your car, you won’t be stuck with a huge mess to clean all in one go.
Make a commitment not to leave garbage or stuff you don’t need in your car. If you brought it in, just take it out with you.
Once a week, give your car a light cleaning. Just a few minutes is all you need if you do it regularly. Your car will thank you – and so will everyone else who rides in it.