Washing and Cleaning The Vehicle – Warm Weather Tips
Washing and cleaning a vehicle really isn’t rocket science. It gets dirty, full of pollen, covered in sand, the salt or chemicals put on the roads during the winter season (snow, ice, freezing rain). You want to keep the vehicle clean as it is part of keeping up the maintenance on it, not just the mechanical parts.
There are other things that get the vehicle dirty, but when you clean it, you have to know how to properly clean it so that you don’t damage the paint, ruin the wheels (some wheel cleaners are extremely acidic and cannot be used with certain types of metal wheels such as aluminum), glass cleaner that leaves streaks, and other things as well.
Interior and Exterior Cleaning
There are products just for cleaning the outside of the car, inside of the car and also under the hood if your engine is covered in oil and debris (if you don’t know how to do this – please don’t attempt it. There are places that will clean the engine area for you at a nominal price.)
If you take it to the power wash be aware that your antenna (the wire one) could get bent in there. You can always remove the wire antenna to the car until the wash is done as they twist off. The car washes with brushes can bend and damage things if they aren’t removed or secured properly.
Some car washes offer detail services which means they can also vacuum and clean the interior of the car for you. There’s an extra charge for that, but in the end, the car is clean inside and outside. The car will go through the car wash and then you drive it up and the folks there will clean the interior. (Never leave items that you want to keep in the vehicle. Things like cellphones, GPS, laptops, IPods, jewelry, money, your wallet, purse and other things.)
“In my owner’s manual for my 2003 Buick Century, it says what types of cleaners to use to clean the car by hand. You may have a listing like that in yours as well, but you have to go to the index section of the manual to find it.”
Do It Yourself
If you are a smoker, you will not want to use a glass cleaner that doesn’t foam or has ammonia in it. A regular glass cleaner doesn’t clean off all the nicotine on the glass unless it’s a foaming brand. Ammonia has a strong smell, is not healthy for you and it leaves streaks on the glass.
I use the Invisible Foaming Glass Cleaner. You shake the can really good, you spray it on the glass and let it foam up. Then let it sit a few minutes (on a hot day… do it in a cooler or shady place) and then wipe it off with paper towels. Leaves a clean smell and clean windows. Very professional cleaner and it’s the only product I use on my windows for the car and the house.
If you like your car to look like it just came off the dealership floor, you will want car wash, wax, tire cleaner and wheel cleaner. Wire wheels and Aluminum ones have special cleaners that you must use on them.
You will need a mild car wash soap, a sponge or a soft cloth or washcloth, a bucket (for soap and water), and a hose to wash off the car.
- Put a small amount of soap in the bucket and add the warm water.
- Spray the car with water to wash off the pollen or any other dirt on it (as you don’t want to rub it into the paint with the soap).
- Wash all windows, roof, mirrors, wheels, tires, lights, bumps, ect.
- Rinse the car off thoroughly.
- Then you can use the wheel, tire and glass cleaner to detail it.
The metal that it is made with or because of the design requires these particular wheels to be cleaned with special products. If you use something that is not designed to be used with them (it says it right on the product what you cannot use the product on), you can weaken the wheel and it can cause you to have an accident.
To clean the inside of your car, you will want to vacuum it first before using any cleaning materials. You will need a carpet/upholstery cleaner (or two separate products if you want… one for upholstery and one for carpets), Vinyl or Leather cleaner, glass cleaner (see Window Cleaning above).
Vacuum the interior of the car first. The dash, the decklid (back dash), the doors if they have the velour stuff on them, the seats and the carpet.
Clean the vinyl with a good vinyl cleaner like a Mother’s brand. I use one that says Vinyl/Leather cleaner on it. Then use the glass cleaner sprayed onto a cloth like an old towel or washcloth. Clean the gauges, the screens, the rearview mirror and mirrors on the sun visors (the things that fold down).
Spray the carpeting first with a good carpet cleaner. There are many different brands to choose from. (Look in the store and read the labels for the type of carpeting issues you have. There’s actually one specific to removing hard to get out stains such as coffee, ink or spaghetti and you can use it on the upholstery too.)
Shake well and then spray, leave on the carpet and the rear dash (decklid) for the amount of time the product specifies. If the can comes with a scrubbing brush but it feels too soft, use a scrub brush. Gently scrub the carpet and then let it dry.
Clean the upholstery next. Shake well and spray the seats. Use the same technique to clean the seats. If you have stains, you may have to apply the product again and then scrub. Let it dry or use a wet/dry vacuum to clean up the cleaner and any wetness that the product may have left behind.
Clean the inside windows LAST. The reason for this is when you applied the carpet cleaner to decklid and vinyl cleaner to dash, some of it may have sprayed up onto the glass. You have to be able to see out of the window, so you should clean it last.
Waxing the Car
In the power wash, brushless car wash, or self serve car wash (do it yourself) there is a selection for wax of some sort. You can choose to do it that way or hand apply it.
You will need a soft cloth and a wax or cleaning wax product. Regular wax may come in a can like Turtle Wax or a spray bottle like Mother’s. Always read the directions. Each product has a certain way it’s applied for best results. Besides you want it done right, don’t you?
If you do wax the car by hand, do it in a shady spot as some waxes can get “cooked” into the paint. Then it looks weird and you will have to remove it and do it again. If you can’t fix it, see a detailer, they know all those tricks.
Special Cleaners for Special Spots
If you have a convertible roof, there are special cleaners out there to clean them with. You should not use just anything on them as you can ruin the material they are made with. It gets VERY expensive to have to have them reconditioned or replaced.
If it’s a new car, check your owners manual for details. If there is no information there, please talk with your car dealer as they can recommend the proper product to clean it with.
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