Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Car
Spring cleaning a car may sound strange but a lot of people do it – for good reasons. For most people, their car is their most or second-most expensive tangible asset – it makes sense to care for it.
Here’s how to give it a spring clean…
Firstly, when it comes to vehicles – what is a ‘spring clean’?
It means returning it to near-showroom condition as best you can and replacing anything (easy) that’s damaged or suffering from overuse. Spring cleaning a car goes hand-in-hand with basic skills to keep your car well maintained.
The benefits? A cleaner, fresh interior, a smoother running engine and knowing everything works as it should. Also, if you plan to sell it or trade it in, buyers won’t have as many things to argue the price down with.
Start with the interior before washing the car with water. This keeps power cables for vacuum cleaners dry and helps avoid dragging any mud in.
Remove your floor mats and bang them out away from the car. You’ll be surprised how much dust and dirt gets embedded in them. After you’ve shaken as much out as possible, give them a vacuum.
Vacuum the footwells in the car while the floor mats are removed.
Upholstery and Carpets
With the floor mats out of the vehicle, give the seats and carpets a good vacuum. Depending on how dirty your car is, you may need to wipe over the seats and carpets with a clean, slightly damp cloth too. If you’ve noticed bad smells, make sure to use a spray-on air freshener.
Sometimes you’ll come across glass fragments or other sharp objects so use gloves. If you find more dust and dirt visible when cleaning the carpets with a damp cloth, vacuum again. Don’t forget to repeat the process in the boot too.
When done, put the floor mats back in.
Tip: Make sure to clean under the seats, including the seat rails – this can be an old food graveyard which causes bad smells.
Plastics and Windows
The sun, especially the brutal Aussie sun, can extract chemicals from plastics in dashboards leaving a residue on the inside of your windscreen. Make sure to thoroughly clean the insides of all windows with a proper window cleaner and clean cloth.
Products like Armorall are perfect for auto plastics. Give your dashboard, door trims and other plastic surfaces a clean with a protectant.
Tip: If you’re really keen, use some cotton tips (q-tips) to clean the seams and gaps in the gauge cluster, radio buttons and a/c controls.
Replace the air conditioner filter
Or make sure it’s been recently changed as per your service history. Commonly located behind your glovebox, you may need to consult your owner’s manual and also make sure to buy the correct size. The A/C filter, or cabin filter, has the job of filtering the air you and your passengers breathe in when driving. They filter (some) pollutants, dust and pollen. If you’ve never replaced yours, you’ll be surprised how filthy they can get.
This can be a tricky one. Be careful not to get water on any electrics and make sure the engine isn’t hot. A slightly damp cloth is a good idea for wiping off dust and any oil or coolant spills.
With the know-how of replacing your cabin filter previously, replace the engine air filter too. Unless you’ve regularly serviced your car, this will likely be absolutely filthy. Make sure to check what size your car needs before buying one – most cost around $40. Check in your owner’s manual on how to access the filter, usually only plastic clips or simple tools are needed.
After completing the interior spring clean, it’s time to move onto the wet stuff. Ideally, only water, car cleaning products and microfibre cloth should touch your paint.
You may have seen headlights with a murky-yellow colouration on them. This is UV damage. The good news is that it’s easy to fix. A headlight restoration kit is a good bet. Depending on the severity, some can be repaired with polish and elbow grease.
A simple trip to your auto parts retailer is all this one takes. If you’ve noticed spots being missed or scraping noises occurring when using your windscreen wipers, they need replacing. The vast majority of them simply unclip without any tools and can be replaced in minutes. You’ll notice a big difference next time it rains.
Obviously, an important part of spring cleaning a car. Use actual car wash liquid and microfibre cloth / microfibre wash mitt. If you drop the microfibre cloths on the ground, do not use them without washing them – debris picked up can scratch your paint.
Start by hosing down the car to remove as much dust as possible. Wash the car panel by panel, making sure to rinse off the wash mitt regularly to remove debris. The more thoroughly you wash the car, the better the result will be.
Dry the car with microfiber towels, being careful to clean up drips as they occur. Any soapy water drips will leave marks if left out to dry.
This means ‘sealing’ the surface of the paint. It can protect your car’s paint from sun damage, some light scratches and stone chips. Paint sealant comes in a variety of forms and different products. Talk to a professional to make sure you select the correct one for your vehicle. Common options include wax, acrylic and ceramic and depending on application, can last years.
The bottom line:
Treating your expensive possessions well is a no-brainer. Spring cleaning a car may require a budget of a full Saturday (depending on how thorough you are) but the results last months or even years. There are many other cost-friendly ways to upgrade your car too. Additionally, paying someone to do it for you will cost far more than spring cleaning a car yourself.
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