And after the winter we just had, there are plenty of reasons to recondition our vehicles, both inside and out.

Matt McDougall, manager of VIP in Auburn explained that one reason to clean your vehicle is for safety.

“It’s great to have the exterior of your car look nice, but safety should be the number one concern. Winter is the harshest season on your vehicle with salt, sand, temperature swings and pot holes; it can be pretty brutal. Keeping the exterior clean can also save you money by extending the life of your vehicle,” said McDougall.

For McDougall, tires are the first thing to check.

“Although tires should be checked frequently, it’s essential that they be checked in the spring,” he said. “If you have snow tires, don’t delay in changing them. It will give you optimal use next season. If you don’t have snow tires, bring your car in and get the treads examined and replaced if needed. Check the air pressure, get them rotated and while you are at it, have the alignment checked.”

Windshield wipers are the next car part to check.

“I recommend changing windshield wipers every six month,” explained McDougall. “Bad wipers can give an obscured view causing an accident, easily avoided with wipers that are properly changed. If you have recently changed them, clean the blade with alcohol.”

Before washing and waxing, do a thorough inspection of the car.

“Winter’s salt and snow can wreak havoc on all those seldom-seen parts, so take a good look at the underside and crevices of your car for corrosion or rust; the longer they go undiscovered, the more dangerous they become, as well as expensive.

“Open the hood too,” he added. “Clean out any debris and check all fluid levels.”

Now to get all that salt off the car.

“Before starting your own cleaning and polishing on the exterior of the car, take it to a car wash and get the undercarriage blasted. You don’t want that salt lingering. Once you get home, open all the doors and wash the inside edges as salt can creep in there as well. One important thing to do is clean out door and body drain holes. The best method is to use a plug installation tool for tires. Simply stick an old shop rag into the slot and the rag will drag out dirt quite easily.”

McDougall has some helpful hints on washing and waxing your vehicle:

  • Never wash or wax your car in direct sunlight and use products as directed.
  • Divide washing by compartment and rinse with high-pressured water quickly to prevent shampoo drying out and leaving spots.
  • Hose down wheel wells and use a tire cleaner with a soft brush.
  • Using a tire dressing offers more than just a shine: it will help prevent fading, drying and cracking.
  • Use a rain repellent that is not alcohol-based on windshields.

For the interior, Tammy Billings at Pep Boys in Auburn explained the importance of caring for seats, carpets and windows.

“Your vehicle is one of the largest investments you make, and keeping your interior clean improves the looks and life of your vehicle,” said Billings. “When it comes to resale, dealers and individuals will take note of the lack of care, bringing down its value.”

Billings has some helpful hints to making your interior look and smell new again.

Vacuum from top to bottom and power wash or swap out floor mats. Use the vacuum tools to get window edges, cup holders and between the console and seats.

Scrub upholstery, seat belts and carpet with an automotive upholstery and carpet cleaner. Be thorough with the carpet as it acts like a wet rag, soaking up the salt which can get into the floor boards and accelerate rusting. Stain lifters are available for stubborn spills and fabric protector will prevent future stains.

Wash all the windows using a car-window cleaner as the ammonia in household cleaners will make fogging worse. Put a towel on the dash or use a pointed washer tool now available to do the windshield. Also remember to wind down your windows to get the tops.

Use automotive-type cleaners like ArmourAll or Meguiar’s for best results on leather, dashboards and instrument panels. Do not use an oil-based cleaner on your steering wheel to avoid slipping while driving. Mechanic’s hand cleaner works great on plastic with scuff marks from shoes. Small brushes are available for vents and tight areas.

Replace the cabin filter which keeps dirt and odors from entering the ventilation system. There are also many sprays, including Ozium which, opposed to a fragrance, not only improves odor, but reduces airborne bacteria and eliminates smoke odors as well.

“There really are some great products on the market for do it yourselfers,” said Billings. “And while you are cleaning, there are also great organizers to keep items from rolling around and getting underfoot while driving.”

With a bit of practice, you will become a pro at cleaning your car in no time, adding life and safety to your vehicle.


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