With consumers keeping cars longer, the need for maintenance is more important than ever. One of the first places to start is with a regular schedule of washing and waxing the exterior of your vehicle.

Heidi Gepfert knows this all too well. Her father, Yvon Pellerin, maintains a car wash enterprise with nine locations that has been in operation for 42 years. As a youngster, she helped out with the family business, but for the last 15 years, she’s worked officially in the business doing public relations. She now has a second floor office at Yvon’s hub location on Lincoln Street in Lewiston.

“Everything basically starts with washing your vehicle; that’s important, especially with the winter conditions we have had this year,” said Gepfert. “Whatever type of salt they put on the roads, (literally) eats vehicles.”

In a year with record-breaking snow storms, she said that the combination of sand and salt is taking its toll on vehicles. Regular washes are a must.

“I recommend that people wash their vehicles at least once a week,” said Gepfert, noting that this can clear away the buildup of salt residue and grime.

Area car wash centers have many wash options from automated systems to do-it-yourself washes where the car owner does more hands-on cleaning.

“Many people appreciate the convenience factor of full-service washes where everything is automated and the staff hand dry the vehicle after the wash,” said Gepfert. She said that others like the self-serve washes where the owner can use the bubble brush themselves to scrub away dirt and to follow through with wash, rinse, and wax cycles.

When warmer weather arrives, many people choose to wash their vehicles in their backyards with garden hoses. While this is a great option, Gepfert cautions to use the right kind of soap for cleaning.

“I wouldn’t use household dish soap on a vehicle,” said Gepfert. “It is not designed for car washing and it can be damaging.”

According to the car care website Edmunds.com, “All major brands of car washes, car waxes and related detailing products are specially formulated to work gently on the clear-coat paint finishes found on every car built since the mid-1990s. They’re ideal for removing dirt above and below the surface, eliminating swirls and other imperfections and leaving a high-gloss shine.”

The website goes on to recommend that home-based car washing is always best when the vehicle is parked in a cool, shady place.

“Although many modern car waxes are sun-friendly since they won’t dry too quickly and become difficult to remove, you’ll expend less effort if you use them on a cool surface. For best results, the car’s surface should be no more than warm to the touch.”

The site also recommends having a good stock of microfiber towels on hand for washing and drying the car and for applying and removing car wax. “A microfiber towel is gentler to a car’s finish than a cotton towel or chamois, which could mar the finish, creating slight scratches or ruts that accumulate over time.”

The site recommends that microfiber towels be washed separately from all other laundry and especially not with linty cotton towels. “Use hot water and don’t use fabric softener. Run them through at least one additional rinse cycle in the washing machine. Then dry them on a low-heat setting.”

“I suggest that people get a buff and wax at least once a year,” said Gepfert. “This removes oxidized paint, dirt and blemishes.” She noted that some owners follow up with a traditional hard wax a few more times each year.

While the exterior of a vehicle might look great with regular maintenance, Gepfert suggests that vehicle owners pay equal attention to what is under the hood.

“If you want your vehicles to last, don’t forget things like oil changes, monitoring fluids, checking the battery, and watching for tire wear,” said Gepfert. “Pay attention to the recommended maintenance schedule that comes with your vehicle.”


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