Spring is here! The snow has melted, the flowers are blooming and it’s raining all the time. You might pick up a little mud driving to soccer practice, or maybe you actually go out looking for it. Either way, it’s mud season. Your car is all kinds of dirty, and waiting for the next rain to take care of it isn’t an option. How do you clean up your act?
Keeping the outside of your car clean is more than just keeping up appearances. The gritty texture of dried mud in combination with the alkaline soil quality in many places can be tough on your paint job. Furthermore, large deposits of mud can trap moisture against unpainted surfaces that are susceptible to rusting. No matter where you find it, the number-one rule for getting mud off any part of your car is to do so ASAP. The longer the sun bakes it into place, the more difficult it’s going to be. When dealing with the exterior, make sure you only use cleaning solvents that won’t damage your paint job. Additionally, if you wax it, it will be easier to clean next time.
The kids, the dog! It’s bound to happen, so you might as well be prepared for it. Always have properly fitted floor mats in place and lay a blanket down if you know something really dirty is going to be transported. Also, if moisture gets in, it’s important to dry it out immediately or you risk a mold infestation on top of the mess. Park the car in a secure, sunny spot and leave the windows down — even a little is better than nothing — to dry it out.
Mud can also damage suspension components over time. The underside of a vehicle is notoriously difficult to clean, so again, do it immediately. Use a brush for better reach. You can also use a power washer as long as you don’t spray directly up into the engine area. Make sure any cleaning chemicals you use won’t degrade or harden the rubber bushings. If you have gotten into a lot of mud accidentally (or on purpose), check your differential fluid for dirt or water that might have gotten in through the breather. If it’s a milky color or you find particles, it should be changed.
Under the Hood
The engine should be kept clean, but carefully so. Dirt particles can wreak havoc on moving parts, like bearings, and easily clog filters, but there are other considerations to keep in mind. Before taking a water hose to it, cover any sensitive electronic components, filters, the distributor and the air intake. Clean the alternator by hand, and be careful not to short it out. A bit of degreaser may come in handy, but avoid getting it on O-rings, electronics or painted surfaces. Don’t forget the radiator; clogs and dirt make it far less effective at dissipating heat. If you have an electric cooling fan keep clear of the blades, as some vehicles may engage the fan even after being shut off.
It’s important for the long-term health of your car to keep it clean. A little extra effort along the way will keep it in better condition for years to come, either for your enjoyment or for resale. Remember to tackle a mess before it becomes a permanent fixture, and don’t forget there’s more to your vehicle than just the exterior.
Check out all the chemical products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on mud season, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.
Photo courtesy of Flickr.
Blair Lampe is a New York-based professional mechanic, blogger, theater technician, and speechwriter. In her downtime she enjoys backpacking wherever her boots will carry her, rock climbing, experimental theatre, a crisp rosé , and showering love on her 2001 Sierra truck.