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3 Spring Car Cleaning Tips to Clear Off Winter Grime

Spring car cleaning can involve going to the car wash, which this photo depicts with a soaked windshield.
Hand wash

Spring car cleaning is a yearly ritual for anyone anxious to shake off the last traces of a dirty winter season. Road salt, grime, snow and ice can all take their toll on your vehicle’s paint, glass and finish, but fortunately there are a number of steps you can take to return your automobile’s looks to their pre-winter glory and forget all about the coldest months of the year. Check out these three tips for getting your car or truck spic and span for the springtime.

1. Do a Thorough Wash

It might seem obvious that a wash would be our first spring car cleaning tip, but we’re not just talking about a quick trip to the local automated spray-n-go. Once winter ends, it’s important to thoroughly wash out every nook and cranny of your vehicle to make sure that any accumulated gunk is out of the picture. This means an intensive wash session that gets under the car as well, as the chassis is often where deposits of salt and dirt pile up during winter driving. You won’t be able to accomplish this without a hand wash.

2. Don’t Forget the Interior

While the exterior of your vehicle might bear the brunt of winter’s wrath, the cabin also takes a beating. Where you’ll notice the most wear and tear is on the floor, where mats and carpets absorb salt and soak in whatever slush melts off of your boots.

Over time, salt can harden in your carpet’s fibers, making it difficult to remove using soap and water. Our tip for dealing with this crusty situation: Use either a handheld steam cleaner or a special spray-on enzyme cleaner that will break down the bonds made by the salt and separate it from your floor mats. Combine either of these methods with a stiff brush and you’ll be able to restore your mats to their pre-winter condition.

3. Perform a Polish and Wax

You might notice even after a thorough cleaning that your vehicle’s paint doesn’t shine quite as brightly as it did at the end of the fall. That’s typically because contaminants like road salt can react with your vehicle’s clear coat, plastic headlight covers and taillights to create a haze or dull their appearance.

Fortunately, it’s easy to turn back the clock by using an automotive polish to remove that thin layer of cloudiness and reveal your car’s true colors. You can apply polish by hand, but it’s fairly labor intensive — a random orbit polisher, which is safe to use even for beginners, is a much easier way to get your car looking its best. Once the exterior is polished, you’ll want to lock in that shine with an automotive wax or sealant, which will further protect your paint against any future damage from the elements.

Spring cleaning is a great way to reconnect with your car after a long winter struggle, and it can help you head into the summer looking and feeling your best out on the road.

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 spring car cleaning, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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