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How to Detail Your Car at Summer’s End

2015 Nissan Juke

As summer comes to a close, you may be facing autumn’s approach with fond memories of road trips and vacations. Unfortunately, all that travel means there may be lingering messes in your car, including sand, dried ice cream and hardened bubble gum. While on the outside, bugs, road tar and other debris must be dealt with.

Here’s how to detail your car at summer’s end:

Choose Your Day

You should wash and wax your car regularly throughout the year. But detailing immediately after winter, and again when summer comes to an end, will keep your car looking great. Weather extremes punish your car, including the finish and interior. You should aim to detail your car around Labor Day, or right after your final big trip of the year.

A special foam cleaner can restore dirty car seats in no time.Assemble Your Tools

Detailing goes beyond your typical car cleaning to concentrate on every nook and crevice inside and outside of your car. When planning how to detail your car, get your materials together. Gather fabric and window cleaner, leather soap, carpet and all-purpose cleaner and a vacuum cleaner with attachments. For the exterior, you’ll need car wash solution, sponges or a wash mitt, chamois towels, a scrub brush and tire cleaner. Connect your garden hose and grab two buckets — one bucket is for the car wash solution, and the other is for rinsing.

Work From the Inside Out

Roll down the windows, remove the floor mats, empty the storage compartments and connect the vacuum cleaner. Begin vacuuming from top to bottom, using the brush attachment to move across the upper and lower dashboard, then to the center console. Next, begin to vacuum from the headrests down, and use the wand attachment to clean between and under the seats. Vacuum each storage compartment, including the glove box, center console, door compartments, and the trunk or storage area. Save the carpets for last. As needed, use fabric cleaner on cloth seats, leather cleaner and a carpet cleaner on the appropriate surfaces. Consider steam cleaning your carpets for the best possible results. If gum is stuck to the carpet, apply heat with a hair dryer, then try to stick the gum to another surface. Clean the windows and use the all-purpose cleaner for hard surfaces. Be careful here: If there are any high-end materials to contend with, consult your owner’s manual for the proper care instructions. Once you’re done cleaning the interior, roll up the windows and move on to the next step.

Turn Your Attention to the Exterior

Park your car in a shady area and rinse it thoroughly. Fill both buckets with clean water and add car wash solution (see the instructions for the correct proportions) to one. Wash your car section by section, rinsing each section before moving on to the next area. Naturally, areas with excessive gunk will need extra attention. For instance, the grille may be filled with dead insects. Carefully attend to every opening and crevice to remove debris. Be sure to wring the mitt or sponge in the clear water bucket as needed.

Job Done Right

The last steps are to clean the windows and the tires. Be sure to take a scrub brush to your tires before you use the tire cleaner, and to wash your windshield with water before glass cleaner. Then apply a wax for superior gloss and protection. Finally, clean up and admire your hard work.

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 detailing, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.


Matthew C. Keegan View All

Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.

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