Extreme weather can take its toll on your car’s inside, outside and undercarriage. In some areas of the country, winter can be particularly rough on vehicles; snow and ice can leave dents and road salt can eat away at the body. Use this spring cleaning checklist to help restore your car to its previous luster.
1. Start From the Bottom
The first step in freshening up your car for the warm weather is to remove salt from the underside of your vehicle. There are two easy ways to do this:
- Connect a garden hose to a spigot, drag the hose out to your car and reach directly underneath to wash out every exposed area.
- If the do-it-yourself method sounds unappealing, take your car to a brushless car wash — specifically one that includes an undercarriage wash.
2. Wash and Wax Your Car
If you decide to wash the car yourself, choose a liquid or a powder cleaner for the body. If there are tar or other stains on the finish, a stronger formula designed to protect the finish and remove stubborn spots will be necessary. Stay away from abrasives that can scratch the paint, like steel wool.
Once your car is dry, apply wax. A synthetic polymer-based wax will offer you longer-lasting protection.
3. Check Your Tires
The third step on the spring cleaning checklist is specific to the tires and wheels. Because standard car wash cleaner will not get your tires sufficiently clean, use a dedicated tire and wheel cleaner.
Liberally apply the tire cleaner to the outer surface, then use a tire brush to vigorously scrub back and forth. When done, apply the cleaner to the wheels, allow the solution to set for a minute, then use a clean paintbrush to gently remove any debris. Next, rinse the wheel and tire with a hose. Dry both with a microfiber towel.
4. Replace the Wiper Blades
The beginning of spring is a great time to replace wiper blades, especially if the rubber has cracked or is torn. Generally, wiper blades last about six months, so replacing them once in the spring and again in the fall is recommended.
Whenever you notice streaking or skipping on the windshield, it’s time to swap out your blades. Use any standard window solution to clean the inside of your front and rear windows — there may be more dirt blocking your vision than you realize.
5. Clean the Interior
The same salt and grime that attacked your car’s exterior during the colder months probably found its way inside of your vehicle. Your car’s interior may also have a fair share of food crumbs, stains and sticky messes that need to be addressed.
Use a shop vacuum to remove any large crumbs or dirt from between the seats. Then, you can use a foaming fabric and upholstery cleaner for cloth seats, spot-lifter or stain-remover products for carpeting and Armor All for any sensitive surfaces.
When it comes to leather and unusual woods, your best bet is to familiarize yourself with your owner’s manual and determine what cleansers are permissible. For many leathers, any high-UV leather conditioner that is pH-balanced and contains stain repellents and waterproofing agents should be sufficient. For any wood-grain surfaces, select a product that is formulated specifically to clean the type of wood in your vehicle.
Ready for Spring
With your spring cleaning checklist accomplished, you are ready to enjoy the season ahead. Regular cleanings throughout the year can keep your car looking showroom-new any day of the week.
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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.