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Spring clean – grooming, car style

Groomer

The arrival of spring generally signals that the worst of the weather is behind us.

Lots of us turn our attention to our homes to give them a good old spruce up after the ravages of the winter. But it’s not just the house that deserves a good going over. Many people rely on their vehicle, so it makes sense to give it a spring clean as well.

Giving your ‘daily driver’ or ‘weekend special’ a good clean up is a good idea for a number of reasons; it helps make your pride and joy look good, it maintains its value by retaining its condition and it’s also a great way to discover any faults or problems early on. Winter weather and shorter days are hardly an encouragement to get up close to the exterior of your car, consequently after a few months with very little attention, the condition of your vehicle can suffer alarmingly.

Every day the exterior of your vehicle is exposed to a range of damaging substances: dirt, grit, petrol and diesel fumes and spills, grime, pollen, UV rays, stones, bitumen splatter, road-works sludge... the list goes on. But regular cleaning allows you to remove these nasties before they eat away at your chrome and paintwork.

Cleaning also allows you to take a proper look – to discover if that’s just a smear of tar down there at the bottom of the panel or is it the start of some corrosion? Things work loose, become unscrewed, warp and just don’t fit – regular washing gives you the chance to discover these items before they become a problem and cost you big bucks.

Just like checking oil, water and fluid levels in the engine, it’s a good idea to work a regular cleaning routine into your general maintenance and upkeep process. Here are a few suggestions for a regular grooming routine for your vehicle.

What you’ll need

Interior:

  • Vacuum cleaner to remove dirt, stones etc from the carpet and seats.
  • Microfibre cleaning cloth – they’re fast and efficient.
  • Leather/vinyl cleaner/interior wipes.

Exterior:

  • Car wash – use a product that has been designed specifically for washing automotive paintwork. There’s plenty of choice from plain washing products, through to special wash and wax solutions. Don’t use a household cleaner or dishwashing liquid. Household cleaner can damage paintwork, while dishwashing liquid can be too weak to properly remove road grime and may also be difficult to rinse away thoroughly.
  • A wash mitt – made of sheepskin or microfibre cloth. Both materials are designed to pick up and hold dirt. Sponges work too, but a wash mitt makes the job easier and is kinder to paintwork. Don't use towels – they merely push the dirt around rather than pick it up.
  • Two buckets of water – why two buckets? A separate rinse bucket will remove the dirt that your wash mitt picks up. If you use a single bucket, you'll be depositing all that dirt into the soapy water, loading it back onto your wash mitt, and rubbing it all over your vehicle!
  • Drying cloth – to prevent watermarking use a chamois cloth (natural or synthetic), or absorbent towel to dry the vehicle. If you don’t fancy that, a small squeegee.

Weekly/fortnightly routine

Interior:

  • Remove any rubbish from the car. Besides looking tidy, it avoids rubbish and mess getting caught around your feet – and the pedals you use to control your vehicle.
  • Vacuum the carpets and seats, and wipe down the interior surfaces with a damp cloth (microfibre cloths are perfect). Always do this before washing the exterior of your car – that way there’s no chance of electrical cords coming into contact with water that’s lying around.
  • If your car has leather seats, remember to apply a specific leather polish or coating to them every six months or so.
  • Apply protectant sprays to the vinyl (or leather if your car features this) – they bring the vinyl up to a good gloss and help protect against the effects of the sun.
  • Clean the inside of the glass with glass cleaner or methylated spirits – throughout the life of a vehicle the sun reacts with the interior surfaces of your car – commonly known as ‘vinyl bleed’ – this results in a thin film over all the glass surfaces and over time makes it increasingly hard to see through. Be sure to spray the solution onto a clean cloth not the window itself, to avoid inadvertently spraying anything else.

Exterior:

  • Clear any leaves or debris from out of the gutters that sit at the bottom of the windscreen.
  • Rinse off the exterior of your vehicle then wash it with a car wash/water mix and a soft mitt (made of sheepskin or microfibre cloth), checking for any new scrapes, damage, and general wear and tear as you go.
  • Start washing at the top of the vehicle and work your way down. Periodically try to clean inside the normal door lines to get those spots that you can’t see from the outside but where dust and road dirt tends to accumulate. Try to do this in a shady spot to avoid water residue drying on the vehicle.
  • If you are using a wash and wax product, try to avoid having the solution get onto the windows of your car – it leaves a residue that’s hard to remove.
  • If you suffer the misfortune of bird droppings on your car – remove them as soon as you can. These droppings are quite corrosive to the paintwork of your car and can leave permanent marks if not removed quickly.
  • Wipe the windscreen wiper blades and check for deterioration.
  • Wash your wheels separately at the end with a different mitt.
  • Use a chamois or squeegee to dry off the panels and remove excess water.
  • Clean the outside of the windows (as per the inside).
  • From time to time you might want to apply a cutting compound to your car’s exterior. This is a very fine abrasive solution that when rubbed with a cloth, can remove dull and oxidised paint. It is quite physical work, but the results can transform an otherwise flat paint appearance.
  • Finally, if despite your good work, your car needs a re-paint – avoid using any products containing silicone on the car (on both the interior and exterior). Silicone based products can cause issues with new paintwork meaning the job may not to stick properly or appear cloudy.

There’s an old truism in the car business – look after your car and it’ll look after you.