Winter is a harsh season, especially in Canada, especially for your car.
And if you’re like me, the cold weather has kept you from washing it regularly.
Corrosive road salt, traction sand, and constant freezing and thawing have certainly damaged your vehicle’s body, mind and soul.
And now that spring is officially here, you really need to treat your car!
A good spring clean is the best way to check for winter damage before it becomes a costly problem. So give your vehicle a top-down, bottom-up and inside-out washing. And do it right.
By avoiding this list of common (and dangerous) cleaning mistakes!
DON’T USE DISHWASHING SOAP OR LAUNDRY DETERGENT
Many of us are guilty of this one.
Yes, dish soaps and detergents are the convenient choice. You can readily find them inside your kitchen cabinet. And they’re cheap.
But these chemicals are extremely harsh to your vehicle’s paint. They aren’t formulated to work on surfaces which carry wax and polish. You’ll end up stripping off your paint’s protective layers and will dry out your trim. You will also accelerate the fading and cracking of paint.
My advice is to spend a few extra dollars on a high quality automotive shampoo.
And while there are many recipes for homemade solutions on the internet, commercial products will deliver a better clean and are considered safer. Their gentle cleaning agents will strengthen your sealant and wax. And they will give you that new car shine.
If you want a true and deep clean, you need to invest in separate cleaners. Special products are available for cleaning specific parts of your vehicle’s body and interior.
Is all of this worth the time and money?
You don’t have to spend a fortune, or even leave the house, to purchase high quality cleaners!
DON’T USE OLD COTTON RAGS AND SPONGES
The cloth you use for cleaning your car is just as important as the cleaning product.
Yes, it’s convenient to use whatever rag you can find under the kitchen sink or on the garage floor. But using that old t-shirt or towel will simply be a waste of your cleaning effort.
Instead of a smooth and shiny coat, your car will be covered in streaks and scratches.
There are a few reasons why cotton is not an appropriate fabric for cleaning your car. For one, it’s abrasive enough to scratch your vehicle’s surface. And it’s not absorbent enough to lock away dirt and grime.
So what’s a suitable alternative?
The kitchen sponge is definitely not it. While it is handy, it will simply push dirt around to create ghastly swirls of imperfection. Even expensive brushes can seriously damage the surface of your vehicle.
To test out if a fabric is right for the job, press it into your palm. If it feels rough to the touch, ditch it and save yourself a headache.
You best choice is a soft and gentle microfiber towels, mitt or brush. Their fabric will easily lift away and lock up any dirt or dust. And their fibers won’t harm your vehicle’s surface. You’ll be able to cover more surface area for easier and quicker cleaning. And they’re even safe to use on your windows.
Don’t use the same cloth with different cleaning products. Or you might end up with residual wax on your windows. And unless you’re a great fan of smears, change your cloth when it becomes too dirty.
DON’T WORK IN DIRECT SUNLIGHT
Ahh... to enjoy a cold drink and relax under the warm sun is a true joy.
But not for your car.
If you wash your car in direct sunlight it will dry too quickly. This means you won’t have enough time to rinse and dry the soap and water. As water evaporates and dries out under the sun, it leaves behind calcium and other minerals. And your car will be stuck with a soapy film and unsightly water spots.
If these spots are left untreated, they may damage your car’s surface just like bird and insect contaminations.
To avoid this, wash your car when it’s cloudy, in the shade or at dusk.
If you must wash your vehicle in direct sunlight, rinse its surface often and work in smaller sections.
And despite the weather and the time of day, it’s always a good idea to dry your vehicle when you’re done.
Again, a microfiber cloth is your best option.
And here’s why:
Cotton towels will just push around excess water instead of absorbing it.
A leather chamois may scratch your paint, and if there’s any residual dirt, it will simply push it around.
Your go-to paper towel will leave behind lint. And, as it’s basically made up of rugged fragments of plant matter - it could graze your car’s finish.
Using a newspaper will cover your hands in ink. And add streaks everywhere!
So.. stick with microfiber.
DON’T LEAVE THE WHEELS AND TIRES FOR LAST
It seems logical that you should begin cleaning your car from the top.
And it’s true.. with one exception.
The wheels and tires are usually the dirtiest part of your car. This is why you should clean them first. Or you risk splashing dirt and grime all over your just-washed vehicle.
If your vehicle is like most, it’s equipped with aluminum wheels. And your wheels are constantly sprayed with corrosive brake dust. You can recognize it by its reddish-brown colour. The dust will accumulate as time passes, and it will become harder to clean.
To get rid of this corrosive powder, wipe down your wheels with an appropriate cleaning agent. And don’t forget to clean the space between your wheel spokes. It’s hard to reach and will need a hard scrub.
But the exercise is good for you, and your wheels will shine like new!
It’s very easy to damage your car’s surface and paint if you’re wearing a belt, watch, or other jewelry. Be mindful of this! Wear bottoms with an elastic waist band and avoid zippers. Any hard plastic or metal element may scratch your vehicle!
DON’T SKIP IMPORTANT FINISHING TOUCHES
So your car is squeaky clean… but it’s still missing something…
If you want it to look professionally cleaned and detailed, all you need is a high quality finishing product!
And why go through all the effort of washing and drying your car, if you won’t get to see it in all of its glory?
Deciding to skip the finishing product is not a literal mistake.
But it will make a huge difference.
Finishing products contain wax. And wax removes smudging, smears, fingerprints, and even minor topical defects.
And while we’re being particular… let’s take a look at your headlights.
If they’re made from plastic they will become yellowed and cloudy with time. This means you could be driving with limited illumination, especially if your headlights have hit the five-year mark. To restore them to their previous glory, just pick up a headlight restoration kit.
Want to skip this step in the future?
AND FINALLY… IT’S TIME FOR SOME DAMAGE CONTROL
So you did your homework. You put in the effort. And your car is truly, truly clean.
But, just like every year… Winter is Coming… again...
Apart from being a cliché, these words remind us to that it’s time for our annual vehicle maintenance.
By now, you should be aware of any chips, nicks, scratches, sand abrasions or rust spots on your vehicle’s body. You can repair these on your own with an inexpensive touch-up kit.
It’s also a good idea to apply lubricant on your door and trunk hinges. This will silence any creaking that may have started up during the winter months.
Take a long and hard look at your weather stripping. You should replace any parts that have mildew, or are cracked and brittle. If your stripping is in good condition, spray it with a silicone spray. This will repel water and moisture for a longer service life.
Check under your vehicle for rust or other damage, especially to your brake components. You could be driving around with sticky calipers or corroded brake lines.
The salt and the slush could have also damaged your exhaust. Check for rusted clamps, damaged tailpipes, or a corroded muffler.
Your suspension and steering components are also susceptible to winter damage, including your bushings, strut mounts, and springs and tie rods.
Remember, if you have any doubts, take your car in for a quick check up.
Did we miss any important tips?
Let us know in the comments below!