The better you treat your vehicle, the better your return on investment will be. While we all want that shiny new car look, taking care of your vehicle’s appearance isn’t just for aesthetics; it also helps reduce degradation over time.
A little time and effort spent on your car will bring impressive results. Use these simple tips to keep your car looking new for years.
Use a Steam Cleaner
While many people think that cleaning a car by hand is the best method, that’s not the case. Using a car steam cleaner can help you remove built-up grime, get into the tough spots, and avoid any drips or scratches. Better yet, a steam cleaner doesn’t require any toxic chemicals that will inevitably leech into the ground around your vehicle.
Steam cleaners come with various attachments to help clean all the areas of your vehicle, both interior and exterior. You can use this multipurpose tool to detail your cup holders, scrub the upholstery, shine your windows, and even degrease your engine bay. If you’re investing in a luxury vehicle, a steam cleaner is a must.
Dirt and crumbs will always find a way into your vehicle, even if you ban food and drinks from the interior. Every time you get in, you’ll transfer dirt and debris. Over time, these particles will seep deeper into the carpet and degrade your interior.
Set aside time each week to vacuum the carpets and upholstery in your car. It would be best if you also vacuumed before steam cleaning to loosen and remove debris before adding moisture. Spending 15 minutes a week on this chore will keep your car looking new for years and reduce the general wear and tear.
Get Into the Tough Spots and Touch Points
There’s a reason it’s called “detailing.” The small nooks and crannies of your vehicle often hold the most dust, dirt, and debris. Consider this: Consider professional car detailing services especially when you drive down dusty roads in the summer, that dirt gets into your vents. Then, when you turn on the fan, those particles and allergens are blasted at everyone in the car.
If you’re using a steam cleaner, use an attachment that lets you get into the smaller crevices of your vehicle. You can also use a microfiber cloth to help get into the areas where a nozzle won’t fit.
Another consideration when trying to keep your car looking new is the various high-touch areas and touch points — in other words, your vehicle’s high-traffic zones. As a driver, the steering wheel will be your greatest touch point. However, you also likely hit the buttons on the radio and fan regularly, as well as the turn signal and door handles.
The natural oils from your body aren’t good for the interior finishings of your car. Aside from the aesthetics of your vehicle over the years, these high-touch areas are more likely to harbor germs that you’ll bring into your home. Set aside some time to wipe down these areas regularly to prevent your body’s natural oils from breaking down the materials over the years.
Spot Clean as Needed
While giving your vehicle a good cleaning every week or so is sufficient, there are times when you shouldn’t wait. If you get bird droppings or sap on your car, you should spot treat it immediately. If you wait too long, these substances can start to affect your paint and chip it away.
Steam cleaners are ideal for loosening both bird droppings and tree sap. Never peel or scrape at these substances as they’ll take the paint with them; it’s better to take a slow, steady approach to removal.
Remove Road Salt Immediately
Another substance that requires immediate attention is road salt. If you live in a colder area that uses salt on the roads during the winter, you’ll want to rinse it from your car as soon as possible.
Salt does immeasurable damage to your vehicle, causing rust and corrosion on the metal over the years. As such, it’s worth giving the undercarriage and side panels of your vehicle a rinse each day after traveling on salted roads.
Add a Protective Coating
Adding a protective coating to your vehicle after you clean it can help prevent future damage. Consider using a Kevlar protection coating for the best possible results. This ceramic coating will bond to your car’s paint to provide a more effective layer of protection than traditional wax.
Additionally, ceramic coatings reduce paint fading from prolonged UV exposure and make it harder for dirt and grime to stick to your exterior. Over time, regular application of a ceramic coating can help reduce scratches and paint chips while reducing how often you need to do a full exterior cleaning.
It’s also worth investing in an interior guard solution to protect your leather and upholstery to keep your car looking new inside and out.
Use Microfiber Towels
If you’re a regular in the world of car maintenance, you’ve likely read about microfiber towels more times than you can count. While many pros recommend using these towels for cleaning, they rarely explain why.
Microfiber is soft and non-abrasive, meaning it won’t cause any small scratches or wear down your paint with regular use. This is opposed to soft, terry cloth, which is much rougher and could do more harm than good over the years. Terry cloth and cotton rags also leave lint behind.
Microfiber is also more durable than other fabrics, meaning that it will last longer and give you more value for your money. If you’re not already using microfiber for your car cleaning efforts, it’s time to make the change.
Avoid the Cheap Car Wash
Touchless car washes are a great way to remove dirt, debris, and road salt from your vehicle in a pinch. While we’ve come a long way from the blue rotating scrub brushes that tore antennas off of cars, it’s still better to take a DIY approach to cleaning your vehicle, whenever you can.
The issue with cheap car washes is that they’re meant to be economical so that the owner turns a profit. As such, the detergents and coatings used are often of lower quality. While they might give your vehicle a nice shine today, they could be damaging your paint in the long term.
Work From the Top Down
One of the key things to remember when cleaning your car is to work from top to bottom. Start with the roof, come down the sides, and end at the tires. This approach ensures that any debris or run-off is rinsed away, rather than drying on your vehicle.
If you’re using a steam cleaner, this won’t be as much of an issue. However, it’s still wise to get into this habit to prevent streaking and missed spots.
Touch Up Chipped Paint
Chipped paint is an unavoidable part of driving. Whether someone dings you with their door or you catch a flying stone, it’s not uncommon to see nicks in the paint over the years.
The problem with chipped paint extends beyond aesthetics. These spots are more prone to rust and degradation, which can devalue your car more quickly.
Pick up a small sampler of your vehicle’s paint color from the local automotive shop and apply as needed. It’s also worth getting a clear coat to seal the area. While these touch-ups will never compare to a professional paint job, they can keep your car looking new for years to come — along with all of the suggestions on this list.