It may not feel like it, but there’s a science to car care. While learning how to do everything from changing your oil to switching out your transmission fluid can seem like a whirlwind of information, caring for the cosmetics of your vehicle’s interior and exterior is straightforward — and even fun — when you have the information straight.
So the next time a car detailer is about to overcharge you for an automotive maker, take a pass and turn to these simple tips for better car care.
1. Get the Right Gear
It doesn’t take an arsenal of cleaning supplies to maintain the look and feel of your car. In fact, a complete care kit from Meguiar’s costs less than $25 and comes with all the basic essentials you’ll need. But if you’re shopping around for individual items and accessories, start with these items:
- Washing soap (don’t use dish soap, as this strips your car’s paint)
- Microfiber wash mit
- Glass cleaner
- Interior cleaner
- Post-wash spray wax
- Tire dressing
- A small brush for your wheels
- Microfiber towels
There is much more you could add, but those are the essentials with which to start.
2. Learn to Wash Your Ride
It seems simple enough, right? Get your car wet, wash it, then dry it. In theory, those are the right steps, but there are a few more details to prevent scratches and get the best results. YouTube hosts a number of how-to videos, explaining every last detail of car washes, but our favorite is AMMO NYC. The narrator is a detailer in upstate New York, who has spent years cleaning some of the world’s most exotic cars. But he also shows his viewers how to care for more affordable vehicles.
3. Know Your Perishable Items
Most of your car is built to last, but there are pieces designed to be replaced on a regular basis. You wouldn’t drive 100,000 miles without changing your oil, right? Indeed, there are parts of your car not under the hood that need attention and replacement after so many miles, which include:
- Tires: A good tire from brands like Cooper should last more than 50,000, depending on how you drive, so know how to spot wear and tear on your tire treads.
- Windshield Wipers: When water and dirt starts to form streaks underneath your wipers, it’s time to splurge for some replacements. But don’t let the dealer overcharge you, as changing out your blades is a cheap and easy fix.
4. Good Floor Mats Go a Long Way
Don’t underestimate the power of a good floor mat. Over time, whether you’re driving down dirt roads or dropping the kids off at school, dirt, mud, water and grime will all find their way into your car. High-quality floor mats trap all of these elements and are easy to clean when working on your interior. Trust me, you don’t want to get this stuff out of your car’s carpets.
5. Avoid Greasy Dash Cleaner
Speaking of the interior of your car, dashboard cleaners love to show off a brilliant shine, but the end result is usually a greasy mess that doesn’t hold up. Thus, when you’re at an auto shop looking for cleaners, avoid oil-based sprays in favor of an alternative that will clean away dirt without leaving your dash looking like it’s covered in baby oil.
Much like visiting the doctor for regular checkups will help you maintain a clean bill of health, taking your car in for regular maintenance will keep it running for years and years. And it’s definitely something you don’t want to put off, as splurging for regular maintenance, including oil changes, tune-ups and brake inspections, is a wise investment.
Ultimately, cars that are well taken care of are safer, get better gas mileage, are more dependable, perform better, and have a longer shelf life.