It is a good idea to take the time to do a deep cleaning on your car at least once a year, so I suggest adding it to your spring cleaning list. The car, even for as small as it is – especially compared to the home, garage and yard can be a monumental task so here is a check list to help you along in the process.
Divide the task into 4 sections – the inside, the outside, the trunk and the engine or mechanical. Now you can chose to start with any section you like but I will start my checklist with the trunk, then move on to the inside, the engine and then finally the outside.
Step 1: remove all items from your trunk. We accumulate a lot of stuff in this area of the car. It is the place where we put all our kids’ toys, the extra random items we pick up from friends, bags, and if you are a student it is often filled with books, paper and projects. Sift through all these items and decide what stays and what goes. Set the items that will be returning to the house next to the door and make a pile of the other items to be placed back into the trunk once you have finished.
Step 2: Wipe down any hard surfaces. While the vast majority of the trunk is carpeted, there are still a few hard surfaces. Many of us have speakers or disk players in the trunk so be sure to wipe the surface down with soapy water or an all purpose cleaner. If you have gone green using a vinegar/water solution will work great here as well. Also be sure to take the time to wipe down the lip of the trunk.
Step 3: Vacuum. Vacuum the entire trunk making sure to get the edges and corners.
Step 4: Shampoo/steam clean. We put so much stuff in the trunk. Dirt and grease always finds its way into the carpet fibers. On top of that the carpet has been pressed flat. A good shampooing will bring life back into the carpet as well as making it look refreshed – maybe even new!
Step 5: Once the carpet is dry put the items back in the trunk. Now is a good time to make sure you have everything you need. The trunk is a good place to hold extra fluids (windshield cleaner, oil, etc.) You should also have a first aid kit, an emergency road side kit and, depending on where you live, winter chains for the tires.
Before you start make sure all the doors are open and be sure to have all cleaning supplies on hand. These items will include rags, sponges, vacuum, soap or all purpose cleaner, paper towels, Windex and your shampooer with all its attachments and cleaners.
Step 1: Same as the trunk – remove all items and sort through so you know what stays and what goes. Pull all trash from under the seats and in the door and throw it away. At this time be sure to remove all floor mats and seat covers as well.
Step 2: Start with the hard surfaces. Here your work will be much more extensive. You will have the dashboard, the steering wheel, the center console and all the little gadgets on your seats. Also included in this will be the doors. Dust surfaces like the dashboard and then use soap or all purpose cleaner to wipe down the surfaces. Be sure to get every knob and handle, the door panel and both the inside and outside of the center console.
Step 3: Vacuum. Vacuuming here will consist of both the floors and the seating, plus any other carpeted area in the car. If your seating is vinyl/leather you will only use the vacuum to suck extra dirt out of nooks and crannies. Otherwise get the whole surface along with edges and corners. Also take the time to vacuum under the seats. This is a highly neglected area that attracts more dirt and grime than any other place. It is also a popular place for trash and children’s toys to hide. Another good idea, while you have the vacuum in hand, is to open the vents, put your vacuum in reverse and blow extra dirt out of that space. (If your vacuum doesn’t go in reverse, as many today don’t go ahead and suck some of that dirt out of the vents.
Step 4: Shampoo carpeted areas. If you thought the carpeting in your trunk was bad then you should take a look at the carpet on the driver’s side. It will be matted down and filled with dirt and grease. All carpets and fabric upholstery will need to be shampooed. Be sure to allow plenty of time for this to dry.
Step 5: Clean items upholstered with vinyl or leather. Vinyl and leather both require special care. Do not use an oil/grease based cleaner. The oils soak into the upholstery and weaken it. A water-based foam cleaner will be needed. Simply spray on and wipe down. It will leave it looking like new.
Step 6: Repair your carpeting and upholstery. Let’s face it, carpet wears, seams rip and sometimes it all just comes apart at the edges. Be sure to take the time to make these repairs. Repairing them throughout the year – or replacing worn carpet will keep your car clean and looking like a million bucks!
Step 7: Wash seat covers and floor mats. You are on the home stretch. The car is wiped down and the shampooing is done. Now you only have to worry about what you put back into the car. Since floor mats and seat cover are there to protect you need to take the time to wash them as well. If they are made from fabric or carpeting you can simply throw them in the washing machine. If not they will need to be scrubbed down with soap and water. A quick tip here: If your floor mats are those common rubber mats then use a tire shine product on them to make them look shiny and new.
Step 8: Clean the windows. While we usually clean the outside windows every time we stop for gas, the inside of the windows are often neglected. Be sure to wipe them down with Windex and paper towels – you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to see out your windows.
Step 9: Put everything back in. Now would be a good time to organize. If you don’t have things like seat covers and floor mats you may want to invest in them as they can keep your car in better shape. Also look to keeping a trash bag in the car as well as a CD visor to keep your disks easily accessible. This will free up space.
Now, not all of us are mechanics, if not spring cleaning is a good time to take your car in for a check-up. If this is the case I would suggest taking it in before you start the cleaning process. Here are a few tips for those do-it-yourselfers.
#1 – Check your fluids. This should include, oil, transmission fluid, windshield cleaner and antifreeze.
#2 – Look for cracks or holes, especially in hoses and belts. Repair or change out any you may find.
#3 – Check your wiper blades. Winter can bring a lot of wear to your blades, so replace if necessary.
#4 – Make sure your lights work. Check to make sure your headlights, taillights, safety lights, flashers, and turn signals are all in working order. If dull or dim change out the bulbs or have the whole light replaced if need be.
#5 – Clean up the engine. It will just get dirty again and pretty fast, but it is a good idea to clean up excess amounts of oil and grease. During this process check to make sure you don’t see any cracks along any of the surfaces.
#6 – Clean and oil all door hinges to keep them from squeaking.
Here you can take your car to a car wash if you prefer. It is a nice reward to having worked so hard on the rest of the car. If not I still have a few steps to help you finish your cleaning process.
Step 1: Rinse car with water. Use a hose to remove any excess dirt before you start scrubbing, it will make the job go a lot easier.
Step 2: Scrub down with soap and water. Dish soap works great here. It is made to fight grease and dirt. If not you can buy products made just for cars. Either way, be sure to remove all dirt from the sides and roof. Also clean the tires, rims and wheel basin.
Step 3: Take the time to use a scratch buffing product on all the little scratches you managed to accumulate during the winter months. You may also want to consider having a professional pull out any dints as well as repairing any larger scratches that can’t be buffed away.
Step 4: Windex the windows. You may also want to consider using a water replant on all – or at least the front and back windows to help you in case of a late snow or to help you through the rainy season.
Step 5: Give it a good wax. Waxing the car makes it shine. Your car will look as if it were new again. A good wax job will also help to keep your paint job in good condition.
Step 6: If your car has chrome (such as in the wheels) use good chrome cleaner to help make it shine.
Step 7: Use a tire shine product on the tires. What good is a nice, shinny wax job if the tires remain that dull off black? If you are going to clean your car you may as well go all the way – from the roof to the ground!
Well there you have it. Your car has now been cleaned from trunk to engine, from inside to out. It was a challenge, but stand back and look at your handy work and I’ll be you’ll see that it was all worth it!