Cars are an average American’s biggest investment. From social gatherings to corporate meetings, this investment follows us everywhere. It radiates personality by showcasing selection and attitude. With these basic and consumer friendly tips anyone can improve their image and create a positive presence on the highway.
1. Consistent Washing Using The Right Method
Washing the car on a weekly basis is a great start. Equally important is that the car is washed using a dedicated pH neutral shampoo and using the proper technique. Improper washing with harsh chemicals and hard bristled brushes can cause scratches and swirls that become an eye sore while at the same time depleting the clear coat, a transparent protective coating which is thinner than a 3M Post-it card! A profound and consumer friendly method commonly used for bathing luxury and exotics is nicknamed the ‘Two Bucket Wash Method.’
Pro Tip: Nowadays, there are eco-friendly products that allow washing the car with little to no water and are coined as “Rinseless” or “Waterless” washes. These are ideal if you are in a hurry, live in an apartment complex or have bird bombs and tree saps that need to be remove immediately.
2. Removing The Haze On The Headlights
Ever noticed the yellow haze on your headlights? Some detailers and car enthusiasts think of their appearance analogous to perpetually smiling yellow teeth! That fogginess is oxidation on the outside of headlight most of which can be removed using a non-abrasive surface polish and a microfiber cloth. It's important to note that impaired visibility due to the reduced 'throw' of the light is hazardous to everyone on the road and may lead to serious legal ramifications.
Pro Tip: In extreme cases, a full restoration of the headlights can be done by wet-sanding, compounding, polishing and finishing the headlights. There are several DIY 'lens restoration kits' available in the market which are consumer friendly and a lot of fun to play with.
3. Regularly Waxing The Car
Waxing is loosely defined as a process to provide a sacrificial layer of protection to the car’s paint while adding gloss and depth. Nowadays, the term ‘wax’ is synonymously used with synthetic sealants. A short rundown follows:
a. Waxes: Traditional waxes are made from Carnauba wax which is produced from Brazilian palm trees. They create a strong barrier against environmental contaminants while creating a warm glow to the paint. Most carnauba based waxes last weeks to a few months.
b. Sealants: They are formed from synthetic polymers that enhance the car’s gloss and provide an extended protection lasting from a few months to a year while attracting less dust and usually costing less.
c. Coatings: Becoming popular with time, they are made of nano-glass, quartz or other ceramics which offer high gloss protection ranging from a year to several years.
So, which one to use? It depends. For car shows, important events and car enthusiasts, carnauba waxes are a great option since they offer an unparalleled but usually temporary gleam to the paint. Sealants are ideal for daily commuters due to their extended protection and low cost while coatings are for those who like to ‘set and leave.’
Pro Tip: Most sealants and coatings can be layered with carnauba waxes to create a deep warm radiance while retaining the protection of the former two.
4. Cleaning The Wheels
Wheels get dirty because of constant exposure to the environmental elements. Brake dust starts accumulating and grime starts lodging into the nooks and crannies. Cleaning them during a wash will ensure that they remain shiny and rust-free. Several all-in-one non-abrasive polishes are also available which bring the wheels back to a near showroom luster while adding a thin film protection.
Pro Tip: In severe cases, several dedicated wheel cleaning products are available which require spray, agitate and rinse and dissolve iron and tar from the wheels. For extremely neglected wheels, depending on material, abrading them might be the only option.
5. Streak Free Glass And Mirrors
Streaked glass is the biggest pet peeve of most people. Early in the morning or near sunset, all the smudges and lines on the glass are magnified. A streak-free finish can be created using a volatile cleaner and a high quality waffle weave microfiber cloth. Additionally, applying a dedicated glass sealant or coating on the glass can help with vision and reaction time during rain and snow. Most sealants, by reducing surface tension on the glass, effectively cause water to bead and sheet off at 35 mph or more rendering the wipers useless and creating a safety backup in case wipers fail.
Pro Tip: Glass can also be treated similar to the paint surface. It can be polished and clayed to improve visibility and shine. The unwanted logos and stickers can be removed using steam or a scraper. Exterior glass sealants or coatings are hydrophobic('water hating') while an interior glass sealant or coating is hydrophilic('water loving'), both of which help improve vision and consequently lower driver reaction time.
When the sun is at lower angles, dust particles shows up inside the car while isolated stains catch the eye’s attention. Conventional household vacuums can help keep the dust from getting embedded onto mats, carpeting, seats, corners and crevices. The important point to note here is having the right attachments such as the crevice tool can easily take care of hard to reach areas. A brush attachment can help with picking up pet hair and dust using electrostatic attraction while being gentle to the surface. Some vacuums have the additional ability to 'wet vacuum' which comes in handy while cleaning and extracting carpets and fabrics.
Pro Tip: Having small "micro extensions", attachments and brushes can help clean spots that are extremely hard to reach. Several extension kits are available online which connect with most vacuum cleaners. In some cases, Q-tips can be used in combination with a diluted APC(All Purpose Cleaner) to hit those nooks and crannies.
7. Cleaning & Conditioning Leather
Cracked, hardened and faded leather make the experience inside the car uncomfortable for the eyes and body. It can be avoided by correctly treating the car’s seat. Luckily, most cars these days come with coated leather which makes them similar to Vinyl when it comes to cleaning and treating. For most consumers, a gentle APC can be used to clean coated seats. To make matters simpler, all-in-one wipes are available in the market which clean and protect coated leather seats, vinyl and plastic with just one product. These products leave a shiny or matte finish which enhance the appearance of your car’s interior and resist UV fading.
For uncoated or semi-permeable leather, using a dedicated and quality leather cleaner and/or conditioner is critical, especially when it comes to luxury and exotic cars. Cleaning and conditioning car seats brings back the original pigmentation of the leather, adds a ‘new car’ smell and makes the leather soft and supple.
Pro Tip: A soft bristled boar’s hair brush is an excellent tool for cleaning various soft surfaces including leather, wheels and paint due to its non-abrasive nature.
8. Cleaning & Dressing Tires
Direct contact with the road, tar, grime and various airborne contaminants cause tires to adopt a faded brown color which sticks out like a sore thumb especially when the car’s paint is glossy in comparison. After a wash, applying a quality dressing or tire gel can create a shine that lasts for a week or more depending on the product used.
Pro Tip: Using a water-based concentrated dressing can allow dilution which allows the user to create a natural, satin or glossy finish. The same dressing may be used for interior Vinyl and plastic surfaces for shine and protection as well.
9. Avoid Eye Sores
For instance the car is waxed and tires are dressed but the wheels have brake dust all over them. The wheels will stick out like a sore thumb. Consistency and not neglecting other areas is the key here.
Pro Tip: Sometimes less is more. An all-in-one wash shampoo might be a great glass, wheel cleaner and quick detailer. A gentle All-Purpose-Cleaner can serve as a great degreaser as well as a plastic/vinyl cleaner, based on varying levels of dilution.
10. Professional Detailing
Once in a while, it might be a wise idea to get the car professionally detailed from a knowledgeable detailer. High quality detailing can cost a bit but cheap detailing may prove to be an even more expensive choice in the long run. Having a professional detail helps keep the car in good health and reconditions both the interior and exterior. Several detailers also offer long term maintenance plans at reduced pricing.
Above all, by occasionally trading your money for a premium service you can have a peace of mind and enjoy your time doing things you love with those you love.
Pro Tip: Detailing the car can increase your car’s trade-in value from several hundreds to a few thousands of dollars depending on your car’s make, model and year.