How To Detail Your Car
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Later, after scarfing down your fifth hot dog and third ear of corn, you saunter over to your neighbor on the pretext of offering him a barbecued chicken thigh. But you really want to see the kind of job he’s doing. His vehicle is about the same vintage and in the same condition as yours, but his car gleams like a jewel. Yours just looks clean.
Where To Start
The interior is a good starting point, so the dust and dirt you brush out won’t settle on a pristine exterior. Remove any floor mats and give the carpeting and upholstery a good vacuuming. Also vacuum the dash and rear parcel shelf. Move the front seats full fore and aft to get to all the accumulated dirt and loose change. If the carpets are clean except for a minor stain or two, use a foaming cleaner to get them out. Saturate the stain with cleaner, working it in with a damp sponge. Let it sit awhile and then blot it out with paper towels or a dry cotton cloth. Repeat if necessary, and then go over the area with a damp sponge before final blotting. Don’t oversaturate the carpet and risk getting mildew.
You can repair burns and holes in your carpet by cutting out the offending area with a razor blade or scissors. Then cut a similar-size piece from a hidden spot, such as underneath the seat, and cement it in place using a water-resistant adhesive. Blend in the repair by brushing the nap.
Wash the floor mats, if they’re rubber, and apply a dressing that does not leave a slippery finish, for obvious reasons.
Clean interior hard surfaces with a damp cloth and a mild all-purpose cleaner such as Simple Green, diluted about 10:1. If you have vinyl-covered seats, use a conditioner made for that material. Avoid products that give a high-gloss, slippery surface, so passengers won’t feel like they’re on a roller coaster. If you have leather upholstery, dress the surfaces with a leather conditioner. Never use a vinyl product on leather.
Worn or torn areas of vinyl can be repaired using kits made for this purpose that are available at auto supply stores. Repairs are made with a patch that lets you match the color and grain of your upholstery. Worn areas of leather can be touched up with dyes or a high-grade shoe polish. Just make sure you match the color as closely as possible.
The dash presents a special challenge, with buttons, crevices and bezels that you can’t get to with a cleaning rag. You can blast dust and dirt from these areas by using small cans of compressed air made for cleaning camera and computer equipment. Cotton swabs also work well here. Pay attention to the cleaning products you use on your dash. If your dash has a flat finish, don’t use a product on it that will leave you facing a shiny gloss.
Clean air vent grilles with cotton swabs and brighten them up by misting on some spray-on vinyl/rubber dressing or accent spray just a touch. You can also use these products to cover up light scuff marks on wood trim. Spray the stuff on a soft towel and then apply it to the wood.
Clean glass or plastic gauge lenses with a glass or plastic cleaner, not wax. Pull off any removable knobs to clean the bezels underneath. Ever wonder where the haze on the inside of your windshield comes from since you don’t smoke? It consists of plastisols given off as the plastics used in many new cars slowly cure. Not to worry a good glass cleaner should remove it. If your windows are really cruddy, you may have to resort to stronger measures, such as scrubbing with 4-ought steel wool.