Owners Tips

Springtime Car Cleaning Hacks

It’s springtime. Stuff is starting to grow, it’s probably not going to snow again for a while, and you’ll be chilling at the beach or cottage with the fam-jam before you know it.
Springtime also means you’ve got stuff to do. Things to plant. A lawn to bring back to life. Projects to tackle ahead of a season of summer relaxation. Providing your trusty family ride with some well-deserved TLC and a good shine-up after a long and hard winter is important too, and you know it.

Thing is, you’re busy. And you don’t want to spend a lot of money. Or time.

If that’s the case, here’s a list of a few of your writer’s favourite car cleaning hacks – which allow you to get your ride’s shine on quickly, inexpensively, and often without even busting out the garden hose.

I use many of these on my own ride before the Sunday afternoon car show, for a quick clean that doesn’t cut into my relaxation time.

Freshly Waxed Shine, sans hose: One of mankind’s most fantastic achievements is the invention of waterless spray detailer. You can’t use this stuff if you’ve recently been off-roading, or if your ride is still covered in a crust of winter road salt, though provided you’ve washed your family Camry in the recent past and it’s only slightly dirty, it’s a fantastic way to achieve a freshly washed and waxed look in about five minutes.

Grab a bottle of waterless detailer from your local store. It’ll cost less than 10 bucks. If you’ve got a dark-colored car, I suggest Lucas Slick Mist Speed Wax (blue bottle, red handle), as it tends to make dark colors look super-duper-glossy.
Whichever spray detailer you choose, using it is simple. Shake the hell out of the bottle, spray onto one panel at a time, and buff with a clean rag or towel until it’s shiny. Repeat for all panels.

As you buff, light dirt sticks to your towel, and wax droplets suspended in the liquid stick to your paint. If the surface appears smeared and smudgy as you buff away, just switch to a clean part of the rag and keep going. Provided your paint is relatively clean to start, few products give you such quick and easy access to a freshly-detailed look.

One bottle of spray detailer should last the entire spring and summer if used weekly on a small car. You can spray-detail a whole car in about five minutes, and it’ll even pass the towel-toss test across the hood, making the ladies think you’ve been waxing all day long with your chiseled pectorals glistening in the sun. You’ll save money on car-wash soap and water, too.

Shine your Wheels Fast, and Almost for Free: Wheels are the only visible part of your car’s exterior that move, and when shined to a lustrous gloss, the right set of wheels can make an enormous visual impact.

You could spend seven or eight dollars for a bottle of alloy-wheel cleaner, and another seven or eight dollars for a bottle of wheel polish and protector, and a specialty brush, but you could also use a two-dollar bottle of WD-40 and some paper towels.

Spray some WD-40 onto a wad of paper towel (or an old rag), and use it to wipe the dirt, grime and brake-dust from your rims. Never spray WD-40 directly on your wheels, as it could get onto your brakes, and brakes don’t like that. This magical wonder-liquid melts through even heavy and caked on grime, and when your rag or paper towel gets dirty, fold it over, spray a little more, and repeat.

Once the wheel is free of dirt and dust, you’ll be left with a slick and smudgy haze. Take a clean paper towel and buff that off. Your alloys will shine and glimmer, and the WD-40 leaves a protective film behind that repels dirt and brake dust, making future cleaning easier, which saves you time and basically makes you a genius.

Dish Soap for the Interior: You should never, ever use dish-soap on your ride’s paint, since your ride’s paint isn’t plates with baked-on casserole and bits of melted cheese. However, dish-soap can make a fantastic cleaning solution for the inside of your ride, and especially, for the glass.

You’re going to want a powerful dish soap. I like Dawn Ultra. It’s a blue liquid with ‘Active Suds’ that ravenously murder grease in my kitchen sink and work great in the car, too.

Here’s the important part: you only need a teensy little bit. I use three or four drops in about two litres of hot water. Put the soap in towards the end of filling up your wash pail, as you don’t want tons of suds.

Start with your windows. My car had a mysterious greasy haze all over its windshield (likely caused by overspray from dash protector), and none of the pricey automotive glass cleaners I tried could do anything other than smear it around. A highly diluted solution of Dawn dish soap and hot water on a clean rag removed it with one wipe. It’s also super-effective on dried-on doggy drool.

Dunk the rag, wring it out, and get wiping away at the glass. You’ll want to use a dry, clean rag or paper towel to remove any leftover moisture and buff the glass after that. Then, sit back and enjoy how crystal-clear your windows are.

You can use the same warm, wet and slightly-soapy rag to quickly soak up coffee spills around your cupholder, kick-marks on your door panels, and dust and grime from your dashboard with ease. Forget using various products and going through a whack of rags. One rag, some hot water and a few drops of powerful soap works wonders. Plus, since the solution is so diluted, a single bottle amounts to a lifetime supply, for about three bucks.

Salt Stains, Removed Free of Charge: There are products, pricey and numerous, designed to eliminate crusty salt stains from your carpeting after a winter of tracking yucky slush into your ride. Forget about those, since you’ve likely got the implements to remove salt stains in your house and garage right now, and they’re free.

You’ll need an empty spray bottle, a wet/dry shop vac, and some trusty old fashioned hot water. Fill the spray bottle with the hottest water you can find, spray it vigorously on the salt stains, let it sit a moment, and then suck away. The hot water will dissolve the salt into solution, and the shop-vac will suck up the mess. Let the carpeting dry fully before you put your floor mats back in, or mildew will colonize the region. Cost? Almost zero. Effectiveness? Very yes.

The Wonders of the Sticky Lint Brush: Nobody likes crumbs or doggy hair all over their ride’s seats, and nobody likes busting out that big clunker of a vacuum cleaner, either. For a quick tidy of small amounts of dust, crumbs and pet hair on your upholstery, use a sticky lint brush. I bought a five-pack of good ones at Costco for about 10 bucks, and you’ll see them for a buck or two near the laundry stuff at your local grocery store.

You want the kind that peels off in sticky layers when you’re finished with it. Hairs, dust and small crumbs stick to the brush, and you toss out the paper when you’re finished. No lugging out the shop-vac required, and your ride’s seating will be free of unwanted substances in mere moments.