If you are as proud of your car as most people are, then its care and upkeep is very important to you. Taking proper care of a vehicle when it’s still new, or even when it’s a well-preserved used car, will hugely extend that condition for years to come. It’s much easier to maintain a clean vehicle than it is to become involved with restoration.
The exterior paint takes the biggest hammering from the elements, particularly if the car is parked outside. Rain, snow, sleet, hail and sunshine are aggressive assailants, so make sure your paint has all the help it can get. Mothers car care products makes a full spectrum of formulations, and we like the three-step clean, glaze and polish sequence you get with their Pure Polish, Micro-Polishing Glaze, and pure Brazilian Carnauba Wax. The first one deep cleans the surfaces, the second fills in microscopic scratches, and the third buffs the whole deal up to a deep gloss.
Another Mothers product, California Gold Detailing Spray, is something you can use to keep the car looking clean even after it has become slightly dusty. You just spray the stuff on and wipe it off with a soft cloth, and the car is restored to a just-washed appearance.
Because a regular three-step clean and wax job is neither necessary at frequent intervals, nor convenient, given the time it takes to apply and rub off three complete coats of formula—a product like Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash and Wax is a great way to wash the vehicle and refresh the wax job you so painstakingly applied. Along with the detergent, this formulation applies carnauba wax and a synthetic polymer which allows molecular cross linking to the clear coat, thereby providing more protection from the elements.
Meguiar’s also offers Bug Splatter Sponges in boxes of five that make the removal of those baked-on, caked-on insect splats easy to remove before you start to wash your car. Everyone knows how tenacious that stuff is; even a blast from a high-pressure cleaner nozzle sometimes won’t shift them.
Nearly every car cleaner manufacturer offers a glass cleaner to get those windows crystal clear, but many come in aerosol form with all kinds of petrochemical propellants, and while they may have a slight edge on normal old household glass cleaner, we think there isn’t much wrong with Windex, if you can stand the smell.
With all the plastic moldings we see on the outside of cars these days (bumper moldings, trim strips, window surrounds, etc), you need to brighten that stuff up before the sun turns it into a dull and hazy version of its original glory. Not much works as well as Back to Black by Mothers. This stuff makes all sorts of plastic material, including components in the car’s interior, look new. Other manufacturers make similar products, and they may be just as good. We tried Back to Black and just stuck with it.
Interiors take quite a bit of wear and tear, what with passengers, kids, luggage, shopping, and the detritus of drive-through dining, so a good carpet and upholstery cleaner is an invaluable tool to keeping the inside as nice as the outside. Armor All does a Carpet and Upholstery spray that sprays a penetrating foam into carpet pile and upholstery fabric. After the foam settles into the material, it can simply be wiped off, taking the grime with it.
Combined carpet/upholstery cleaners aren’t applicable to leather, of course, and here Armor All offers several leather cleaning and conditioning products. Leather Care combines cleaning agents with conditioners to nourish the leather, plus blocking agents to supply protection from atmospheric and sun-generated attacks. Mothers also makes a versatile product called VLR (Vinyl, Leather, and Rubber), which has lanolin and neatsfoot oil to feed and protect the materials.
Most people probably remember Armor All as the company that started dashboard protection, and that formulation can be remembered as being like skin lotion—it stayed slightly oily and moist on the plastic. The company now has, in addition to its original product, a spray called Outlast, which assumes a dry feel after application. NuVynil and TurtleWax also make a dry dashboard protectant that appears to form a skin on the original molding to stop the loss of plasticizers from the dashboard material.
Often forgotten in the whole business of car cleaning is the engine bay. Here you need a powerful, biodegradable degreaser to get the engine and its surroundings looking as clean and wholesome as the rest of the car. If you start with a really greasy situation, you’ll need some industrial strength stuff like Purple Power, Gunk, or Simple Green. Thereafter you can just go with an engine protector. Gunk makes one of those too.