5 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Car

Spring has certainly sprung and—much as I enjoy winter—that means driving season is imminent.  It’s definitely one of the most exciting times of the year for diehard motoring enthusiasts and casual car fans alike.

Our youthful impatience to get out and experience our cars is ever present this time of year, but even after the most long and arduous of winters there remains one final blockade before unbridled warm weather driving: spring-cleaning.

Whether you’re dusting away the cobwebs on a car that slept through the winter or prepping your daily driver, nothing feels better than starting fresh and getting clutter-free for the spring.

Beyond that, it’s important to wash your car of any gunk it may have accrued during the winter months. Here’s 5 tips to help you improve your spring-cleaning routine at home.

Drive-through car washes are fun, but they never do a complete job!

Start Underneath and Remove Dirt/Salt

I always prioritize cleaning the undercarriage first.  Whether you live in a high-road salt area or not, I consider this a crucial step to spring-cleaning.  We’re far less likely to give our cars the care they deserve during the cold of winter than the warmth of summer, so there’s most likely a lot of gunky buildup that needs to go. 

Admittedly, most of the time when washing a car it’s best to move from the top down, but in this case you don’t want suds and water dripping onto you while you’re trying to reach underneath your car. 

I should note, you don’t actually need to be underneath your car to clean the underside.  For a home job, all you need is a garden hose and a broomstick.  Simply attach the garden hose to one end of the stick (some duct tape will do the job), turn the trigger-lock to keep the hose on, and slide it underneath your car.  All it takes is a few minutes of maneuvering your home-crafted hose extension around the whole underside to rid it of as much caked on dirt as possible.  Done right, this is a perfectly effective method for removing road salt and grime from underneath your car.

Rinse Wheels & Wheel Wells

While you’re working underneath your car, go ahead and use your hose to rinse off most of the pesky surface dirt that sticks to the wheel well liners. If you are going to clean your engine bay, now would be a good time to rinse under the hood as well.

I don’t usually dwell on this step. Your objective is to get as much of the visible dirt off as possible with just the hose, because you’re going to come back to this step later and give everything a deep clean.

Move Inside with a Brush and a Vacuum

After clearing out the whole inside of your car (leave no penny or dime behind in those cupholders), it’s nice to start with a light vacuum to pick up any bits of salt, dirt, or other filth that may have made its way into your car during the winter months. 

Don’t stop there though, take the time to brush the carpets and lift up as many contaminants as possible.  Make sure to use something with soft bristles, you don’t want to rip up the carpet.  That being said, winter grime can on occasion be quite stubborn and will require a stiffer brush; just don’t take the steel-bristled brush you use to clean your sand wedge to your car’s soft carpet.  After a final once over with your vacuum and a good wipe down of all the interior trim with a mild cleaner, now you can move on to the outside.  

Soak Exterior in Soap and Wash Away

Once you’ve gotten to this step, you can now give your car a healthy wash using whatever methods you normally use.  I find it’s a good idea to lay down an initial layer of suds on my car and let it soak for a few minutes before continuing.  This process allows any big particles of dirt to be picked up by the suds and float right off.  Be sure to throughly rinse the door jams and rear hatch, as winter grime tends to collect there.

If you have all-weather mats in the interior like I do, now is a good time to spray them down.

Once your paint is clean, remember to thoroughly wash your wheels and tire walls. Since a majority of the dirt and grime has already been removed from earlier, all you really need to focus on is the caked on brake dust.

Seal and Preserve

Do not skip this step! It is incredibly important to lay down a new layer of sealant after an abrasive winter and approaching the summertime when UV-exposure is increased. And yes, we do recommend a more durable sealant instead of a wax or ceramic coating. Waxes are great for giving your car a beautiful luster, but we believe the purpose-made sealants with minimal sacrifice for sheen but massive benefits for durability are a must-have. Ceramic coatings are also an option, though we don’t recommend them. Most at-home ceramic coating products are dilute and don’t work very well, and for a proper job you need an extremely clean surface, solid lighting, and a fat wallet. Plus it doesn’t make much sense to apply a coating to a vehicle that doesn’t already have near-perfect paint. Stick with sealant, your car will thank you.

Springtime is also a great time to do some routine maintenance and inspect your car, but beyond that and a good clean, you’re ready to hit the roads!

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