On the Road Cover Story
cars.com On the Road Weekly Publication
10:15 AM EDT, July 6, 2011
By Mar Jennings
We’ve all been there—that messy, dusty, grimy car that sits in our driveway screaming for a wash. Oh what to do? A dirty car is without a doubt unpleasant to see. If you’re like me you’ll try not to notice just how bad it really is. But there’s no getting around it should you rub up against the car, getting a layer of grime on your clothes. I’ve done that several times. And what about the car interior? No better, right? The essence of Mother Earth is on the outside and inside of your ride. That once fresh clean look of a new car has driven off without you.
Our four wheels should never become an extra closet. But as if by magic, clothing, shoes, tools and books often find a new home there. Same for trash: discarded wrappers, bottles and papers give your car the look of a traveling landfill. Does this sound familiar? Well, when that happens the time has come to wash and clean your car!
Today we are always in high speed, so finding the time to wash the car (whether by hand of through a car wash) often passes us by.
The sometimes daunting task of washing our car can seem like a nostalgic memory. So here are some fun and simple ways to reintroduce that memory back into reality.
Get a Schedule:
First and foremost, try to be proactive rather than reactive. Treat yourself and your car by getting on a schedule. Avoid building a layer of crud; even bird droppings leach acids that can strip away wax and eat into your car’s paint. I recommend a once-a-week to once-a-month schedule depending on weather. When the pollen count is high, or if you live by the beach, once a week is best. If you have a garage you can get away with every other week.
Wash for hire:
Get someone to do it for you. Even if you like to do your own detail work every once in a while, the key here is to avoid a hassle. Carwashes offer “express” service, but going on a Saturday afternoon will guarantee that there will be no express in your wash. I personally hate lines and when there is a long line I’ll quickly find something else to do and put it off for another day. So much for your car wash schedule!
I always recommend you should choose the “express” route - go early during the week for that get-in-get-out-fast experience. If possible, go before work and always avoid the Friday or Saturday before holidays.
There is nothing more rewarding than washing your own car. Not much is needed other than a bucket, some old towels and a large natural sponge or even a lamb’s-wool mitt. Make sure you have a car-wash product specifically made for automobiles. Try to avoid unnecessary work. Always lather and rise in sections so suds don’t have a chance to dry; why scrub the same section more than once? If you can wash your car in the shade, do it. Direct sun can dry the car too fast, leaving those awful water spots. After rinsing off the section, use a chamois or sponge to wipe down the section. The car will be a little damp but not sopping wet.
When it comes to drying here is my sMARt tip: Use a leaf blower! You’ll be surprised how effective, fast and easy this is and how it pushes the water from those tiny spaces that a towel can’t get in. Work from top down. Use it on rims and tires, too, making sure you blow the water away without picking up any ground surface. This little trick will cut your drying time by half. Done, done and done.
Smells like new:
Have you ever been in a car that smells wrong? Perhaps your gym bag, baby’s spit-up or even your pet’s toy can be contributing factor to a foul odor. Keeping your car clean is one thing but keeping it smelling good is a whole other world. I use fabric softener sheets under the seats for that wonderful fresh sent. Works like a charm.
A family affair :
Oh how I have wonderful memories of washing the family car only to have my brothers soak me with the hose. Snoopy, our German shepherd, would also get involved. When it was done we had a clean car and wet clothes. Those were the days! My parents did not ask if we wanted to wash the car - it was expected. This task was part of our Saturday morning ritual. Although at first we were not crazy about it we soon learned to find the fun in being together and getting wet on a warm summer day.
Growing up, we would go door to door asking neighbors what we could do to make some money. We had paper routes, grass-cutting jobs, leaf blowing in the fall and snow shoveling in the winter. If you don’t have kids of your own—or ones old enough—you can still outsource the job. Today no one is coming to the door so we need to ask. I’ve found that if you offer five to 10 bucks to a neighborhood kid they are more than willing to jump in and wash your car. All you have to do is ask. A sMARt tip is to run it by the parents first.
Wax or no wax:
When I have the time I love washing my car but I would never, ever wax the car myself. I’m just not good at making that long commitment. That’s where I’ll splurge and hire the professionals to wash the car, wax it, and get it detailed. Doing the added detailing step once a year gives your car an amazing new car feel. Your car dealership and even your local wash might offer this service. Just be prepared to leave your car for several hours. It’s worth the wait!
It’s what I like to call sumMAR time, so get on the road in a nice clean car. Going to work, play or even enjoying a well-deserved road trip always starts with a nice clean car, so stop “spinning your wheels” wishing to wash your car and just do it. Your wheels will love you for it.
Mar Jennings is a lifestyle expert for CT1 Media. www.marjennings.com