There is nothing like the rush of excitement you get when you drive a shiny, brand new car fresh off the assembly line, especially if you have been settling for a beat-up clunker. The problem is, you might not have the money to invest thousands of dollars into new wheels. Fortunately, there are steps you can take that will transform your time-worn vehicle into something you can be proud of and feel good about once again.
If it has been awhile since you saw your floor or even your back seats, it’s time to liberate yourself – and your car – from all the excess stuff you have been carrying around. Keep in mind that your car probably should not be a rolling trash can; after all, it tells the world a lot about you. Start with the glove box, leaving only important documents and items you need within easy reach while you’re driving. Then tackle the trunk with the same mercilessness you would give to a closet filled with clothes you don’t wear anymore. If it’s summertime, take all of your snow gear out and store it in your garage. When you’re done throwing things away, organize what’s left so that you can easily access it.
- WASH THOROUGHLY
Taking the time to ensure that the outside of your vehicle is washed regularly is not just done for cosmetic reasons. Allowing grime, road salt, bird droppings and insect remains to accumulate on your automobile can eventually lead to corrosion and a shortening of the life of your finish.
If you’re in a rush or if you don’t have a good place to take this job on, spend a little money at a local carwash. Many offer customer loyalty programs as financial incentives to keep you coming back on a regular basis. Go as a walk-in client if you just need a standard exterior cleaning, or make an appointment for a more comprehensive interior makeover.
For many people, however, washing their own vehicles, particularly in the summer, is a weekly ritual. Be sure you have good cloths, microfiber mitts or sea sponges for washing, and stock up on car-washing solution specifically designed for the task as household detergents such as dishwashing soap are not ideal. Take on this task on an overcast day or in a shady area since direct sunlight can lead to streaks. Have two buckets on hand, one with soapy water and one with clean water. As you wash, rinse out your soapy sponge regularly in the clean water to remove contaminants. Tackle the wheels and tires first, then wash the rest of the car starting at the top and working your way down. Rinse frequently, using a hose without the nozzle to allow the water to sheet and enabling a more thorough rinse.
To avoid mineral deposits and water spots, always hand-dry your car immediately after you are finished washing it. Use a squeegee or a microfiber chamois to quickly absorb the moisture. When you’re done, apply a spray wax or spray sealant to lock in the shine and to extend the life of your wax coating. Alternatively, you can apply a new coat of wax to maximize your shine and protect your finish even more.
- GIVE IT A MAKEOVER
No matter how careful you are, your vehicle might have some minor scratches or nicks that detract from its appearance. You would be amazed at what a bit of touch-up paint can accomplish to minimize the appearance of these imperfections. Today’s paints can be easily matched to your car’s make, model and color and are easy to apply.
While large or complex dents or scratches may well require the services of a professional detailer, there are some simple DIY tricks for minimizing smaller ones. If applying a coat of touch-up paint does not completely remove the dent, use a plunger to pop out the dent. The plastic trim pieces can be easily removed and rejuvenated with a simple application of the right color of spray paint, a sure way to inexpensively add years to their life.
If the inside of your car is starting to look as beat-up as the outside, consider updating your seats. A good detailer can re-upholster them for you in the color and fabric of your choice. Investing in better floor mats can also spruce up your vehicle’s interior appearance as well as protect the floor from mud and contaminants.
- UPDATE THE SOUND SYSTEM
Since you spend a lot of time behind the wheel, you deserve to be able to listen to the entertainment content of your choice. What’s more, it should sound good. Today’s sound systems can integrate seamlessly with your iPhone, Android and other devices. Many also feature a high-capacity hard drive that enables you to store much of your entire music collection and access it whenever you’re driving.
- RESTORE YOUR OLD HEADLIGHTS
Are your headlights getting ugly and yellow? Instead of buying a new set, try this DIY solution: Get 400-, 600- and 2000-grit sandpaper. Soak the headlight in water. After also wetting your 400-grit sandpaper, use circular motions to remove the oxidation on the headlight. Then repeat this process with 600-grit sandpaper, subsequently moving onto the 2000-grit sandpaper. Wipe off the headlight and then rub with toothpaste. Buff with a hand-held buffing wheel and wipe down. Apply a thin coat of wax as a protective coat, buff and you’re done. If your headlights still do not look clear after trying this technique, it’s time to invest in some new ones.
- REVITALIZE THE A/C
You might have the shiniest car in the world, but all of your hard work will be for naught if the inside smells like dirty socks or your lunch from three weeks ago. Pay attention to your heating and cooling system, ensuring that your filters are clean and that your air ducts are free from blockages. Use an air conditioning deodorizer and a subtly scented air freshener to ensure that you and your passengers are breathing clean, good-smelling air. Once you take all of these steps, you will have a vehicle that is clean and beautiful inside and out.
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