Spring Car Cleaning & Maintenance Checklist

April 28, 2016

spring car maintenanceSpring is here and summer is near. But what do spring cleaning and car maintenance have in common? We’ve put together a helpful spring cleaning checklist you can use to make sure your car is clean and in top shape for summer.

The compare.com Spring Cleaning Checklist

Car maintenance by itself involves a lot of things that drivers need to remember (though most of us forget and have to be reminded by our mechanics). Spring cleaning for your car seems like it might be pretty up-front and simple, but it’s also a great time to do some basic car maintenance to prepare for summer. Here’s our Spring Cleaning Checklist of car maintenance items that will keep your car running strong and looking good all summer long.

Clean your Car’s Interior

It’s one thing to spend an hour cleaning your car. Keeping your car clean long-term, however, is a bigger challenge. Here’s how to do it.

  1. Take one thing inside with you every time you go.
    Just got to work? Grab that used napkin from the floor and toss it on the way in. Just got home? Pick up those crumpled receipts with your free hand.
  2. Keep wipes in the car.
    A plastic box of wipes is invaluable for wiping down your dash, cleaning up sticky messes and blotting upholstery spills. Armorall and other companies make wipes specially designed for car interiors, but regular baby wipes also work well.
  3. Keep a lidded plastic container for trash disposal.
    You don’t need to buy a special car trash can; some people swear by a plastic pitcher or cereal container with a flip-up lid. You can even use a plastic grocery bag, although it won’t look quite as neat. The key is to have a spill-proof container at hand where you can easily stash trash.
  4. Buy heavy-duty rubber mats for the front.
    We’re not talking about those flimsy, clear plastic mats. Get heavy, high-quality mats that have deep grooves to catch mud, leaves, snow and sand — everything that wreaks havoc on your floor mats.
  5. Buy organizers for your car.
    Most car clutter is caused by a lack of places to stow stuff. That’s why you end up with pens in the cup holders and mints in the door pockets. Something as simple as a plastic basket can collect things such as lip gloss and spare change. Parents swear by organizers that hang from seat backs, which can hold toys, snacks, diapers and wipes. Buy a compartmented bin for the trunk to store things like grocery bags, blankets and emergency gear.
  6. Banish bad smells from your car.spring car air freshener Even a tidy car can have an unpleasant, musty smell. If your car is haunted by persistent bad odors, such as smoke or mildew, it may be time for an air freshener. Many people swear by Ozium.

Some ideas for natural air fresheners for the car:

  • Sachets of rosemary or lavender
  • Eucalyptus sprigs
  • A cup of coffee beans
  • Baking soda refrigerator boxes

Change the Air Filter

The amount of air your engine gets is very important to its performance. When your air filter hasn’t been changed in a while it can reduce the amount of air that goes to your engine and you may notice your car feeling sluggish. Change the air filter to improve your car’s acceleration and fuel economy.

Change Your Car’s Fluids

Anti-freeze, power steering fluid, oil… all of these are used up and worn out over time. To keep your car running well, you need to change these out periodically. Spring cleaning is a perfect excuse to do just that. This will also ensure that fluid levels are ready for summer when your car will really need special care. Anti-freeze levels are especially important as they will change between winter and summer and play a key role in protecting your car’s engine.

Check the Pressure in Your Tires

Changes in temperature can affect the pressure in your car’s tires. Once the weather changes, be sure to measure the pressure in your tires to make sure that they meet the requirements for your vehicle. Driving on tires with low tire pressure can reduce your gas mileage and pose a hazard to your safety.

Replace Your Windshield Wipers

During winter ice and snow can wear out your wipers. This is especially problematic as spring often means heavy showers and lots of rain in general. Having wiper blades in good condition is a matter of car safety. When it comes to our spring cleaning checklist, this is one item you don’t want to skip.

How to Detail a Car like a Pro: Our Spring Cleaning Guide

Once you’ve done all this, why not take the next step and detail your car? It’s one thing to get it working like new – another thing to get it looking like new as well. Follow these steps to get that professional detailing shine without spending all the money.

Clean Your Car in the Right Order:

You probably didn’t even know that there’s a right order when it comes to washing your car—but there is. Here’s how it works:

How to Detail a Car on the Inside:

Start from the top to the bottom.

  • Start by cleaning vents and ducts with pressurized air.
  • Then wipe down the dash and steering wheel as well as cup holders, change holders, and any other places dirt or grime might be hiding.
  • Next, use a brush to sweep any dirt in the seats into the floor, then sweep the dirt in the floorboards into a single pile.
  • Finally, vacuum up the dirt piles then go over the seats and floorboards once more with the vacuum.

How to Detail a Car on the Outside

spring car cleaningStart from the bottom, working your way up.

  • Clean your tires with non-acid based tire cleaner. You can use degreasers on your wheels, just avoid using detergents because they can harm your car’s paint.
  • Hand wash your car. Avoid the car wash—particularly the kind of “car wash” you see at gas stations. If you’re going to do it, do it right (and for less money).
  • Use a car wash solution, DO NOT USE DETERGENT. It can strip protective coatings like wax off of your car and hurt your paint.
  • Dry your car off. Don’t let it set out in the sun with water on it, you’ll end up with water spots. Dry your car with a rubber or silicon squeegee blade. Avoid using fabric cloths, they may leave streaks or lint.
  • If your car’s surface doesn’t feel smooth after a wash, odds are you need to clean your paint. You can do this by using professional paint-cleaning clay and a bit of liquid cleaning wax.
  • Polish your paint using either car paint polish or car polishing wax. To buff it out, we recommend an electric oscillating polisher/buffer. But you can always do it the old-fashioned way: by hand.
  • Using sealing wax or carnauba wax to add a protective layer. Unlike regular spring cleaning, this needs to be done every season to protect your car’s paint.
  • Clean your glass using an ammonia-free glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth.

Skip the Car Wash, Detail your Car Yourself

Spring cleaning is a lot easier to tackle if you know you only have to do it once a year. Using this method will ensure that you’ve cleaned the car very thoroughly which also reduces the need to clean your car frequently. Now, you can go to the car wash just for touch ups over the summer.


Car Owner’s Guide

What should you do in a parking lot accident? What steps can you take to prevent auto theft? What can I do to lower my auto insurance payments? Car owners get faced with a lot of questions. Read our Car Owners Guide to make sure you’re getting the most out of your car.

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