Housewife MacGyver: Make Your Car Happy

Cleaning our cars is something that we all (probably) know we should do and also (probably) alternately feel guilty about, depending on the visibility of the dirt...
With our previous car, the bright yellow paint (if you're thinking Bumblebee, you're right on track) hid the everyday dirt pretty well. But our new car is black... which means that her paint job shows EVERYTHING. Even the slightest rain or neighbor's sneeze makes her look like she's been through a tornado.

(On a side note... she needs a name. Six months in the family and nameless. Shame.)

So what does a clean car have to do with MacGyver?
clean car = happy car! 

And a happy car is more likely to get you from point A to point B successfully for a longer span of time. 

You can always drive down to the corner gas station and pay the arm-and-a-leg to go through the automatic car wash... but why do that when you can wash your car right at home for only pennies?

(During the winter months, however, it's wise to take your car through the automatic wash occasionally, both to save yourself from frostbite and to give the undercarriage a nice cleaning -- the salt that the plows put down to melt the ice can corrode and otherwise gunk up the underside of your car.)

So, let's get started. 

The best time to wash your car is when it's warm but not hot -- we try for late morning so it's warm enough we don't freeze when we get wet but still cool enough that the car isn't too hot already (on the small chance that the cold water from the hose could crack a hot windshield) and that the car won't dry too quickly and leave water spots.

First, gather your washing supplies:
  1. bucket filled with water. warm water if you don't like icy hands :) 
  2. soap. dish soap works fine, but won't leave a nice waxy finish like most commercial car wash soaps.
  3. scrubbers. be sure they're gentle enough on your car's paint job, but pretty much anything will work. I like the furry-looking mitt (similar to this) and the sponge with netting on it (similar to this) -- great for getting bugs and other gunk off without taking off any paint.
  4. old towels for drying the car. a chamois like this is fantastic, too, if you have one. 
  5. a helper with cute little toes. :)
Not pictured: helper with nice hair (aka the husband) who asked not to be pictured "because I haven't even done my hair today!"; hose and sprayer attachment, (optional) foaming tire cleaner

Once you've gathered your supplies (and checked the weather forecast to be sure it will be clear and warm), move the car onto a grassy area... may as well water the grass while we clean!

Do NOT forget to roll up the windows....

Begin by spraying the car to remove all excess dirt, bugs, dead bird remnants... you get the idea.

Spray a high-power spray up into the wheel well since dirt and debris tend to accumulate there.

Add a couple of ounces of soap (depending on the type of soap - check the bottle) to your bucket of water and lather it up nicely.

Starting at the top and working your way down, soap up the car.

You'll want to let the water and soap sit a bit on the front to soak off all the bug debris...

and then scrub, scrub, scrub. You might have to repeat the soak-and-scrub a few times to properly remove all bug guts.

Be sure you get all those tricky places...
like everywhere within your toddler's reach that is COVERED with fingerprints
or the door handles
or the rear view mirrors (again, watch for bug guts!)

Sources have confirmed that if you and your helper are cleaning properly, at least one of you will be completely soaked:

When you get down to the wheels, keep scrubbing. BUT, be sure that whatever scrubber(s) you use for the tires and wheels are reserved for *only* the tires and wheels - if you use the same scrubber(s) later on your car, you might bring the junk from the tires with you and scratch the paint.
tire and wheel labeled for your learning convenience... my helper is still working on learning the difference, too :)

Once you've properly sudsed everything, rinse!

(If the day is hot and you find that the soap is drying before you're ready to rinse and dry, spray and suds and rinse and dry the car in sections so that you're not left with soap scum.)

And then grab your old towels (or special car towels) and dry, dry, dry.

Don't forget to open the doors and trunk (or hatchback, in my case) and dry there too:

(optional) Use a tire cleaner (like the one pictured or this one) to shine up those tires!

Follow the directions on your cleaner, but usually it's just
spray and watch it dissolve (and repeat as needed for VERY dirty tires like ours :)

Now we move to the interior! You'll need glass cleaner, protectant (such as Armor All), paper towels and/or a microfiber cloth, and a vacuum.

Apply your protectant to the surfaces of your car and buff to a shine (following the directions for your particular brand).

Don't forget trouble spots like
vents, dash gauges, cupholders, glove compartment, and door handles

Clean the windows, inside and out -- and don't forget the rear-view mirrors!

Before you vacuum, you'll want to (and probably need to) move the car to a dry location... electrocution is never a good thing. :) Then, just remove and vacuum the floor mats and vacuum the seats and floor (and ceiling, if you have children :) of the car. This step isn't pictured because... we forgot. We were too busy playing at grandma's... the location of the shop vac. :)

Now stand back and look at your beautiful car... and wait for it to rain, no matter what the forecast said. :)

This post is part of the Housewife MacGyver series on just Lu. Read more about Housewife MacGyver and see all the posts in the series here. 


Debra said...

Have I ever told you that Seth is fanatical about washing our car? He is also fanatical about air in the tires. :)

Danae said...

I wouldn't admit this to my husband, 'cause he would think I'm crazy, but my beautiful dark blue van is named Stella. And yes, the dirt shows up about a trillion times faster than my old grey van. I think I deserve points for just having washed her this week--even before you posted this! And people keep commenting how clean my van looks...which makes me paranoid that they were thinking how dirty it was before....oops!

Tricia said...

Great post Lu. I really need to clean my car. I've just been hoping that if I waited long enough someone else would notice it was dirty and do the work for me. I guess that's not being self reliant is it. I'll repent.

Gwen @ Gwenny Penny said...

Look at those tires shine! I am horrible about cleaning my car. My daughter somehow managed to track a bunch of grass seed onto the mat under her seat, and I'm pretty sure it's going to start growing any day now... its been there for like 6 months. I'm embarrassed to let people see my floor mats. They're filthy.

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