From Readers Digest
10. Park in the shade
Of course, a garage is always the ideal place to park your car. But if one isn’t available, minimize interior damage from UV sunlight and heat by always trying to park your car in the shade. If no shade is available or if you find parking under a tree results in bird droppings, use a car shade to minimize the sun’s impact. As a bonus, you’ll have a cooler car to step into on hot sunny days. Car shades come in two basic types: those that you unfold and place on the front windshield and rear window, or pleated types that attach to the windshield posts (with adhesive), window frames (with Velcro), or the windows themselves (with suction cups).
11. Clean the inside, too
Vacuum and sponge your interior every time you wash your car. Dirt particles are abrasive, and spilled liquids, such as soda, can be corrosive.Vacuum your interior thoroughly with a powerful vacuum (small cordless models are generally too weak). Use the appropriate wand heads when vacuuming. The bare metal wand can mar and scratch surfaces. Sponge vinyl surfaces clean with a solution of mild detergent and water.
12. Clean dash gauges carefully
Use a soft damp cloth to lightly wipe dust from the clear plastic lenses on your dashboard. Too much pressure will scratch them. Too many scratches can make it difficult to read your gauges under certain lighting conditions.
13. Let floor mats take winter’s beating
Use floor mats to protect carpeting. The best type for controlling salt, slush, and mud in winter are rubber wafflestyle mats. They stay in place, don’t allow the water to seep through, and are easy to wash clean. Carpet-style mats are helpful, too. Shake, vacuum, or wash as needed; replace them as they wear through.
14. Blast mats with the hose
When washing your car, drag out the rubber or carpet floor mats and blast them with the hose.This will dislodge dirt particles that, if allowed to build up, will grind holes in your mats. Let the mats dry thoroughly in the sun before reinstalling them.
15. For stubborn carpet or mat stains
After vacuuming floor mats or interior carpeting, apply foam rug cleaner to resistant stains as directed by the maker. Work the foam into a few square feet at a time, using a wet sponge or brush. Vacuum when dry.
16. Preserve door and window seals
Wipe a rubber protectant (such as Armor-All) or silicone on door and window weatherstripping to keep it in good condition. Don’t use an oilbased product, such as WD-40, because the oil will damage the rubber. Regular cleaning and treatment of your car’s weatherstripping will also lessen the likelihood of your door sticking to its rubber seal in cold weather, a common cause of damage to the rubber.
17. Fix bad weatherstripping immediately
If your weatherstripping is letting rainwater leak into the interior of your car, take a look at it and decide if you can repair it or if it needs to be replaced. Small leaks can be handled with brush-on seam sealers. Resecure loose sections, not otherwise damaged, with trim adhesive. Torn sections may be repaired with special caulking available at auto parts stores. You may also be able to extend the life of worn-but-intact sections by inserting foam rods, available at automotive stores, into the hollow section of the weatherstripping. If you decide to replace entire sections of gasket, don’t simply buy generic stuff such as you’d use around the house. Buy a product that matches your car’s original weatherstripping — it’s available in a wide variety of profiles from dealerships and automotive mail-order catalogues.
18. Keep leather from drying out and cracking
Leather cars seats are durable and don’t require a lot of maintenance. After a few years, however, the seats can become soiled. Use a leather cleaner to remove dirt and stains.Then apply a leather protectant formulated for pigmented or top-coated grain leather (the leather used for most leather car upholstery). Protectants will resist stains and make the upholstery easier to clean in the future. Choose a protectant that includes conditioners to keep your leather supple.
19. Use upholstery cleaners on soiled seats
The same upholstery cleaners you use at home can be used on your car’s upholstery. Use them sparingly, however, to avoid saturating the fabric. Use a clean cloth to wipe away the foam. On velour seats, brush the fibers gently to avoid matting them and to preserve the original texture of the fabric.
20. Renew fabric upholstery
Spraying fabric car seats and carpets with a fabric protectant, such as Scotchgard, will make them resist dirt and stains, and make them easier to clean. Thoroughly clean the fabrics before using one of these products and then test the product on an inconspicuous place to be sure the treatment will not discolor the fabric.
21. Place a towel under baby seats
All manner of food bits and liquids can accumulate under a baby seat, where they can permanently stain the upholstery. Place a sheet of heavy plastic and an absorbent towel under the seat to prevent damage, and re-secure the seat according to the manufacturer’s directions.
22. Protect car paint from the sun
Paint does more than make your vehicle look great. It’s also the first line of defense against rusted body panels. Of course, the best way to protect the paint is to park the car in a garage. If that is not possible, park in the shade or purchase a car cover. The sun’s ultraviolet rays break down paint and cause it to fade. Some car covers protect your car from more than sun, moisture, bird droppings, and dust — they also have a thin layer of cushioning that will guard against light impact, such as from a tipped bicycle or small falling tree branch.
23. Touch up nicks sooner rather than later
Touch-up paint won’t adhere well to rust. So be sure to keep some matching touch-up paint on hand so you can touch up any minor nicks, often found around door edges, before rust has a chance to form.
24. Tape saves light covers
A cracked taillight or turn-signal cover, if left alone, may allow your light compartment to fill with water and cause some real damage. A good short-term fix is to tape over the crack. Use the red or orange tape that’s made for this purpose.You can purchase it at many automotive parts stores.
25. Avoid light fixture problems
When changing a bad bulb, clean dirty or corroded sockets with fine steel wool or a small wire brush.Wipe the socket clean of debris before installing the new light bulb.
26. Fix small windshield chips
Got a rock chip, crack, or ding in your windshield? Bring your car to a windshield repair shop. For far less cost than replacing the windshield, they can fix chips and cracks, even quite long ones. The repairs not only keep the chips and cracks from spreading and restore structural integrity, they also improve clarity.
27. Fill with washer fluid only
Don’t add water to the windshield washer reservoir. It won’t clean as well as washer fluid, and it may freeze in cold weather and damage the system. Don’t try to run your windshield washer system once you suspect there’s no more fluid in the tank, or you may damage the washer fluid pump.
28. Fix the washer fluid tank
Cracked washer-deicer fluid tanks are fairly common once a car is of a certain age. A good remedy — until you can buy a new tank or find one at the junkyard — is to insert a plastic freezer bag into the tank and fill it with the washer fluid.
29. Don’t try to carry too much
Never exceed your car’s roof load specifications or weight limits.You can find them in your vehicle owner’s manual. Check the weight limitation of your roof rack as well. Typically the range is from 150 to 200 pounds (68 to 90 kg). That’s the equivalent of eighteen 8-foot 2 x 4s (2.4-meter 38 x 89s) or three sheets of 3/4-inch (17-mm) plywood. If you have to deliver a heavy load from the home or garden center, consider having it delivered. It will save wear and tear on you as well as your car.
30. Keep an old blanket handy
Protect your car’s roof from scratches with an old blanket before tying lumber, bicycles, or luggage to your roof rack.
31. Secure loads to avoid dents and scratches
The beginning of the end for the finish on many cars and trucks — and for wagon and hatchback interiors for that matter — is an improperly stowed load. Invest in the appropriate racks for bicycles, cargo, and luggage. A good trick to keep tall objects from sliding around in a pick-up truck bed is to use a shower curtain rod (or two) as a brace. Just push the cargo against the front wall of the truck bed and install the rod behind it. Twist to secure. Cargo nets will also help keep objects from banging around and damaging a truck bed.
32. Inspect wheel-well splashguards
These guards, however flimsy on many of today’s cars, help keep water and winter’s salty slush from splashing up into the engine compartment, where it can damage sensitive electrical components. Unfortunately, these guards tear off easily — sometimes without the driver knowing it. Check for damage to these guards when you wash your car. Re-secure with the appropriate fasteners or replace as needed. As added protection from splashed-up muck, slush, and debris, install mud flaps (also called splash guards) on your vehicle.
33. Wash in winter, too
If you rarely wash your car during messy winter weather, you are not alone.The cars you see on the road make it obvious that lots of folks figure,”Why bother? The car is going to look awful the next time I drive it.” The problem with this thinking is that washing is more important in the winter than other times of the year. All that sand, slush, and ice mixed with road salt is exactly what makes your car rust.The fastest corrosion occurs when the temperature repeatedly rises above and then falls below freezing. Especially during the messy months, be sure to rinse the undercarriage and hard-to-reach areas that are susceptible to rust, such as the bumpers and inside the wheel wells. If the temperature outside is going to stay above freezing long enough for your car and driveway to dry, fill a bucket with warm water and tackle the job at home. If not, pay a visit to your local car wash and be sure they dry the car thoroughly.
34. Wax to protect your car’s paint job
No way around it! Waxing your car is work. But it’s satisfying work that will help keep your car looking new. Car wax preserves paint by slowing oxidation and forming a barrier against bird droppings, sap, and pollution. Plus driving a nice shiny car is just plain fun.
Here’s what to do to ensure the maximum in protection:
Liquid and spray waxes are tempting to use — they make the car shiny with less work than rubbing in paste wax. But there’s still no beating paste wax for the hardest, longest-lasting finish. Look for paste with a high carnauba wax content.
Apply a thin, even coat of wax to the car’s surfaces with a damp sponge. Avoid applying too much, or it will be difficult to remove and some residue will inevitably mar your finish.
To avoid fine scratches, use a clean, soft cotton or microfiber cloth to remove wax once it has dried.
Apply an extra coat of wax to the nose and hood. The wax film in these areas wears away quickly.
35. Give your car a new skin
New self-adhering urethane films have been developed to protect the most vulnerable painted areas on your car from stone chips and other minor abrasions.You can wash and wax these surfaces, just as you would the rest of the paint job. While it’s best to have these films professionally installed, you can peel them off yourself. One product is made by 3M, and you can learn more by going to 3m.com and searching for Scotchgard Paint Protection Film Solutions.
36. Don’t let tools mar your car’s finish
If you plan to service and make repairs to your car, invest in a fender cover. It drapes over your fender, providing a safe place to rest your tools without causing scratches. It will also prevent your belt buckle from marring your paint as you lean into the engine compartment to work.
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