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Details, Details...

Got a suggestion for transforming your car from toxic waste nightmare to hygienic masterpiece? Great! Share it here.


  • edited September 2007
    Sell it and buy a bicycle?

    Drive it less, walk, carpool or take a bus more often.

    Keep it maintained a drive like a grandmother to reduce the fuel usage/pollution.

    Make it the last car you ever buy.
  • edited September 2007
    Park it next to a trash can at your local fast food place, then throw away all the junk in there. Most trash piles up because there's no where to put it.
  • edited September 2007
    When cleaning the dashboard with a spray cleaner/conditioner, the spray gets all over the inside of the front window. To avoid this, I took a large flat piece of cardboard and cut one of the long edges so that the corners are rounded to fit into the corners of the front window. On the other long edge, I cut a notch for the rear-view mirror. This allows me to hold the cardboard up to the window tightly to act as a barrier to prevent the dash cleaner from spattering on the window glass.

    I bought a detail brush at a local auto parts store. It is round and has nice long bristles that are about 2" long. I keep this handy in the console, then when I'm sitting in traffic or waiting for a long traffic signal, I get the bush and dust around the crevices (like A/C vents), dials and knobs that collect dust. It's just a way of helping keep the dash area looking nice.
  • edited September 2007
    I need help cleaning the engine! I've got an older car that has never had the engine cleaned and is now completely dirty! What is the best way to completely clean and shine my engine compartment? Thanks!
  • edited September 2007
    Are you talking about cleaning the car itself or making it less toxic to the environment? If it is the later then I'm thinking of bringing my 1982 AMC Concord to the junk yard just to get it off the road. It still runs and the body is in pretty good shape for a Maine car considering that the state uses a lot of road salt and calcium cloride. Maybe as a last hurrah I should donate it to a local demolition derby...any takers?
  • edited September 2007
    To clean my engine, I use Simple Green, full strength, applied from a spray bottle, like an empty Windex spray bottle. I use this on all my car's engines when I first buy a car, doing it about once a month or so. My engines always look new, even after 5 years. Simple Green gets most of the crud off if I let it sit, then I spray it with off with a hose, taking care to not spray directly on the electronics or the dip sticks. If your engine has thick road grime and old grease on it, Simple Green won't help. You'll need a professional steam cleaning.
  • edited September 2007
    Don't use dishwashing soap on your car's paint: it strips all wax, and prolonged, repeated use eats at the clear coat (occasional use is OK). I don't like the advice of diluting mild soap, whatever that soap is.

    Automotive soap exists for a reason and it's not just to charge you more money. Good automotive shampoo/soap: A) doesn't strip the existing wax, B) designed to lubricate the surface, suspending dirt particles above it, so when you slide your mitt, you're not grinding the dirt into the paint. When you have a black or a dark car, that's a difference you can appreciate.

    There is a "don't use expensive overpriced products" theme going through these tips, but you don't have to break the bank to have a sparkling clean, shiny car. Sure, mild soap may be cheaper, but only by pennies a wash.

    I've tried all sorts of detailing products, from Turtle Wax to Zaino, and let me tell you, these days, you can find some great car care products in a local store at very reasonable prices. So here is my budget-but-looks-awesome list of stuff you can find in a local auto store:

    CAR WASH: Meguiar's Gold Class Car Wash Shampoo, 64oz for $10. Using 1oz per gal (2 gal per wash), you get 32 washes, that's 31 cents a wash! You can't even make a public phone call for that little anymore. This soap is one of the best values. It's surprisingly nicer than cheaper stuff like Blue Coral. There's no reason to buy anything cheaper.

    DRYING TOWEL: Don't use a chamois, as it doesn't have anywhere for the dirt to go. If the wind blows some dirt over while you dry or you miss a spot, you'll just drag that dirt across the paint with a chamois. Instead, use a large, plush microfiber towel. I like the big yellow one that I found at my local Target store. With a microfiber towel, there's a nap that the stray dirt can go under.

    INTERIOR: Don't use ArmorAll Protectant, as if it is not applied again and again, it will dry up and make your dashboard look cracked. Instead, scoot to EMS or a local store that sells fiberglass boats and pick up some 303 Aerospace Protectant. It's water-based, not silicone-based, and will not do anything nasty to your plastic interior. You can also use it on tires for a dark, not bling-bling glossy look. Spray interior cleaner on a microfiber or a cotton towel and wipe it on, instead of spraying it directly on the panel. This avoids overspray. Meguiar's #40 is my favorite interior cleaner and dressing, but you have to go to a local bodyshop store to buy it.

    CAR WAX: Mother's FX SynWax lasts weeks longer than natural carnauba waxes. You are more likely to find this at a local store. It's a synthetic wax, which means very little goes a long way. It's easy to apply: you use just a bit (enough to make it haze, but not any more, otherwise you're just wasting it).

    I use about 1.5oz for my entire car. At 2oz per car, that's 12 wax applications out of a $15 bottle. Use a nice, soft microfiber applicator. Wipe on to haze, wait 10-15, buff out (buffs out easily). No hard buffing in or out required (so your arms don't fall off).

    Harder to find, but my favorite all-around wax is Meguiar's #21 synthetic sealant. It's what that I recommend to all my friends. You have to go to a local body shop store that carries Meguiar's Professional line. $20 for a 16oz bottle seems insane, but you end up using only 1.5-2oz per car, and it lasts 4 months! (Speaking from my own experience.) It's good for lazy people like me, who want the wax protection to last through the winter.

    AND NOW THE MOST USEFUL TIP! Next time you wax the car, after washing it, before waxing it, "CLAY" the car! To clay is to use a clay bar to clean your paint from surface contamination. (Clay Magic for $10-11 is the absolute best deal, do not buy any overpriced Meguiar's or Mother's, they have less bar for more money). Basically, you spray lubricant (quick detailer) on a body panel, and glide the clay bar gently over it. It will pick up road tar, grime, paint overspray, bugs, etc. When the side making contact with the paint gets dirty, simply fold the dirty part in, stretching the clean side over. Now you have a new clean side.

    You will be amazed at how smooth-feeling your paint will be after claying. It will also look that much better no matter what wax you use, because you are not waxing over all this stuff. Next time you wash your car, put your hand in a sandwich bag and glide it over the paint at the bottom of your doors, or rear of your trunk. If you never detailed your 2+ year old car, chances are it will feel like sandpaper. After the clay bar, the paint will be brand-new smooth.

    You only need to clay once or twice a year, depending on how much you drive.
  • edited September 2007
    You can also buy an engine degreaser (e.g. Stoner's brand), which may work better than Simple Green in some circumstances. But Simple Green works quite well for most people.

    Warm up your engine before cleaning it (but don't have it HOT, just warm), to help evaporate water.
  • edited September 2007
    So how do you clean a steering wheel that's covered with one of those great sewn-on leather covers?
  • edited September 2007
    For cleaning leather, I have found Bluemagic Leather and vinyl cleaner works good followed by a good quality leather conditioner such as Meguiar's
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