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May 1, 2018

8 min. read

Thanks to Canada’s unique climate mix of hot summers and frigid winters, the exterior of our cars tends to suffer a variety of hazards from tree sap to wintery slush.

Life’s messy.

Vehicle interiors are bombarded with debris – not to mention wear and tear caused by Junior’s habit of spilling his Gatorade all over the back seat on the way home from hockey practice.

Over time, both the outside and inside of a car can deteriorate and, even if one fastidiously cleans their car, exposure to heat and the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause damage to both the paint and interior surfaces.

Be proactive.

Regular cleaning and detailing extends its service life and preserves more of its original value at trade-in time. CAA recommends washing a car every couple of weeks and waxing it two or three times a year with these frequencies doubling if a vehicle is driven in harsh conditions or Junior has frequent early-morning hockey practice.

Regularly cleaning the interior keeps damage at bay. Even a quick wipe of the dashboard with a damp cloth is better than letting dirt pile up to the point where one can grow crops on the centre console.

Bucket list.

Essential car cleaning involves a simple exterior wash, making certain to use the two-bucket method. With this approach, one bucket contains a soap and water mixture while the other is used solely for rinsing the wash mitt. This way, there is little chance of picking up errant dirt on a wash mitt.

For extra protection, invest in a plastic guard which fits into the bucket. This allows dirt introduced to the bucket during a wash mitt rinse to sink to the bucket’s bottom and stay there, out of reach.

A man washing his car's tire with a bucket of soap.

Tools on board.

Investing in a few quality cleaning tools is a good idea. At minimum, be sure to pick up:

  • wash mitts

  • soft-material towels

  • proper car wash soap

  • interior detailing spray

  • drying cloths

Towels and sponges should be made of soft materials that will not scratch the paint or other surfaces.

Be specific.

Products used for washing a car should be specifically designed for automobiles. Household cleaners like dish soap do a great job of cutting grease in the kitchen but often contain ingredients that can damage the delicate paint finish on vehicles. Head for an automotive retailer who will have the proper soaps, washes and waxes on the shelf.

Inside the car, be sure to use a good quality wet/dry vacuum to hoover all the dirt and debris out of the carpets and seating surfaces. Use a soft cloth and appropriate cleaner to wipe grime from the dashboard. Don’t throw out those old toothbrushes – they’re perfect for digging crumbs out of the cupholders and cubbies.

Doing a thorough job of cleaning one’s vehicle is time consuming but the rewards are great. In this instance, a pinch of protection is definitely worth a pound of cure.

My chemical romance.

The myth that ‘green’ products aren’t as effective as their chemical brethren has long been dispelled, making it more important than ever to use environmentally sound cleaning materials. Professional drive-through car washes trap and filter their waste water but those of us who wash our machines in a driveway will allow potentially toxic run-off to seep into the storm sewer catch basins. This chemical soup then goes straight into our lakes, rivers, and streams.

It’s impossible to catch every drop of soapy water, but you can limit the environmental damage by disposing the dirty bucket water through the sanitary sewer by pouring it down a laundry sink or toilet. This way, it’ll at least get diverted to a wastewater treatment plant where it’s treated and made clean. The fish will thank you.

May is car care month.

To make sure your car is ready for a summer of fun, bring it into one of CAA’s Approved Auto Repair Services (AARS) facilities for a checkup. Every shop in the AARS program must meet stringent CAA standards and offer quality service at a fair price. CAA’s AARS facilities also offer Member-exclusive benefits such as 3% in CAA Dollars® on all repairs and a guaranteed one-year/20,000-kilometre warranty on parts and labour.

Find an AARS Facility

Written by: Matthew Guy

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