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Some people might refer to it as “babying” when they spend endless hours detailing their vehicles while others refer to the distinctive character of theirs replete with dust graffiti messages, creeping rust, paint chips, and dents. While both types of people are exerting their individuality, only one group will realize the benefits of taking care of their investment.
Not all of us have the time to spend with our vehicles every weekend, washing and detailing them. But, let’s face it. People are attracted to gleaming rides and turned off by the person in the messy, dirty vehicle. They do not seem to have pride in their vehicle let alone in themselves for driving in what looks like – and smells like – a trash can. There are a number of easy and affordable steps that you can take in terms of external and internal care that can maintain the vehicle’s in “good-as-new” condition.
A Clean, Shiny Ride
Many people take their car care seriously. In the U.S. alone during 2006, Americans spent $4 billion on making their vehicles look good, according to the Car Care Council. While some of this primping has more to do with luxury and status, all attention paid to the vehicle really does go a long way to longer vehicle life.
There is not enough that can be said about regularly washing and cleaning your vehicle to prevent damage to the paint and the exterior. Regular cleanings will keep your engine area spotless so that any problems can be more quickly identified instead of being hidden under inches of grime. The exterior will also be better protected from the harsh elements of the sun, wind, rain, and snow.
There are many areas that you need to regularly clean to realize these benefits, such as:
- Thorough wash and wax the entire exterior of the vehicle, including bumpers, panels, wheel wells, and undercarriage. The paint exterior is very delicate and is being constantly exposed to UV rays, acid rain, salt, atmospheric pollution, bird droppings, and insects, which can all damage your vehicle’s finish. Cleaners and various types of wax add extra layers of protection.
- Clean all windows and mirrors.
- Specially treat the tires and rims.
- Be sure to check your owner’s manual for any specific instructions on taking care of the exterior. Sometimes, the manufacturer will clearly list certain products that are harmful to the vehicle while others may provide helpful advice on what works best.
While you can do all of the above suggestions yourself, there are numerous vehicle “spas” and detailers who can take care of all of these items at their shop or, for a fee, they can come to your residence or office.
Other exterior options that bring your vehicle back to life include:
- Repair or replace a “tired” looking convertible top. Having this in tip-top shape adds significant value for the re-sale process.
- Get a body shop to knock out dings and dents and consider a new paint job to bring back the vehicle’s original appearance.
Beauty That’s More Than Skin Deep
It is not only the outside of the vehicle that needs care, but it is also about looking after the inside. Here are some easy tips that take little time and effort but that make a big difference:
- Throw trash out each time you get out of your vehicle instead of letting it turn into the local dumping ground for bulk mail and fast food wrappers. Be sure to check under the seats for escapee french fries or loose change.
- Vacuum and shampoo the carpets, mats, seats, and door jambs.
- Get rid of any stains with a fabric cleaner.
- After cleaning the carpets and fabric, use a fabric guard and UV protector to help with future stains or fading from direct sunlight. This can last up to three years before it needs to be reapplied.
- Wipe down the dashboard and instrument panels. All areas that are vinyl need their own special cleaner that can be applied with a soft towel.
- Use a duster to clean out vents.
- Try not to smoke in your vehicle. Despite those trusty little car fresheners, the smell never seems to go away. Think about what a motel room smells like even weeks after someone may have smoked in it.
- Start with the inside of your vehicle before tackling the exterior wash because this will eliminate water seeping into the dirty interior.
Again, you can take on all of these tasks on a regular basis, but if you really feel pressed for time and have the money to spend, there are companies that specialize in cleaning vehicles. This means that you will not have to sacrifice your Sunday afternoon in front of your house with a hose, bucket, and sponge but your vehicle will still be getting the attention it deserves.
When the interior of the vehicle starts to look tired, there are some things you can do to get it back on track:
- Replace worn carpeting.
- Have a “trim” shop fix sagging headliners and repair torn upholstery.
- Condition any leather you have in the vehicle because it tends to age more quickly than any other type of seat covering.
Be sure to keep receipts and an e-log of all work and improvements that you have done to your vehicle because this will be great evidence for more value than a similar vehicle that does not have any of this concrete proof of enhancements. Consider using a company that can help you store all of this information in a real-time, online format that can be repackaged as a marketing tool for selling your vehicle.
Investment Dollars Pay Off
After your mortgage, your vehicle is really the second biggest investment you will make during your lifetime, so it pays to take care of it, so you can realize the greatest value – especially at trade-in value. Kelly Blue Book has estimated that a vehicle that has excellent interior and exterior conditions as well as exceptional mechanical performance can garner up to $1,500 more than one that is just in good or fair condition.
Your vehicle will be “happier” when it is well taken care of and you will reap the benefits of having a happy vehicle. It will last longer and will be easier to maintain. A little effort yields substantial gains for the vehicle owner. There is a lot of pride that goes into taking your ride down the street, seeing the sun rays bounce from the hood of your vehicle, and having people flip their heads around to catch an envious glimpse.