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Hot wheels

Keeping your car gorgeous could save you money

industry is a booming business. As many women have figured out, even if you eat sensibly, exercise and avoid smoking, sometimes Mother Nature needs a little nurturing to really blossom. Like humans, cars need a bit of pampering to fend off the ravages of age and the environment. Imagine how you’d look if you slept outside for a week with only one bath and one or two meals. If you want your car to look its best and fetch top dollar at trade-in time, your auto hygiene habits need to extend beyond a monthly trip to the car wash. Here are some car care products to pamper your vehicle:

Ignoring your car’s finish could result in unsightly blemishes. “Bird droppings usually have acidic content and can cause car paint to rapidly deteriorate,” says Richard Pickering, president of the Beverly Hills Group. His auto-detailing firm – which often primps high-end cars for auto shows – once spent 20 hours, at $60 an hour, restoring the finish of a Jaguar with serious sap damage. Pickering recommends attacking sap, tar and bird droppings right away with soap and water. If that doesn’t work, automotive bug-and-tar cleaner should do the trick. Try the product on an unexposed area of the car before using it on the affected area. Other cleaners to keep handy include wheel rim cleaner (to remove stubborn brake dust) and glass cleaner.

It’s not just your car’s engine that needs lubrication. For a periodic lubing, use graphite-based sprays on door locks and white lithium grease on hinges or try WD-40. The black weatherstripping on your car could use a periodic coating of silicone spray to prevent it from drying out. If your leather seats are fading, use a leather dressing.

To help protect your car’s finish, apply a coat of wax at least once a year, preferably twice. A proper wax job takes a bit of effort but it beats the quickie spray-on services offered at drive-through car washes. Wash the car thoroughly before waxing and apply the wax in the shade. Although car seats are treated at the factory, if you haul around kids or pets, spray on a coat of fabric protector, such as Scotchgard, annually. Better yet, buy some seat covers. Folding sunshades for your windshield will block harmful rays.

If your car’s paint is dull and faded, you might want to buy an automotive body scrub. It helps refresh the finish by removing faded paint, small blemishes and stubborn contaminants. Follow the directions carefully.

Ever notice a musty smell from your vents in the summer when you’re using the air conditioning? Auto-parts stores sell products you can spray in the vents to kill the bacteria that cause the stench. There are many air fresheners you can use, and Turtle Wax has even come out with Protectant Plus Air Freshener that can keep the dash both looking and smelling good. Try baking soda as cheap carpet deodorizer.

Raid your cupboards for some common household items that can do double duty on your car. “Q-Tips are great for cleaning out the slats on vents and all sorts of hard-to-reach places on the dash,” says Jennifer Sexton of Canadian Tire. Toothbrushes are good for cleaning rims. Terry cloth towels are ideal for drying off a vehicle. Small sponges are good for applying tire dressing.

Really want your wheels to stand out? Clean and polish the rims and use a spray-on tire dressing to make the rubber shine. Car buffs who want a more dramatic effect might want to pick up Black Magic Tire Tint. “This is just like cosmetic glitter, but it’s for your car’s plain old black tires,” notes Sexton. It’s available in blue, red and silver, exclusively at Canadian Tire. Investing some time and effort to maintain your car’s appearance won’t change the way it drives, but it can drive up its resale value and prolong its life.

Maryanna Lewyckyj is consumer advocate for the Toronto Sun. She conducts car care seminars for women through her company, Autophobics Anonymous.