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We check out cheap and easy do-it-yourself ways to reinvigorate your car, offering it a fresh breath of life.

Category: Car Maintenance Advice

In Singapore with the high price of owning a car it's no wonder that many people go to great lengths of taking care of their cars. Even to the point of our other half complaining that we spend more time with our cars than with them.

Well if you are as car-obsessed as we are, here are some tips when it comes to keeping your car looking and smelling fresh and clean as though you just drove her home from the showroom floor.

Let's Begin with the Basics!

Starting with the most basics of car care is taking the time to wash your car by hand. To many car owners such as yours truly, washing a car by hand is a therapeutic procedure as wholesome for one's state-of-mind as to a car's form.

If you're such a person, that's great, because regular washing is customary to maintain your car's spanking new finish. But as easy-as-pie as washing your car may sound, there are a couple no-nos to watch for, so that you don't end up scratching or degrading its paintwork. Here are some simple steps to do it right.

Step 1: Start with the rims!

Many car owners tend to neglect cleaning the car's rims. Please wash your rims, too.

There are a ton of rim cleaning agents in the market. However, they may contain chemicals that are not safe for your specific rim, tyre or painted surface so I prefer washing my rims simply using regular car wash soap, a rim brush and a wash mitt.

Before brushing and cleaning your rims, rinse away as much brake dust and dirt as possible, but ensure that your car has cooled down a fair bit before doing so. Otherwise, you may risk warping your brake rotors.

Step 2: Getting those headlights to shine

You may have seen this one on the Internet before. For headlights that have gone yellow and foggy, you can use toothpaste to clean and get rid of some of the fogginess. While it certainly makes a difference, don't expect miracles - it's not the same as going to the groomer's for proper sanding and polishing. However, for something you can do with a tube of toothpaste from your toilet, it is certainly effective.

Step 3: Clean off all those stickers.

Maybe you have decided your sticker crazy days are over and are removing the various AP Racing and Speedhunters stickers from your car's windshield or windows. However, having been stuck on for so long, a layer of old sticker residue remains.

Well, a simple and cheap way to get rid of such residue is to wipe it with a cloth using an alcohol-based solvent, such as nail polish remover. Remember, this is for glass surfaces - avoid using nail polish remover on painted surfaces as it might damage the paint.

For paint, we recommend not being stingy and using proper sticker residue removing products.

Step 4: Hose-down like a madman

Always rinse your vehicle intensively before you begin soaping in order to remove any dust, dirt and debris. You don't want to risk leaving swirl marks on your car.

If you wash your car in an HDB estate's multi-storey carpark, invest in a garden hose (you can buy these relatively cheaply from hardware stores) and secure it onto the water dispenser outlet. Splashing water onto the car using a bucket just isn't as quick and thorough as using a hose.

Don't be stingy, ensure every bit of the car is properly hosed down, including the rims.

Step 5: Use proper car wash soap

I've had friends who washed their cars using liquid detergent and even body shower gel. 

These aren't formulated for use on a car's paint and may damage the protective wax. Car wash soaps are easily available from petrol kiosks or stores like Autobacs, which are milder and specifically-designed for use on automotive paint. 

Step 6: Two-bucket wash

Using a single bucket means soaking your mash mitt (they're better than sponges) into dirty water and using said dirty, debris-copious soap water to wash your car. An easy and sensible fix to this is to use two buckets instead. One bucket for water only (a rinse bucket) and the other bucket for your soap mixture (a wash bucket).

Just like rinsing, start washing from the top and work your way down. Because a car is always dirtiest at its base, washing the cleaner portions from the top down prevents the dirt and grime below from making its way upward, and scratching your paintwork as a result.

Step 7: Rinse your drying chamois towel as you wipe

Once you're done soaping and rinsing your car, use a chamois towel to wipe it down. Another mistake many car owners make is just twisting the towel dry and continuing onto another panel. Always have a bucket of clean water for you to rinse the towel before drying again. This ensures your towel is clean before wiping the next panel.

Step 8: Use clear nail polish to fill small glass cracks

Sometimes flying debris and tiny stones on the roads can cause a small crack in the car's windshield or window. Of course, the best solution is to get this immediately repaired. However, there is a temporary fix that you should consider, if you are not going to immediately fix the crack. What you want to do is to use some clear nail polish to fill in the crack. This is no real repair, but it is an important temporary fix. Due to the nature of glass and the fact that it is constantly under pressure, the crack will spread if it isn't filled.

Step 9: Polish the dashboard with olive oil

Moving on to the interior of the car, you can give your dashboard a quick clean and polish using some garden variety olive oil that you probably already have in your kitchen. Just pour some on a piece of cloth and wipe down your dashboard - it creates a shiny, glossy surface that is that much more pleasant to the eyes.

Step 10: Use charcoal to get rid of bad odours

A common cause of bad odours is moisture, as it creates a prime environment for bacteria. It's this reason that many of us place dehumidifiers like Thirsty Hippo in our wardrobes A car isn't that different. If anything, it's that much more prone to moisture. Sweat, spilled coffee, a poorly maintained air-con, these all contribute to the build-up of moisture. A simple yet effective solution is to place a bag of charcoal in the car and leave it there for a couple of days - charcoal is effective in removing moisture and moisture-related smells.

There you have it. This is our complete list of how to get your car showroom fresh.

Just take a little time out on a Sunday afternoon, break a little sweat, and show your car a little love before your next drive!


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