Basic maintenance: Interior and exterior car care (Pt. 3)

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Woman leaning across the waxed hood of a red car.

Give her a chamois and she'll wax the car as part of its basic maintenance. (Photo Credit: CC BY-ND/Jayme Frye/Flickr)

Basic maintenance of your vehicle would not be complete without focusing on that professional shine. Click if you’ve missed PART 1 or PART 2 of this article.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 3 – Tape lamp covers until you replace

Cracked glass or plastic in front of a turn signal, brake light or headlight will only get worse if left alone. Plus, it can allow water to enter the compartment, promoting mold and corrosion. Until you can replace the light cover, use matching-color tape that can be found at any auto parts store.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 4 – Change bulbs the right way

As part of your basic maintenance routine for your car, make sure all exterior (and interior) bulbs are working. When it comes time for a replacement, however, don’t do it halfway. Merely unscrewing the dead bulb and screwing in a good one isn’t enough. Each time, clean the socket with steel wool or a small wire brush, then wipe the debris free before installing the new bulb.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 5 – Don’t ignore windshield dings

Rocks kicked up from the road strike windshields all the time. Most are too tiny to do much damage, but the day will come when your windshield’s luck runs out. Small chips in the glass can be repaired with home products or by roving window repair companies. Left alone, however, chips can become cracks, which can lead to having no solid windshield at all. Deal with the problem as early as possible, unless you’re looking forward to an expensive windshield replacement.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 6 – Don’t use water in the washer reservoir

Just as it’s a bad idea to run only water in your car’s radiator, the same holds true for the windshield washer fluid reservoir. Basic maintenance shouldn’t have to include dealing with systems that have broken down due to frozen water. Using washer fluid that is freeze-resistant maintains system function during winter months.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 7 – If the reservoir breaks, bag it

The windshield washer reservoir tank is generally made of plastic, which means that it can be punctured and leak. If this happens, you can replace the tank, or insert a plastic freezer bag within to hold the fluid. This works if the leak is coming form the tank, of course. If it’s coming from the hose, that’s another matter.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 8 – Drop the pounds

Most people aren’t hauling heavy tools and materials to a farm or construction site, yet still tend to carry around too much junk in their vehicles. Consult your car’s owner’s manual for optimal weight allowance. If you’re carrying more, you’re placing undue stress on your vehicle’s mechanical parts, not to mention killing your fuel economy. Get rid of everything but the essentials, which should include a blanket or cover to protect the paint when you have something tied to your roof rack.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 9 – Secure the load

Speaking of tied-on gear, tie it down well with rope and bungee cabling. If it shifts frequently during transit, the chance for scratching goes way up. If the ties are too loose, the gear can fall off and create a road hazard.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 10 – Don’t neglect splash guards

Splash guards help keep mud and slush from flying up and into the engine compartment. These splash guards can tear rather easily, so inspect them regularly before you go. If the flaps are starting to come loose, re-fasten or replace as soon as possible.

Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 11 – Wash the car during the winter

If you think it isn’t worth washing your car during winter, think again. Sand, slush and ice mixed with road salt contribute mightily toward body rust. Clean your car. Rinsing the undercarriage should be a part of this basic maintenance, too.

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Exterior car care basic maintenance tip No. 12 – Wax the paint, always

For a shine that can’t be beaten, a good carnauba wax can get your car looking new. It beats back oxidation and forms a barrier that keeps organic and inorganic material from sticking.

Basic maintenance tips – More on wax and finish

First of all, avoid liquid and spray wax. The hardest, most long-lasting finish comes from good old carnauba paste. Apply a thin, even coat with a damp sponge, making sure not to overdo it. Use an extra coat on the nose and hood, as wind resistance tends to wear these areas away first. Once the wax has dried, use a clean, soft cotton or microfiber cloth to remove the residue without scratching the finish.

If you want extra protection beyond wax, consider self-adhering urethane films from companies like 3M. Scotchguard Paint Protection Film Solutions provide an added line of defense against chips and abrasions, and you can wash and wax right over the top of it.



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