Vehicles begin life with a showroom appearance, but regular maintenance of upholstery, leather car mats and other accessories is needed to keep interiors from becoming shabby.
A car’s interior is a lot like the interior of any home. When it starts to look a bit tired and worn it’s most likely nothing major – just an accumulation of little things that individually aren’t important but collectively combine to create a shabby appearance.
Autopia Car Care recommends a routine of regular housekeeping: “If you take just five minutes each time you wash your car to remove the trash, shake out the mats, and wipe down the dash, console and seats, you can stay on top of this detailing chore.”
Even if it gets an occasional vacuuming and some upholstery cleaning every now and then, after a couple of years any car’s interior will start to show the effects of wear and tear.
Modern vehicle interiors are tough. They’re made to resist damage from the sun’s ultraviolet rays and junior’s melted ice cream. But the longer a car is left without a proper cleaning, the harder and more expensive it will be to get things looking good again.
Start at the Top of the Vehicle and Work Down
Start at the top. Too often the car’s headliner is overlooked when the interior is being cleaned. Vacuum it gently and remove any stains with a good quality cleaner.
Now move down to the upholstery. Look for tears, burns and spots. It’s especially important to stitch up any tears to prevent further damage. Splits in vinyl can usually be mended, either by using leftover materials or by obtaining a vinyl repair kit from any auto parts store.
Purchase good upholstery cleaner and follow the maker’s instructions. A wide range of cleaners is available for all types of car upholstery including cloth, vinyl and leather.
If a commercial upholstery cleaner isn’t available, it is learned that laundry detergent will work just as well: “Mix some detergent with warm water, dip a clean cloth into it, wring out good and then just wipe the seat. Work harder on dirty areas, then rub dry with a clean, soft cloth.”
It’s also a good idea to follow up cleaning the upholstery with a protective spray once the cleaning’s done and the upholstery’s dry.
Put Protectant on all Plastic Trim
The dashboard, console and other plastic interior trim should be wiped with a damp cloth, and then cleaned with a foam applicator pad. Spray a UV-resistant vinyl protectant onto the applicator and wipe it in thoroughly.
Let the vinyl protectant soak in for a few minutes and then buff the surfaces dry using a microfiber towel. Be sure to protect the steering wheel, turn signal levers and rubber door mouldings.
Ordinary household soap shouldn’t be used on vinyl and plastic surfaces because it can permanently remove the sheen from vinyl and plastic. Select a cleaner made especially for a vehicle’s interior surfaces.
Door panels may not get as much wear as the dash or the seats, but they can also suffer over the long term. Use a vinyl protectant on the vinyl sections, and treat any inset leather car mats or other soft-fabric sections the same as the leather car floor mats.
Expert recommends the use of a specialist glass cleaner to wash the inside of windows: “Spray the cleaner directly on the cloth to avoid streaking. If you have tinted windows do not use cleaners with ammonia; this will cause your tint to become discolored, crack or bubble.”
Dashboard instruments also need attention to keep them legible and prevent their glass or plastic covers from getting dusty or dirty. Use a window cleaner for this purpose, and always rub gently to prevent scratching.
Finish with the Leather Car Mats
Now get down to the ‘floor’ of the vehicle. Every leather car mats suffers a lot of wear, particularly on the driver’s side. Leather car floor mats are a good safeguard against wear, and it’s important to use a vacuum cleaner with good suction to remove particles of ground-in dirt from the pile.
Use a leather car mats shampoo to give the pile a final cleaning. Don’t soak the leather car floor mats with water because dampness can cause a moldy smell and even lead to corrosion under the floor mat.
Finally, replace any broken or missing bits and pieces such as interior knobs or light covers. These aren’t usually easy to repair but replacements can usually be sourced from a dealer or auto parts supplier.
Smoking in the car is always going to create special cleaning problems. Ashtrays become caked with smoking residues and smokers’ cars generally acquire the odour of stale tobacco smoke which can affect their trade-in or resale value.
For those who smoke in their vehicles, regular emptying of the ashtrays is essential. Odor-absorbing granules are available that go into ashtrays and soak up some of the smells in between emptyings.
Regular attention will keep a car’s interior in good shape. It makes the car a more enjoyable place to spend those hours on the road and as an added bonus brings a higher price at trade-in time.
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