Okay, before you remind us that winter has arrived, we should point out that the ritual of “springcleaning” need not be related to a particular season: it’s not as if we’re urging you to don Bermuda shorts and a thin cotton T-shirt. In fact, winter can be tough on cars, especially if they’ve been neglected during the warmer months. A good springcleaning takes only a few hours and will make your car much more pleasant to drive. Plus, it’ll prevent long-term problems. By Ben Wojdyla
Be sure to use a clean, soft sponge to wash your car – no scrubby sponges from the kitchen.
Clear out the trash
When you’re cleaning any car, no matter what the season, start by removing all the junk you’ve been ignoring. Have a rubbish bag and a “keep” box handy, because you’ll want to hang on to some of the stuff. Be thorough: get under and beside the seats, and in the boot.
Vacuum the inside
You’ll want to work from the top down, because gravity dictates that stuff stirred up works its way floor-ward. Also, yank out the gritty floor mats for a quick pass with the vacuum cleaner. That done, use a portable vacuum cleaner and a rigid tool such as a screwdriver to work dirt out of the creases.
Scrub carpet and upholstery
This step is optional but worth the satisfying results. Grab a spray bottle of automotive upholstery-and-carpet cleaner and a heavy duty scrubbing brush to clean the soft parts of the interior. Spray the seats or anything cloth-covered, then scrub and wipe down. Repeat at least one more time, moving to the carpet for the same job. Being thorough with the carpet is important, as it can act like a filthy, salty, wet rag that accelerates rusting. When you’re done, pull the drain plugs under the floor and let things air for a few days. You’ll be amazed at how much better the car smells.
Power-was the floor mats
The floor mats are without question the parts of the interior that take the most abuse – especially if you’re a rugged outdoor type who brings back muddy souvenirs of your favourite hiking trail. If you’ve got all-rubber floor mats, they won’t take long to clean, but carpeted mats will probably take two passes with a power washer to get all the dirt out. If you don’t have a power washer, use one at a self-service car wash. Let the mats dry thoroughly before putting them back into the car or you could be begging for mould growth.
Lubricate the hinges
Hit each door, boot and bonnet hinge with white lithium grease to prevent squeaks and premature wear.
Ditch dodgy windscreen wipers
Wipers don’t last forever, and trying to extend their lives is a false economy. Inefficient wipers in a Cape Town winter downpour will leave you blind.
Rotate your tyres
This is hardly a new tip, but it still applies. The driving wheels wear faster, so to avoid having to replace the front and rear sets at different times, it’s best to swop them around – probably every 9 000 to 13 000 km: follow the guidelines in your owner’s manual. If your car is equipped with asymmetrical tyres, different rules apply (once again, consult the book).
Clean your windows
Ever notice how your windows fog up during damp winter weather? Part of that has to do with the fact the inside of your windscreen is dirty. First, wash your windows with a good car-window cleaner; the ammonia in household stuff will only make the fogging worse. Fog has a harder time clinging to a clean surface, and you can go a step further by wiping down the interior of the glass with an anti-fogging agent.
Wash the car
This seems obvious, but there are some subtleties. As with the interior, you want to clean the car from the top down, rinsing frequently. Don’t start at the rocker panels and move to the roof – it drags dirt around and scratches the clear coat. When the body is clean, spend a few rand at your local automatic car wash and get the underbody flushed. This will dislodge the hard-caked mud left over from your last foray into the hinterland.
Replace the cabin air filter
This filter keeps dirt, pollen and plant matter from entering the ventilation system. It gets dirtiest during autumn, when falling leaves work their way into the cabin-intake system.
Don’t forget the boot
It’s time to tackle the accumulated detritus of those balmy summer weekends – in the form of sticky braai grids, picnic blankets, folding chairs, ice cream wrappers and battered Christmas decorations (where on earth did those come from?). You know, to free up some space for the detritus of winter.
Wipe down the entry
Scrub door sills to keep your pants clean and dust off any nooks missed during the car wash. Rub door seals with mineral oil or use silicone spray to keep them supple.
Photograph by Jon Patterson