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Troubleshooter: Washing the winter out of your ride

Rejuvenate your ride after the salty season with these quick tips

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No doubt about it, winter is one season that few drivers look forward to and that most are happy to see in the rear-view mirror. Now that spring has sprung, nothing can make your commute seem more pleasant than a spring-cleaned vehicle. Every driver knows, or should know how to detail their rides, but here are a few things that can escape even the most experienced driveway clean-up specialists.

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Dishwashing soap is great for dishes, but not for vehicles. A lot of household detergents contain some heavy degreasers that won’t be kind on automotive paint and plastic trim parts. Leave the Dawn under the kitchen sink and use a purpose-made product.

Wash the outside first, then the inside. This might seem counterintuitive but, it’s easy to drag a lot of body dirt inside a vehicle with your shoes, vacuum hoses, and such, creating more work.

A lot of pros are fans of the 2 bucket system and so are we. Use one for exterior car soap and another with plain water for rinsing the wash-mitt. This can substantially reduce the amount of grit that might get trapped in the mitt and carry back to (or even scratch) your paint. Remember that you have to get into the habit of rinsing the mitt before each dip into the soapy water.

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Salt stains are a pain. Before you haul out the rental carpet cleaner, try an easy homemade solution of warm water, vinegar, and a stiff nylon brush. Remember that automakers love to hide a lot of electronics and wiring under floor carpets, so go easy on the moisture and have some paper towels or a shop vacuum on hand to get any excess water up quickly. There are several good quality carpet treatment sprays for salt-stains available at any auto parts store that don’t require any additional water.

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When you’re using your small upholstery tool on the vacuum, don’t forget to tackle the seat-belt receiver buckles, especially those tucked down into the rear seats. You’d be surprised at the number of these buckles that get jammed with debris and refuse to latch. The same problem can happen to minivan removable seat latch points, and to the slider tracks on front seats.

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If your vehicle has a cabin filter and it’s easy to get to, check it. Not only can these trap enough dirt to reduce air flow through the vents, they can also trap unpleasant odours. On the topic of HVAC systems, clear out any leaves and debris from the wiper cowl area under the hood (at the base of the windshield). This is where most carmakers put the fresh air intake for the HVAC system.

When cleaning windows, don’t forget to take an old toothbrush to the inner surfaces of the weather-seals at the bottom of the door windows. This is a perfect place for grit to adhere to, which can scratch the glass.

If those old and hazed headlamps are losing their effectiveness, there are a number of refinishing products out there. These involve using a polish grit to remove a layer of the plastic on the lenses, so if you don’t apply some type of protector afterwards, your newly sparkling headlamps will haze up again twice as quickly. You can find custom-cut peel-and-stick film at many parts stores, or buy sheets that you trim to fit.