Most people believe the occasional car wash is all that's needed to maintain a clean and professional look in their vehicle, and many don't even keep up with regular washing. However, there are several key areas that these people overlook that could greatly contribute to a better looking car. This tutorial will go over a few quick and easy ways to make your vehicle look like new with tools and materials that you likely have around your home.
Step 1: Exterior - Rims
The first step to a better looking car that a lot of people fail to perform is regular tire and rim cleaning. Most manufactures are including alloy rims in newer model cars as opposed to steel rims with hub caps. This is an easy way to make a vehicle look more valuable, although it begins to fail when people allow their rims to become covered in brake dust, road dirt, and other grime that accumulates while driving.
If your rims haven't had regular cleaning and are quite dirty, you should begin by using a stiff bristled brush as shown in the image above. With a bucket of soapy water, simply scrub the brush in and around the rims, removing the majority of built up grime. Once this step is complete, you can give the rim an even cleaner look by using a bit of Windex and paper towels to clean in the nooks and crannies and give your rims an eye catching shine.
Step 2: Exterior - Lights and Windshield
For this step, we will be discussing the lights and windshield of your car. You may be wondering, as with the rims, aren't these things that would be cleaned in a car wash? The answer is yes and no. They will undoubtedly be cleaned, but the large, fast moving brushes used in car washes aren't great at sufficiently hitting these small, key areas. With a little TLC and some elbow grease, you can get these areas shining like they were professionally detailed at the dealership.
To begin, grab some Windex and paper towels. When you clean up you headlights and fog lights, not only will they shine and look much better, but you will also have better vision at night. The same thing applies for when you go over your windshield. This is an area that car washes will clean, but upon closer inspection you will notice that there is residual grime on the glass that is only easily removed with some glass cleaner and paper towels.
Step 3: Interior - Vacuuming, Surface Cleaning, and Decluttering
The interior of a vehicle is undeniably important to remember for regular cleaning. The interior makes a big impression on people when they get into your vehicle. Having it clean will give the car a more professional feel and make a better impression.
While car wash locations will typically have a vacuum to use, it is best to do it at your home where you can remove the mats and clean them separately, which allows you to clean thoroughly underneath the mats. Not only will this improve the appearance of the car, but it will also decrease dust and allergens in the air and improve smell.
It is also important to use a surface cleaner, preferably Armor All, to go over all the hard surfaces inside your vehicle. This will remove any messes on the surface while also leaving a long lasting shine, making your car look like new.
Finally, something entirely too many people fail to do, comes decluttering. Removing any trash in your car will make it appear much cleaner and give you a sense of pride in your vehicle. The final image shows the interior of a 2006 Ford Focus. While this car isn't new and has no premium features such as leather seats, a lack of clutter makes it look clean and professional.
Step 4: Bonus: Engine Bay
This is a step that is typically considered important for only performance cars. And while it is true that with a four cylinder commuter car you will not be showing many people your engine bay, it is still a nice step to perform. A nice side effect of this step is that if you are the type that doesn't usually do your own car maintenance, cleaning the engine bay is a good way to learn a bit more about the inner workings of your vehicle. By wiping the surfaces with a cleaner like Armor All, you can read labels on various caps and covers or even go as far as reading up in the owners manual to learn more about how the vehicle works. This could benefit you when you least expect it, for instance if you break down on the side of the road.
On the other hand, maybe you are the type who loves to get your hands dirty and do your own maintenance. Now maybe you can get your hands just a little less dirty if you have cleaned the engine bay surfaces. This will make maintenance work easier and likely more enjoyable. Also, if there's a task you can't tackle yourself, you can be sure the maintenance people at the car shop will appreciate your newly found cleaning habits.
Step 5: Finally - Take an Outsider's Point of View
At this point, you've covered all the basics of improving the look of your car. However, this instructable is based around a Ford Focus. There's a good chance that you have another type of vehicle that can be improved aesthetically in other ways. For instance, if you have a pick-up truck with steel or chrome step bars, you may consider cleaning these with a good non-streaking metal cleaner. With other vehicle types, there are even more areas that could use a touch up. The key is to look at your vehicle with an outsider's point of view and think about what areas could be improved further than what a typical car wash covers.