Jean Knows Cars shares a building (not to mention an editor in chief) with Automobile Magazine, and, in addition to the mental stimulation of working together, we enjoy our proximity to the luscious test fleet of cars that are always close by. Automobile Magazine is temporarily without a motor gopher on staff: the person whose job it is to keep those cars clean inside and out. So they took advantage of a bright spring day to make the cleaning into a group event. I took advantage of having thirteen of them all in one place at one time and asked them for their favorite car-care tips. And here they are.
Photos by Scott Allen
Jen Misaros (Managing Editor, Digital Platforms) (vacuuming): I swear I just sucked up toenails. Gross.
My tip is, if the inside of a vehicle is really dirty, use a leaf blower. Open the doors on both sides, and blow it out. It saves you tons of time.
Rusty Blackwell (Copy Editor): Use a separate sponge to wash the wheels from the one you use to wash the painted surfaces. Wheels have all kinds of crap, brake dust, dirt, that you don't want scratching your paint. At home, when I buy a new sponge, the old one gets demoted to wheel washing.
Avoid washing a car in full sun, or you'll get water marks. And certainly never wax in full sunlight. The wax will bake on and won't come off as easily. And don't wash a car on a dirt driveway—you'll soon have mud that'll splash up and get the lower parts of the car all dirty.
Amy Skogstrom (Managing Editor): I have a chamois mitten that I use at home instead of a sponge. It gives me better control.
Joseph Capparella (Associate Web Editor): I use Q-Tips to clean out the smaller nooks and crannies in a car. I went a little crazy with the cleaning when my dad gave me his old Honda Fit. He hadn't treated it that carefully and I spent half a day getting it perfect.
Joseph DeMatio (Deputy Editor): My poor man's carpet cleaning system is to remove the paper filter from a Shop-Vac, clean all the dirt out of it, and then soak the carpeting and vacuum up the water using the Shop-Vac.
Eric Weiner (Associate Web Editor): I use a stiff-haired brush right alongside a vacuum to gather loose stuff in the carpet and vents and vacuum it up immediately.
Jake Holmes (Associate Web Editor): Pull the rubber liners out of cup holders and cubbies and clean them separately. The soap and water will pool up when you try to wash them in place.
Another simple thing I do is to clean the windshield wipers. Run a towel over the wiper blade itself, and you'll see a trail of dirt come off. Then wipe away at the glass where the wiper rests when it's stationary. That will keep the wipers working better for longer, and it reduces streaking or juddering.
Sandon Voelker (Videographer): If it's kind of cold out, fill your bucket with warm water. You'll function better when your hands aren't numb.
Thomas Hang (Graphic Designer): A lot of people tend to throw things into the back seat and leave them there. Clear out the back every day. It's a good habit to get into. I keep my car cleaned out as I go, and I rarely have to do a major cleaning.
Chris Nelson (Road Test Editor): Preventive is the way to go. The reality is that your car will only get dirty if you let it. Of course, if I kept to that at home, I wouldn't have to spend Sundays cleaning out my condo. If you keep it clean, it's easier to see when it gets trashed and takes only a small amount of time to clean.
David Zenlea (Associate Editor): Don't fill the bucket up all the way. That just wastes water and dilutes the soap. Instead, fill about halfway. If the car is really big and/or really dirty, consider emptying and refilling the bucket partway through.
When you rinse off the soap, consider removing the hose nozzle. The straight stream of water removes the soap much more effectively and without as much overspray. It's then easier to dry (it's exactly the same as when you rinse dishes in the sink).
Jackie Guenther (Executive Assistant): Go to an automatic car wash! That's my tip.
That, and get some high-quality floor mats like the WeatherTech custom-fit mats in this car. Your car automatically looks and feels much cleaner.
Todd Lassa (Executive Editor): My first tip is, marry someone who likes small cars (Mazda 2 and Miata, for example), so you have less sheetmetal to wash.
More seriously, I always use a liquid car wash soap. My father believed it stripped off the wax, but I'm sure it does the opposite, which is to protect the wax. Waxing is best twice a year, at the beginning of spring, when it's rainy, and early fall. A good wax job assures that water beads and snow/ice slide off the sheetmetal more easily.
Also, be sure to open the doors and clean out the inside of the rocker panels and the doorjambs with a wet cloth. Too many people clean the exterior sheetmetal and the seats, while skipping this part, so when you open the doors, you have this line of dirt between the two.
I'm just glad I don't have to clean whitewalls anymore.