It's time, before the enthusiasm wears off, to put your new pride and joy into tip top shape, to protect your investment. Do your pride and joy a big favour, set aside a couple of a hours of a Saturday morning to restore your new car's interior to pristine condition.

Often the limit on a car's life is the body work, usually due to a lack of care and attention. The use of salt on the roads during the Winter months hastens the onset of corrosion but this can be overcome with care, the body work can be kept in pristine condition throughout the car's useful life and it's value enhanced when it comes time to trade in.

Start by washing the car thoroughly with a high pressure hose including underneath and in the wheel arches to remove all of the accumulated salt, dirt, oil and tar. Don't use washing up liquid as this contains salt which will worsen any rust spots, use a good quality car shampoo, preferably one containing wax or silicone to seal the newly cleaned surface.

After washing inspect every panel thoroughly and make good any minor rust spots, stone chips or blemishes before waxing the body work thoroughly to preserve it and treating the brightwork with it's own polish. Use good lint free cotton cloths for polishing. Treat the bumper and other plastic parts with a special protective dressing. Finish by cleaning the glass inside and out.

Clean wheels with a specialist solution to remove all traces of brake dust.

Check the condition of the underseal and use one of the many brush on or spray DIY preparations to keep it intact, it's a messy job though and one that a garage with a hoist can do far more effectively.

Once the outside is finished it's time to get some serious hoovering done using the largest and most powerful cleaner you can. Often owners spend time shining the bodywork, polishing the brightwork, cleaning the windows but, after an hour or so of hard work, so many still end up driving a highly polished skip because they just don't put the same effort into cleaning up the interior, they're content to leave the ashtrays overflowing, the old sweet wrappers and half eaten apples mouldering in the door pockets or the stickily melting toffee in the rear ashtray where it was deposited by a childish saboteur.

Time to get the car vac connected to the battery or the hoover out on that long lead or best of all, go down to the garage forecourt and put a couple of quid in their car vac, these specialised ones are always more powerful and with the right shape nozzles they can get in everywhere, you'll get dirt and detritus out of places you didn't even know you had it, you may even find enough lost small change to cover the cost of the hoover. 

Start by removing the mats, shake and clean them and put them aside for replacing at the end,   clean the headlining - yes I know everyone forgets it - if plastic wash down with a damp cloth and a little wash up liquid, if material use a proprietary upholstery cleaner. Hoover all the seats and door trim, inside the seat pockets, door pockets and under the seats moving them forwards and
backwards so you reach everywhere.

Carefully clean the seats and trim with upholstery cleaner or upholstery shampoo taking care not to get everything too wet. Wash down the windows with a damp cloth and special glass cleaner - include the interior mirror - clean and tidy up the seat belts - now is a good time to check for any dangerous fraying - and finish by cleaning up the dashboard and other plastic trim areas with a damp cloth and a little neat washing up liquid.

Return the car mats or, if worn out or scruffy, buy new ones. Finally, the piece de resistance, a new air freshener to replace the one that came with the car - 3 years before.     

There, that wasn't so bad was it, after a couple of hours hard work doesn't your new pride and joy look more like a new car and all it's cost you is a bit of time and a trip to the local spares shop for some cleaning materials.
Most car spares shops and garages stock a vast variety of car care products, many specifically intended to carry out regular maintenance or minor repairs to body work although if you have little experience of using body fillers, paints, etc it may be best to leave this work to an expert, a lousy touch-in job can knock hundreds of pounds off the resale value of your new-to-you car.

If the paintwork has faded it can be revived with a colour restorer. This should be used with great care as it is abrasive, being intended to remove a very thin layer and smooth the remaining paint so that the colour is bright once more.

But if the car has faded very badly or has been damaged in some other way consider a respray. This must really be done by a professional in a proper spray booth and baked onto the car to be effective. Costs of resprays are now very reasonable and can dramatically improve the appearance - and value - of an otherwise dowdy car.

Sensible precautions and a little regular effort will keep the body in good order and it will survive far longer than if, as is so common, it is neglected. 

Any work done on your car should always be carried out by a competent garage, preferably a member of a recognised trade association and never is this more important than when undertaking body work repairs.  A poor job by an amateur may cost you more than going to a professional and destroy the value of your car. Look out for the sign of the VBRA - the largest body repairers association - whose thousands of members all follow a strict code of conduct, are regularly inspected to ensure the highest standards and meet the rigorous approval procedures of the major insurance companies for crash repairs.


Abstracted from the book “Buying a Used Car” © G Benge 1997-2007

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