Car maintenance: Cleaning

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With the combined standing and running costs for cars in the small / light category ranging from approximately $6,000 to those in the 4WD category costing a bit below $17,000 per annumi, keeping your car on the road can be costly. Having already spent a large sum of money on your car, protect your investment with car insurance and maximise it's resale value by performing simple car maintenance such as regular cleaning tasksii, iii. As an added bonus, keeping your car in tip-top condition can make driving that much more enjoyable. Arm yourself with these useful tips and start cleaning away!

Avoid the accumulation of dust and perform regular cleaning tasks to help retain your car's value.

The insides matter

With proper care, a well-kept interior may disguise your vehicle's true age and make it appear almost new.

With a soft dusting brush attached to your vacuum cleaner, start removing dust or debris from your dashboard, center console and the doors. Alternatively, dab a soft cloth with a bit of water and wipe off accumulated dust. Be careful not to get water into electrical components.

Remove all floor mats and shake out gathered dirt outside your vehicle. Scrub out any remaining tougher to remove dirt or mud.

Vacuum your car's floor and seats. Attach a long, thin crevice tool to your vacuum cleaner and reach under the seats of your car, around the pedals and all other corners, without forgetting your car boot. To get rid of dried mud on your floor's carpet, scrubbing it with a dry brush may do the trick.

Spilled something on your seat fabric or carpet? To prevent permanent staining, spills are best treated as soon as possible with a neutral detergent that will not bleach your fabric. When purchasing upholstery cleaning agents, make sure it has a pH value of 7iv. To be absolutely sure your fabric won't be damaged, follow printed instructions and perform a test on an area not easily seen. Wipe off any excess cleaning agent with a clean cloth. Bear in mind that some stains are harder to remove than others and a professional clean may be required.

Have leather instead of fabric seats? Clean your leather interior by applying a leather-specific cleaning solution to a small section of your car seat at a time following the instructions. Finish off by wiping it with a fresh, dry towel. Leather interiors may also be better preserved and protected from drying and cracking with regular conditioning. To condition your leather seats, make sure your leather is completely dry before the conditioner is applied. Apply conditioner according to instructions, wipe off any excess and wait for a few minutes to allow the leather to properly absorb the productv - this waiting period may vary depending on the solution applied and you should follow the instructions on the label of your conditioner.

Should you be unsure about anything, seek advice from a car cleaning specialist.

Make sure to wash all areas of your car's exterior, including your wheels.

Exterior car care

Wash your car regularly to get rid of built up dirt. If there are water restrictions in your area, instead of hosing your car down, use a bucket filled with water. Use a soft foam sponge and a good quality car wash detergent so the fine layer of polish of your car is not damaged. Some cleaning solutions may include wax: this acts as an extra barrier for your top paint coat and gives the paintwork a lovely shine.

Make sure you wash and clean out dirt from all harder-to-reach areas including those on your windshield or wheels. This is also a good opportunity for you to check for any scratches or stone chips: you may need to send your car to a professional to get them fixed.

On a regular basis you should wax and polish your vehicle. Use your manufacturer's recommendations as a guide to the type of wax or polish, and the frequency.

Bird droppings can cause stains on cars due to high acidity. Get rid of the droppings quickly by putting a few water droplets on them and soaking for a few minutes. Then, target the spot and spray off with a water-filled spray bottle. Once clean, apply wax to protect your paint.

As always, if you are uncertain about something, it is always good to consult a car care specialist before carrying out the task yourself.

Eating in the car may leave stains, make sure you clean your vehicle regularly to detect stains as early as possible to allow effective removal.

Routine car cleaning, including dusting, vacuuming and washing, should be performed to maintain your car's interior and exterior condition. By keeping your car clean, you are making your car a more pleasant space for your passengers. Furthermore, a well-maintained car may be more attractive to potential buyers, adding value to your vehicle during resale and making your investment work for you.

i RACQ, 2011, Private ownership costs,

ii Fox Business, July 2010 , Secrets of car resale value,

iii Valdes-Dapena, P., July 2011, CNN News, 8 easy ways to boost your car's value,

iv Bynon, D., 2000, How to clean anything, Leather care for your car interior,

v Superior car care, 2011, Precautionary leather education,