That New (Year) Car Smell: Deep Cleaning and Maintenance Tips After the Holiday

Deep cleaning and maintenance tips after the holidays. 

Welcome back, folks! If you've had the time of your life this December, you might have your work cut out for you when it comes to cleaning out your car. This article is here to help you start the year off with a car that’s clean, fresh and well-maintained. Here’s what to do if:

You Went Off-Roading

…In Mud

Congratulations! Your mud-caked bakkie is a sign that you’ve had the time of your life testing the limits of your trusty steed. It screams, “I don’t shy away from a challenge!” Fortunately, that’s exactly the kind of attitude you’ll need to clean your bakkie after a particularly muddy trip.
Dried mud is the devil. Its as hard as cement and twice as tough to remove. Caked, dried mud can cause damage to your suspension, brakes, axles and more. It can cause overheating if it covers your radiator and it can even throw a wheel out of balance at high speeds.
To avoid most of the trouble, wash the mud off your car as soon as possible before it dries. To do this, you can:
Hit the automatic car wash. Just remember to get the undercarriage too.
Do it yourself. A power washer is convenient, but make sure to avoid the paint. Use a fairly concentrated carwash and microfibre cloth. Try to remove most of the dirt and debris before whipping out the towel – you could be scratching your paintjob by scrubbing the sand straight into your finish. Avoid using a powerwasher on your engine bay – you could cause more harm than good.

…On Rocky Terrain

If you’ve spent your holiday treating your bakkie like a mountain goat, you’ll definitely need to give it some love as soon as you get back to civilisation. Washing your bakkie after a mountain trip, unless its caked in mud, shouldn’t involve any special care. The important thing about washing up is checking for damage while you do it. You should:
-          Check the tyres for any missing lugs, damage or incorrect PSI. Damaged tyres are a huge no-no.  
-          Check your suspension, bushings and mounts for damage.
-          Check the body for any visible damage or wear.
-          Check the undercarriage for any issues or damage. Look out for dents or tears in your exhaust.
-          Check your brake lines.
If you know that you’ve had some particularly nasty bumps or scrapes along your trip, take your bakkie for a professional check-up. Unless you’re a seasoned mechanic or have the needed experience, you might not know exactly what damage to look out for.

…In Water

There’s a difference between splashing through puddles and wading a deep stream. If you’ve driven through deep water, you’ll need to triple check for any damage and give your interior some love.
-          If the interior got soaked, remove all the carpets and let them dry. Wash or wipe down your upholstery and let it dry completely unless you love the smell of musty carpet on a hot day.
-          Wipe down the dashboard and sideboards to remove any mud or grime left over from the water.
-          Remove any debris that may have been caught while driving through dirty water.
-          Check that there is no water in your headlights. If there is, you’ll almost definitely need to replace them.
-          Check that the snorkel (if you have one) is still firmly in place and undamaged.
Internal Components and Electronics
The biggest danger of deep-water driving is the damage it could do to your engine and electronics. There are some clear signs that you’re in trouble. Clouded transmission fluid, for example, is a common sign of contamination from water. We recommend taking your car for a service or check-up as soon as you can. The cost of replacing the oil in your engine, box and differentials is minimal compared to damage repair costs.

…On the Beach

Sea, sun and sand make for an incredible holiday, but not such an incredible driving experience. You’ll be finding sand in the nooks and crannies for months to come if you don’t clean your car properly the first time round. Saltwater, sand and sun can also cause some damage to your car if you don’t take care.

Salt Water

Water isn’t too great for your car (as mentioned earlier), but salt water is even worse. Not only can it damage your cars internal components, but the high salt content speeds up rust and corrosion. Thankfully the effects aren’t immediate – if you give your car a good rinse down with fresh water after a day on the beach, you could avoid most of the wear. A good wax job could also do wonders after a wash if you’re staying near the beach for a while.

Sea Sand

You might love lounging around on the sand, but your car definitely doesn’t. Sand could work its way into your car’s internal components and damage your engine belt, brake pads and calipers. Sand could even get into your sensors and make them give off false readings. Remove most of the sand by giving your car a good rinse.
For your interior, dust off the dash with a microfibre cloth. Don’t scrub or dust too hard, or the sand could scrape the dashboard. Give the carpets a shake and the upholstery a thorough vacuum to get rid of fine sand stuck inside.

Sun Damage

You already know your paint job is porous, but you might not know that sun can increase the pores which leads to a quicker absorption of saltwater which then (are you still with us?) leads to faster rust and corrosion. Try to park in the shade, under a carport or in a garage if you can. It’ll also make your carwash a (sea) breeze!

You Went on A Roadtrip

We love a good roadtrip as much as everyone else – the kilometres disappearing under your wheels, the towns and sights slipping by. We don’t, however, enjoy cleaning up all the junk we left in the car after we get back home. Here are a few tips to make it easier:

Give it a wash.

Get rid of all the dust, splattered bugs and bird poop you couldn’t get rid of with a petrol station squeegee. Your car deserves a good scrub after all the distance its covered, so whether you go to a car wash or do it yourself, make sure to schedule some time to clean before you head back to work.

 Get to know your vacuum.

There’s nothing like a good garage pie to make the road feel shorter – and make your carpets look like its covered in dandruff. Yeah, it’s gross. Dedicate some time to vacuuming your upholstery and carpets when you get home. The best way to do this is to remove anything other than crumbs, dust and debris and get to work. We recommend a handheld vacuum because its most convenient. Remember to check all the nooks and crannies (like your cubby hole, under your seats and the boot) for junk or grime.

Wet wipes are your friends.

Your dashboard, steering wheel and upholstery probably need a thorough wipe down after weeks of grimy and sticky hands. If there any stains or hard to remove spots, invest in a stain remover that works for your car (remember, leather seats need more care than fabric).   

You Left Your Car at Home

Maybe you went on holiday and decided to leave ol’ faithful waiting at home. If you left your car in your garage, you might just need to rinse the dust off and give the interior a good wipe down. If, however, you left your car outside (covered or uncovered), you’ve got a bit more work ahead of you.

Check for any bird droppings or tree gunk on the exterior.

If you left your car uncovered, you’ll probably come home to more than just dust. While bird droppings are fairly easy to remove (a good soak and some carwash should do the trick), some trees could leave debris, rotten flowers or sap on your car. Some flowers, like jacarandas, could even stain your car. If these stains dry, they can permanently stain the porous finish on your car. The best cure for these stains is prevention. Try not to leave your car near or under any trees when you go on holiday.

Check for wild animals.

While you might not find a lion waiting for you in the backseat, there are small critters that could make your car their home while you’re gone. Especially in colder weather, you might find squirrels, rats, mice or even cats hiding away in the shelter of your car. Check any small compact spaces in and under your car for animals that may be seeking shelter. Please do not try to remove the animal yourself – you could harm it or yourself.

Check your battery.

You shouldn’t have any issues with your battery if you’ve only been gone for a couple of weeks. If you were gone for a month or longer, it would be wise to start up your car and go for a drive to recharge the battery, purge the exhaust components of any moisture and get your fluids up to operating temperature (especially if your car was out in the cold).

We hope this helped you learn more about how you can clean and maintain your car after the holidays, regardless of where you took it. If you have any questions about car maintenance, finance, specification or more, please reach out to us.


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