How to care for pretty new car?
March 17, 2016 9:21 PM   Subscribe

I've just received a wonderful and unexpected gift in the form of a shiny red 2016 Toyota Corolla LE. I know, it's not the kind of car people usually pamper, but it's the nicest and most expensive thing I've ever owned. And frankly, I'm clumsy, messy and careless. For the first time in my life I want to try to keep something nice looking!

I have the manual (which I'm reading) and a trusted mechanic, so I'm covered on the maintenance/running of the car. But what I want to know is how to keep it nice looking?

My last car was a hand-me-down of a hand-me-down. I also learned to drive on it, so it had cosmetic damage from misjudging curbs and walls. I never vacuumed it or took it to the car wash. I also come from a family of non-car people - I've lived without a car in my life for more than half my life.

So please! What do I need to know about keeping a car pretty?

How often do I take it to the car wash? Does it matter if I go touchless? How often do I vacuum/shampoo interior? Should I spray the underside and tires in a handheld car care place?

What product do I use to clean the inside? It's already got some scuff marks, but the car care aisle at Canadian Tire felt overwhelming.

Possible pertinent details: I drive once or twice a week, deal with Canadian city weather, and the car is parked outdoors (private driveway, but I also park downtown on the side of roads).
posted by A hidden well to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Read your owner's manual about the best way to keep the exterior clean. You are right to walk past the aisle of products because the finish on the car dictates what works best, as in avoid car wax products. Did you buy the car locally? If so, chances are it is prepped for Canadian specs in its standard features.

For cleaning the inside, a handheld vacuum simplifies matters, and just match surfaces with cleaners.
posted by childofTethys at 9:37 PM on March 17, 2016

Best answer: From cleaning my own car I'd say that the area you need to protect the most is the front bumper - as well as endless tar and bugs glued on there, you will invariably scrape the passenger side bumper on a curb at some point - it's the easiest thing to do, and a costly repair (removal of bumper, re-spray, clear coat etc).

So: if I had a new car, the first thing I'd do is look into getting some sort of protection - bra/ clear bra/ whatever: there's a lot of products at different prices - for the front bumper. It's a lot easier to prevent this kind of damage, vs to repair it after the fact.
posted by forallmankind at 9:45 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Do you have heavy-duty floor mats? Most cars come with wimpy mats with nicer ones available as a dealer option. Many dealers sell on Amazon -- so check Amazon for those pricey dealer options! I ordered the better floor mats for my car and they arrived from a Honda dealer based out of Ohio and they were a lot less expensive than the mats my local dealer offered me -- even though they were identical. Good floor mats will save your carpet.
posted by Ostara at 10:06 PM on March 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Don't let anyone eat or drink in it including yourself.
posted by cecic at 10:44 PM on March 17, 2016 [11 favorites]

Best answer: I carry a Swiffer Duster in the glove compartment for quick cleanups of the dashboard, steering column, and nearby areas.
posted by davcoo at 12:54 AM on March 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Seconding cecic: absolutely NO ONE eats, drinks or smokes ANYTHING in the car. If necessary, get a trash bag and use it. And if you don't use a trash bag and are the sort who casually drops trash on the floor, pick it up and remove it as soon as you park, every single time.

If you have dogs in the car: always keep the seats covered, and vacuum frequently.
posted by easily confused at 3:01 AM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: There is no substitute for waxing the paint yourself with carnauba wax. Water beads off beautifully. Use microfibre cloths to apply and buff.
posted by colie at 3:44 AM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you should give it a name. That'll really inspire you to keep it nice.
posted by kitten magic at 4:41 AM on March 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Even with no one eating, drinking, or smoking in the car, you will be shocked (shocked, I tell you!) at how gunky the inside of the windshield gets. Ultimately, only glass cleaner will do the job but a frequent go-over with a felt eraser (the kind used to erase a chalkboard) will improve visibility a lot. Oh, and treat yourself by buying Stoner Invisible Glass, which works fabulously on both auto and home glass.
posted by DrGail at 4:43 AM on March 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Red paint tends to fade more than other colors, so keep up with the waxing.

When I get a new car I take out the floor mats and store them. Then I buy some cheap carpet at Home Depot and cut in the shape of the floor mats. When I want to sell (or just have it look good), I put the floor mats back in. Looks like new.
posted by H21 at 4:44 AM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: Do they use salt on the roads in the winter? Does it snow a lot where you are? Then the car will need more frequent washing.
posted by mareli at 5:11 AM on March 18, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm assuming you're Canadian, do you live in a snowy/wet area? Definitely WeatherTech floormats. Pricey but better than the factory carpeted ones.
posted by JoeZydeco at 5:12 AM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Rain-x your windshield, but do 3-4 applications one after another. You will be amazed at how much better visibility is! Get good floor mats. Buy yourself a trash bag/ can right away. Get seat covers for the front seats at least. Armour All all of the rubber seals weekly for the first few months at least. You can do touch-less car washes in a pinch, but they don't really do a good job, hand washing is much better. Enjoy your new car!!
posted by PorcineWithMe at 5:17 AM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: If possible, keep it in a garage at night, and park underground during the day (at least through the winter). Can you get garage space? Do you have room to put up a Coverit or other tent shelter? Providing even the smallest buffer between your car and the environment will really help keep it in nice condition.
posted by disconnect at 5:45 AM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: I don't have an opinion about H21's suggestion other than with the driver's seat. Please don't use anything that isn't an actual floor mat there.
posted by hollyholly at 6:04 AM on March 18, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: To follow up on DrGail's comment, I recommend this approach for keeping your windshield as clean as possible.
posted by cheapskatebay at 6:10 AM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: I agree with no eating or smoking in the car, and only drinking from containers with a lid and a straw. I have also put a little garbage container in my and my husband's cars (and I've bought them for friends too, everybody likes them - they look way better than a shopping bag hung from the gear shift)
posted by antimony at 7:13 AM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Get those good floor mats for dealing with mud and dirt, heavy duty. Shake them out and vacuum the interior of the car every few weeks. No food/drink/smoke in the car (or have one travel mug you use that is spill proof). Biggest thing is just detritus. Bring stuff in from the car. Make sure anything that lives in the car has a place not just "on the floor of the back seat". Wipe up petrol that may spill by the fill valve every time you fill up. Get new wipers on a regular schedule. Something for trash preferably better than a plastic bag. Car wash every few weeks in the winter. If you can park it somewhere covered, so much the better but there's only so much you can do about that. Basically the maintenance stuff you DO will be better than the stuff you think about but don't manage to do. No stickers on the outside of the thing.
posted by jessamyn at 7:55 AM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Keep an eye out for bird droppings and clean them as soon as you see them. They will eat away paint.

Also regularly clean leaves from your windshield and any crevices they find themselves in. If they sit and rot they'll ruin the rubber seals. Ask me how I know.
posted by radioamy at 9:40 AM on March 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Scotchguard!
posted by smashface at 10:10 AM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: I love cars. Keep Meguiar's quick detailer and a few microfiber towels in your trunk. Clean off all bird poop IMMEDIATELY UPON NOTICING IT. It will eat your paint like no other environmental hazard.

If you want to be a total nut and like doing physical things outside, you can handwax it every three months.

I follow a "net zero" rule for clutter and trash: when I first get in the car, and when I leave it last during each day, there is nothing in it.

Compressed air will knock a lot of the dust off the dashboard and electronics, although the towels will do that pretty well, too, especially if they're damp.

Armorall your dashboard and get a cheesy aluminum foil screen.

Finally, let me know if you find a solution that actually works for the problem of crumbs etc. in the cupholders.
posted by radicalawyer at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: I forgot to add the most important thing: Park at the end of the parking lot row.

Nothing is more likely to cause permanent damage to your paint than door dings.

Where possible, park in an end spot with no spaces to your right, only to your left. Most cars don't have passengers, so it's even less likely that some dingus will ding you.

As a religious end-parker and motorsport enthusiast a/k/a judgmental hoon, I will tell you that I never begrudge an end spot to anyone who obviously chose to take it, no matter how unlikely their car is, on average, to be babied by its owner. I know automatically that we are cut from the same cloth.
posted by radicalawyer at 10:24 AM on March 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I drive a small hatchback and I keep a plastic shower curtain liner in my hatch for when I have to put muddy and/or wet luggage, etc. on the back seat.
posted by misseva at 12:27 PM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: Wax your car, wax your car, wax your car. Your car has a clear coat to protect the paint underneath, but the reason why cars get dull looking is because the clear coat is taking all the damage (from sun, dirt, salt, washings, scrapes, etc.). When you add a layer of wax, that becomes the sacrificial layer. It's a lot easier and cheaper to wax than it is to get paint work done.

It's not hard to do it yourself (just time and energy), or you can get a detail shop to do a new car service if you want to splurge on your new car.

Some of the car people I know do washes every 2 weeks and waxes quarterly. I've gone down to one wax a year, since I started using this stuff. I'm surprised it's not better known. I've been using it for 5 years now and swear by it.
posted by danny the boy at 5:28 PM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Read through the FAQ at /r/AutoDetailing.

Here's a specific description of how to remove avian feces.

Tips for washing car in winter.

+1 what forallmankind said about clearbra. There's a non-zero chance you already have factory-installed 3M on the front end even if you didn't order it; if so, consider increasing the protection, e.g. replacing partial hood with full coverage.

Please, please, no Armorall, ever, at least not in or near your car or the car of anyone you don't intensely despise. That stuff is only good for upkeep of lower-range fashion-type Wellington boots like Hunters.
posted by wonton endangerment at 5:39 PM on March 18, 2016

Best answer: @radicalawyer - crumbs in the cup holders can be prevented with silicone muffin cup liners. just pop them in, and when those get crumb-y, clean them in the dishwasher or with warm soapy water.
posted by andreapandrea at 5:45 PM on March 18, 2016

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! These are the exact answers I was hoping to receive!!!
posted by A hidden well at 1:47 PM on March 23, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oooooh, stickers! All stickers --- parking stickers, political stickers, flags, band-supporting stickers, anything --- go only on GLASS, never paint or bumpers. Stick stuff on the rear driver's side window for the least obstruction to the driver's view out.
posted by easily confused at 2:02 AM on March 25, 2016 [1 favorite]

A car's like a person. Newness is nice, but signs of road wear aren't necessarily undesirable. So while you enjoy the shiny/new phase, I hope you'll ease comfortably into your mechanical friend's more seasoned period, as the odometer comes to reflect continental, then planetary, and perhaps even lunar distances, and your relationship shifts from proud shiny ownership to a more weathered sense of longtime co-adventure.

A prissy Porsche weeps at its first ding like a high-strung fashion model scowling at a grey hair or wrinkle. But a Corolla mostly really wants to DRIVE YOU (lunar distances, preferably), and could give two shits about a scratch or a dent!
posted by Quisp Lover at 9:48 AM on August 20, 2016 [2 favorites]

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