Besides performing regular maintenance, another important part of taking care of your vehicle is keeping it clean.

Wash your vehicle regularly. Every day our vehicles are subjected to sun, salt, grease and grime, acid rain, smog, tree sap, dead bugs, and worst of all, the acidic compound of bird poop bombs. These things eat away at paint, and once that’s gone, they will eat at the metal in your vehicle. While failing to wash your vehicle won’t result in immediate damage, over time the elements will corrode your vehicle, along with its potential re-sell value.

How often should you wash your vehicle? It depends. Location and climate are the two biggest factors in determining frequency. We recommend washing your vehicle weekly for busy commuters. During the winter, you may need to wash your vehicle more frequently than you do during the summer due to the snow, salt, and mud that will accumulate as you drive along icy roadways.

How Often Is Enough?

Most experts recommend washing your car every two weeks or so throughout the year as a general rule. If you live in an area with a lot of salt — either from a nearby ocean or from salt trucks on the winter roads — you probably should wash it more, as salt can corrode the metal and cause rust.

Those who spend a lot of time driving through the backcountry should give their car a little more TLC, as well. The aforementioned bird business is acidic enough to eat through your car’s paint job if it’s left too long. Same goes for dead bugs and tree sap, so they should be washed off as necessary.

And while we might think of car washes as a summertime chore, you actually need to wash your car more often in the winter. Salt from the roads is one of the worst offenders, and it can cake onto the body of your car and wreak havoc. More frequent trips to the car wash, particularly those with hand-held pressure wands, will help protect your car from salt buildup.

Of course, the interior of your car is exposed to less salt and fewer dead bugs, but it still needs to be cleaned. Use a vacuum hose to get any particles (dog hair, dry cereal, bits of dried leaves) out of the seat crevices and off the floor mats. If you find any stains during the vacuuming process, you can use an upholstery spot cleaner to remove them. Dingy seats can be cleaned with a simple solution of warm water and mild detergent.

Leather seats, though, need to be cleaned and conditioned to keep the leather from cracking and aging, at least every three months or so. If you drive a lot (say for a living) or the interior of your car is exposed to the sun, condition the leather every two months.

Don’t forget to hand wipe your vehicle after you wash it! This will remove the build-up that is very difficult to liftoff with soap and water.

Don’t use the inside of your vehicle as a garbage can. The inside of your vehicle is not a garbage can, so quit treating it like one. Get in the habit of regularly cleaning out your vehicle so it doesn’t constantly look like a dump. Keeping your vehicle’s interior clean and tidy can reduce stress in your life and make the driving experience more enjoyable. Also, you never know when you’ll have unexpected passengers.
By keeping your vehicle clean, you’ll never have to say, “Sorry about the mess”.