Remember when your car first rolled out of the showroom? New cars have that perfect, factory fresh sheen that looks so great, and it is possible to get your car close to this look with some easy tricks. Andy Goodwin shows you how.
1 Restore exterior trim
It happens so gradually, it’s hard to notice it, but over time, black plastic trim and rubber seals start to lose their lustre. A combination of contaminants, dirt and grime and ultraviolet rays can all take their toll on exterior trim, and even cleaning the rest of the car’s paintwork can cause unintended overspray onto trim that can leave it looking shabby.
For this very reason, most car cleaning product ranges include a ‘back to black’ style trim restorer. This can be found as a spray or liquid, and we prefer the latter, as thin slivers of trim really benefit from direct application using a gel treatment on a cloth or pad. Spraying trim restorer all over your paint will just create more work for you. Follow the product instructions, working the product into the plastic, and buff as required, and your car’s trim will soon have a dark, glossy finish again.
2 Tyre gloss
If you’ve ever cleaned and even waxed your car, only for the end result to not quite hit the spot, it could be that the car’s grimy tyres are letting the side down. This is especially the case for large SUVs and pickups, which tend to have much beefier sidewalls that can look dull, and dominate the overall look far more as a result.
Firstly, while washing your wheels, ensure you also give the tyre sidewalls a gentle scrub with a firm brush and some soapy water to get rid of any dirt. Avoid the tread, though, as most car shampoo includes some wax, and you don’t want that on your car’s contact patches. Once the tyre is dry, apply tyre shine spray or gel to the sidewall and step back to bask in the glory of jet black tyres. Glossy ‘wet look’ and more subtle matt finishes are available, and the choice of product is purely down to your own personal preference.
3 Clean the brakes
If your car is rolling on steel wheels with hubcaps, you can skip this step, but for those cars with alloy wheels and exposed brakes, gather around. For car geeks, brakes are like a car’s jewellery, and if they’re covered in thick layers of baked-on dirt it can make the car look old and unloved.
Never attempt to clean the face of the disc, this will get polished by the brake pads when you drive the car, and cleaning solutions here could be hazardous. Instead focus on the brake calipers, which can be sprayed with brake cleaner if they haven’t been cleaned for a long time. This should remove any nasty deposits, but often using a good car shampoo and wheel brush will be sufficient. This is especially the case for painted calipers, and if your car is fitted with bare metal stoppers, it can be a good idea to paint them to keep them looking good for longer. Just be sure to use caliper-specific paint if you do, that’s specially designed for higher heat applications.
4 Glass cleaner
When many people clean their car at home, they spend lots of time washing and polishing their car’s paintwork and alloy wheels, but forget to concentrate on its windows. However, this can lead to an unfinished look once the car has dried out, especially if there are water spots or streaks, caused by small deposits left behind as water evaporates.
The first step to avoiding unsightly glass, is to ensure they are dried with a suitable microfibre cloth, drying towel or soft squeegee after the car is washed, stopping water spots forming. Then, use a tailor-made glass cleaner and separate cloth to polish the windows inside and out, not forgetting the car’s mirrors. It’s a bit more effort, but polishing the glass can really make a car pop. It’s also important for safety, especially when the sun is low in the sky or when driving at night, as dirty windows can cause poor visibility. Don’t forget to clean the inside, too.
5 Refresh the upholstery
Even if a car’s fabric upholstery and cloth seats don’t look especially dirty, giving them a quick clean with some fabric cleaner can help give the car a fresher, showroom feel. It will also kill off any nasty bacteria and help protect against future spills and dirt.
It’s best to carry out this task on a warm, dry, day, when you aren’t going to be using the car for a while, because you’ll want to leave it to dry with a few windows left open. Always check the instructions on the cleaner, but for most products, simply check the spray bottle is set to its mist setting, and lightly dampen the seats, carpets and door trim without getting any one spot too wet. Leave it to sit for a short time, and then gently rub the areas with a clean microfibre cloth to lift away any dirt. Once the interior has properly dried out, the car should look great and have a fresh scent that permeates throughout the cabin.