Car Care - Body Maintenance


Keeping the exterior of your car, truck, SUV or van in tip-top condition is a good idea for a variety of reasons. A damaged or neglected vehicle makes resale a difficult job. Dirt, road grime, and salt can wear away the paint and surfaces of your vehicle, making it look old and beat-up. And repairing a body part is much more difficult than a mechanical repair, which often means simply replacing a worn-out component. As any body-shop worker can tell you, repairing body components requires much skill, patience, time and effort. So follow these simple body maintenance suggestions to keep your vehicle looking good, helping to retain its resale value.

Once every 12,000 miles or once a year, have the underside of your vehicle steam-cleaned. This will remove all dirt and oil residue. You can then, if desired, more easily inspect the area for damaged cables, rust, damaged brake lines, frayed electrical wires, and other problems.

Also once a year or every 12,000 miles, steam clean and/or degrease your vehicle's engine compartment.

Your wheel wells deserve your close attention. The undercoating can peel away or the tires can throw up stones and dirt, causing the paint to flake and chip, and rust to perhaps set in. If you find any rust, sand the area down to bare metal, then paint with a rust-inhibiting paint.

Wash the entire vehicle body once a week. Hose down the exterior with water to loosen the dirt, then use a good car wash product and a wash mitt to clean the body surfaces, starting with the roof, hood, and trunk areas and working your way down.

Remove asphalt and tar, with a cloth soaked in kerosene.

If you use a chrome cleaner to clean chromed parts, use it sparingly. Why? Because chrome cleaners, in addition to removing dirt and grime, also remove a little of the chrome each time you use them.

Once every six months, wax or polish the body. Use a paste wax for added protection on chromed parts.

To clean exterior vinyl parts, use plain soap and water. Do not use caustic soaps, petroleum-based products or detergents - they are not necessary. For engrained dirt on your vinyl areas, use a soft brush, soap, and water. After cleaning, apply a high-quality rubber/vinyl protectant to prevent cracks and oxidation. Tip: also apply this protectant to vacuum lines, weather-stripping, and rubber hoses on other parts of your vehicle to help protect from chemical degradation.

Spray your wheel covers and rims with brake dust remover, then wash them with soap and water.

Wash your tires with soap and water, and use the same high-quality rubber/vinyl protectant that you used on your vinyl parts to protect your tires.