Whether you’ve managed to get a great old car at a bargain price, or you’ve simply had your car for years, having an older car doesn’t mean it can’t look shiny and new. With a thorough cleaning and a few new bits and bobs, your old car can be an enviable blend of modern comforts and vintage charm. Our how-to guide will show you how.
A little elbow grease
Ever heard of hinching? It’s all the rage on Instagram right now, though it’s mainly focused on getting the house spick-and-span. Well, get your hinch on with your car! Giving your car a thorough detailed clean inside and out can make the world of difference.
A guide to interior cleaning
The first step is to take a black bag and clear out all the rubbish. Drinks bottles, McDonalds wrappers, papers, whatever you’ve shoved in the glove box and forgotten about, the air freshener that lost its scent several years ago. Check the chair pockets, and the door storage, and the boot.
Sun visors and headliner
Now we can start cleaning properly. If you’ve never cleaned your car’s headliner and sun visors, you might be surprised just how much difference it can make. The fabric covering the interior ceiling can become discoloured and cling on to odours, so it is worth taking the time to give it a good clean.
Cover the headliner and sun visors with upholstery cleaner if they could use a thorough clean. Foam-type upholstery cleaners are recommended for this. Follow the instruction on the product, then use a soft-bristled brush to gently brush the headliner. Then, let it dry for a few hours.
If your headliners and sun visors are really grotty, you can take a steam cleaner to them. However, this can damage the glue holding the layers of your headliner together.
Wipe down pillars and grab handles
Use a soft, microfibre cloth to wipe down pillars and grab handles in your car. Depending on the material, you can use the same upholstery cleaner as you used for the headliner and sun visor, or an antibacterial spray.
Seats and seat belts
There’s a trick to this. To clean your seatbelts, pull them out as far as they will go, then attach a clip at the top to stop them pulling back. Using the same upholstery cleaner as you used for the headliner, clean down the belt with a cloth. Leave the belt clipped to dry for a few hours before letting them roll back in.
Are your car seats cloth? Vacuum them then grab either a window squeegee or put on a damp rubber glove. Run the squeegee or damp glove over the seats to pull up deep-set fluff, dust, and pet hair. Then, go at it with the upholstery cleaner too. For other materials, wipe the seats down with a microfibre cloth.
Mirrors and windows
Rinse off your squeegee if you used it for the seats. Then, spray some window or glass cleaner onto your car windows and mirrors and wipe away with a squeegee or cloth. Wind your windows down a little to get the grime away from the top of the window and achieve a streak-free finish.
Vacuum door panels
Take a vacuum cleaner to the doors and all the nooks and crannies. Then, using a leather cleaner where needed and a vinyl cleaner for the rest, wipe down the whole interior door panel. Be sure to check on a small area that the cleaner you are using is safe to use on your door’s interior material.
Scrub the air vents and drinks holders
If your air vents are removable, give them a clean down, as well as any drinks holders or trays your car may have.
Steering wheel and dashboard
It’s up to you whether or not to buy dedicated dashboard wipes, but warm water and mild soap is fine to use too. Be sure to go lightly with the water though, as you don’t want to risk water running down into the electrics. To get rid of grime and grease, a glass cleaner will do the trick. Also, wash your dashboard in the shade to avoid the sun from drying the product too quickly.
Remember to clean your indicator sticks as well. Give your steering wheel some serious focus too – it is one of the dirtiest parts of a car interior.
Floor mats, boot, and carpets
Take the vacuum cleaner to your boot and carpets. If the floor mats look worse for wear, throw them out and get them replaced – a rubber floor mat is a good way to ensure no mould develops from wet shoes going in and out of your car. For a really deep clean, brush your carpets with a nylon brush before going at it with the vacuum cleaner. This will bring up any deep-set dirt buried in your car’s carpets.
A guide to exterior cleaning
With the interior spick-and-span, let’s focus on the exterior now. You can head to the car wash if you like, but if you have the time to spare, giving it a clean yourself usually produces better results. This is because you can spend more time on the areas that really need some attention.
Try using the three-bucket system when cleaning your car:
- Clean, soapy water bucket. This bucket is just for soapy water. No dipping your dirty cloth in here!
- Wheels and tyres bucket. As the wheels are particularly dirty, have one bucket of soapy water just for this.
- Water bucket. Use this bucket to rinse off your dirty cloth before dipping it back into the soapy water bucket.
The first step is to wash your car down. Use a hose or a microfibre cloth wet with just water and rinse down your car. The idea behind this is that you want to wash away any large amounts of dirt before you get the soapy water involved.
Is your car exterior a little bug-crusty? Soap will have a hard time peeling these critters off your car, but there’s an easy trick to remove them. Get a few tumble dryer sheets and a bucket of warm water. Wet the dryer sheet in the warm water, then wipe down the bugs. They will come away much easier this way. Then, you can go at your car with the soapy water. Remember to rinse your cloth in the water bucket as you go along. For tougher spots, try using a clay bar instead.
Need to shine up your headlights? Use normal, white-paste toothpaste (not the gel kind). With a soft cloth, apply the toothpaste to your headlights. Then, rinse away the toothpaste with water.
With the car clean, polish it with a dual-action polished or hand-polish. Then, apply a final coat of wax to protect the paintwork and that hard-earned shine. Use a power buffer to apply the wax, but then remove it with a soft cloth to ensure an even finish. Don’t use product on the tyres though; simple water will be enough. It’s time to tackle the wheels. Make sure to use your designated wheels bucket, as brake fluid smeared across your windows next time is not preferable.
A few replacements
With the car the cleanest you’ve ever seen it, take a step back and consider it overall. Some parts could use replacing, and it will help the overall appearance of your vehicle. These don’t need to be expensive replacements.
- Use a cherished number plate – cherished number plates are registration plates with no year identifier on them. This is a great way to make an older model of car look newer.
- New speakers – if you’re a music lover, upgrading the car speakers will improve your experience without breaking the bank.
- Seat covers – seat covers are a great way to spruce up your car interior without splashing out on expensive re-upholstering. Plus, you can add a little character with many different designs and patterns to choose from.
- New wheels – if your wheels are looking worse for wear even after cleaning, it might be time to replace them.
- A fresh coat of paint – if your budget allows, a new paint job can work wonders for an old car.