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Making your car smell brand new
Car experts offer tips to keep your vehicle clean inside and out
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Leaving bugs on your bumper can damage the paint, according to used car manager David Copous at Milton Martin Honda. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Car-washing tips

* Wash you car every week.

* Don’t wait to wash off bird droppings, dead bugs or tree sap on the exterior. If left on too long, acids can leach into the paint and cause damage.

* Rinse your vehicle after it rains to prevent damage from acid rain.

* Use car-wash products, not household cleaners, to protect the paint.

* Use a large, soft natural sponge or a lamb’s wool mitt to wash. Use separate sponges to scrub along wheels and lower edges of car’s body.

* Use two buckets, one with soapy water and one with plain, to rinse sponges and reapply suds.

* Rinse all surfaces with water before washing to remove dirt and debris that could cause scratching.

* Start at the top and work your way down.

* On the final rinse use a hose without an attachment and let the water flow down the car’s body. This minimized water pooling creates a sheeting action.

* Use a chamois or a soft towel to blot up the water. A soft squeegee can also be used to remove water.


If you’ve owned your vehicle for a while, you’ve likely spilled a few drinks, dropped a couple of french fries or worse — let the dog ride shotgun. And that new-car smell is nothing more than a fading memory even after a wash and vacuum.

While it might take a little effort, the squeaky-clean feeling (and smell) of a new car isn’t impossible to achieve in an older vehicle.

“Cleaning is one thing,” said David Copous, used car manager at Milton Martin Honda on Browns Bridge Road in Gainesville. “Detailing is another animal.”

Copous and detail manager Chris Jones have the task of making used cars feel like new again.

Jones said detailing a vehicle isn’t always quick and easy but doing so can pay off in the end.

One of the most important and yet often overlooked things is the vehicle’s cabin air filter, Copous said.

“Everybody cleans their car and wipes their car down, but then you get in it and you turn your (air conditioner) on,” Copous said. “If your cabin air filter is dirty, you’re typically going to have an odor, some dust.”

Changing the filter is recommended every 15,000 miles. A new filter is inexpensive, prices range based on vehicle, and installation usually only takes about 15 to 20 minutes.

Jones said using an ionizer, a machine that purifies air, inside the cabin can also help remove odors.

Shampooing the carpets is another important step in removing smells from the inside, but special care should be taken to make sure the carpets are dried properly. Jones recommends using a spot cleaner on tough set-in stains before shampooing. After cleaning, he suggests letting the heater run or leaving the doors and windows open to allow the vehicle to dry completely. If moisture remains, it can become moldy and result in a musty smell.

While some problems might wash out, others are a bit more clingy.

“Dog hair is probably one of our worst enemies,” Copous said. “The reason being is you’ve got the pet dander in your filter, the pet odor from laying on your seats and, of course, the hair is so course. It’s hard to get it out because it sticks in there. You almost have to pick it out hair by hair because it gets woven into the fabric.”

Jones said he uses a number of tools to remove pet hair from vehicles, such as a pet hair rock and a lint brush.

Jones said car owners can save themselves a lot of trouble by using a pet mat in the back of the car when transporting their animals.

Sometimes, pets are not the only animals that may cause problems inside a vehicle. Jones said he’s seen everything from ants and roaches to mice and rats living inside vehicles.

To prevent stowaways, Copous said vehicle owners should be careful about leaving food in the car and cleaning up any messes.

“Keep food out of your car because it will attract ants like bears to a campsite,” Copous said.

In the event of an infestation, Jones said the first step to solving the problem is following the instructions with traditional insecticides. Once the insects are dead, vacuum and shampoo the car.

Jones said taking care of a vehicle’s exterior is fairly straightforward.

Removing dead bugs from the front of the vehicle and any sap that may have fallen on the car from nearby trees can help prolong the life of a paint job and keep the vehicle looking new longer.

While cleaning the car makes the daily ride more comfortable, it also helps protect the value of the car in the long run.

Copous said people often ask if having a dirty vehicle matters when it’s time to sell or trade.

Some things can be easily fixed but lingering odors from pets and smoking can deter potential buyers, he said.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize that smoking in your car and having pets in your car does devalue it over time,” Copous said.

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