INTERIOR CAR CARE Here are some basic tips when it comes to interior car care: Carpeting This vital barrier prevents rust from attacking the floor area of your car, provided you do your best to keep moisture out. During winter, salty snow deposits leave white stains that can prove difficult to remove. When diluted with water, salt infiltrates the floor mats and carpeting, resulting in further damage. Besides corroding the foot wells, salt can also damage the levers, handles, and cables that open the fuel door and trunk lid. Tip: Ahead of the cold season, install specially contoured winter (all-weather) floor mats that will prevent water buildup inside your car. If you park inside, snow will melt, so crack the windows to allow humidity to exit the vehicle. All year long, you should shake the dirt off your mats at least once per week. Remember to tap your shoes or boots against one another (not the door frame!) before entering your car. Seats Any dirt, stain or damage on your seats will be extremely noticeable. The clothes you wear -- more specifically, the buttons, zippers, and Velcro -- can scratch seating surfaces, and there's nothing you can do to repair that, save for swapping out the seats or buying aftermarket covers. Remember to wash new denim jeans before wearing, to avoid dark blue stains on light coloured seats. Tip: Regularly clean your seats with a vacuum. The more you allow dirt to reach the tiniest crevices, the harder it will be to remove. A number of automakers offer water- and stain-proof materials, particularly in SUVs and minivans; however, if you can choose between a light or dark interior, opt for the latter to maintain that fresh, new look longer. In the case of leather or suede seats, use specially designed products to clean and moisturize the surfaces. Dashboard Taking care of your dashboard is easier than you think. More often than not, a wet towel is enough to remove dust. Tip: You don't need all those fancy products sold in large retail stores. If water fails to do the trick, consider a brand like Worth. Whatever you do, avoid oil-based products: That beautiful shine will only last a couple of days, and it’ll attract even more dust. In addition, the plastic on your dashboard will absorb the oil and may crack as a result. Windows Once again, simplicity is the key. Use a dedicated cleaning product such as Windex and, more importantly, avoid natural fibre cloth or tissue paper when wiping the windows. Believe it or not, newspaper or paper towel will deliver better results. Protection from the sun The hot summer sun can really damage your car interior -- paint or trim discolouration and cracking on the seats and dashboard are just a few examples. In fact, your car is no different from your skin: You need to protect it from dangerous UV rays. Avoid leaving your car parked under the sun for long periods, and consider tinting your windows (if they're not already). EXTERIOR CAR CARE Washing a car is a bit more complex than you think. It's not just about removing dust and dirt; you have to be thorough. If you skip or overlook certain steps, you increase the risk of damaging the body of your car. Here are some useful tips when it comes to exterior car care: Wheel/Tire Cleaner They say you should wash the car from the top down, but we actually like to clean the tires first. It's been our experience that tire cleaners work best when applied to dry tires. It seems to break up old tire dressing better that way. So we clean both the tires and wheels first before a drop of water even touches the car. Those "no touch" hose-off tire cleaners work OK, but the best products still require scrubbing, so spray liberally and use a scrub brush to get rid of all the road grime and brake dust. To clean the wheels, it's best to use one of the newer, all-metal wheel cleaners to avoid damaging the finish. They're formulated to work on bare aluminum, magnesium, or painted wheels. Soak the wheels with the cleaner and scrub lightly with a soft-bristle brush or an old terry-cloth towel. Rinse both the wheel and tire thoroughly. Do one wheel at a time to prevent the cleaners from drying before you rinse them off. If you have unpainted wheels, they can then be cleaned with mag and aluminum polish. Use a terry-cloth towel to wipe the polish on, and wipe the residue away with a clean towel. Be sure to use old towels, though-the polish turns black as it cleans the metal. Rinsing First, you need to rinse the entire car down before you start washing. Ideally, you should use a pressure washer and aim at every square inch of the car in order to dislodge sand and small rocks that could later become trapped in your wash mitt. Wash mitt The mitt has to be immaculate before you start massaging the body panels, windows, and wheels. Rinse it off regularly throughout your car wash. You'll avoid scratching the paint with the very same rocks you were so focused on rubbing away if you do. Washing product The product itself is actually less important than the technique. Pick the washing product that suits you best, preferably with a waxing agent included into the mix. Some people even use dish soap (in liquid form) and get superb results. Whatever you do, never wash a surface that you haven't previously hosed. When you're done, thoroughly rinse your car. Drying This step is just as crucial as washing. Use a super-clean chamois, terrycloth or microfiber towel to dry your car; otherwise, you'll spread any remaining dirt over the body, which will leave stains. Also, it's better to purchase a single premium chamois than a bunch of cheap ones. This piece of cloth should easily absorb water, prevent streaking, and leave no residue. Tire Dressing Like paint, the rubber used to make tires also oxidizes and breaks down over time. When that starts to happen, your onceblack tires start to turn an unappealing shade of brownish grey. Not cool. Tire dressing shields the rubber from the environment and slows the aging process. We like the stuff made with silicone that you wipe on rather than spray on; that way you avoid coating the wheels with it as well. Pour a few drops on an old cloth or rag and wipe it on the tires. Waxing Car wax can be either liquid or cream. It penetrates every tiny crack and evens the surface. Waxing can be performed on a regular basis -- just follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Polishing Not unlike sanding, car polishing is about using an abrasive compound to remove a thin layer from the clear coat that protects the paint, resulting in a fresh new surface. A waxing agent is often blended in to get the desired shine. Polishing typically involves older, more deteriorated body paint, and is best left to a professional. More tips... Avoid washing your car under the sun -- we can't stress enough how important a cold, wet surface is. The hot sun may dry out your car before you even start washing it, and you're sure to create more harm than good. Also, remember to wash the interior door panels and the inside of the trunk lid. Use a separate cloth so as not to get grease on your wash mitt, and let these surfaces dry completely to prevent moisture from generating rust -- leave your doors and trunk open to allow for drying. Finally, keep in mind that dark body paint requires more attention and care than light as it tends to show more imperfections and dirt.