Most recognize Autumn for its cool weather, beautiful leaves, and festivities. However, Fall ushers in a dramatic temperature shift that requires detailing adjustments to be made. In this post, we’ll discuss several steps you that’ll prepare your car for Fall, along with some suggestions to consider post-cleaning.
To wash your car in the fall: Clean the interior with an upholstery cleaner, check and clean wheels, clear leaves off the exterior, wash the car, dry off the surface, and add a layer of protection.
Gather the following tools and materials for your fall car cleaning:
- Upholstery cleaner
- Wheel cleaner
- Car soap
- Microfiber towels
- Wash mitt/applicator pad
Clean the interior
Begin by cleaning the interior to allow any residue from cleaning products to dry as you detail the exterior. Cleaning the interior requires you to do the following:
Remove floor mats
First, remove all floor mats from the vehicle. Move several feet from your car and shake your mats to remove loose debris. Set your mats to the side.
Vacuum your interior and floor mats
Next, vacuum the car’s interior. If possible, we recommend utilizing a vacuum with hose attachments capable of getting within small areas. Autumn means falling leaves, and these leaves often make their way into your vehicle. Carefully vacuum debris, giving special attention to crevices where dirt may hide.
Apply upholstery cleaner
Most vehicles have cloth or leather upholstery, so select a cleaner formulated for your material. If you need to clean upholstery, consider our cloth or leather cleaners. Stoner Car Care Upholstery and Carpet Cleaner features a foaming action that lifts debris to the surface. This product is an excellent choice for use on seats and footwells, as it cleans on top of fabrics without soaking into cushioning or padding. If your car has leather seats, Stoner’s Leather Cleaner performs as a three-in-one product; the formula simultaneously cleans, protects, and conditions your leather – saving you time and money.
Apply your upholstery cleaner to the top of your seats, working your way from the top to the bottom of your vehicle. Why top to bottom? As excess solution drips down, you do not want it to run over previously-cleaned areas. Always work from the upper parts of the car first.
Once the seats are clean, move to the footwells of the vehicle. The floor areas of your car take all kinds of everyday abuse from dirty shoes and boots that grind in dirt and debris. The foot areas of a car can be difficult to clean, as they often consist of odd angles. To help avoid back pain as you work, try kneeling on an overturned bucket or a foldout chair.
Check and clean wheels
Start the exterior detailing process by checking your wheels. Autumn temperature shift may affect various areas of your vehicle, most notably the wheels. Cold air compresses, so as the temperatures fall, your tires lose air pressure. It’s always a good idea to get your wheels and brakes checked out around this time.
Fall is also the gateway to winter, the season that in many areas of the country ushers in cold conditions, snow, and ice. Check the tread on your tires before winter weather comes, and replace them if needed. Unsure if your tires have enough tread? If they have less than 1/8-inch left, it’s time to shop for new tires. To perform a quick check of your treads, slip a quarter into your tire’s ridge. The distance from the coin’s rim to George Washington’s hairline is almost exactly 1/8 inch.
Next, apply a wheel detailer to your wheels, spraying from top to bottom. Wheels are home to contaminants such as brake dust, dirt, and road grime. As friction from the road and your brake pads heat your tires, these contaminants can bake onto the surface of your wheel. Wheel detailers must remain on your tires to loosen tough dirt. Different wheel cleaners vary in pH level and strength, so follow the instructions with the product you’re using with regard to time.
For tips on removing particularly stubborn baked-on brake dust, check out our blog post.
Clean leaves off exterior
One mature, healthy tree can hold up to 200,000 leaves, each of which eventually falls onto the ground – or your car. Though they seem insignificant, leaves may actually cause serious problems for car owners.
Leaves can find their way into any area of your car; under wipers, in air intakes, drain holes, etc. A wet leaf readily sticks to just about any surface. Dead leaves contain sap and pollen that contain acids that eat away at your exterior finish over time. A clear coat protects your vehicle from surface damage, but only for so long.
Crispy, dry leaves flake with little pressure. Not only are these small fragments a headache to clean, they affect engine performance when they work their way into air inlets. Air conditioning units and your car’s air filter are easily clogged. In addition, leaves that are dry can be hard enough to cause micro-abrasions in your exterior finish and your windshield.
Even with soap and water to lubricate your car’s surface, cleaning with leaves on its surface may cause scratches in its finish. Before applying soap, spot-clean by removing any lingering leaves found throughout your vehicle. Check underneath the hood, around wipers, and in door jambs.
Wash the car
Autumn’s cooler temps are optimal for car washing, though of course we recommend against washing at night or cleaning in below-freezing temperatures. Work during the day, in partial or full sun. Avoid windy weather that will prematurely dry your exterior – leaving dried soap or water spots in its place.
Apply a mixture of car shampoo and water to your car, starting at the top and working your way down. Light contaminants such as dust will run downwards over the surface. Clean from top to bottom to avoid dirty solution dripping onto previously-cleaned areas.
Work your way around the vehicle in sections – washing, then rinsing. You can use your car’s panels to mentally divide your car for washing. By washing and rinsing sequentially, you prevent soap from drying prematurely, leaving a film or streaks on your finish.
Dry off the exterior
Take a dry microfiber and dry off the surface of your car, working again from top to bottom. Avoid using a circular motion; instead, wipe in a singular direction to avoid potential water spots or streaks. You may wish to dry the car in sections to ensure that you get every area thoroughly dry.
If you happen to notice water spots or streaking, never fear – it’s an easy fix. Simply reapply some water to the affected area, and then immediately dry it. If streaking is stubborn, you can add a bit of cleaning solution for easy spot removal.
Add a layer of protection
If autumn brings minor cleaning challenges, winter can spell serious trouble for your car’s exterior – most notably with ice-melting road salt. As you drive, salt particles easily attach to any surface area. Salt easily corrodes unprotected metal, degrading its quality and causing safety hazards. Add a layer of protection in the fall to protect your car in the months to follow.
We recommend applying a wax or synthetic sealant to add a layer of protection to your finish. Waxes and sealants are both effective protective products, but each has its advantages. To learn more about your options, check out our blogpost on Waxes and Sealants.
We highly recommend Stoner Car Care’s Synthetic Sealant for its shine and durability. Synthetic Sealant contains micro polymers that form a tight chemical bond to protect your car’s surface from weather and UV rays.
Fall into a clean car!
Cool, crisp days are the perfect time to shine your ride. Detailing improves your car’s look and performance and prolongs its lifespan. Fall offers you the last opportunities to detail your car for the year before winter’s freezing temps complicate the process. Follow these steps to prepare your car for fall: Clean the interior with an upholstery cleaner, check and clean wheels, clear leaves off the exterior, wash the car, dry off the surface, and add a layer of protection. Enjoy the colorful rides of fall!