I wrote this as a comment on a car forum a whole back, but I thought I’d share it here. It’s a bunch of useful things to know to take care of your car. Some of it is pretty basic, but some may help someone out there. :)
1) Wash the car when it’s dirty. There are great guides to be found on the Internet about how to successfully wash a car, but the basics are:
-Hose it off thoroughly beforehand to get the dirt and grit off (this will help you to avoid swirl marks).
-Don’t use Dawn or dishwashing liquid. It’s made to cut through grease and will kill the wax on your car.
-When washing/drying, wipe in back and forth motions, not in circles. Even when freshly washed, there are still particles you can’t see that will cause swirls (clay bars remove those particles).
-Don’t use your fingernails to scrape anything off of the paint!
-Don’t forget to clean your windshield wiper blades. Helps them to work better and last longer.
-If you drop your washcloth on the ground, wash it off with the hose REALLY well, or, preferably, grab a new one and throw the old one in the washing machine.
-Do NOT wash in direct sunlight unless it’s during the winter or on a pretty cool day (and even then, it’s still better to wash on a cloudy day or in the shade). The sun will dry your car and leave water spots.
-Regularly clean and vacuum the inside of your car too. This will help to keep it from developing odors.
-Clean your windows inside and out with a non ammonia-based glass cleaner.
2) Detail it about every 6 months, more often if it’s kept outside.
-Use a clay kit. Clay bars remove the crap that you can’t see. When you run your fingers over a freshly clayed surface, it will feel brand new. You won’t realize the difference until you clay it.
-Use a decent wax. I personally use Meguiar’s Tech Wax 2.0. It’s easy to apply and easy to remove the excess. The only con is that it doesn’t last quite as long as a paste wax, but that just means I get to detail my car a little more often, which I generally like doing. :D
-If you have any plastic or vinyl on the outside of your car, don’t apply real wax! If you want to wax those parts, use a synthetic wax like Turtle Wax Synthetic. It sprays on and wipes off super easily, can be applied even in direct sunlight (that’s kind of a big deal), and you can put it on pretty much anything.
-Speaking of synthetic wax, PUT THAT SHIT ON YOUR WINDSHIELD. It’s less streaky that Rain-X (or so I find) and if you’re going over 40 miles an hour, you will never have to turn on your windshield wipers in the rain. I would only apply synthetic wax to a windshield depending on how often you wash the car or how often you clean the windshield. Don’t apply it every time you wash the car, or it’ll build up.
3) If you have to park outside a lot, buy a sunscreen or put towels over your dashboard to keep it from cracking. Years of sun abuse wreak havoc on dashboards. At the very least, you’ll keep it from developing a very ugly case of fading.
4) If you park next to other cars, you will get dings/scratches. This is a sad truth. Other people typically don’t give a shit about your car, and half of them don’t care about their own cars either. If you don’t want dings/scratches, park in the back of parking lots (exercise!) or in end spaces where only a passenger side of another car is facing you. There HAS to be someone in the driver’s side, but there doesn’t have to be someone on the passenger side.
5) Read your car’s manual about oil changes. The “change your oil every 3k miles” thing is obsolete. Most manufacturers recommend every 5-7k or even 10k miles these days. If you do mostly city driving, it’s better to change the oil earlier. If you really care, learn how to change your oil yourself. It’s one of the easiest things to learn. For me, this saves a lot of money because I use Mobil1 synthetic oil and Mobil1 filters, but it’ll probably save you less if you’re using dino oil from a $20-30 oil change place. However, those places don’t always do the best of jobs. I’ve heard horror stories about people getting oil changes at Wal-Mart, only to drive away and find out they never put oil back into the engine! If you decide to do this yourself, I personally think ramps are easiest, but if you use a jack, ALWAYS support the car with jack stands before getting under it, and no matter what you’re lifting the car with, engage the parking brake and put chocks under the back wheels. Safety first! :)
6) Don’t put an air freshener in your car. Seriously, it’s hard to get that smell out and they smell terrible. If your car starts to smell, you need to clean it REGULARLY, not cover up the odor with something else. You can find deodorizing products if your car has a smell, but I have no experience with them.
7) If you have leather, you need to clean it and condition it regularly or it will crack.
8 ) Do not ignore anything. If your car makes a noise, google it or go ask on a car forum. It might be nothing, but it can’t hurt to find out.
9) Change everything that needs to be changed regularly (air filter, cabin air filter if you have one, tires, brakes, etc). Besides normal engine oil, your car also has differential oil that needs to be changed after like 100k miles (as long as you don’t live in the mountains). Your transmission also uses a lubricant, but I’m unfamiliar with how changing that works. Read your manual. :)
10) Don’t put stupid decals on it (anything that blocks the sun will make your car’s paint fade unevenly, meaning once you put a decal on your car and leave it there for a while, you can’t ever take it off without seeing the difference in the color of the paint). If it’s new, request the dealer not put their decal on it or remove it immediately upon pickup. They’re not paying you to advertise for them, and dealer decals look dumb and cheap.
11) If you want to, tint the windows. Keeps the car cooler and looks better.
12) Keep an air compressor and jumper cables in your trunk. You can get each for $15 at Wal-Mart. If your phone doesn’t have a flashlight, also keep a flashlight in there. It also can’t hurt to keep some toilet paper in your trunk. You never know…