Rub, scrub, splash, spray, and scour all you want, but chances are you’re missing some crucial corners of your automobile on cleaning day. It’s not that you don’t want a spotless vehicle, it’s just that there are so many areas on an automobile that need cleaning, and most of us don’t have the time to comb over every crevice of a car.

Life is hectic, we get it. Most of us barely have time to shovel breakfast into our faces in the morning before work, more or less spend an afternoon scrubbing and vacuuming our preferred mode of transportation. So while most people are quick to take their car down to a detailing shop, drop some coin on a self-spray wash, or brave the bowels of an automatic car wash, all of these options have their disadvantages. 

Unless you are coughing-up good coin for an intensive detailing session conducted by a professional, there’s going to be at least one or two areas of your automobile that will get neglected. A coin car wash or vacuum station isn’t much better either. Most people tend to rush when they are being timed, hitting as many parts of their vehicle as quickly as possible in order to beat the timer or make space for the vehicle waiting in line behind them. And as for those awful auto car washes, let’s just say that the majority of these machines are the equivalent of trimming your nose hairs with a weed-whacker. It will get the job done, but it’s also going to inflict serious damage in the process.

So unless you are taking the time, and meticulously cleaning the entire vehicle by hand, chances are your decision to hit the local car wash once a week has done little to protect all the areas of your automobile. Allowing filth to build in a hidden area of an automobile not only poses harm to the vehicle, but it also threatens the well-being of it occupants.. Today, we will discuss the most commonly neglected areas when cleaning an automobile, as well as some detailing tips and tricks for getting every part of that ride as spotless as possible.

Commonly Missed Places When Cleaning a Car

Photo Credit: Micah Wright

In order to get a pristine automotive machine, you are going to have to access some remote areas, and look closely at any components that may never have been detailed. Car detailing is an incredibly tedious task, yet with a bit of patience and guidance, the right tools, and enough time, all of those neglected sections can get the love they deserve too. So pay extra attention to the following overlooked areas of an automobile, and remember that when the going gets tough, it’s time to take a break and crack open an ice-cold beverage.

Interior

Headliners- Regardless of what material it’s made from, this lofty portion of a vehicle’s interior rarely gets the love it deserves. Sure, it may not get as filthy as fast as floor mats, but a headliner will eventually get dirty, at which point an upholstery cleaner and a car detailing brush must be used to wipe it down. On the bright side, headliners are easy to access, unlike some of the other portions of an automobile that we will be discussing today.

Cup Holders- Ever look down inside a well-used car cup holder? If not cleaned regularly, these commonly ignored areas can quickly become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. Spilled coffee, food debris, dust, dirt, hair follicles, and countless other forms of filth all find a home within this cylindrical docking station. Be sure to spray cup holders liberally with car interior cleaner (or if removable, give them a soapy scrub, followed by a hosing-off), and then wipe them down with a clean microfiber cloth.

Door Pockets- Like cup holders, these useful storage slots are a commonly overlooked portion of a car’s interior on cleaning day. So be sure to thoroughly vacuum your door pockets, and then hit them with a splash of trim-safe disinfectant/protectant and a microfiber towel before allowing them to dry.

Sun Visors- These useful accoutrements may get handled daily, but they are also doomed to a lifetime of neglect. Filthy fingertips and dust suspended in the air often make the most notable mark on sun visors, so be sure to clean them and their mirrors when you scrub that headliner.

Seat Cracks- Vacuuming a seat but neglecting to clean between its cushions is all too common of a car cleaning checklist miss. So break out that fine tipped vacuum accessory and gently stuff it between those seats. You’ll more than likely be disgusted by what you suck out. 

Beneath the Rear Bench- Did you know that even on sedans, the rear bench can be unbolted or folded out of the way for deep cleaning? If the lower bench doesn’t pull forward and cantilever out of the way, chances are the affixed portion has a bolt holding it down. This can often be found tucked away beneath the middle of the rear bench. With the aid of a flashlight, look between the center section of the lower bench and the seatback cushion for the bolt. Once removed, the entire bench should slide out, allowing you and your vacuum access to the exposed area underneath.

Beneath the Rear Trunk Mat- Ever look to see what’s under your trunk mat? Unless they’re changing a tire, few people ever inspect this portion of an automobile, so it devolves into a dumping ground for any debris small enough to squeeze between the folds in the trunk mat.

Door Jams- The no-man’s-land between a vehicle’s exterior and interior is also an area where no man has cleaned before. Give this section a good once-over the next time you clean your car. Chances are you’ll be flabbergasted by what you discover.

Underside of Rear Liftgate- For hatchback, SUV, and minivan owners, the rear liftgate is a prized possession and a super useful attribute. It’s also an area that rarely gets the cleaning attention it deserves, so be sure to wipe it down thoroughly on cleaning day.

Exterior

Exhaust- Soot-rich, and more than likely rust-riddled, a car’s exhaust system is rarely cleaned due to its location and the amount of filth caked onto its surface. If it’s difficult to reach the piping section, see the quick tip below for cleaning a vehicle’s undercarriage, and instead spend your time scrubbing the outside of the muffler and/or exhaust tip if it’s a polished stainless unit.

Wheel Wells- When you hit a puddle or a bit of mud while driving, chances are a good bit of it will get flung up inside your vehicle’s wheel wells. Take the time and hose these hard-to-see areas out to prevent filth from building-up over time. You never know what hidden damages might be lurking in this opaque area of an automobile.

Tops of Windows- You need water to wash a car, so most people avoid cracking their windows for fear of damaging their interior. But in order to clean the upper edges of a vehicle’s windows, the glass must be partially lowered. If doused regularly with glass cleaner, and then scrubbed with a microfiber cloth, the upper edge of a car’s window will remain devoid of hard water spots and grimy build-up.

The Underside of Rain Visors- For as useful as these accessories are, rain visors rarely see any scrubbing along their underside. Hit this plastic bolt-on while you are scrubbing the top part of your window glass for a flawless finish.

Wiper Blades- Cleaning something that is designed to clean may seem a bit odd at first, but once you see how filthy car wiper blades get, you will understand why this component is on today’s list. Preventing sun damage from fading the outer portions of the metal arm is but one of the reason why you should be cleaning and protecting your car’s wipers. While the stiffer parts of the arm and outer section of the blade itself can benefit from a simple soap and water rub-down, the edge of the blade itself should be carefully wiped clean with a spritz of isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and a cloth. This will not only help ensure a streak-free driving experience in the rain, but it will also remove any road grime that the wiper blade has been collecting.

Door Handles- While the outside of a car’s door handles may get a scrub, the real estate behind them tends to get overlooked. Remain thorough, and wipe the ensconced area underneath your door handles for both peace of mind and sanitary purposes.

Engine Bay- We covered this neglected area of an automobile in a write-up focusing on the benefits of cleaning a car engine compartment. It’s a fairly big undertaking, but a clean engine bay is You can find our suggested tips and tricks, as well as a list of reasons as to why you need to clean your engine bay on our blog here.

Grille- Its outer surfaces may receive scrubbings, but save for getting sprayed with water, the inner portions of a car’s grill often remain untouched. All of those cracks and mesh honeycomb surface areas are a pain in the ass to clean too, so it’s no surprise that this area often gets overlooked on purpose.

Brakes- Brake dust is both unsightly and potentially harmful to painted surfaces. However, much like a vehicle’s wheel wells and engine bay, these recessed components rarely receive any love on cleaning day. So before you scour your vehicle’s wheels and tires, hit those calipers and rotors with some brake parts cleaner. After allowing the chemicals enough time to work their magic (1-2 minutes should be sufficient), rinse the brake components off with water, and marvel at how much road grime and brake dust gets removed.

Wheels- In order to remove road grime, salt, mud, brake dust, rubber, and various other forms of filth from a vehicle’s wheels, some serious scrubbing is required. Sure, the bigger stuff that’s stuck to the surface can probably be blasted away with water, but in order to remove the stubborn gunk stuck between the spokes, hand-polishing practices must be put into play.

To expedite this super tedious task, spray your wheels with a liberal amount of coating approved wheel cleaner, and then after letting the chemicals sit on the surface for the suggested period of time, carefully blast your alloy rollers with a pressure washer that’s been set to its mildest setting. After that, either wipe each spoke with a clean microfiber cloth, or use a “wheel-safe” polishing pad that can be affixed to an electric drill. 

Undercarriage- Unless you have access to a lift, cleaning the undercarriage of a vehicle is going to require climbing down on all fours, and blasting its nether regions with water. At least, that’s how most people do it. We suggest skipping this rudimentary approach, and sticking a lawn sprinkler beneath the underside of your automobile instead. In order to guarantee that every portion of the vehicle’s undercarriage has been adequately sprayed, periodically move the sprinkler until the entire car has been thoroughly sprayed.

The Importance of Thoroughly Cleaning a Car

Photo Credit: Micah Wright

A thorough car cleaning will not only help prevent things like rust from forming on areas that are prone to paint deterioration, but it will also help keep the cabin from turning into an allergy-inducing cockpit of malcontent. While allowing smaller stuff, like water spots on a windshield to sit for too long will are an annoyance, ignoring portions of a car’s interior, or a painted section of that is out of sight will only make matters worse over time. If not removed by something like a clay bar, dirt will eventually imbed in the clear coat atop a car’s paintwork, at which point no amount of scrubbing will remove the surface contaminant.

We suggest creating a weekly or bi-weekly cleaning regiment and then sticking with it. Remember, having a set of clean floor mats is just scratching the surface, so dig deep and leave no area untouched, no matter how inconveniently located or disgusting it may be.

Car Cleaning Tools to Consider

When it comes to cleaning a car’s exterior, having all of the necessary equipment for a two-bucket wash system should always be your first priority. This should be followed by an automotive approved glass cleaner, a quality clay bar, some soft brushes, and fresh microfiber cloths. LOTS of fresh microfiber cloths.

If you plan on conducting a deep clean in preparation for a ceramic coating install, you’ll want to use a high-end prep car shampoo that is fairly high on the pH scale. This will not only remove any old wax and sealants, but it will also loosen any deeply embedded filth sitting on the paintwork’s surface. Couple this with a quality wash mitt and a bit of patience, and you’ll be astounded by the results and glad that you took the time. 

“It’s not chemicals, or an OCD attention to detail that makes a spotless vehicle shine. It’s having the mindset that things must be done properly the first time, that truly matters. Pair this with the determination to see the process through until the end, and there’s nothing that can’t be cleaned.”

-Anonymous

Regardless as to whether you are looking to clean and protect the interior of your convertible, or just need to wipe down some hard-to-reach areas inside your Jeep, choosing the right chemicals is just as important as the tools you use. Highly rated UV protecting sprays are always a solid choice, as are water-repelling cleaning chemicals for seats and carpets. Meanwhile, dental flossing brushes or pipe cleaners will help remove build-up in hard to reach areas like vents and whatnot, and a fine tipped plastic pick will make dislodging debris from the cracks around buttons and in-between plastic panels a cinch.

So reload that cache of microfiber cloth cleaning tools, order a high-grade wheel brush, and keep an eye out for further DIY maintenance tips here at AvalonKing. Remember, cleaning and organizing the car you drive not only makes it look better, it adds immeasurable amounts of longevity to its odometer and boosts resale value.

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