Winter 2007 Forward to a Friend

The Why of detailing

Cleaning a vehicle is often handed down from generation to generation. Part of that ritual is the choice of car-care products and cleaning techniques. We generally know how. Here’s a refresher on why different parts of today’s vehicles should be handled in particular ways.

interior interior interior

A foggy film on windows can be caused by smoke and/or gases released by vinyl and plastic materials. Use glass or plastic cleaner without ammonia, but not wax. Ammonia can damage non-recommended aftermarket window tint, and it can dry out rubber and plastic parts.

Heat, cold, and direct exposure to the sun ages plastic interior pieces such as dash coverings, seat trim, and parts of the center console.

Leather is like your own skin. Just as you clean and condition your own skin, give a vehicle’s leather the same care. Use cleaning and conditioning products intended for leather.

Hard or soft plastic or vinyl? The answer to that question determines the cleaning method and the means of protecting the surface. For hard or shiny surfaces, clean with a mild all-purpose cleaner and protect with plastic polish. (Use metal polish on interior metals.) Treat them like paint. For soft surfaces and matte finishes, use a penetrating protectant – non-glossy.

Caution: High-gloss protectant on vinyl seats, floor mats, and foot pedals will make them dangerously slippery.

Treat real wood in a vehicle just like wood products in a house – clean and polish with wood-care products.

Leather is like your own skin. Just as you clean and condition your own skin, give a vehicle’s leather the same care. Use cleaning and conditioning products intended for leather, not plastic.

Weather-related, road, and off-road debris tracked into the vehicle by shoes and boots requires cleaning. Over time, it becomes imbedded and the carpet is harder to clean. Be prepared with heavy-duty carpet cleaners, brushes, and vacuums. The hard-to-reach areas require special tools like vacuum crevice nozzles.

interior interior interior

The painted surfaces of fenders and other pieces under the hood oxidize and fade. Just like the exterior bodywork, they require cleaning and waxing.

Non-shiny plastic and metal parts age, fade, and dull, too. They require cleaning. Use a non-glossy protectant.

Warm the engine to soften grease and oil collected on its surface, which allows engine degreaser to work quicker. Degreasers will strip away wax if it lands on painted surfaces, so be careful not to overspray the surrounding area (i.e., the hood and fenders).

Uncoated aluminum parts turn dull or develop a whitish residue over time if not treated. After cleaning, use a mild metal polish to restore their appearance.

Connectors are susceptible to water intrusion, so protect them with plastic bags rubber banded around them prior to spraying anything in the engine compartment.

Prevent fluids from entering the engine’s intake system and damaging the engine by covering intakes and/or air filters with plastic bags.

Chemical reactions between metals and/or acid cause corrosion around battery posts. Spray with battery cleaner and wipe clean the battery, brush the battery posts and connectors, and use battery protectant to not only clean but maintain proper operation.

Lubricate hinges, hood struts, and cables to keep them operating properly.

Note: Prior to cleaning under the hood, we recommend that you check your Owner’s Manual.

interior interior interior

Vehicles are painted in layers – base, color, and clearcoats. The clear outer layer is approximately two to three mils thick. It oxidizes, turning dull, and it suffers from scratches. Mild polishing compounds can buff out all but the deepest scratches. Use a chemical cleaner or cleaner wax to counter the oxidation and haze.

When washing a vehicle, use cleaners formulated for it – not dishwashing detergent. It strips off existing wax, which leads to excessive oxidation.

Clearcoat often is used to protect the finish on wheels, too. So use car-wash cleaner to preserve existing wax.

If brake dust requires brake-dust remover, use wheel cleaner – but only when the wheels are cool. Heat could cause a chemical reaction with the cleaner and cause permanent stains.

Most wheel cleaners contain acid that can destroy paint finishes, so avoid overspray onto the body.

Your Subaru dealer can provide more details on cleaning, and many dealers offer products specifically designed for Subaru vehicles.

Tires deteriorate over time, too, particularly with exposure to sun, precipitation, and chemicals used on the roads. Once cleaned along with the wheels, tire protectant helps preserve the sidewalls.

Windshields and headlamp covers can develop tiny chips and nicks over time. Use glass polish on the windshield and clear plastic cleaner on the covers to help restore them.

These materials age from exposure to the elements. Be sure cleaning products are designed for rubber and plastic to avoid damage, then use protectant designed for rubber and non-shiny surfaces.

Caution: When working with any strong cleaning materials, always wear protective eyewear. Prescription eyeglasses can be damaged by the chemicals.