The purpose of the Sideco Blog is to provide you with practical information that can help you save money by making well informed decisions in regard to maintaining and improving what is probably your largest investment. We will be adding new topics on a regular basis and archiving each article so you can come back to them at any time. These are not intended to be detailed 'how to' instructions for the do it yourselfer, but rather answers to the questions that the responsible and conscientious homeowner faces every day, month and year.
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New car prices are at an all time high. The days are long gone when the average person could pay off a new car over 24 months. New cars now require a larger down payment and extended payments for 60, 72 or even 84 months. Many times the car has lost most of its value and the owner is tired of driving it long before it is fully paid for. We're going to provide a few simple ways to maintain both the value and the enjoyment of your car.
A few general principles
The actual cost of owning a car (excluding operating costs like fuel etc.) is the purchase price when purchasing less the price you eventually sell it for. If you purchase a car for $50,000 and sell it for $40,000 it has cost you less than a car you purchased for $25,000 and sold for $12,000. All cars depreciate in value for many reasons, many of which you cannot control. You can, however, control the general condition of your car and make it much more valuable and desireable to the next owner, after all, no one wants to purchase a car that is in worse shape than their current vehicle.
A car is much easier to keep clean than it is to clean it once it has become really soiled. This is true for the paint, upholstry, carpet and vinyl trim. For example, when the carpet gets soiled from repeatedly entering your car, a quick 5 minute vacuum will restore its new condition. If allowed to remain, it will get ground in and embedded and will require several hours to shampoo and clean them. In more extreme cases, some of the stains may never be completely removed.
Rule #1: Keeping it clean is much easier than getting it clean.
I have always waxed my car the day I purchased it. I used to spray my upholstry and carpet with stain repellant as well (newer cars already have stain resistant carpets and upholstry so this isn't really necessary now.) This might seem to be a waste of time since new cars are always pretty and shiny. This, however, is perhaps the most important wax your car will ever have. Assuming that wasn't done, clean and wax it as soon as possible (like right now!).
What's the purpose of wax?
The simple answer is that it protects the paint. However, it accomplishes this in many ways. A layer of wax keeps dirt, grime, oils and contaminants from becoming embedded in the paint itself. A painted surface has microscopic pores that will fill with these unwanted elements and produce harmful effects on your paint. Wax not only fills these pores, but forms a protective shield over the paint surfaces. When your car gets a light coat of dust, for example, someone lightly brushing against your car will cause minute scratches (basically it acts as a piece of micro sandpaper). These scratches will either be in the wax coating or in the paint itself. When you drive down a street or highway, dirt, bugs and debris strikes your car, often at high speed. This material will either strike the wax layer or the paint. Eventually, these tiny scratches build up and begin to ruin the surface resulting in a duller finish (the reason something shines is that it is very smooth). If the paint had a layer of wax on it, another quick application of wax restores the brand new look. If the paint, itself, has been damaged, the fix is much more difficult. Waxing a new car prevents all of these problems from ever happening.
Paint, technically, should never dry. It forms a very hard shell on the outside, but inside it contains tiny cells of pigment (color) floating in oils. If these oils evaporate, it leaves loose pigments that are no longer suspended. These rise to the top of the paint and make it dull and faded, you see this often on older cars. If caught in time, most of this can be removed with paint cleaners and buffing, but the lost paint can never be restored. When most of the oils dry or evaporate, the paint cracks and peels, you see this very often on old buildings.
Exposure to the air causes much of this drying, but the biggest damage is caused by the sun. Infrared and ultraviolet rays break down the essential oils. Limited damage can be corrected, but eventually the paint would be damaged beyond repair. Modern auto waxes filter the harmful rays, much like sunscreens for our skin.
What about the interior?
When dust and dirt get in the fibers of the carpet or upholstry, any friction causes it to start grinding and damaging the fibers. Regular vacuuming will correct most of this, but occassionally these things need to be cleaned more thoroughly. The vinyl and leather surfaces inside a car are subjected to very intense heat and the destructive rays of the sun. They need to have moisture and oils replenished as well as protective coating to help minimize the deterioration. You will often see leather seats beginning to crack simply from the extended damage from the sun.
Can I do all of this myself?
The simple answer is yes, sort of, maybe. If your car is sort of new and looks great then, by all means, you can do this yourself if you're so inclined. WalMart, Target or any auto parts store will have a good selection of car wax / care products. Most modern car waxes will also have mild cleaners in them. Be sure to follow the directions carefully. Unless you know what you're doing, you should stay away from paint cleaners as they could damage your finish. Use an auto car wash product to wash your car before waxing. Never use laundry detergent or household cleaners to clean your paint. How often you need to wax your car depends on many factors; where your car is driven, environmental conditions (do you live close to a factory that emits contaminants), is your car parked in a garage or outdoors etc. If you rewax your car before all of the old wax wears off, it requires much less effort than if you wait too long.
There are a variety of cleaning products for the interior as well. If you use a carpet/upholstry shampoo product, be sure to test it in a hidden place first, just to be sure. There are leather and vinyl cleaners and preservatives as well Just be sure not to use something shinny on your dash. The sales person at an auto parts store might be able to answer many of your questions.
What if I don't want to do it myself?
I've always enjoyed doing my cars and I've kept them looking great over the years. It was a major hobby of mine. I just don't have the time or desire to do it any more. Any kid can buy a bottle of car wax and declare himself a 'detailer', but I sure don't want to entrust him with my expensive cars. Last week I had three cars detailed. I did a lot of research before deciding on a provider. I narrowed it down to 3 different people from their web sites and called them. Fortunately, I knew the questions to ask to determine who was right for me. I chose Chris Fray from www.cleancarguy.com. Chris wasn't the cheapest, by far, but he had all of the right answers. His number is 501-831-6094. I was thrilled with the results.
Chris has been detailing cars professionally for about 20 years. That's a lot of cars. Anybody can simply spray some Armor-All on a dash to make it shine and call it detailed. Chris actually cleaned it like it should be, including all of my A/C vents and compartments. My car was relatively clean, but he still spent 7 hours cleaning it. Nothing was just 'good enough'. The windows were spotless, the door jambs look like new, even the window for the clock sparkles. This is the way a car should look.
Not the least of the considerations is the fact that Chris is a completely mobile operation. He came to my home and did the cars. He has everything in his truck, including a washer, that he needs to clean cars. I didn't have to worry about taking my car somewhere and coming back for it. It was as effortless as it could be. Now all I have to do is run it through the car wash regularly and vacuum it occassionally and I'm good to go for a long time. I love being in my car.
The day after Chris cleaned my car, I pulled into a new car dealership to check out a car a friend was wanting to buy. In the 10 minutes I was there, a sales manager and a mechanic both came out hoping I was planning to trade in my 13 year old vehicle because each was wanting to buy it for themselves. That's a good looking car!
When I do decide to sell my car, I'll get all the money back that I've spent keeping it clean and then some. Plus, I will have had the joy of driving a clean car all of these years.
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