Spring on the Road

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Wash your car like a pro to protect its value

Vehicle owners know maintaining a vehicle can be a lot of work. Taking the time to properly care for a vehicle can prolong its life expectancy and help owners avoid breakdowns and other issues along the way.

Regular washing is an aspect of vehicle maintenance that some may classify as a purely cosmetic benefit. Certainly a car wash can keep the vehicle looking its best, but there are other advantages to washing as well. Washing offers preventative maintenance for the car's paint and can help prevent rust and corrosion resulting from dirt, acid rain and road salt. Rust can compromise hydraulic brake and fuel lines, as well as many moving parts in the chassis and frame. Corrosion of electrical connectors and other parts under the hood can lead to leaks, electrical shorts and a host of additional problems. It's easy to see how washing the car is more essential than one might have suspected.

If you live in an area with a high amount of dust or industry, you may need to wash your car as frequently as once a week. Drivers who live along or near coastal areas may need to wash their vehicles frequently to combat sea salt buildup. Garage-kept vehicles may be able to go longer between washes, but in general washing a vehicle every two to three weeks is a good rule of thumb. In addition, a good sealant will protect the paint and other trims throughout the year.

The following are some other car-wash tips to follow.

• Always use a proper washing soap solution. This will preserve the car's finish better than other homemade soaps. Avoid using dishwashing liquid, which can strip protective wax coatings.

• Be prompt when cleaning off bugs, sap and bird droppings that may stick to the paint and become difficult to remove over time.

• Wait until a car has cooled down before washing. Heat speeds up the drying of soap and water and can make it more difficult to clean.

• Always use a clean, non-abrasive sponge. Resist the urge to move the sponge in circles as you clean. Doing so can create noticeable swirl scratch marks. Instead, move the sponge lengthwise across the body panels and hood.

• Keep a separate rinsing bucket to clean the sponge or washing mitt so that dirt is not mixed into the clean, sudsy water.

• Consumer Reports suggests using a soft squeegee to remove most of the water on the body of the car after washing and rinsing. Blot up any extra water with a chamois.

• Wax the car every season to ensure it has maximum protection. In between, apply a liquid spray wax to touch up spots. Water beading is not an ideal indicator of whether or not the car needs a coat of wax.

• Don't forget to pay attention to the interior. Vacuum the carpets regularly to prevent ground-in dirt and routinely clean the upholstery with a product specific to your vehicle's interior, whether that interior is leather or fabric.

Protecting a vehicle investment involves keeping the car clean. Know the right ways to help a car or truck look and perform like new.