With all of us staying home to help stop the spread of coronavirus, here are 5 things you can do to your car while social distancing.

With the world in lockdown, social distancing becoming the norm, and many us working from home our cars, if you’re anything like me, aren’t being driven much. In fact, as I write this I can see the thing sitting dusty and forlorn on the driveway.

While there are some who claim that you can still social distance while going for a drive in your car, here at MotoFomo we reckon you’d be a fool to think like that. See, you run the risk of having an accident and that clogs up our health system and takes its eye away from dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. So, stay home, okay.

But, just because you’re staying at home doesn’t mean you can’t spend some quality time with your car. In fact, now’s probably the best time. Most automotive shops are still open for click and collect (contactless) or will home deliver and you won’t have to see or touch anyone or anything.

There’s plenty you can do to your car while you’re social distancing, and this guide covers the most basic.

Clean the inside of your car

The first one is to give your car a good clean out. If you’re anything like me, and have kids, then the door bins end up as just that and the carpet and seat crevices are probably filled with grit and crap. And there’s probably a thin film of dust across almost every surface…my car’s dashboard was covered thanks to a not-recent trip off-roading. The poor car was filthy. And, now that it’s clean the whole thing just feels better. And, time to get soppy, so do I.

So, you want to get yourself a decent vacuum and preferably one that’s got a spinning head. There are all kinds of cordless, hand-held vacuum cleaners but I can’t speak to whether they’re any good. I’ve got a cordless vacuum with a spinning head and it’s useless, so you can make of that what you like.

Back to the vacuum. My vacuum is a Hoover and it came with a spinning head attachment for use in the car. The head is belt driven and spins based on the suction. And it’s a ripper.

I’ve got a dog and he drops a lot of hair and that hair gets stuck in the carpet and doesn’t come out of automotive carpet as easily as it does household carpet. Anyway, whether you’ve got dog hair or not, a spinning head on your vacuum will pull grit and hair out of the carpet better than a straight vacuum head.

Anyway, take the mats out of the car and clean them first and then the rest of the carpet, and use all the attachments you’ve got to get into all the nooks and crannies. Clean the seats too and make sure you’ve emptied out the door bins, glovebox and centre console.

Once you’ve vacuumed then you can take a cloth and a microfibre cloth works best, and give every surface a good wipe over. In terms of a cleaning agent, there are all sorts of sprays you can buy, we’ll investigate the best ones in another article, but whatever you use on your car’s interior should be free of silicone or any sort of lubricant. You don’t want anything slippery getting onto your steering wheel or pedals.

Once the interior’s clean and tidy you can move to the outside of the car.

Wash your car

When it comes to washing your car, well, there are so many ways it ain’t funny. From using two buckets and one with a mesh insert to stop you from dipping your sponge into grit that falls into the bottom, to attachments for a pressure washer.

Me, I used to have several buckets to ensure I didn’t pick up any grit when washing. But now I use a pressure washer with a car wash attachment (little bottle near the head). If you’re going to use a pressure washer then follow the maker’s instructions and when using the car wash, stick with the recommended measurements.

Whether you’re using a pressure washer or buckets, the trick is not to wash your car when it’s scorching hot and, obviously, you need to be aware of water restrictions where you live and adhere to them when it comes to washing your car.

If it’s okay to use a hose to wash your car where you live then great. If not, maybe there’s a carwash nearby that uses recycled water, or if your car’s not too dirty you could probably get away with using waterless car wash.

Rinse your car down as this will help to loosen any of the dirt on it. The you can move to using a sponge or, better still, a mitt with microfibre on one side and tassels on the other side. I’ve switched to using a mitt (in combination with a pressure washer) and reckon it’s much better than a sponge as it pulls any grit off the surface and up into the cloth rather than simply lifting it off the surface and trapping it against the sponge which can cause microscopic scratches. You can then rinse the mitt in a clean bucket of water before moving onto the next section of car.

Using a pressure washer with car washing attachment allows you to spray foam all over the car like you would at a hand car wash. You let that sit, no rubbing, and then rinse it off. Some brands have a two- or three-step treatment. I’ve been using the Autoglym Polar Wash (review coming soon) and only use the mitt if the car is particularly dirty and only after I’ve applied and then rinsed off the Polar Blast and have then applied the Polar Wash (this is the wash I use the mitt with). If you’re using a pressure washer make sure you don’t stand too close to the car and don’t point it directly at any seals.

Whether you use a bucket or a pressure washer you’ll want to wipe down your car afterwards to avoid any water spotting. My old man swears by natural chamois, but I’ve used synthetic ones (and these need to be used a couple of times before they start to work properly) but recently I’ve been using a large microfibre towel and this does a great job.

Check for scratches

With the interior and exterior clean you can give your car a good once over for any scratches in the paintwork that can be buffed out. Most modern cars have three layers of paint – primer, colour and clearcoat and usually, light scratches only break the clear coat and in this instance, it’s possible to buff the scratch out by hand using just a cutting compound, polishing and some elbow grease. Hand buffing is best for light scratches or swirls in the clear coat only.

Sometimes you’ll need to use a powered polisher but unless you know what you’re doing, I’d steer clear of using a machine – you’ll go through the paint in seconds if you don’t know what you’re doing. Buffing your car by hand is harder but much safer.

When buying a cutting compound, always use the least abrasive cutting compound you can find – see, paint is coded as hard or soft but it’s usually impossible for people like you and me to work out what type of paint you have on your car.

Once you’ve buffed your car, you’ll want to add some protection back to the paint with some wax and a paint sealant. This ain’t a five-minute job. Take your time with it, enjoy the process and know that you’re contributing towards maintaining the value of your car.

Check the fluids

With your car now looking a million bucks you can lift the bonnet and take a quick look at the fluids. If you’ve got a new car and you’ve kept up the service schedule then it’s highly unlikely you’ll be running low on stuff like brake fluid or coolant but it’s worth familiarising yourself with this stuff so that you can spot a change.

One part worth checking regularly is the oil. Now, most of the things car makers are okay with people like you and me checking will be brightly coloured, like caps for windscreen washer fluid and the dipstick for the oil, etc. Checking the oil is easy, you grab a clean cloth or piece of paper towel, remove the dipstick and wipe the end of it. Put it back inside its hole and then remove it again and see the level of the oil against the empty and full marker on the dipstick.

Most of the other bottles of fluid in the engine bay will have similar markings on the side and you should be able to see the fluid level quite easily. When it comes to windscreen washer fluid, most people just use water and that’s fine. There are commercial additives and these are fine too but me, I’ve had good results from adding a little bit of ammonia-free Windex in with the water. Could be a placebo because the solution is so watered down but every second time I fill it up, I add a bit of Windex.

Check the tyres

The last one in this basic list is tyres. Remember, these are the only thing in contact with the road so it’s important you keep a regular eye on them. The most basic check is to check the pressures, you’ll need a tyre pressure gauge for this and the manufacturer recommended pressure will usually be on a placard somewhere on one of the doors of your car, or in your owner’s manual.

If you’re feeling a little more adventurous then you can rotate your tyres. It’s important to rotate your vehicle’s tyres as each specific position requires something different from the tyre. It’s a good idea to rotate your tyres every 10,000km to ensure you’ve got nice even tread wear across all four tyres. Now, which tyre goes where will depend on whether your vehicle is a 4X4, front-wheel, rear-wheel or all-wheel drive and whether you’ve got directional tyres or not. We’ll go into tyre rotation in greater detail in another article but for most of us, the below patterns are the ones we’ll be working with – these patterns assume the tyres are non-directional and of uniform size.

The Rearward Cross is for either 4X4s or rear-drive vehicles; the X Pattern is for front-wheel drive vehicles; and the Forward Cross is for front-wheel drive vehicles. If you’ve got a full-size spare and it’s in good condition then you can introduce it into your tyre rotation too. Even if you’re not going to swap it in, it’s worth checking it out while you’re mucking around with the tyres.

Should go without saying this if you’re going to rotate your tyres then you’ll need to be on level ground, using a good quality jack and make sure you use axle stands to support your vehicle. Never climb underneath a vehicle being supported by a jack only.

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