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Autos | A clean machine

Transform your car from grungy gorgeous

A tornado of trash spewed from the black Mazda6 at the Plymouth, Mich., Supercenter, bits of old granola and Hershey's Kiss wrappers swirling above Bryan Wagner's head. • Wagner, the car care center manager, was doing what had not been done in the five years since the car left the dealership: thoroughly cleaning the interior.

The car belongs to this reporter, who paid the standard $90 for an interior auto detail.

Wagner, 22, and his car care center colleagues were willing to divulge their advice for interior car maintenance so that the straight-up slovenly can do much of the job themselves. Here are the key steps:

1. Clear it all out. For the Mazda6, Wagner got a trash bag and threw everything that should be kept — garage door openers, sunglasses — into it. Don't forget to toss in items from the glove compartment and console.

2. Remove and wash the floor mats. Wagner says doing this task early allows the mats to dry while you're detailing the rest of the car. He uses a degreaser to spray the mats before power-washing them. If you don't have access to a power washer, he suggests a Wet Vac. Use a blade to remove sticky stains.

3. Use an air compressor, if you can borrow one, with an air gun to blow crumbs and candy wrappers out of cracks and crevices. Wear goggles to protect your eyes. If you don't have an air compressor, use a toothbrush, though it's time-consuming.

4. Vacuum, using a hose attachment, all of the exposed crumbs. Wagner says one of the worst cars he worked on "looked like a garbage bomb" exploded inside. Another had layers of orange crumbs all over the carpet — the owner had an affinity for Cheetos.

5. Spray degreaser on your door jambs and wash them down.

6. Use window cleaner and a cloth to wash the inside of your windshield and rear and side windows. Ryan LaParr, 21, a detailer at the shop, says wipe with long, smooth strokes so the chemicals in the cleaner have more room to work.

7. Use an interior cleaner, like the kind you can purchase at an auto supply store, and a cloth to spray down the dashboard, door and instrument panels. You can also use the interior cleaner on the seats, and if you have leather seats, finish it off with Armor All. Do not use Armor All on the wheel or pedals — it's too slippery. For fabric seats, Wagner suggests a foam carpet cleaner. Use the same cleaner to extract dirt from the headliners.

8. Shampoo the carpet. Wagner and LaParr used a combination of interior cleaner and water to mix shampoo for the carpet, which they scrubbed down and then vacuumed.

9. To prevent mold from forming on the shampooed carpet, leave the windows of your car doors cracked 2 inches overnight or turn on the floor heating for 45 minutes. The result should make you feel like you just bought a new car.

Transform your car from grungy gorgeous 07/16/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 16, 2009 6:19pm]
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