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Get Your Car Ready to Show This Summer

DIY, Workspaces & Tools  /   /  By Nina Russin

It’s car-show season, folks. Whether you enjoy the informal vibe of Cars and Coffee events and cruise nights, or the more serious certification programs and concourses, car shows are a great way to meet fellow enthusiasts. It’s fun to attend these events as an observer, but you can become part of the action by showing off your ride—even if your vehicle isn’t in 100-point condition. These suggestions can help you get your car ready to show off:

Brake cleaner

Brake cleaner is good for spot-cleaning tricky areas.

Steam Clean the Engine

Since you are going to be showing your car with the hood up, make sure the engine compartment is clean.

  • Start with the battery. Disconnect the cables, remove the battery and clean the tray of corrosion.
  • Use a battery cleaning tool to remove dirt from the terminals and cables. A solution of baking soda and water will clean the surface of the battery.
  • Use compressed air to remove any loose dirt from the engine, followed by a spray-on engine degreaser, staying clear of any exposed electronic components. Let the degreaser soak for 30 minutes before rinsing. Soapy water is a good degreaser for plastic parts, while CLR is good for aluminum components.
  • Brake cleaner is good for spot-cleaning tricky areas.

Put On a Nice Finish

You’ll want to wax your car but obviously, wash and dry the vehicle first.

Simichrome polish

Simichrome cleans up chrome areas and removes small pits.

  • If you use a buffer with a hard Carnauba wax, any dirt particles on the surface can scratch the paint. Remember not to wax a vehicle that’s been recently repainted until the paint has completely cured: usually several weeks.
  • A toothbrush will help to remove wax from hard-to-reach areas. Simichrome is a great product for cleaning up chrome areas and removing small pits.
  • Don’t forget to clean the mag wheels using an alloy wheel cleaner and a soft brush, and dress the tires by cleaning them and applying a water- or oil-based tire dressing. When you clean the wheels, use an air compressor to remove any dirt accumulation from the brake rotors and calipers.

Prepare the Interior

Observers will want to check out the seating and cockpit.

Oxgord portable, handheld 12v vacuum

  • Vacuum out the car’s interior to get out any loose dirt.
  • You may want to shampoo the upholstery yourself or take it to a professional who has access to specialized equipment and a variety of products for cleaning carpeting, velour, cloth, vinyl and other interior surfaces. It’s important to vacuum out as much water as possible and keep the windows rolled down until all surfaces are completely dry to prevent mold.
  • Use glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth to clean the windshield and other glass surfaces.

Finally, don’t forget to bring cleaning supplies to the show. A California duster, and glass and vinyl cleaner, allow you to complete last-minute detailing, to rid your car of dust, pollen, and smudges from bystanders wanting to touch as well as look.

About the Author

Nina Russin is an ASE certified automotive technician and writer who has been covering the automotive industry for 30 years. She was a weekly automotive columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times for 10 years, and a contributor to AutoWeek, Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, Cycle World, and AAA Arizona Highroads Magazine. Russin is co-founder and president of Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year, an annual competition.

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