When it’s time to trade in or sell, a clean and well-kept car is a good sign that you’ve taken good care of it. Done regularly, cleaning your car is a small investment of time and money that will pay off in the long run with a higher resale value.

Here are 10 car-cleaning tips to help keep your ride looking like new.

1. Wash it weekly

If you make cleaning your car a regular habit like a weekly laundry schedule, it’ll become part of your routine—and keep the small spills and messes manageable.

2. Be hands-on

An old-fashioned hand wash with a bucket, soap and a lambswool mitt is the best way to remove grime. Be sure to use a soap that’s made specifically for cars rather than dishwashing liquid or laundry soap, which can strip away the car’s protective wax coating and damage the paint.

3. Avoid the heat

Too much heat and intense sun can bake soap right onto your car’s paint and cause streaking, so plan to do your washing when the sun’s not too harsh. Early morning or late in the afternoon is best.

4. Clean the interior first

Pull out the floor mats, whether made of carpet or rubber, and shake, vacuum and—if applicable—scrub with a stiff brush to remove excess dirt that has settled into the fibers or grooves. Vacuum the seats and floor, making sure to push the seats all the way back to remove any hidden debris underneath.

5. Clean dirty tires properly

Clean your tires before you wash the exterior, using a non-acid tire cleaner. Target the inside of the wheel wells and on the lower edge of the body with a power spray to remove any chunks of mud or gravel that may have attached themselves to the car like barnacles. Particularly sticky bits of grease or tar may require a gentle scrub with a non-abrasive cloth.

6. Wash the entire exterior

Wash your car top to bottom, sudsing and rinsing as you go, starting with the roof, working down to the windows, hood and top of the trunk, then the doors and finally the panels along the bottom. Rinse again well when you’re finished, then dry with a chamois cloth to prevent spots and streaking.

7. Wax to protect your paint

When the seasons change, it’s time to wax your car. DIY with either a paste or liquid, but be sure to do two coats of wax to make sure you hit any spots you missed on the first round.

8. Tackle stubborn spots on your windows

Clean windows increase visibility and clarity. Where there’s light dirt, simply use a microfiber cloth and water to clean; harder spots, such as messy post-road trip windshields, may require something stronger. A white vinegar and water solution (one part vinegar to two parts water) is a natural and effective way to debug.

9. Know when to go pro

Stains happen. Even water spills can spot upholstery. Treating your car to a professional detail can fix all sorts of ills—just remember, cloth upholstery will take a day of the windows down to dry completely, so plan accordingly.

10. Maintain your car’s cleanliness

Keep your car neat between washings by keeping the inside free of wrappers and old coffee cups. If sap from a tree drips onto your car, rinse it off before it has a chance to sit and possibly damage the paint.

Keep Your Car in Tip-Top Shape

Members receive a free vehicle maintenance inspection, get 10% off labor (save up to $50) and more at AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities.

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