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Three Tips to Maintain a Clean Interior

Published April 17, 2018

Type into Google any search terms around cleaning a vehicle’s interior and you’ll be confronted with literally hundreds of articles full of advice. Some of its practical, some of it is ineffective, and some are just plain silly. Our focus here is on what you should be doing to maintain your vehicle’s interior so that you receive the maximum return when you go to trade-in or sell outright your car, truck, or SUV.
Keep it Cool
You don’t have to live in the desert to be concerned about heat damage inside your vehicle. On a sunny 70-degree day just about anywhere in America, the temperature inside your vehicle can climb to as high as 113 degrees in just an hour parked out of the shade. As you’re well-aware, there’s a significant amount of plastic trim all around the inside of your vehicle. While manufacturers seem to have a handle on making dashboards that don’t chip and crack in the heat, at those temperatures it’s enough to distort plastic panels. If there are fit issues in your interior, either the car dealer or the private party buyer will spot them and demand a reduced price because of the misshapen plastic panels. What to do? Those sun shades that you place behind the windshield are effective at reducing solar heating inside your vehicle, as are tinted windows (check your local regulations first). On an exceptionally hot day, even opening two windows by one millimeter will provide for a cooling flow of air through the vehicle.

Keep it Dry
No matter whether you live in the land of ice and snow or on Miami Beach, moisture inside your vehicle can cause significant problems. Tracking snow in and out of a warm vehicle melts the snow which runs down into your floor mats, and once they’re soaked, into your carpets. In humid environments, your vehicles floor mats and carpets act like a wick and soak up water from the air. Moisture trapped inside the carpet can lead to an almost impossible-to-remove rotten smell that you can attempt to cover up, but savvy used car buyers and especially car dealerships are hip to that trick. Just a quick sniff of your carpets and the jig is up. The answer? If you live in an area where it snows consider rubber floor mats that actually trap and hold melted snow until you can dump it out. And for both snowy and humid environments consider purchasing a desiccant absorbent, typically packed in bags and sold in auto parts stores and many discount stores for ten dollars or less. Made of the same material that comes in the little packages with electronic equipment, they draw moisture from the air before it can settle into your mats and rugs.

Keep it Fed
More cars, trucks, and SUVs are coming with leather or leather-trimmed interiors than ever before. And it’s not just in upper-level luxury cars –more than 90% of mid-level luxury cars are sold with leather interiors, and the trend is continuing down the line into traditional family sedans, minivans, and crossovers. Before you know it only the most entry-level of vehicles will come with man-made fabrics.

Leather is supple, durable, and wears well. And if you like that sort of thing, it smells pretty good as well. Its durability is one of the reasons it’s being offered in more and more new vehicles. As new cars, trucks, and SUVs are lasting longer, manufacturers want to install interior materials that can match that lifespan.

But leather needs care. A faded, cracked leather interior is sure to draw a frown from used car buyers and car dealerships alike. If leather is to retain its beauty, it must be cared for, cleaned and conditioned. It’s much easier to spend a little time protecting your vehicle’s leather upholstery than spending the money to salvage it come trade-in time. Leather, of course, is a natural product that’s susceptible to dirt, oils, and sun damage. Set a reminder on your smartphone for an appointment with your vehicle to clean its leather surfaces. Once a quarter is great, once a month is even better. It needn’t be a chore. While some will swear by a multi-step process with any number of bottles and applicators, a simple on-step conditioner that cleans and conditions is all you really need. Available at discount and auto parts stores, the products come available in lotion, spray, and even wipe forms. Just avoid anything with silicone, as it will make your leather shiny on the surface but not provide the cleaning or conditioning the leather requires.

Follow these three easy-to-follow tips and not only will your interior appear appreciably better, but it will be worth more come time to trade-in or sell to a private party.
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