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It's definitely time to clean your car if someone writes "wash me" on your vehicle. Even if your car hasn't reached that point, a good cleaning of the inside and outside prevents the buildup of damaging chemicals and dirt, reduces the potential for rust from road salt and helps ensure proper visibility needed for safe driving, according to the non-profit Car Care Council.

To get started, remove any clutter from inside the car, including items that have accumulated in the trunk that can add extra weight and reduce fuel efficiency. The next step is to thoroughly clean and vacuum the interior and wash the windows.

When washing the outside, include the tires, wheels, underside and fenders to eliminate any road salt or grime. Wheels and tires should be cleaned with a mitt other than the one used to wash the body. This will avoid contaminating the vehicle's paint with debris from the wheels and tires.

The vehicle should be washed in the shade and with a product sold specifically for cars. The council recommends washing one section at a time, thoroughly rinsing away the soap as you go. Work your way down toward the front, sides and rear of the vehicle. Clean the fenders and bumpers last since they will have the most dirt and grime that can contaminate the wash mitt.

The car should get a final rinse by removing the spray nozzle from the hose and letting the water cascade down the surfaces of the vehicle. To avoid water spots, dry the vehicle with a chamois or other product made for drying.

The last step is to wax the car according to the manufacturer's instructions for application. Waxing should be done out of direct sunlight and every six months. It goes a long way toward protecting the vehicle's finish and makes subsequent washes easier.

If you identified any stone chips, rust or other problem spots while washing your vehicle, the council suggests having these taken care of immediately to prevent further damage.

Source: Car Care Council

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