Is That Your Car? Let’s Get You Cleaned up and Organized

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Car detailing and organizational tips

Alright, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been procrastinating like crazy on keeping my car clean. Well that ends today, and if we’re going to get something done, we should get it done right. Don’t you think? Me too.

This isn’t just about getting things cleaned and organized, that part is obvious. We’re going to focus on smart ways to go about getting there and making your job easier in the future.

Let’s do this!

Let’s get cleaned up

Wash me written on the back window of a dirty car

I’ll be honest, I’m terrible about keeping my cars clean. It’s something I’m working on, though, and because of that I have been learning a ton of surprisingly easy ways to get things looking nearly brand new again. I’m not going to tell you how to do a full, professional detail or anything, but hopefully by the end of this you’ll be able to take a step back and look at your car and just say “damn.”

No excuse for foggy headlights!

Before and after cleaning foggy headlights on an Audi Allroad - click to expand
Before and after on my Allroad project

We’ve gone over before how to bring your headlights back into reasonable condition with household items, but the unfortunate truth about giving them a quick polish and nothing else is that they’ll be back to fading after about 6 months on the road. This is because the UV protectant that your headlights came with from the factory has long degraded and been sand blasted away.

So here’s a quick guide on how to get your headlights back looking new in just half and hour, and have them stay that way. There are a ton of methods out there for polishing them up, but my favorite method is with a random orbital buffer (though it can be done by hand with the same pads and compound):

  1. Get yourself:
    -A random orbital buffer
    -A medium density pads (Griot’s 3″ orange pads are great for this)
    -Some light cutting compound
    -Painter’s tape
    -Safety glasses
  2. Cover the paint and trim around your headlights with the painter’s tape. An inch or so is plenty if you’ve got a steady hand
  3. Throw the medium density pad on your buffer, some compound on the pad, and safety glasses on your mug
  4. BEFORE turning the buffer on, spread the compound around on the headlight with the pad. If you don’t do this, you might end up with compound all over the place. Ask me how I know.
  5. Go to town on those bad boys. Keep firm pressure and slowly make your way around the headlight. It’s not the worst thing if you touch on the paint with it as you go, but be careful to avoid it if you can. Try to get equal time across any point on the housing.
  6. After 10 minutes or so, wipe down the headlight with a clean microfiber to see how things are coming. Don’t be afraid to add more compound and continue as needed.
  7. Once they’re looking crystal clear, wipe them all down, peel up the tape, and clean off any compound that made its way onto your paint.
  8. You’re done!

It’s really that easy. That’s why I say there’s no excuse for hazy headlights. Now if you really want them to stay looking this good, I recommend something like XPEL headlight protecting film. These are UV treated to prevent yellowing, last for years, and have the added benefit of protecting your light from sand blasting and rock chips.

Make your car easier to clean later

Beaded water on a treated car windsheild

It’s common sense that maintaining some semblance of cleanliness makes for an easy job cleaning things down the line when you aren’t able to get to it for a little while — or for when our avian friends take offense to your car and retaliate as they’ve been known to do.

For instance, you can use specialty glass treatment that helps repel water, prevents bugs and other dirt from sticking to your windshield, and giving your wipers an easier time doing their job. Rain just beads away, making it so you might not even need to use your wipers — and when you do need to, they glide easily over the surface and have a much easier time doing their job.

Wax your wheels to prevent brake dust from stickingThen, we all know waxing your car’s paint regularly will help make your life easier and protects your clear coat from sun damage, but one thing many people don’t consider is that waxing your wheels can save you some headaches, as your brake dust will have a hard time sticking to them. Seriously, brake dust will just rinse right off a well waxed wheel, which makes for way less effort than needing to use caustic chemicals and a lot of scrubbing just to get them looking decent.

Get your interior back to baseline

Personally, I can’t stand the shiny, greasy feeling products that most car wash places seem to use on your dashboard. It smells strong enough to give you a headache, and the residue it leaves behind just helps collect dust and ends up making things look cheap.Griot's Interior Detailer

Something like Griot’s Interior Detailer cleans and protects your interior paneling without leaving the horrible residue, and still retains the UV protection against the sun breaking down and drying out the plastics in your interior. It leaves behind no streaks, just a light citrus scent that is so much nicer than the other stuff.

It’s also pretty handy to have a garage dedicated vacuum. Either a good wet-dry vac or even one that has both vacuum and blower capabilities that make getting dirt and debris out of tight places easier than ever.

Let’s get organized

Alright, so now that you’re not such a filthy animal, let’s look at some smart ways to not only get organized, but to make it easy to keep things that way. I tend to be incredibly lazy myself, so it helps me to make things easier to do them right than to do them wrong and end up with a mess.

Have a place available for everything

Carry something with you a lot? Designate a spot for it. Seems like a simple idea, but no seriously, do it. Put your bag in the same spot, throw your phone in the same little cubby each time or a mount of some sort, and then designate some storage space for things that you might not be dealing with all the time, or for when you’re coming home from the store.

Folded Rola MOVE cargo organizer
Available in two sizes and fold flat

Cargo organizers are great for this, and are usually pretty affordable as well. This ROLA one for instance folds flat when you’re not using it, it pops right up when you need it, has configurable cargo dividers, and has a non-slip bottom so it will stay in place as you navigate your local concrete jungle. Plus, after you load it up, it has handles so you can just bring the entire thing in with you and save yourself a trip or two bringing your stuff in.

There are also handy seat back organizers and trash bags that are especially handy for people who regularly make long drives. Oh, and this Seat Gapper from Seat Designs is just genius for catching change, your phone, and loose french fries from falling down into the black hole between your seats. Plus it has a slot to hold your phone built in.

Don’t want to spend any money?

I don’t know about you, but I have a ton of those reusable grocery bags you get from the store and I never seem to actually have them with me. I decided to consolidate them all into one place, stuffed them all into one, and then shoved those into a cubby in my trunk. Now I use them all the time just for organizing stuff I load up my car with, and just toss things into those instead of just loose on my seat or trunk, and now I always have bags on hand to store and organize stuff in without everything ending up all over the place.

OK, that one might not be free, but it’s cheap at the very least.

Need to organize your truck?

Man, truck owners really do get to have all the fun. There are so many cool options for you guys it’s ridiculous.

Husky GearBox under seat cargo organizer

The nice thing about most pickup trucks these days is they usually have a lot of storage space under the back seat that is criminally underutilized. Some trucks have an option of under seat bins, but most don’t, and they’re often overpriced for what they are. However, there are a ton of aftermarket options available. Two that stand out are the Husky GearBox, and the CabBag. The Husky box is a good leave-in solution that basically turns the space under your back seat into sectioned off trunk, while the CabBag performs basically the same role, but zips up so you can load it up with tools and pull it out for easy access and transport of your gear.

However, if you really want to go all out, you have to check out what the guys at Decked have come up with. Basically what their storage system does is raise up the floor of your truck bed and turns the whole thing into one big, beefy tool chest.

The system can hold a whopping 2,000lbs on top of it, a 400lbs of gear per drawer. It’s insane how much stuff you can fit in these, and can add removable tool boxes that slot into place in the drawers for as much organization as you could ever want. Also, the drawers are lockable, and the whole thing installs with hand tools and no drilling is necessary with most applications.

Decked truck bed storage system camping

Alright, so get out there and get your car cleaned up, organized, and respectable so you can get out there are use it! Seriously, it’s getting downright embarrassing….

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