Show Your Car Some Love
Try these upgrades and maintenance tips to take your car’s look and performance from the alleyway to the runway.
Batman had the Batmobile. Speed Racer had the Mach 5. And you have … well, what do you have?
You might not be driving a car with a catchy name (or rocket engines), but you should still show it some love. So, in honor of October Car Care Month, consider these ways to gear up your vehicle. It’ll make for a better driving experience and, as a bonus, could boost the value of your ride when you’re ready to sell.
Cut your teeth on Bluetooth. Adding Bluetooth to your car allows you to connect devices—such as pairing your mobile phone to your automobile’s infotainment system—without wires. This is a great option for hands-free calls and can let you sync music, text messages, maps and more.
There are several ways to give your car Bluetooth capability. One option is to replace your original car stereo with an aftermarket model that has built-in Bluetooth. Another is to add a Bluetooth car kit. Of these two options, the Bluetooth stereo is the more expensive (and more permanent) one, whereas a Bluetooth car kit with a built-in speaker and mic offers easy, one-click ways to take phone calls—plus, it’s cheaper and can be used in other cars.
Give yourself 20/20 hindsight. If your car is five years old or older, it may not have come with a factory-installed backup camera. (As of May 2018, they were made mandatory on all new vehicles under 10,000 pounds.) Still, for a better view of what’s behind you, a backup camera is a necessity.
Located on the vehicle’s rear, the camera connects to a dashboard display and automatically activates when you shift your car into reverse. If your car already has an in-dash screen, a camera-only system ($150–$400, plus the cost of installation, per edmunds.com) is all you’ll need. If you don’t have an in-dash screen, you’ll probably want to get an all-in-one system ($500–$1,500, plus the cost of installation, per edmunds.com). Car stereo shops and big-box electronics stores carry this gear.
Wrap it up. Ever see someone’s vehicle covered in logos and custom colors and wonder how they did it? Plot twist: It might not be paint at all, but rather a vinyl wrap. While this approach is popular on company cars, it can be used to upgrade the look of any vehicle at a cost that’s much less than that of a professional paint job.
Other advantages of vinyl vehicle wraps compared with paint jobs: faster installation, better quality (usually), more durability and more design options. A high-quality vehicle wrap protects the paint underneath and, when you’re ready to sell the vehicle, can typically be removed by heating, peeling by hand and using an adhesive remover, if done within the manufacturer’s specified time frame.
Have it cleaned up. A thorough detailing will transform the interior into one that looks and smells new—clean from driver’s seat and dashboard to trunk space, with all trash and debris cleared. Surfaces are dusted, and carpets are vacuumed and steam cleaned. On the dashboard and other hard surfaces, a cleaner is used, one formulated for car interiors (not silicone-based products, which leave a shiny finish, attract dust and create distracting windshield reflections). Smells are addressed and neutralized by replacing the in-cabin air filter and through use of an odor bomb.
Let it shine. “To help extend and maintain the life of your vehicle,” says Mike Matthews, director of Fins Car Wash, “it’s important to develop a routine of regular car washing—especially incorporating protective products (ceramic protectants, wax, etc.) and intentionally cleaning the harder-to-get areas such as tires and underbody. Even though you may not see a ‘filthy’ car, contaminants in the environment cover your vehicle daily including dirt, pollen, air pollutants and bugs. Regular car washing prevents these contaminants from remaining on your car’s surface and damaging its exterior over time.”
Improve your sound and vision. Check wiper blades for cracks, tears and brittleness, and replace them before they skip or streak. As for the glass itself, windshield chips and cracks can worsen quickly, so get them repaired right away; your auto insurance may cover the repair without a deductible. Door panel seals can wear out and crack over time, causing wind noise and leaks. Replace the weather stripping where needed and use weather stripping made for your vehicle for a proper seal.