You've invested a ton of dough on your new SUV. The best way to protect your investment is with regular maintenance. A good mechanic can handle the engine, transmission and electrical system. A good detailer can do wonders for the interior and exterior.
Most of us won't do much work under the hood beyond the occasional oil and filter change. But almost all of us can attack the task of washing, cleaning and detailing our SUVs on our own.
I've collected the Top Ten Tips for Detailing Your SUV to help you on your way.
Tip #1: First, do no harm.
Much like the medical profession, auto detailers have to make careful, critical assessments when they work on their patients. When will removing that stain cause more damage to a car seat's fabric than a simple cleaning? Is a deep polish going to remove more fragile paint than protecting it with paste wax? Like a good doctor, the detailer has to be certain that the cure isn't worse than the disease.
Tip #2: Protect your SUV from the elements.
Sun, wind and rain are your SUV's worst enemies. Left unprotected in the elements, an SUV will deteriorate and eventually rust away, becoming a better planter box than a mode of transportation within a few years. Unless you're a collector with a big storage warehouse, you can't keep your vehicle out of the elements all the time. After all, you probably have to drive to work! But try to keep your SUV out of harm's way whenever possible. If you've got a garage, clear enough space to park inside. If you can't get in the garage, consider buying a cover like one from California Car Cover (http://calcarcover.com/) or a canopy like the EZ Up Eclipse II ($559 to $1,001 http://www.ezup.com/) to park under. Look for shade when you park at work or at the store. Think about leaving your SUV in the garage when really bad weather is predicted, like hail or snow storms.
Tip #3: Inspect your SUV.
Finding that small problem before it becomes a big one will help keep your auto detailing simpler and more effective. Make it a habit to give your SUV a good once-over on a regular basis, at least once a month. Check all of the paint for dirt and sediment. Check the chrome for pitting and rust. Check the tires and wheels for scrapes and discoloration. Look around the interior for dirt, debris and stains.
Tip #4: Wash your SUV regularly.
The best way to maintain a good finish on your SUV is to keep it clean. Keeping your SUV protected (Tip #2) will help, but your vehicle will still need to be washed. Once a month is good, twice a month is even better. Don't wait for a good coat of dirt and dust to collect -- the longer dirt sits on your paint, the better chance it has of binding with the clear coat, requiring more aggressive cleaning.
Tip #5: Maintain a good coat of wax.
Once your SUV is clean, it's important to put a good coat of wax on. The wax acts as a protectant, keeping dirt and dust from binding to your clear coat and paint. Wax also acts as a moisture barrier, keeping water from penetrating pores in the painted surfaces and getting to the metal below. It's easy to tell if you've got a good coat of wax. Water will bead up on a good coat of wax, forming small round blobs, rather than big pools on flat surfaces. When the beads get too big, it's time to apply a new coat of wax.
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