Exterior Care

Taking care of your car involves more than changing the oil and putting air in your tires. The interior and exterior require regular care as well. The overall appearance of your car, inside and out, plays a big role in the overall value of your vehicle. Keep these factors in mind as you work to care for your car's exterior:

Wash it

Vehicles are under constant attack from pollution and airborne contaminants. If left on the surface these substances can embed themselves in the clear coat or paint causing expensive damage. Use a good quality car wash solution and wash your vehicle on a regular basis. Don't use dish detergent. Establish a washing schedule and follow it.

If you don't want to do it yourself, find a reliable commercial car wash in your area. Many car washes offer multi-wash deals to reduce the overall cost. For best results, wash your car once every two weeks. This will keep dirt, chemicals, waste and other pollutants from damaging the paint and clear coat. And your windows will be clean of debris and thus safer when you take the road.

Wax it

Waxing is like giving your car an extra layer or two of protection from the elements - the sun, rain, snow, bird droppings and a variety of other materials that can chip away at and diminish the luster of your car's paint job.

Regular waxing will keep a car looking new for many years. A 10-year-old car that has been waxed twice a year will probably have a better shine then when it was new. It will also command a higher resale value and be easier to sell.

If rain water does not bead on the painted surfaces of your car, it's time to wax it. How often you have to wax your car depends on the type of wax you use and how good you want your car to look. Some of the new synthetic waxes will last more than a year. Depending on your climate, you'll probably want to wax your car every four months.

Waxing your car will take about an hour. You can also take it to a detailer or a car wash and pay for the labor.

Think about the undercarriage

Your car's undercarriage can be a victim of rot and rust - and it's likely you won't even know it. This is particularly true for people who live in cold climates where the roads are salted during snowstorms. Salt can eat away at your car's exterior, aging it rapidly. Cleaning underneath is just as important as making sure the car looks shiny and clean.

When washing your own car, use a pressurized hose attachment to loosen dirt and debris from beneath your car. Start spaying the front of the car and work backward. Be sure to get as far underneath as possible.

Even better, take your car to a commercial car wash where the  undercarriage will be sprayed by several pressurized hoses. Even if you don't like car washes, it is a good idea to drive through one every few months just to get your undercarriage cleaned.

Detail it

As needed, you can also make an investment in your car by having it detailed. You can do this yourself, or take it to a dealership. When your car is detailed, it is carefully inspected and gradually restored to a near-perfect look. Your paint is matched with the original color, and all chips and scratches are cosmetically repaired. This means that any slight cosmetic imperfections are addressed, and your car gets a pseudo-facelift. Most experts recommend having your vehicle at least once every 18 months to preserve the look and value of your vehicle as best as possible.

Keep it covered

There is possibly no better way to protect your car's exterior than to protect it from the elements  when it's not in use. Park it in the garage if you have one, or cover it up if you don't. Good car covers can protect cars from the elements. And if you store your car or drive it rarely, an indoor car cover can protect your car's paint job from dust, debris and other fibers that can cause microscopic chips in the paint.