Transport & Car Blog

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How to clean your car, part two

  Thursday, 8 December 2016

Last month, we brought you the first part of our guide on getting your car into sparkling, tip-top condition.  Now it’s time for part two.

Follow all the steps in both our guides and you’ll be left with a car that looks as good as the day it came off the show floor:

Wheels and tyres

Wheels are a funny thing: they’re like a belt on a good suit.  Get them right and they’ll blend into the ensemble: get them wrong and can really ruin the look.  Here’s how to get your tyres and wheels into perfect nick:

Filthiness, thy name is brake dust

There’s one factor that you’ll need to fight to keep your wheels looking great: brake dust.  Unless you want a car that can’t stop – we’re assuming you don’t – brake dust must be tamed.  However, there are a few things you can do to stop it doing too much damage.

What is brake dust?

Brake dust appears when the brake pads press against the rotor when your car’s stopping.  Over time, the pad wears down under the heat and the pressure and the small filings and worn rubber fly off.  Unfortunately, rather than flying off into the road, they stick to your wheels.  If you leave them there, they’ll corrode and could potentially damage your wheels by corroding the surface.

There are three main things to look at for controlling brake dust:

  • Low dust brake pads are an option if you’re OK with using aftermarket products on your car.  Pads that are either Kevlar based or have higher metal content can both work well.
  • Dust shields are another option.  These can be purchased for almost every type of car and sit between the rim and the hub, shielding the latter from the calliper assembly.
  • Option number three is the cheapest: make sure you clean your wheels regularly.  Regularly washing your wheels – and by regular, we mean once a week or so – is the best way to combat brake dust in the future.  It’s better to prevent rather than react.

What should you look for in wheel cleaning materials?

Your chosen wheel cleaner should be appropriate for the metal used on your wheels.  Roughcast aluminium and chrome, for instance, is more resistant than coated or painted wheels and can take a stronger cleaner as a result.

Fortunately, cleaners will specify which type of metal they’re suitable for on the label and a quick web search will tell you what your wheels are made of (if you’re unsure).  If you’re genuinely unsure, find a cleaner that’s suitable for all types of wheels (there are a number available).

In terms of brushes, you should look for one that has feathered bristles, as this will help to prevent scratching the finish.  It’s important to remember that tyres require their own special brush, with models available that have extra bristles in order to access all the dust typically found in the tyre’s sidewalls.

Important things to remember about cleaning your tyres and wheels:

Clean them one set at a time.  This will prevent the cleaner from drying.  Wash and fully rinse each set using a strong water jet before moving on to the next one.

Remember to dry your wheels.  A good towelling down is essential, as it helps to prevent water spots and remove any remaining brake dust.  Remember to use a towel you’re not planning to use again, though.

Cleaning your car’s interior

Finally, we come to the interior itself.  All that lovely upholstery that looked sleek and stylish when you got the car, but now looks a bit tired and dusty.  Here are the key techniques for giving that material back its mojo.


Never, ever under-estimate the value of a good car hoovering.  An effective vacuum will do as much for your car as it does for your front room. Here are the things to bear in mind:

  • You’ll need a number of attachments.  All of those adaptors you never use for the living room? You’ll need them here.  Your car will have a number of fiddly areas, so a vacuum that’s got attachments that’ll reach all corners of your car’s interior is essential.
  • The smaller the hoover, the better.  You don’t want to be lugging a 10kg Dyson in and out of the garage.
  • Cordless is nearly always easier.  It’s very easy to get tangled up in the lead when moving it and out of the car.
  • Get rid of all the extra bits.  Whether it’s an empty can of drink or your floor mat, get everything out of the way before you start hoovering. The barer the surface the better, as it’ll mean you don’t have to deal with missed bits at the end.
  • Clean the detachable carpets and mats before you put them back in.  The last thing you want is a dirty mat on a clean floor: it’ll only make it look worse!
  • Don’t forget the boot.  If you’re making the effort to hoover, do everything.  You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Removing stains

Stains in your car will happen.  A moving vehicle, a can of drink – it’s almost unavoidable.  Fortunately, cleaning them is a fairly simple process.

Car upholstery products are widely available: it’s possible to use standard ones as well.  Simply spray the cleaner evenly on the material and give it a good scrub.  Once you’ve got the stain out, give the area a dry with a soft cloth.

Cleaning leather interior

Leather never looks any less stylish.  However, if it’s the real deal then it needs maintaining: leather is a breathing material and it can really wear down if it’s not looked after.  Here’s what you need to consider:

  • You’ll need a genuine leather cleaner.  Leather’s one material you can’t cut corners on cleaning.  Use the wrong product and it can quickly get sticky or tacky. 
  • Use a soft, clean cotton towel for the cleaning.  Though leather’s a very durable material, it can actually scratch quite easily, so steer clear of paper towels.
  • Be careful when cleaning the wheels and shifters, as you don’t want them to become slippery, especially when you’re driving.  It might be worth giving them a miss in terms of the cleaning products and simply using a good moist cotton towel. 
  • If you’re hoovering, use a soft leather brush attachment and do it carefully: the vacuum hose can easily scratch the leather.

Get in touch

If you’re interested in sourcing new parts to your car and bringing it back to fighting shape, check out the ASM Auto Recycling parts store.  We sell a range of parts in great condition, for excellent prices.

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