Are Brits Neglecting Their Cars?

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While washing your car may not be a job you look forward to, there are more benefits than you might think. Staying on top of regular cleaning can help extend your car’s longevity and resale value. We surveyed 1,000 UK motorists to see if drivers are giving their car the TLC it needs to go that extra mile and found many Brits are neglecting their cars.

To keep you on the right track, read our eight top tips to get more miles from your motor, with insights from Klavs Simkus, Founder and CEO of car inspection specialists CarExamer on what crucial things improve vehicle longevity and add up to 10% to your car’s value.

1 in 4 admit to ‘almost never’ cleaning their car

Simkus says, It depends on the vehicle’s use and on the weather/environment, but as a rule, every other month is too infrequent for good maintenance and car health. Every two to three weeks is much safer for the vehicle’s paintwork and outer mechanisms.”

But after asking 1,000 UK drivers, we can reveal that 86% don’t wash their car enough. Here are our findings:

  • A shocking 23% almost never clean the car – that’s 1 in 4 drivers
  • 18% consider once or twice a year to be enough
  • The most common timeframe is every couple of months at 30%
  • Only 15% clean their car once a month
  • Just 14% wash their car every 2 weeks, the recommended amount

Over 1/3 said they cleaned their car less during COVID-19 restrictions

With the pandemic affecting how much we’ve all been out and about, we were curious as to how it’s affected people’s motivation to keep their cars looking their best.

More than 1/3 (37%) admitted that they cleaned their car less than normal. What’s more, 11% revealed that they ‘haven’t needed’ to wash their car at all during COVID-19 restrictions, likely due to more of us working remotely and ditching our commute.

Only 12% said that they’d cleaned their car more during the lockdown which, although probably due to boredom, will benefit them and the vehicle’s appearance and longevity.

Expert advice to keep your car safer when it’s not in use

We asked Simkus for his advice on how best to maintain your car if it’s not getting as much mileage due to lockdown restrictions:

“For vehicles less used during COVID, we’d recommend the standard practises for leaving a car unused. Don’t leave it under trees due to organic waste from birds or the trees themselves. Use a cover if possible, to prevent any build-up of dust or dirt over time, and to protect from any harsh weather. Run the vehicle every month or so to stop things from seizing and the battery charges and try to drive it a least slightly from time to time just for the health of moving parts.”

8 cleaning tips to increase your car’s value by 10%

Keeping your car is clean isn’t just about making a good impression. Maintaining the exterior and interior can increase its eventual resale value or avoiding wear and tear penalties.

According to ‘Buy My Car’, a well-cleaned and maintained car can add up to 10% to a vehicle’s value. To show this, the average used car price in the UK was £14,100 as of Q1 2021. That means taking better care of your car could add £1,410 in value, on average.

Here’s a rundown of car cleaning tips to keep your vehicle in great condition based on crucial areas of focus via RAC advice, ranging from bi-monthly jobs to annual check-ins.

1. Uplift your car seat upholstery with a homemade cleaning solution

Your car’s seats are a hotspot for wear and tear if you’re not careful, but it’s easy to stay on top of this if you stick to a reasonably frequent cleaning schedule.

  • Vinyl seats: These are simple to keep from marking with a regular once over, using a sponge and mild detergent. 
  • Cloth seats: Using an all-purpose cleaner or carpet solution can help raise stains and make sure they don’t settle.

Leather seats: There are specific leather cleaners available to keep on top of dirt and stains as well as protectant sprays that prevent them in the first instance.

2. Protect and maintain your car’s carpet with rubber mats

Your car’s carpet is likely to get a tough go of it. Nobody treats it like you would your carpet at home and, if you don’t keep on top of it, that can quickly become obvious in a bad way. That means remembering to get the vacuum out as part of your cleaning schedule.

An additional preventative measure to avoid scuffing and wear is to make sure you’re using floor mats – with rubber waffle-style versions being very effective at holding onto the mud and sludge you’ll inevitably trail in. It’s also much easier to hose these down whenever you’re giving the car a clean and replacing them when they’ve worn through than it is meticulously scrubbing rug cleaner into a carpet. 

However, sometimes this is unavoidable. In these scenarios use a sponge, scrub brush, and some elbow grease to work up a foam and banish any stains as soon as you find them.

3. Don’t forget to clean the undercarriage and bumpers properly

While you wouldn’t normally associate winter with going out to give the car a scrub – it’s one of the most important times to keep on top of it. That dangerous mix of salt, ice and slush that builds up is a fast-track to corrosion. This is exacerbated by frequent changes in temperature which British weather happens to be infamous for. The main areas to keep an eye on and give a once over during the colder months are:

  • The undercarriage
  • Bumpers
  • Inside wheel walls

You’ll need to keep the temperature in mind though – as Simkus explains, “Probably the most pivotal tip we could offer is to remember not to wash the vehicle if the weather is below freezing.”

If the water you’re using to wash freezes during cleaning it can affect everything from hinges to weatherstripping which can become stuck or damaged. Make sure you’re using warm water and take it a section at a time to avoid leaving ice build-up.

Hot weather is also a factor. In the summer, try to wash your car in the shade where possible as quick-drying car shampoo can leave streaks all over the newly cleaned bodywork which can be a nightmare to get rid of once they’ve settled.

Simkus also gave us his thoughts on the importance of a regular external clean and what to look out for: “Always clean the car after a motorway journey, especially in the middle of summer or winter, where things like insects and pollen may be problematic, or when grit or hail can cause issues. If left, these can be really damaging and tricky to remove.”

Person cleaning car tyre with sponge

4. Clean your engine with a bristle bush and grease-cutting detergent

Another cleaning tip that can affect the performance of your car is to add a thorough engine clean to your calendar. Once a year should do the trick with this one. Keeping your engine clean has numerous benefits.

  • It will run cooler and more efficiently
  • It’s easier to spot any leaks or issues
  • Routine checks (i.e., fan belt, hose) are made easier and less grimy 

Before starting, you’ll need to cover the more sensitive components i.e., electricals, distributor and air intake – a plastic bag should do the trick here. From there it’s a simple case of getting out a bristle brush and some grease-cutting detergent to make the surfaces sparkle before giving it a thorough rinse.

5. Treat your car to a wax and polish twice a year

If you want to make doubly sure that all your efforts to keep your car on tip-top form, it’s worth considering giving it a coat of wax and a polish twice a year. Ideally, once before the heat of summer and a second time before the winter months roll in.

A common misconception is that wax and polish are interchangeable – here’s what you need to know about each:

  • Polish: Used to buff out any scratches in the paintwork – correcting existing flaws.
  • Wax: Applied to give a protective layer to prevent damage to the car’s exterior.

Combining them bi-annually will be doing your car a big favour. Not only will this make your motor the envy of your street, but they also provide an additional layer of protection from the elements and can prevent the spread of rust.

Simkus agrees with this frequency, adding, “Waxing the car every 6 months or so will do amazing things for the paintwork, without a doubt.”

6. Get more life out of your air filters by vacuuming debris

It’s important to check your air filters regularly – every other clean if possible – and replace them when they become dirty and full of debris. The recommended intervals for replacement are every 12,000 to 15,000 miles.

However, it is possible to keep the filter clean yourself. Once you’ve located (check your owner’s manual) and opened the filter housing, the two main methods are…

  • Use a cleaning solution and scrub out all the dirt from the filter, rinsing afterward. Then place it on a clean towel and leave until completely dry.
  • Tap out any loose debris, then use a vacuum cleaner to get the thick of it out. This is a bit less thorough but much quicker.

If you’re not confident in either of these options, seek professional advice.

7. Don’t neglect door and window seals

A crucial part of a car’s weatherproofing that’s often neglected is the seal around the doors and windows. Add these to your cleaning checklist by applying silicon or rubber protectant around the weatherstrip which will help keep it on top form.

If you do this regularly with your normal wash, you’ll not only be able to stop the incidence of mould, but it will also reduce the chance of your car door getting stuck to the seal (usually in colder weather) which isn’t just annoying – it can also severely damage the rubber. Steer clear of oil-based products for this job (i.e., the trusty WD-40) as these can deteriorate the weatherproofing.

Man cleaning car door

8. Wash and protect the dashboard and displays with a damp cloth

It’s very important not to neglect the dashboard and gauges as, apart from needing the same TLC as other interior elements, there’s also road safety to consider.

If you leave dust and debris to build up or apply too much pressure when removing it, you can end up with scratched lenses which can make it difficult to read important information. A damp cloth and a light touch whenever you’re cleaning the car can help to avoid this.

As for the dashboard itself, there are protective sprays available to help keep the plastic in good condition, reducing the appearance of existing cracks and discolouring and guarding against future scrapes. It’s also worth using a sunshade behind your windscreen on bright days to reduce the chance of fading and warping.

Find more motor research and maintenance from the Moneyshake blog, from a study into Petrol vs EV Emissions to how many vehicles are manufactured per minute by the biggest brands. If you’re tired of washing the same old car and are in the market for a new motor, browse our latest car lease deals.