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Sommerfeld’s Santa Fe got a thorough wash by her sons and a girlfriend.
Sommerfeld’s Santa Fe got a thorough wash by her sons and a girlfriend.

Drive, She Said

This thoughtful Mother’s Day gift requires some elbow grease Add to ...

You may think she wants raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. But whether it’s your mother or the mother of your kids, or just a mom you care about, when it comes to celebrating Mother’s Day, I guarantee there is something she will consider one of her favourite things: a clean car.

Canadian Tire held a clinic recently, with the stipulation that I could bring my car but I also had to bring the labour: my sons Ayrton, 18, Christopher, 21 and Christopher’s girlfriend, Pam, 21. That seemed fair – I rarely get to drive my car any more, and who better to scrub it down than the ones who mess it up?

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If you are lacking in servile offspring, you can always head to a detailer. You can spend anywhere from 50 bucks to several hundred, but even at the lower end of the scale, you will get your car back remarkably clean and sparkling. If you’re a smoker or spiller, invest in more intensive treatments. Many of us spend a lot of time in our cars, and a clean environment makes a big difference.

The beauty of this Mother’s Day gift? There’s a role for everyone.

Clean everything out. Sounds easy, but you’ll be amazed at the pile of stuff that is in your car after a long winter. We found a sock; three pairs of boots, a textbook, two phone charger cords (“I told you I didn’t lose them, Mom!”), bandages, a tuque, a new toothbrush and more than $7 in change. Mostly pennies, which as you know, are now collector’s items.

Vacuum. If you’re at home, your vacuum probably has attachments that will let you get into the nooks and crannies a car is famous for. We used a handy little one from Bissell; it has an 18-foot cord and is designed for cars. For $50, it’s small enough to store in larger vehicles, or your garage. Otherwise, look for a car wash centre with do-it-yourself industrial vacuums. Got a dog who rides with you? You’re going to need a brush, and you’re going to need some time.

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t clean your computer monitor with glass cleaner; same in your car. Armor All has convenient wipes for all the interior hard surfaces, and I admit I’m lazy enough to love them. For $5, they have a pack of wipes for your touch screen; another $5 for wipes that will tug out spots and stains from upholstery and carpet, though if it’s bad, get it shampooed. It’s important that wet fabric and carpeting is dried properly to avoid mould or trapped water, and I let the pros handle that.

If one-use wipes make you shudder, designate some washable shop towels for use on the car. You can make them or buy them, but my seven-year-old self will tell you to not mix up the one you just used on the tires by using it on the front fender. Of your dad’s black Rambler. When he is watching. Canadian Tire handed Ari a Simoniz wheel brush to use that did a nice job for $9.

Clean the windows, inside and out. Products containing ammonia can damage the tinting in your car’s windows, so read labels carefully.

You can actually buy something called Bird Dropping Wipes (from Autoglym). As much as I hate bird droppings all over my car (I have a large maple in my front yard, and my driveway is directly in the line of fire), even if I used one of these little wipes, I’d then be standing there with a wipe full of bird poop in my hand. For $7, your mileage may vary on this idea, for this reason alone.

Now the part the kids love most: washing. Well, wetting, to be more precise. This is also where you are also most likely to run afoul of the law. In most jurisdictions in the GTA, there is a bylaw stating you can’t dump anything into the sanitary sewers that you would use to clean your car. Actually, you can’t dump most of the things that you’d be rinsing off your car, either. This leaves you a couple of choices: head to a car wash, or at least a coin-operated power wash. Want to keep the fun at home? Kit your hose out with a decent spray nozzle, move your car onto the front lawn or a gravel pad and spend some time blasting out everywhere you can get to. If you’re going the lawn route, you can use the line of Simple Green products that are safe for the grass.

While there are arguments for and against using dish soap to wash the outside of your car, most washes designed strictly for automotive use have added ingredients to help protect your paint, and dish soap can strip too much, especially with repeated use. We were using a Simoniz Wash & Wax ($13) that held its foam, also phosphate-free and biodegradable.

Best product of the day for me? Autoglym Aqua Wax ($22). While the car is still wet, you can spray it on and wipe. You can put it on windows, rubber and plastic, which means little hands can’t get it wrong. You wax your car in minutes.

Whether you do it yourself, get the kids to help, or take it to the pros, a clean car with a homemade card is a tough gift to beat.



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