How to Protect Your Car’s Interior in Summer

Convertible parked in the sunshine

Source | Christopher Windus

Summer is upon us, and the streets are heating up. That means it’s time to prep your car for the hottest time of year. Of course you should perform all the regular summer maintenance, including checking and swapping tires, changing fluids, and making sure your AC is ready to deal with climbing temperatures. But how should you prep the interior of your vehicle? Follow these steps, and your ride will be ready to take the heat.

Clean your carpet and swap your floor mats

With heat comes baked-in smells. Wet carpeting can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew and lead to mystery stinks in the heat of the summer. That coffee you spilled in the winter? You can almost guarantee that you’ll be faced with a spoiled-milk odor come summer. So how do you battle it? It’s time to do a deep carpet cleaning and get that stuff out before it becomes entrenched. Pick up a carpet cleaner and go to town on those grimy footwells.

Your floor mats will also need a bit of love and attention. After all, they do more than catch the grime and dirt you cart in each time you get in and out. They protect the interior from getting wet and smelly, too. Clean off your mats and consider investing in some all-weather mats. These not only catch ice and snow in the winter but also capture sand, dirt, and rocks that accumulate after, say, a trip to the beach or a hike in the mountains. A pair of them can be picked up for under $60, and they will help keep the interior of your car much cleaner this summer.

Sun through the driver's window

Source | JD Weiher

Treat your seats

If you have leather or leatherette seats, you know the torture of sitting in a sunbaked chair inside a car that’s been parked in the sun. Your seats are just absorbing all those UV rays, and that can be incredibly damaging for prolonged periods.

Your best bet is to invest in some good leather cleaner and conditioner. The chemicals in these cleaners will help keep your leather and leatherette supple and soft, even in the heat. Think of it like sunscreen for your seats.

We also recommend that you invest in seat covers for those super-hot days. They’ll protect your seats from the sun and your posterior from the inevitable burn of flesh on hot leather. There are a variety of styles, colors, and fits, available.

Cover your dash

Even if you park your car inside a garage, you could benefit from investing in a UV blanket or sunscreen to cover your front and rear decks. The sun beats down on these two spots relentlessly and can eventually crack, fade, or damage the plastic or leather in both those spots in short order. It’s best to invest in a windshield shade to protect the front dash and seats when you park in a sunny spot. If you want to just focus on protecting the dash, check out dash covers. Each vehicle’s dash is different, so be sure to put your vehicle make and model into the search box to find the right one for your car.

Get it made in the shade

One of the best protections for the interior of your car is also the lowest-tech: Try to park in the shade when you can. This will help your vehicle avoid the sun’s harmful rays and keep things much cooler for when you climb back in.

What are your summer-car-care rituals? Tell us your tips in the comments.

The Story of Grip Clean: How Bryce Hudson Made a Product We Love

Bryce Hudson standing behind his motorcycle

Bryce Hudson

Need to get your hands clean after working in the lawn and garden? Or worse, that nasty grease from working on the rear differential? If only there were an effective product that didn’t dry out your hands. Actually, there is one: Grip Clean hand soap, created by a pro motocross rider, using dirt as a primary ingredient. And, no, this is not an ad. I first saw it on “Shark Tank” and had ordered it before the segment ended. The stuff works.

Hard work = filthy hands

Bryce Hudson knows a thing or two about being dirty. Riding any kind of motorcycle off-road will get you filthy, but ripping around a motocross course at the X Games makes for award-winning grime. Hudson took gold in his first X Games and was the youngest competitor in his class for all four of his appearances. It’s not all trophies and medals, though. In 2013, he missed a landing in competition and suffered multiple fractures to his left tibia. He missed eight weeks of competition but was still able to wrench.

“Throughout my career of being a professional motocross athlete, I always had to do my own mechanic work on my machines,” says Hudson. “And that led to having constantly dirty, greasy, sticky—you name it—kind of hands. I have always used the products that are on the market, but they would cause my skin to dry and crack or even break out in rashes.”

Hudson wanted a heavy-duty but all-natural product, but he couldn’t find one in stores. While working with chemicals all day, the last thing he wanted to put on his hands was more harsh chemicals and abrasive detergents. Synthetic cleaners were not the answer. Then he noticed something about dirt.

Bottle of Grip Clean in a garage

The big idea

“I used to use handfuls of dirt to spread onto oil spills in my garage when I made a mess. It always absorbed all the oils with ease.” Dirt is a natural exfoliant, which is why high-end salons use mud masks and baths to get their clients clean. Hudson used this same approach to develop Grip Clean as a vegetable-based blend with a dirt additive. But don’t look to your backyard for effective soap, as Grip Clean’s “dirt” is a cosmetic-grade pumice.

“This allows the dirt to go deep into the cracks of your hand to latch on hard to remove grease that would normally remain. I tried this theory in many of our test batches, and lo and behold, the product worked better at removing grease than any chemical soap on the market.”

Hudson says he tested small batches for two years to get the formulation right. “And then I gave some samples out to some fellow race teams I knew. The feedback I got back from everyone was phenomenal and everyone wanted more of the product. Suddenly I became known as the ‘soap boy,’ and the rest is history!”

Well, not quite history, as Hudson still had to learn how to do everything, from getting the formula right in larger batches to making labels and proper packaging. Initially, he made batches in his garage with a 5-gallon bucket. A Kickstarter campaign found 195 backers and proved the marketability. But it was still mainly a one-man operation at home. Since Hudson didn’t yet have the capacity to sell on a national level, he had to find an investor.

Bryce Hudson on the set of Shark Tank

Bryce Hudson appearing on Shark Tank

Shark bait

“Getting onto the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ was hands-down one of the most fun, hardest, and scariest things I’ve done in my life.” Hudson stood in line before dawn with 4,000 other people to pitch their creations to the producers. He thought his odds of being picked were low, but a few months later, Hudson was pitching Grip Clean to a nationwide audience.

“I rode my motorcycle in with my helmet on. I took my helmet off and began to give my sales pitch. Suddenly, Mark Cuban and the Sharks were laughing and interrupted me mid-speech. Little did I know I had a serious case of “helmet hair,” where my hair was completely messed up and sticking straight up.” The hair and makeup crew helped him out, and then the pitch went as planned.

Besides that quick fix, he says the pitch went pretty much as aired. Shark Lori Greiner said that the product should really be sold in stores but believed in its product enough to invest. Grip Clean took off from there.

Hitting it big

“We got a ton of orders the night of airing and sold out of product within minutes,” says Hudson. “I was ecstatic but also bummed I didn’t have more product to sell! We were approached by many large retailers all interested in carrying the product, Advance Auto Parts being one of them.

“Partnering with Advance Auto Parts is truly a dream come true. Anyone starting a company or product always has their sights set on getting it into big box retailers and stores. Little did I know how much work it takes to be ready for that moment. Advance believes in our product.”

Freestyle motocross still has Hudson’s heart, but he says he’s found a new passion in his company. Grip Clean is industrial strength but won’t dry out your hands. It’s all-natural, biodegradable, doesn’t leave a smelly residue, and it’s made in the USA. In short, it’s a gold-medal winner.

Have you used Grip Clean? Share what you think about it in the comments.

Mower Time: Getting Ready for Spring

 

lawn mower on grass

Source | Daniel Watson/Unsplash

Your lawn mower might not have a 450hp big block, but believe it or not, the same tune-up principles for your classic muscle car apply to your lawn and garden equipment. If it has an engine, it’s going to need a little bit of prep work to perform its best this spring. Here’s a guide to what needs replacing, what just needs attention, and some general mower maintenance advice.

Walk-behind mowers

Walk-behind push mowers have some of the simplest engines currently made. That makes them easy to work on for any skill level. If you’ve never done any kind of maintenance work before, give it a try with these super-simple tasks.

Oil change

Like with your car, you need to change the oil in your mower on time. This depends on the number of hours and how you use it. Usually most homeowners can get by with changing the oil once a season. Push mowers are cheap and easy to maintain; they don’t have an oil filter and only need one quart of oil. It’s definitely faster and easier than changing oil in your car: tip the mower on its side to drain the oil out the filler spout, then set it upright and refill with fresh oil. Remember to drop off the old oil for recycling.

Spark plug

Spark plugs wear out, too. Like with oil, it’s a good idea to change them at the start of each season. All it takes is a single wrench. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to buy lawn- and garden-equipment spark plugs at a power-equipment store. We stock your Honda’s BPR6 spark plug or your MTD’s RC12 at stores and online too.

Air filter

The air filter keeps dirt, grit, and grass out of the precision internal-engine components. Being down near the debris and spinning blades makes for one filthy air filter that decreases performance. Check the filter throughout the season and replace as needed, usually at least once a season.

Blades

Before you fire up the mower, check the condition of the blade(s). Clean off any excess grass clumps and check for cracks or large chips in the blade. If you find any, it’s time for a replacement. This is easier than it looks—use a wrench to remove the center bolt. If your blade is in good shape, it may only need sharpening. A sharpening kit is about the same price as a new blade but will save you money in the long run.

Ethanol-free gas

Most small engines prefer ethanol-free gas, so fuel up with that if it’s available in your area. Never use E15 or higher ethanol fuels in small equipment not rated for it.

riding lawn mower

Source | Gord Webster/Flickr

Riding mowers

If you’ve gotten this far, we’re guessing you don’t have a small lawn. Riding mowers are great for cutting large amounts of tall grass in a small amount of time, but they do need some extra work. All the above advice for push mowers also applies to riding mowers. The oil change needs a couple more quarts, and there’s oil and fuel filters to swap out, too. Here’s what else to look for.

Blade belt

Under the deck, check the condition of the blade belt and pulleys. A slack belt will cause excessive noise and lack of cutting, so adjust the tensioner and/or buy a new belt. Grease the pulleys to ensure they freely spin.

Battery

Pull out your multimeter and check the voltage of the battery. On a 12V battery, if it tests at less than 10.5V, trickle charge until full and give it a try. If it does not stay charged between mows, then it’s time for a new battery.

Tires

That rider has could’ve been sitting in the same spot all winter. That’s never good for the tires. Look for cracks, dry rot, or flat spots, then inflate to the recommended pressure listed on the side of the tire. If the tires are damaged or don’t hold air, replace them.

… And prep yourself

Safety comes first, so wear gloves when working near the blades. Eye protection is recommended while riding or using a side-discharge push mower. Small engines are disproportionately loud for their size, so remember to wear ear protection any time the mower is running.

Do it right and safe, so you can get your lawn done on the first pass. Spring and summer offer perfect car-show weather, so do your mowing, then get back to wrenching.

Share your lawn and garden tips and tricks with others in the comments below.

How to Clean Your Car Engine the Right Way

Source | Gerard McGovern/Flickr

Do you clean your vehicle? The answer’s probably yes. But do you know how to clean your car’s engine bay? If not, that’s like taking a shower but never brushing your teeth. Don’t be that person; wash your engine, too.

Now you might be thinking that no one sees your engine bay except you and the occasional mechanic, so who cares, right? Well, like with the rest of your vehicle, cleaning prevents damage and keeps resale value high. A car engine bay covered in oil and grit is allowing premature wear in the pulleys and bearings, or hiding serious issues like gasket leaks. A clean engine bay allows the engine to stay cooler, operate efficiently, and keep your value high.

Difficulty

Good for beginners — A new DIYer will be able to complete the project

Time Required

1 hour

What you’ll need

 

Step-by-step guide on how to clean an engine bay

Hose it down

A quick pre-rinse does several things. It knocks off any of the loose dust and grit, makes it easier for the engine degreaser to spread around, and prevents spots from the soap quickly drying out. In short, a pre-rinse is essential.

Step 1: Wait until the engine is cool. It doesn’t need to be cold though—you just don’t want to introduce a bunch of cold water to hot parts. Pop the hood and let it cool for an hour. This is when you’ll put down the drip pans and absorbent pads to stop the chemicals and gunk from going down the gutters.

Pro Tip: Find a local recycling center that accepts both the used pads and the oily water from the drip tray.

Step 2: Disconnect the negative battery terminal or cover the battery with a plastic bag. Water conducts electricity, and you don’t want it to connect and make new temporary circuits. If you have a classic ride, cover the alternator, carburetor, and distributor with plastic bags. On a modern ride, cover the alternator and go easy with the water around the coil packs and fuse box.

Pro Tip: If you are using a power washer, use the low-pressure setting and rinse everything in the engine bay. Low pressure is better than high pressure here, as you want to clean off the crud, not blast it into the small crevices between components.

Spray it up

Step 3: Now it’s time to spray a liberal application of engine degreaser. Why use a degreaser instead of regular car soap? Your average car-wash soap is fine for grit and dirt but just won’t cut it on oil and grime. Go heavy on the engine degreaser on the typically nasty parts, like the starter and oil pan and anything else oily. Follow the directions on the bottle, but usually you will let it sit for a few minutes to get the most grime-lifting action. You can use a wash brush here for the seriously filthy areas. It has soft bristles that won’t scratch the paint or plastic.

Step 4: Rinse with low-pressure water again and take a look at your progress. Some engines that have never been cleaned in 300,000 miles will need the degreaser again. If not, it’s time to get busy with the automotive soap.

Step 5: Use an automotive car-wash soap to finish cleaning the engine bay the same way you would clean the exterior. Use an automotive wash mitt, get it soapy in the bucket, and scrub up the engine bay just like you would a rear quarter panel, then rinse.

Sweat the details

Step 6: Rinse with low pressure again and remove the plastic bags over the sensitive parts. If they need cleaning, professional detailers will remove the plastic fuse box cover or distributor cap and clean it by hand, where the electronics won’t be affected. Once clean and dry, just bolt them back on.

Step 7: Use a dedicated plastic cleaner to polish out fine scratches and restore shine to the engine bay plastics. Apply with a terry cloth and wipe off with a clean microfiber cloth. For the metal bits, a metal polish will brighten them up. They are all a bit different, but in general, grind a bit into the metal surface until the polish starts to turn darker, then wipe off with a clean cloth.

There you go. That’s all you need to learn how to clean your car engine. Now step back and enjoy your work.

Any detailing experts around? Let us know your engine bay cleaning tips and tricks!

How to Protect a Car from Winter Road Treatments

Winter wheels

Source | Martin_Cathrae

Winter is coming. Many of us have already started switching on the heater immediately after start-up and impatiently waiting for warm air. The season takes a toll on us, no doubt, but it’s equally harsh on our vehicles. Preparing for winter is an important part of car ownership, and as DIYers, we can’t forget about a particular aspect of winter that causes damage: road treatments.

Since avoiding the roads isn’t much of an option for us, here are some tips on how to protect your car’s exterior from the winter grime.

Why the mess?

State and local road services scatter salt or coal ash on the road in order to promote ice melt and increase grip during slick conditions. That’s great, but both ingredients are terrible for exposed metal parts. Drivers knew this way back in the Ford Model T days and liberally applied used motor oil to the chassis. It somewhat worked for preventing rust but made quite a mess. Used oil coatings are illegal in many places now and today’s solutions are far superior.

Keep it clean

First, it’s easier to keep a clean vehicle rust-free. Wash your ride as often as it needs, especially after driving through salt and ice-melt treatments. Use a high-quality car-wash soap and lint-free mitt, being sure to get everything off the paint and out of the wheel wells. If it’s too cold to get out and spray on your own, pay a few bucks and run the vehicle through a touchless-type car wash. It’s cheap, takes only a few minutes, and will do the trick in a pinch.

Wax on

Wax is a great product to have on your paint year round but especially so in winter. Rather than just a UV barrier in the summer, wax acts as an additional layer of protection between your paint and clear coat and the nasty grime on the road. Like a plumber wearing heavy-duty gloves, it’s protection used for a reason. Use a good-quality carnauba wax before the first snowfall and road treatments for the best protection, and reapply every three months or after every car wash.

Knock it off!

If you drive at all during harsh weather conditions, some grit and grime will make it through the above layers of defense and get stuck to your paint. It’s best not to let it sit, as gunk left for days or weeks can start to weaken the clear coat or can scratch the paint when finally cleaned off. A clay bar, a detailing favorite of the show-car crowd, can help out your daily driver. Clay bars are just what they sound like: a bar of clay that is carefully glided over a lubricated painted surface. The clay is gritty at the microscopic level and acts as a deep-cleaning paint treatment, removing any stuck-on particles and even imperfections in the paint. Kits are affordable, simple to use, and provide stunning results.

Be on guard

Every few weeks, take a quick look at your vehicle, watching for any chips in the paint or exposed metal. Most manufacturers offer touch-up paint (here’s how to apply it) in factory colors that covers rock chips and prevents rust. Have a good look at the underside at every oil change and use a rust-eating solution with a properly prepared undercoating spray to prevent damage for years. If you switch to snow tires for the winter, it may be worth investing in powder coating the wheels, which makes them nearly impervious to road grime and corrosion.

Just a small investment of time and a few dollars of preventative maintenance will help keep your vehicle clean this winter and potentially save you thousands in maintenance costs or lost depreciation.

Let us know how you winterize your ride in the comments below.

Hacks for Getting the Gross out of Your Ride

pile of pumpkins

If you find your car covered in blood and mysterious goo this month, don’t rush to call CSI. It’s the witching hour, or—ahem—Halloween ‘season,’ and that means your vehicle has seen some action as a creepy carriage for costumed critters or as a target for cloaked pranksters. As spooky as their appearance may be, the mess they leave can be even more disturbing. Here’s a look at how to remove the Halloween from your car.

The Sarcophagus (aka Car Exterior)

If you’re a dentist giving out toothbrushes instead of candy, you’ll be looking at how to remove egg yolk from your car’s exterior, which is no simple task if the yolk has dried. Ideally, you should fix the issue while the egg is still wet. This solution only requires water and mild soap. Spray the mess down, quickly scrub with soap, rinse, and you’re done. If the egg is as dry as a mummy, it is likely stuck to the paint. Use hot, soapy water to loosen the egg, and slowly attack it with a microfiber towel. Use an automotive soap, as it is mild but effective. Silly string and shaving cream also follow the same rules, so just try and get the majority cleaned off while still wet. And, next year, remember to give out the good candy.

Some pranksters take it a bit further, writing on the windows or tires with white shoe polish. This is water resistant, so you can’t just hose it off. Automotive soap is a good bet, but so are dedicated glass cleaners or tire wash. Follow the directions, and just one application should do it.

The Guts (aka Car Interior)

The interior of your ride may need a bit more work. First, start by removing any leftover trash the ghouls leave behind. Candy wrappers and crumbs can be removed by hand, but a vacuum makes the job much faster. Use a car vacuum or the small nozzle on a shop vac to get glitter out of the carpet and crevices in the dash and between seats. This is also a great option for wigs or fur left over from transporting witches, celebrities, and werewolves.

Your presidential candidates, zombies, and princesses could also get a little loose with the colored hairspray, fake blood, or makeup on the upholstery. Use a carpet and upholstery cleaner to spray the mess, let it sit for a few minutes, and wipe up using a damp cloth.

Adults are no better this time of year, as we overdress for fall weather and dump pumpkin spice into everything. When your friend spills his or her pumpkin-spice latte on your seats, it will probably leave a stain. Grab a dedicated upholstery cleaner and spray it, giving it several minutes to soak. Also use a cleaning agent with enzymes that breaks down food for the best results, and wipe with a clean cloth.

Then wrap up all your hard work with a new scented air freshener. Halloween is over, so it may be time for a winter theme.

Do you have any other tips on how to survive messy monsters? Let us know in the comments!

Why You Need to Consider Your Floor Mat

As you probably already know, mats and liners are a rather simple cover for a vehicle’s floor and footwell area, protecting the carpet from the dusty, snowy, and muddy outside world that gets tracked in by your shoes.

We can’t blame you if you’re thinking, “Floor mats. I put my feet on them. Who cares?” But as a vehicle owner, you should care. And here’s why.

car floor mats

You need the protection

These simple mats that you beat with your feet are a surprisingly important part of basic maintenance. Rather than staining the carpet, the floor mat takes your abuse instead. This is especially true in areas with terrible winters. That frozen slush you track into your ride will eventually melt, and with no carpet protection, it’s going straight to the floor pan to cause rust.

They’re an easy way to customize your ride (and maintain its value)

If you ever plan to resell your vehicle, a stained carpet can reduce resale value. A savvy buyer will know that rust may lurk underneath, and the rest of them will think it just looks bad.

Aesthetics aren’t just for resale value, though. If you’re the owner of stained vehicle carpets, new mats are a cheap and effective way to refresh your car’s interior.

Floor liners are a little different from floor mats and are a good option for Snow Belt dwellers, parents, and commuters who eat many a meal on the road. Liners are laser-cut plastic that exactly match the floor pan and footwell areas of your vehicle. Spill an entire Big Gulp, and it won’t damage the carpet, as the liner’s grooves and channels catch and hold it all. If they get nasty, just pull them out and hose off. You can’t do that with your carpet.

Your Floor Mat Options

car floor mats

Replacing your old trashed mats can be a bit complicated with all the options out there. You can hit up the dealer, where replacements will cost you roughly $200 to $300. That’s a lot of cash for something that looks like it should be 40 bucks, tops.

Many companies produce generic mats and liners designed for universal fit. Those are about as sexy as a brown paper grocery bag, but at least they work. They start around $10 each, or about $30 for a more upscale set of four with carpeting in strategic areas of the rubber mat. That’s not a bad deal for protection that looks decent. For best results with universal mats, measure the space they will cover before purchase, to ensure they will lie flat. Also, look for a grippy surface on the back as it helps keep the mat out from under the pedals.

If you’re a superfan of the local team, or just have an obsession with a favorite childhood cartoon, themed floor mats can add a custom touch. From pro and college football, MLB and NASCAR, to old-school Warner Bros characters, there’s a floor mat set for every type of enthusiast.

Of course, if you’re looking for something a little higher end, Porsche makes a nice set of carbon-fiber floor mats for a totally reasonable $895. You don’t need to make that mortgage payment, right?

If your vehicle is running unprotected carpet, look into a set of mats or liners soon. This affordable item can make your vehicle more livable—and nicer looking—for many miles down the road.

Have your floor mats helped you out by keeping your vehicle clean? Do you have a favorite brand? Tell us in the comments.

The Wonders of Sea Foam

Sea Foam can pictureIt’s a beautiful spring day, so you decide to drive to a car show and take pictures of the new vehicles on display. You carefully fold up your map of the area and put it into your glove box. You make sure that you have extra rolls of 35mm film, you do some quick maintenance on your car  and you plan to return home in time to get your film to the drug store that develops your photos…

Quick question: did this scenario take place in 2015? Why or why not?

The answer to part one is: highly unlikely. This paragraph is chock full of products and scenarios that, if not obsolete, are definitely headed that way–which makes the story of Sea Foam all the more amazing.

“This product was invented in the 1930s,” says Sea Foam’s marketing director, Brian Miller, “and trademarked in 1942. Sea Foam was invented in a time when engines were much less sophisticated than they are today, with fuel that was quite different from today’s options. And yet, the same Sea Foam that improved the quality of fuel then still works every bit as well today.”

Glimpse back into the 1930s

Fred Fandrei enjoyed fishing, but he frequently experienced problems with his outboard motor. He diagnosed it as gummy varnish created by the gas and oil needed to power his engine. Says Miller, “The thought of spending more time fishing than working on the motor prompted Fred, who was a District Manager for the Sinclair Refining Company at that time and had a good knowledge of fuel, to invent a product that would stop the gas/oil mixture from becoming stale.”

Fred stored his product in beer bottles and quart jars and sold it to other fishermen. When one of them asked him for some of his “Sea Foam” stuff, Fred liked the name and began using it for his concoction. He advertised in Field and Stream and Outdoor Life for a while but the market demand soon started shifting from marine to automotive.

Some of the latest and greatest innovations in the car world during that era include:

  • Low-pressure balloon tires, replacing those hard tires of the past
  • Windshield wipers
  • Synchromesh transmissions for smoother shifting
  • Automatic chokes
  • Built-in trunks
  • Hydraulic brakes and gear shifts on steering columns

Most cars now boasted both radios and heaters, and still featured foot boards and sunshades on the car’s windscreens. Radiator grilles tilted back slightly and were often made of flashy-looking chrome. Henry Ford also invented the one-piece V-8 engine for the common man. Here’s more about the cars of 1930s.Sea Foam can 2 picture

Wonders of Sea Foam

So what has made Sea Foam so constantly popular through more than seventy years of change? All carbon-based fuels and engine oils leave behind petroleum-based residue. Over time, these naturally build up and eventually prevent lifters and rings from working as they should, and this residue also affects injectors, pistons and intake valves. For optimum engine performance, car owners need to periodically do a clean-up job. Sea Foam accomplishes this task using a petroleum-blended product.

Now, this can seem counter-intuitive. Why on earth would you use petroleum to clean up the residue from petroleum?

Miller offers a clear and concise explanation. “If you’ve ever gotten oil-based paint on your hands,” he says, “you know that using water to clean yourself up only makes matters worse. Instead, you use something oil based to remove the paint. The same is true when you want to clean your engine. The petroleum solvency cleans your fuel system and removes gummy substances that hinder performance. And it’s harmless to your engine.” As the company website describes the process: “Sea Foam helps slowly and safely re-liquefy this varnish so contaminants and deposits can be safely cleaned out of the systems as the engine is operated.”

Other additives on the market are either detergent based or use a combination of detergent and petroleum, Miller says, although he is quick to add that he has respect for competing additive brands. “We don’t tear them down to make ourselves look good,” he says. “Instead, we talk about how quickly and consistently Sea Foam solves problems.”

Sea Foam can also help, according to the company website, with lack of lubrication and with absorption of moisture from the atmosphere and condensation. And, here’s an overall message about the product from the company: “Sea Foam can be used by professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike to help safely eliminate many contamination and lubrication related performance problems and help prolong the life of an engine. A clean, dry and well lubricated engine will run smoother and more efficiently.”

What people say about Sea Foam

Marketing directors usually share a remarkable story or two about someone who has had incredible success in using their product. Miller, though, is an exception to the rule, providing no stories of nuclear-level success. He instead emphasizes how quickly and consistently the product has worked for a wide range of challenges over several decades, and how the product continues to do that, even as engines and fuels evolve and become more sophisticated.

“Stories from satisfied customers are so common,” Miller says, “that no one story stands out. Whether someone needs to deal with engine hesitation, poor idling or rough performance, and whether that person wants better performance out of a pickup truck, a sports car, or even a chain saw, their problems are quickly resolved.”

If he were to wear a Sea Foam t-shirt into a grocery store, he says, people would walk up to him to share their stories. “It’s fun to meet people who are excited about their experiences,” he adds, “and as long as we use carbon-based fuels, there will be degradation of that fuel, and we’ll still be relevant. We’ll still be around to help.”

Have a Sea Foam story to share? Leave us a comment.

5 Reasons Why You Should Keep Your Engine Clean

Dirty car engine photo

If you’ve ever purchased a new or used vehicle from a dealer or prepped for a car show, you know just how clean an engine compartment can look. The metal gleams, the black hoses glisten, and you can touch any surface and not come away covered in dirt, grease or oil.

Conversely, every driver knows that it doesn’t stay that way long as things get nasty under there in a hurry—a fact we’re reminded of every time the hood’s popped to check fluids, do some work, or investigate a disturbing new noise, vibration, or smell.

Drivers clean their vehicles’ interiors and exteriors, but by and large tend to ignore the engine compartment, allowing grit and grime to accumulate over the years and miles. Whether you don’t clean under there because you don’t know how and are afraid you’ll damage something, or you’re a seasoned do-it-yourselfer but just don’t think it’s important, consider these thoughts and tips on engine cleaning.

Why do it?

Sure, a clean engine looks great, but that’s just one of the reasons for tackling this project. Here are some reasons you may not have thought of for cleaning your engine and engine compartment:

  1. It’s easier to spot potential trouble before it becomes a major problem. If your engine is filthy, you’re not going to know if that small fluid leak has been there forever, or if it just appeared. Clean engines make leaks, cracks and other problems easier to spot.
  2. Accumulated road salt and debris can lead to corrosion.
  3. Debris can cause hot spots to form on the engine and its components, shortening their lives.
  4. Cleaning prevents the buildup of combustible materials, such as leaves or oil, that are fire hazards on the road and in the garage.
  5. Clean engines are more enjoyable to work on and look at and have higher resale value.

Ways to make it shine

Ask ten different DIYers how to clean an engine and you’ll get 10 different answers. It’s not rocket science, but it’s also not something you should dive into without possessing some knowledge. Back in the day, the preferred method of cleaning an engine was to steam clean it. Cheap, easy, and it got the job done. Times change, as do engines, and steam cleaning isn’t the best option any longer because of the sensitive electronics in the engine compartment. Fortunately, there’s an alternative today – engine cleaners.

First, browse the various engine cleaning and degreasing products available. There’s water-based, solvent-based, gel, foam, spray bottles, aerosol cans–you name it. Solvent-based cleaners cut through grease and grime better than water-based ones, which translates to less effort and elbow grease when trying to scrub away stubborn dirt. Many people like gel-based engine cleaners because they like the way they stick to vertical surfaces, giving the cleaner’s scrubbing action more time to work on the surface.

In addition to choosing a cleaner/degreaser, you’ll also want to pick up a drip pan and some absorbent pads. Why? A lot of oil and other chemicals will be rolling off your engine when you clean it and this hazardous cocktail shouldn’t be going onto your driveway, into a stormwater drain, or seeping throughout the ground. Instead, capture the dirty fluids on the pads and drip pan, allow the pads to sit in the sun until the water evaporates, and then find a local recycling center that accepts both the used pads and the oily water from the drip tray.

Time to get cleaning

Once you have all your supplies, you’ll want to check out this handy link on how to clean your car’s engine bay. Once your engine is clean and shiny, stand back and ask yourself why you waited so long?

Why do you clean your engine bay and how do you keep it looking new? Leave us a comment.

Prepping for Car Shows

Car Show photo

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

Our resident Gearhead reminisces about his glory-filled car show days, and how nobody preps a car better than…you.

 

I don’t know much, but I’ll tell you one thing that’s for certain:

You’re not gonna win a car show if your car’s not squeaky clean.

Cleaning your car before the show starts is a way to show the judges that you really care. On the other hand, leaving dust, fingerprints and grime on the car is a clear signal that you’re not in it to win it.

So let’s talk about a few simple steps you can take to get your car spic and span once you arrive. I’ve been going to car shows for more years than I’d care to admit, and this is what works for me.

Self-Service Car WashCar wash pic

Okay, this one might involve a little nostalgia on my part. But I can’t help it. I grew up in a time when you didn’t trust your car to anyone else; you washed the thing yourself. And the best way to do that is still at a good old fashioned self-service car wash.

You know the drill. Pull into a stall, get your stack of quarters, feed ’em into the slot and select your cycle. I’m partial to the power-washer nozzle myself, because you just can’t get that kind of precision and control in an automated car wash. It’s especially useful for the wheels — you can really blast away and get into the nooks and crannies. When you start with the self-serve wash, you know that all your car will need afterward is fine-tuning.

Waterless Car Wash and Rags

Another indispensable weapon in my arsenal is waterless car wash. I literally never leave home without a spray bottle of Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash and Wax Anywhere in the trunk. Don’t forget that you’ll need a few microfiber towels, too.

In a pinch, this combo can give you a decent shine even without water (hence the name). You can use one towel to get the surface grime off and another to go back over the metal and polish it. But you do run the risk of rubbing some of that grime into your finish, and in any case, you obviously need to get yourself to water if you want to win a car show.

So here’s what I do: I start with the self-serve wash, and then I go over every surface with a fine-toothed comb, looking for spots that the high-pressure stream didn’t take care of. Whenever I see one, I spray a little Meguiar’s on there and rub it out. Simple as that.

Car show picture

Photo credit: Erik Baeumlisberger.

If you follow these two steps, your exterior’s going to be ready for prime time.

Interior Shine

But what about the cabin? Other than dusting and de-smudging as required, I mostly focus on the upholstery, and that means keeping it in the family with Meguiar’s Gold Class Rich Leather Cleaner. Take another one of those microfiber rags and rub this stuff in nice and deep on the seats, door panels, even the dashboard if it’s covered in leather or vinyl. The Meguiar’s formula isn’t greasy or shiny; it just gives the surfaces a really refined luster. Let me tell you, not all of the guys at the show will go this far to make their interiors sparkle, and that could be the difference between first and second place.

How Do You Keep It Clean?

I know I’m not the only one here with decades of car shows under my belt. What are your quick tips for cleaning up your act before the show? Let us know in the comments.

Editor’s note: Find all of the appearance products and accessories you need for car show prep at Advance Auto Parts. Buy online, pick up in-store in 30 minutes.