Best 7 Ways to Wash Summer Grime Away

Sap, sun, sand, and bugs — not to mention bird droppings — threaten your car’s finish all summer long. Even if you’ve been less than diligent keeping up appearances, an end of summer detail can set things right.

“If you don’t get that stuff off your vehicle, it could bond and in some cases scratch or etch the surface,” said Mike Pennington, director of training at Meguiar’s, Inc.

Neglecting the accumulation of summer contaminants can cause oxidation, dulling, and rough surfaces. Frequent car care and wax protection helps prevent contaminants from bonding to paint. Yet, simply wiping it down with a towel is not recommended as the contaminants can become trapped in the fiber and scratch painted surfaces.

Use products specifically intended for cleaning vehicles, Pennington said. Cheap towels, t-shirts and diaper cloths can cause swirls or microscratches. Dirt particles trapped by fibers can act like sandpaper across the surface.

Pennington offered the following autumn recommendations:

  1. Begin with wash products designed specifically for autos. They gently remove the sap, oils, bug goo and other summer contaminants. Never use dish soap, which has degreasing agents that strip wax, damage paint finish and degrade rubber.
  2. Get sheepskin or microfiber wash mitts that gently remove summer grime and trap it into tightly woven filaments.
  3. Use two buckets for one great shine. Use one bucket for your wash solution. Use a separate rinse bucket for towels and mitts. That way you’re not swooshing summer contaminants around wash solution and re-applying them to your vehicle.
  4. Wax, wax and more wax. It will not only make your vehicle look great for fall but it will help prevent harvest dust and insects from destroying vehicle paint. September also is a perfect time to apply wax for protection against contaminants from early rains and road grime. Carnauba formulas offer excellent protection but typically do not last as long as a synthetic product.
  5. Dry with a chamois, terry cloth towel or microfiber drying cloth. They won’t scratch the surface of your vehicle.
  6. Remove grime from wheels and wheel wells with specially formulated wheel cleaner solution. Warning: Do not clean with the same wash cloth or mitts used on the vehicle surface. Never, ever use brake wash solution on your vehicle surface. Contaminants in brake dusk can destroy paint.
  7. Apply tire cleaner and scrub with a tire brush. You’ll be impressed how tires look new after removing “browning” haze built up over summer.

Four Items for Next Camp Outing

Planning ahead–especially when it comes to camping–makes the trip an enjoyable one. Knowing what experience you want goes a long way toward properly stocking your campground.

“These days, a person doesn’t really need to ‘rough it’ if they don’t want to,” said Michele Orr, director of merchandising for REI, an outdoor adventure retailer.

Below, outdoor enthusiasts and safety experts share some thoughts on what to bring with you before pitching a tent beneath the stars.

Cast Iron Skillet

The cookware that built America. Durable and almost indestructible, cast iron pots and pans clanked behind covered wagons as pioneers ventured west.

“Travelers were always looking for ways to lighten their load to move faster,” said Laura Candler, social media coordinator for Lodge Cast Iron, a Tennessee-based manufacturing company famous for its cast iron cookware. “But–despite their weight–cast iron cookware was never in danger of being tossed to the side of the trail. It was simply too useful.”

A 12-inch skillet can simultaneously cook a breakfast of bacon, potatoes and eggs. For dinner, that same pan can fry up the fish you caught in the lake, river or stream near the camping site. Cobblers, grunts and pineapple upside-down cake are among the classic desserts that can be quickly whipped up in the cookware, Candler said.

Just remember to grab some heat-resistant gloves or potholders. The entire vessel is made out of cast iron, and its handle can and will sear the palm of someone who grabs it absentmindedly.

Insulated Water Bottle

The days of your reusable water bottle sweating from condensation and melting the ice are over. Insulated water bottles continue to gain a foothold in the market as hikers look for a cold drink after a long trek or skiers want a belt of hot chocolate on the chair lift.

“Insulated flasks can retain heat for 12 hours and keep liquids cold for up to 24 hours,” said David Visnack, vice president of marketing and product for Hydro Flask, a company that’s manufactured stainless steel containers since 2009.

Rest Stop Apps

A folded map should always be in the glove box as a backup, but the digital age grants us some truly remarkable innovations for travel.

Consider apps that direct drivers to roadside rest stops and the amenities awaiting them.

While a rest stop may not be your endpoint, a quick stop to snack and stretch your legs can make any road trip more enjoyable.

“An app can tell you things a roadmap can’t, like if the rest stop has showers, vending machines and pet areas,” said Sean Peck of AppAvenger, makers of the Rest Areas app for Android devices.

Peck recommends reading through the ratings to determine if a product is accurate and user-friendly. He also suggests looking at when the product was last updated and—perhaps most importantly–if it can work when the device doesn’t have an internet connection.

Fire Extinguisher

Exceptionally important and easily overlooked, fire extinguishers deserve a spot on your packing checklist.

“A fire extinguisher is often a forgotten ‘must have’ item,” said Chris Dieter, senior vice president for H3R Performance, Inc., a fire extinguisher manufacturer in Petalmua, Calif. behind the MaxOut and HalGuard lines.

Wildfires roast forests and destroy campgrounds for years. Bringing along a fire extinguisher provides some insurance.

Distracted Driving Factors in Many Teen Crashes

The generation raised with handheld video games and scrolling text at the bottom of the television screen are routinely distracted while driving, according to national research.

The AAA Foundation installed video cameras in vehicles piloted by teenage drivers across the nation in an unprecedented study that captured driving habits and investigated crashes.

“The in-depth analysis provides indisputable evidence that teen drivers are distracted in a much greater percentage of crashes than we previously realized,” said Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Researchers determined the trend by studying video from more than 1,700 crashes from cameras mounted inside vehicles. They focused on the final seconds before impact and found distraction was a factor for teens 58 percent of the time.

Teen drivers had their eyes off the road for an average of 4.1 of the final six seconds leading up to a crash when a cell phone proved to be the distraction. Researchers also measured reaction times in rear-end crashes and learned teen drivers using a cell phone failed to react more than half of the time before the impact, which means they crashed without braking or steering.

The figures represent a staggering increase from what researchers predicted. The foundation initially estimated only 14 percent of collisions with teenage drivers involved distraction of some kind.

Communicating with their passengers caused an accident 15 percent of the time, the foundation reported, while 12 percent of collisions were because the driver was on a cell phone. Grooming, singing along to music and reaching for an item were other common distractions for teens.

“Passengers and cell phones were the most common forms of distraction,” said Bob Darbelnet, CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “These factors can increase crash risks for teen drivers. The situation is made worse by the fact that young drivers have spent less time behind the wheel and cannot draw upon their previous experience to manage unsafe conditions.”

Teenage drivers account for the highest crash rate of any group in the nation. About 963,000 drivers age 16 to 19 were involved in police-reported crashes in 2013, which is the most recent year of available data. These incidents resulted in 383,000 injuries and nearly 2,900 deaths.

The AAA Foundation recommends parents educate teens about the dangers of cell phone use and restrict passengers during the learning-to-drive process.  Before parents begin practice driving with teens, they should create strict ground rules related to distraction. For more information, visit

Time to Worry About Spots on Driveway?

Oil is far from the only fluid found inside your vehicle. Engine coolant, as well as fluids for braking, steering, and cooling course through the automobile.

“Maintaining fluid levels is a basic fundamental of vehicle safety,” said Henry Jasny, senior vice president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. “Even if you’re not the type to pop open the hood or look underneath the car, routine service keeps you aware of any potential problems.”

The Washington D.C.-based organization has championed cautious, aware and defensive driving for nearly three decades.

Hoses and cables enable the fluids to do their jobs year after year, but eventually wear out. More often than not a hose or cable offers clues that its clock is winding down. The key is to have a service adviser you can trust who sees and fixes minor issues before they become emergency repairs.

Allstate Insurance offers the following tips and insight about fluid leaks:


  • Red: Leak likely associated with the transmission or power steering system.
  • Black: Old oil, transmission fluid that’s gone bad.
  • Green: Engine coolant, used to prevent the motor from overheating.
  • Yellow: Brake fluid, the darker shades of yellow mean the fluid is aging and needs replacement. Old brake fluid takes on oxygen and reduces brake performance.
  • Blue: Windshield washer fluid
  • Clear: Water, power steering fluid or gasoline.

Levels of leaks

  • Stain beneath the car: Monitor and see if problem persists or worsens.
  • Wet: It’s not an active drip, but there’s more than a stain.
  • Seeping: Drips are pooling beneath the vehicle. Schedule an appointment with a service center.
  • Leaking: Puddles form. Go to the service center immediately, even if you don’t have an appointment.
  • Pouring: Fluid flowing from the vehicle. Tow the vehicle to a mechanic for the safety of you and other drivers.

Back-to-School Safety for Drivers & Students

Streets and sidewalks surrounding schools are once again teeming with activity as another semester begins. Just as drivers must be vigilant in school zones and neighborhoods this time of year, students going to and from class need to pay attention as well.

“The best way for parents and caregivers to educate their children on road safety is to talk openly and plainly about it and set a good example,” said Rhonda Craft, director of the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Here are some back-to-school safety tips for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, courtesy California’s OTS:

Taking the Bus

-Stay five giant steps away from the road and wait until the driver lets you know that it is safe to board.

-Respect the driver and minimize distracting behaviors.

-Keep your limbs and head in the vehicle at all times.

-When exiting the bus, look out for cars and immediately move out of the roadway.



-Be on high alert in school zones as children will dart into the street without looking.

-Don’t text, eat, or groom yourself while driving.

-Do not pass a stopped school bus that’s either collecting children or dropping them off.



-Stay on the sidewalk. If one doesn’t exist, walk facing traffic.

-Look both ways before crossing

-Always use a crosswalk if one is available, otherwise cross at an intersection.

-Obey traffic signals when crossing the street.


Biking or Skateboarding

-Get familiar with the safest route, its traffic signals, and signs.

-Always wear a properly fitted helmet.

-Stop and look both ways before crossing any street or intersection.

Wheel Care: Return Luster to Faded Rims

Any vehicle looks sharp when blessed with some polished wheels and gleaming tires. Getting the look right requires some attention to detail–and choosing the right products for the job.

“Make sure the product you use to clean your wheels doesn’t have an acidic base,” said Adam Bateman, the sales and marketing director for Wizards Products, a Minnesota-based polish and wax company. “A general rule to remember is if it’s safe to use on the vehicle’s paint, it’s safe to use on the wheels.”

Aesthetics aside, clean wheels play a role in overall vehicle health. Wheels that are left to flake, chip and corrode can pose safety threats as they deteriorate.

“Keeping your wheels clean is about making sure rust and corrosion don’t set in,” he said.

As with any other aspect of maintenance, routine cleaning prevents the task from becoming too intense, Bateman said.

“If you stay on top of maintenance you will be better off,” he said.

As for tires, some cleaning products offer some protection against the sun’s ultraviolet rays while bringing out the tire’s natural black sheen and reducing cracking.

In contrast, tire dressing is just for aesthetic appeal.

“Dressing your tire can repel water, but it doesn’t actually add to tire life,” said Ron Fausnight, research and development manager for ITW Global Brands.

Below, Bateman and Fausnight offer advice for getting those wheels and tires looking like they belong in the showroom.

  • Clean wheels when they are cold. Wheels heat up when driven, so allow them to cool before washing to avoid thermal cracking or other complications.
  • Avoid household detergents that can leach oils and wax from the rubber. An auto wash solution works well, as do specialty tire cleaners. When using tire cleaners, avoid overspraying onto the wheel.
  • Tire dressings may dribble off and permanently stain cement or befoul the water table. Rather than spraying directly on tires, apply the solution to a cloth and wipe the sidewall thoroughly.
  • Chose a cleaner that is acid-free. A general rule: If it is safe to use on vehicle paint, it is safe to use on wheels.
  • A layer of polish or traditional auto wax provides protection against dusty summer roads.
  • Clean the wheels every time you wash the vehicle.

How Can I Ensure My Pet Will Get Enjoyment From My New Car With Me?

Our four legged friends are as important to us as our children in most households. So when it comes time to pick out our new ride, how do we select one that will be right for us and for our pets?

pet car seat

Well, in short, you should always talk to your salesperson about all your usage, including how you normally travel with your pet(s). A real sales pro will talk to you about safety for the pet and also about features that different vehicles have that might appeal more to someone who is a pet owner.

This occurred to me to discuss here with you because I was talking with a gentleman earlier in my day who was out walking his large breed dog and told me that he’s coming back in to see me to do a demo drive without his dog to make sure that no fur got shed while we’d be out on a test drive.

I could see how much he loved his dog and he told me what a pain it was to deal with cleaning up the fur all the time in his current vehicles when he and his wife would either one be driving with the dog in their car.

Doggie Hammock

That’s when I brought up the subject of pet friendly car accessories and features of the vehicles I carried that his dog would really get a lot of enjoyment from. I told him that there are some companies that carry dog hammocks of heavy material that attach to the headrests and would keep the fur from getting matted in the carpeting or seats. I also told him that the truck he was checking out had a fully powered rear window that lowered 100% and his dog could safely stick his head out in the wind while driving without worry of being clipped from anything oncoming. No large bugs, branches, or cars getting too close! I told him that many styles of the hammocks even had pocket for toy storage and treats. If he’d had a small breed pet, he could have looked at a safety seat for keeping the curious animals contained inside the cabin safely rather than getting nervous and distracting the driver with all sorts of movement. I could also mention that with the truck option, a dog box in the back would give his canine the fresh air as well and remove the risk of having to clean up dog hair afterwards because the dog would not be in the cabin.

There are several ways to ride safely and enjoyably with our pets. I’m always interested in helping people find ways to enhance their in-vehicle experiences. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or suggestions on this matter. You can connect with me on Facebook by clicking here or you can send me an email at