Ultimate Spring Cleaning, Day 23: Auto-tune

by Michael on April 13, 2010 · 0 comments

They won't exactly detail your car, but who cares, right? (Photo by D.B. Blas)

Ultimate Spring Cleaning is a 30-day project to clean and declutter not only your house, but your life. Each day you’ll get a housecleaning assignment, an assignment that involves the world around you, and a project to clear your mind. You can start anytime at the Ultimate Spring Cleaning main page.

Our last day in the garage is also a great time to pamper your trusty friend. I’m talking about your car. You’ll also spiff yourself up and think about broadening your horizons.

Your Home: Clean and Tune Your Car

Unless you’re lucky enough to live in a big city with fast, easy transit, you probably depend on your car to get around. Some of us also use our cars to “put our best foot forward” (not the greatest idea—better to do that with your own personality—but it is what it is). So today give your car a bath and have it looked at top to bottom.

Car Washing in the 2010s

When you were a boy, your dad probably washed the car right there in your driveway. He let you run the hose while he concentrated on gently sponging off the grit and working in the wax. If it was a really hot day, you might “shoot” each other with the hose. The soapy, road-grunge-brown water ran down to the storm drain, where it disappeared from your life.

Today we’re more aware of how that soap, road grime and oil gets into the streams and rivers, ultimately affecting the creatures and plants in the neighborhood, and potentially the food you eat. It might kill you if you drank from that dirty sponge bucket, so why dump it on fish and plants?

It’s not only environmentally better, but faster—and if you consider your time valuable, often cheaper—to take your car to a commercial car wash or detail shop. There are three primary options for washing your car, in order of cost:

  • Coin-op self-serve car washes are the budget method, consisting of a spray gun and brush on a timer. You plug it with coins and then soap, rinse, and mist-wax yourself using the gun. The downside of this option is that you really have to work to make sure every part of the car is clean. My secret: I bring a bucket and sponge—even though it’s usually not allowed—not just to save money but to make sure I can get my car really clean.
  • Automated car washes put your car on a track and pull it past brushes and nozzles. Again, this type of wash can miss spots, and better car washes will follow up with a manual spot-clean. Often, these are combined with detailing options so that you can get your car as clean and waxed as you want it to be. For those who don’t want potentially gritty brushes scratching their cars, a no-touch car wash can do a decent job.
  • Professional auto detailers are basically a spa treatment for your car. A good detailer will clean every crevice, deal with paint scratches, wax it to a high gloss, dress your wheels and tires, and if you desire, even shampoo your floor mats and seats. All of this comes at a price, though, although a good detailer can make you feel so much better about driving your 1998 Hyundai.

Most of us will probably choose one of the first two options. If you do, the next items on the agenda are waxing the car and cleaning the interior.

Waxing a car can be as easy as choosing “wax” from the selector on the spray gun, or as complex as using a clay bar and an orbital polisher. Most of us will probably use just a liquid or paste wax, first applying it and letting it dry, then buffing it with a soft, clean cloth. Make sure your car is not in the sun when you do this! (You’ve been warned.) Here’s a very detailed YouTube video if you really want to do it right:

As for the interior, you can either use the vacuum at the car wash or just vacuum it at home. Then use your all-surface cleaner to clean the dash and other hard surfaces, leather/vinyl cleaner for those soft surfaces, and a non-ammonia glass cleaner for the interior windows. And get the junk out of your trunk and papers out of your glove compartment while you’re at it.

Tune-ups: Leave Them to the Experts?

While you can do an oil change yourself (it’s one of these “man skills”), it’s normally much easier to have it done for you. And where a full tune-up is concerned, with the computerized elements in most modern cars, it’s best to leave it to a professional. Some car warranties even offer free periodic service—take advantage of that.

If your dealer doesn’t offer reasonably priced service (tip: call multiple dealerships in your area, because their prices may vary wildly!), ask friends and co-workers to recommend a good mechanic. Make sure you go over the list of items to be checked and replaced with the mechanic, so that you don’t pick up your car to find he simply changed the oil and checked the fluids.

See your owner’s manual (often there’s an extra “service manual” that includes the service details) and if it’s been a while since your last tune-up, get the most thorough service that appears between your last service and now. If you have no idea when the car was last serviced, get everything looked at. We trust our cars too much to skimp on these things.

If you’re low on cash and want to know what you can check yourself, eHow has a list that can help you. However, the fact that they leave a lot of information out (just how do you adjust your valves?) tells you this may take no small amount of time and effort.

Your World: Find a New Skill to Learn

“Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills.” — Napoleon Dynamite

Continually learning something new not only makes us more well-rounded, interesting men, it helps our brains to function at a higher level, slows the aging process and makes us want—and ultimately receive—more out of life. I’m constantly learning a new skill, and in the last several years alone I’ve performed improv comedy, was tutored in skiing and swimming, took tennis classes, taught myself to work with the PHP web programming language, and earned my first professional certification as a fitness trainer.

Today I want you to think about something you’ve always wanted to do. A sport, a social skill, a technical skill, or an art. Write down the things you’ve always dreamed of doing, as well as the things you think you really should be able to do but for some reason never learned (like swimming for me). Then find one that’s both interesting and reasonably challenging, so you won’t be able to learn it sufficiently in an hour or a day or a week.

Then make plans to learn and practice that skill. I recommend finding a class or personal instructor, so that you have an objective viewpoint on your progress, as well as a firm schedule you can look forward to. Local community colleges feature a variety of courses that might be of interest to you. Local theatres may hold acting classes. You can find tutors through Craigslist. Music instructors advertise in your local music magazines and guitar stores.

Make a deal with yourself to take at least an hour a week to learn a great skill.

Yourself: Get a New Haircut

Never underestimate the confidence a new ‘do can give you. Ever see a guy who hung on to a hairstyle that was completely contemporary when he got it, but now looks a little played? Or whose hair is a little too military-short or scruffy-long? Is that you?

If you can (you’re only exempted if you’re bald), make an appointment with a stylist to see about a change in hairstyle. Come prepared with photos of people with styles you’re interested in (just Google “hairstyles for men” for many photo sites, then look for men with a facial type like yours) and ask the stylist if one might work for you. Or if you’re feeling lucky, throw yourself at the mercy of the stylist.

(Note: a barber may not be the best option for this, as they’re used to cutting hair and not “styling.” Get recommendations from both men and women you know, and ask at the salon for someone who’s good with men’s hair.)

And if it turns out the ‘do just wasn’t you, you can always grow the old one back.

Don’t forget to meditate, and be ready for a new challenge tomorrow.

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