How to Keep Your Car Clean and Orderly

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While you might think of your vehicle as simply a means to get from
point A to point B, in reality it's a portable household with everything
you need and want while you're on the go. Setting up regular routines
to maintain your abode on wheels will keep you humming happily
down the road.

  • Empty everything out of the vehicle and trunk, discard the obvious garbage, and return coffee cups to the kitchen.

  • Sort the remaining items into piles, such as maintenance supplies, kids' stuff, music and videos, manuals and maps.

  • Clean all interior surfaces. Vacuum the floors and seats, wipe down the dash and doors, clean windows and shake out the floor mats.

  • Keep a trash bin on the floor of the back seat, or hang a trash bag from the dashboard.

  • Stash kids' toys, small books and travel games in a behind-theseat organizer (a hanging shoe bag works, too), within reach of backseat passengers. Periodically rotate items in and out to keep kids interested.

  • Stow tapes and CDs in visor organizers. Separate kids' tunes from adult music.

  • Store the following in the glove compartment: owner's manual, maps, vehicle registration information (if required), auto club information, accident report form, notepad, pen, disposable camera, flashlight, list of emergency contact names and numbers, tire gauge, paper napkins and any other frequently needed or essential items.

  • Purchase or make an emergency kit for your vehicle and store it in the trunk or rear of the car. Include booster cables, a tire gauge, flares, reflective tape, a help sign, a screwdriver, pliers, a first aid kit, work gloves, a blanket, an old towel or rags, a jug of water and motor oil. See 466 Assemble Emergency Kits.

  • Put together a survival kit, especially if you live in a cold-weather climate. Include candles, waterproof matches, energy bars or candy bars, large plastic garbage bags and rubber bands. Keep larger items, such as cat litter (for slippery roads), a collapsible shovel, an extra blanket and heavy socks, hats and mittens (enough for several passengers), in a duffel bag or tub in the trunk or rear of the car. See 470 Survive if Your Car Breaks Down.

  • Tackle the car again every season. Restock all your kits; check your maintenance schedule to see when servicing is needed (see 44 Schedule Car Maintenance).

Tips & Warnings

  • See 406 Plan a Trip with Children.
  • Keep a small cooler in the rear or trunk to carry refrigerated and frozen groceries so you can run more errands after shopping. See 4 Run Errands Efficiently.
  • Keep a small travel bag with a change of clothes in the trunk, just in case.
  • Protect maps from travel spills by storing them in zipper-lock plastic bags.
  • Keep a heavy-duty rubber band on the driver's side visor to hold parking tickets, directions, mileage logs and any other papers relevant to the day's travels.
  • Keep your car smelling sweet by placing fabricsoftener sheets under the seats or filling the ashtray with baking soda.
  • An old shower curtain stored in the trunk comes in handy as a cover for a summer picnic table, a drop cloth for changing a tire or a protective tarp.
  • Remove trash that held milk products (latte cups, yogurt containers) before they start to reek.

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