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How to valet a car

If you are selling a second hand car, you can always add value to it by giving it a good valet.

Depending on how old or new the car is, and how much it’s potential resale value is, this will determine the best course of action for you.

A relatively new car with value in the thousands – spend £50 and get a professional valeter give it the once over. The value that he will add will more than cover the outlay.

For the rest of you, with an older, more tired car that really does need some TLC, read on. What follows are a few tips that will genuinely add value, and put cash in your pocket.

But before the tips – a word of warning. If you are going to do this yourself, be prepared that it will take quite some time (leave at least a full morning or afternoon), it will not be much fun and it will be hard and grubby work!!

You’ll need some basic equipment:
Sponge and bucket (or a couple of quid to whiz it through the garage on the cheapest wash cycle)
Polishing cloths including at least 2 lint free cloths (old T-shirts or glass cloths – ask before you pinch them)
Silicon (dashboard) oil spray
Glass cleaner
Cotton buds
Old toothbrush
Kitchen/bathroom/multi-purpose cleaner
Car polish (and possibly T-Cut)
A vacuum cleaner

Make sure the car is empty of everything – including the glove box and under all the seats and the boot also.

Get hoovering. Car carpets are hard wearing, but invariably nylon loop material is great for hanging on tightly to all sorts of little bits. Be persistent – they will eventually come off, but this will take time. A grubby 5-door could see you spending upto an hour, just with the vacuum!

Now look at the seats. If the fabric is really dirty – 2 options – One is to buy some cheap cars seat covers and hide the sins. The second is to get a wet/dry vac. This will add some considerable time and effort to the job but can have remarkable results. Consider doing this part of the job a couple of days before the rest of the valet because you are going to have to soak the seats and they will take at least a couple of days to dry.

Look at all the door panels and handles and see how much ingrained dirt there is. Use the cleaning fluid and the toothbrush to clean these. If you do it once and there’s still some left… do it again… I told you this was hard work.

Using the cleaner and a cloth take the dirt of all the plastic surfaces (e.g. the Dash etc). Once you’ve done that get the cotton buds out. Now you are going to clean all the little nooks and crannies that are all over a car’s interior. That includes all the vents, knobs, slides, change/ash tray, vents (yeah, I know I said it once, but you’re bound to miss one!)

Once the plastic interior parts are clean, use the Silicon oil on them. This is an aerosol. You need to use the stuff sparingly, and shield the windscreen and windows as much as possible when spraying. Spray lightly over the whole dash console and any other major bare plastic part – except for the steering wheel… DO NOT spray on the steering wheel!

Then, once the spray has settled and you can breath again, use one of the lint free cloths to try and remove as much of the spray as possible. You should be left with a faint sheen to the plastics, not a shiny, oily mess!

Next, with another lint-free cloth – use which ever glass cleaner you have to clean the interior windows. If it’s a cream cleaner, make sure you don’t leave residue.

That’s basically the interior of the car finished – onto the exterior.

Depending on the state of the paintwork, you might consider getting a touch-up stick to sort chips in the paintwork.

If the paint is flat or dulled (possibly with an almost dusty residue), you will probably need to use a product like T-Cut (a light abrasive polish). This will involve a lot of elbow grease but can have miraculous results. It’s just like in the KarateKid – you wipe on then wipe off!

A time saving tip is to apply the T-Cut as per instructions but don’t wipe off. Just go directly to the car polish and apply that straight on top of the T-Cut. When they are dry, you will only have to ‘wipe-off’ once!

Finally, don’t forget to polish the exterior glass as well.

Job done – a lot of hard work, but you could well see a significant return for your efforts. Selling a second hand car has never been trickier than it is now because there are so many available – and you need to give yourself every edge you can.

First impressions count!!

I’ve seen a car bought for ₤50 spend a day with a good valeter (me!) and sell on for ₤1000. That won’t happen every time, but you will definitely increase the resale value of your car if you put in a little bit of effort.