Ask Motor Maven | August 21, 2019


Q: I never owned anything this new and just bought a Tahoe. I want to keep the paint and everything looking new for as long as possible. What should I do? Is there a secret?

‘Detailed’, Plainwell, MI

MM: Hey Detailed, 

It’s not necessarily so much a secret. 

My first words of advice are just to be careful out there. Or keep it in a garage forever. 

Ok, the last one isn’t really realistic or necessary, and I can admit is a worthless bit of advice as the world (and road) is incredibly unpredictable. And most people don’t buy vehicles to keep them garaged for life. 

So, in a world where anything can and does happen, the best we can do is utilize caution and take preventative measures, while also following through on proper fixes if the worst does indeed happen. 

Basic daily care (and avoidance): 
Wash it when it needs it. Those who are the utmost dedicated to the trade of keeping it clean will wash it when they see the thinnest layer of dust settled upon it. They are the diehards. If we had more time, we would probably do the same.

Take it easy on off-road adventures or routes, especially gravel roads. Anything that gets tossed up can chip, dent or damage your exterior.

Keeping distance from gravel hauling vehicles or construction sites. Gravel hauling trucks are notorious for launching gravel from one of the trailers, and it will hit your car if you are following at even a reasonable following distance. So best practice is to stay quite a bit back. Construction sites pose the threat of dust, debris and during the summertime never-ending road construction, tar. There are some great products to remove tar (and bugs too), from your vehicle, because it is absolutely unavoidable out there.

Parking a little bit farther from the rest of the population. Not only does it give you the opportunity of more steps for you 10,000+ steppers, but you avoid the majority of foot traffic passing your vehicle. We see customer vehicles arrive with scratches in a multitude of places, especially from people dragging bags against other vehicles, opening doors, setting stuff on other vehicles, etc. That doesn’t have to be you.

Parking away from areas where things can fall. That black walnut tree at your parent’s house you park under…dangerous. That walnut can produce quite the divet if it falls onto your car. Not to say you can’t park under trees, but the flowers, pollen, seeds, etc., can all pose a threat to your paint’s integrity.

Next-level care:
Touch-less car washes will be more forgiving to your exterior than your other basic car washes–helping to avoid potential micro-scratches of sorts. Not all are perfect at drying though, so if you choose this option, it doesn’t hurt to have a microfiber towel on hand to towel dry the rest. See below for more.

Use microfiber towels: Made up of tiny ultra-fine fibers, woven together to make an efficient absorbing cloth, soft for sensitive surfaces, they are ideal in automotive detailing for the ability to absorb water and fluids, while not scratching your paint surface. You can always tell vehicles that are hand-dried with regular towels (which are extremely coarse!), because there will be swirls of tiny scratches all over the paint. 

Hand-washing is great because you have control of all the types of soaps and waxes you want to use on the vehicle, and there is quite the variety. Myself, I have a preferred soap that includes a nano-wax in the formula, so each time I wash my car, it adds a little wax coating. We’ll certainly explore this further in a future post, as I think there is a lot more we could go into.

ULTIMATE car care:
There are a variety of places that provide paint protectants and coatings that help keep your surfaces, quite shiny and safe. The ultimate, a customer had explained to me, was a ceramic coating, that doesn’t even need washing. Just a light wipe with a microfiber cloth. The cost of that particular coating might be a bit on the expensive side, but might be worth it to keep your vehicle extra protected and clean?

This small list really touches more of the preventative measures to keep your exterior in proper shape, and I could go further along about how to look for and care for certain blemishes on your surface, where to get other incidents beyond your control taken care of, and more. And, we have yet to even “scratch” the surface of how to keep your interior clean. It is definitely something we’ll touch on soon.

If all else fails, those little glass/plastic cases you could store and display your toy models in–they have those available for real cars, so you could purchase one of those and add it to your over-sized shelf of a garage for safe-keeping.


Q: My kid is taking the car with her to her first semester of college and will be quite a bit away from home. From going back-and-forth home to on-campus needs, what should she know going into the school year?

Heather K., Portage, MI

MM: Heather, with school just about (or already) back in session, this is something a lot of parents, whether their child is a new high school driver, or they are sending their kids on their first adventure away from home at college, might want to know.

With young student drivers on the road to school, this is a good opportunity to teach them (if they haven’t already had this conversation with you), about maintaining their vehicle. We have a couple of entries from earlier just going over some basic services and why they are important to do: “Basics and rebates to prepare you for your summer travels,” and “Why Maintenance?” They make for a good read and start to talking to your drive.

First things first: Prior to your young driver making their way to school, they or the family should bring their daily driver in for a check-up to make sure everything is in tip-top shape prior to their departure. Here at DeNooyer, we perform a Multi-Point Vehicle Inspection (MPVI) to look over the vehicle and can inform them of any problem areas that require attention. The initial walk-around at the start of your visit, along with reviewing the MPVI at the end, will give your driver a better understanding of the pieces and maintenance needed to keep the car running and safe.

When it comes to their trip to school, the simplest thing that can be done easiest thing to do is make sure there is coverage if the vehicle quits on the side of the road, they need to tow their car somewhere, or something else happens while out and about.

For those (hopefully never happens) instances, it also doesn’t hurt to make a safety kit containing items such as space blankets, blankets, chargers for phones, jumper kits (you can get inexpensive ones that can fit in your glove box anywhere), salt for snowy states, shovel, tools, etc., giving your young driver preparedness for any weather condition and for their safety as well. 

Creating a plan for those hopefully never-happening situations, like calling your insurance (and having that number stored in the car, on their phone…), knowing a towing service, or how to look up places in the area are all good ways to be prepared for the unknown while on the road.

This strategy can also apply to their time on campus. Prior to their departure, have them take time (and you can join in for peace of mind as well), to look into dealerships or repair shops in the area that she (or the both of you) feel comfortable with contacting. She can also talk to people around campus to get an idea on where to go for things as she gets more settled in. 

Depending on their holiday and break plans, it’s fairly easy to take care of maintenance needs during those times, or prior to their school year starting, and anything can be taken care of in-between home visits as well. 

Nonetheless, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan for if the unpredictable happens and she’s not anywhere near home.

If you do have a place to go to at home, like DeNooyer, you can even ask the Service Department if they have suggestions or know of places in the area your daughter would be in. There’s quite a network of dealers and they might be able to suggest a place to go.

As for your young driver, even before their time of adventuring on their own, having plans and an outline of what is expected in their car ownership is a good start. Have them come in for their car appointments (even if you’re making/paying for them) so they can become more acquainted with their vehicle and understand what goes into taking care of one. 

A common thing seen over the years are a lot of younger individuals really surprised at the costs and items needed to be taken care of in the true ownership of a vehicle. A vehicle is a big responsibility, and in all fairness, they should be prepared for what that costs.

With that said, they are on to an exciting new chapter of their lives and are enjoying their new freedoms and responsibilities, so maybe take just a few minutes to make a plan to prepare for the worst. We’ve all been in those situations and know how to provide the best of examples to set them up for success. Because, even as discussed in the question answered prior to this one, the world and the open road is an unpredictable place, as is your vehicle, and there’s nothing like knowing what to do when the worst does happen. 

Happy driving kids, and good luck in this new school year!


“For the Miles Ahead” is the DeNooyer Chevrolet blog series dedicated to demystifying automotive maintenance and service needs for the friends, family and customers of DeNooyer. If you have a question about service maintenance or car-related troubles, write to Motor Maven at MotorMaven@denooyer.com, and it could be included in the next publishing of “Ask Motor Maven.”

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