Sure Signs Your Car Is A Beater


Note: If you live in snow country, this doesn’t apply to your winter beater. Same goes for beloved project cars.

We’ve all seen them. Beaters. Those broken-down, jacked-up cars dying of neglect. Of course, not all old cars are beaters. I’ve seen plenty of beaters less than five years old. I’ve driven pristine cars that are old enough to buy booze.

Project cars that are in process can look a little rough around the edges during restoration.

Are you driving a beater? Here are some sure signs:

Deliberate neglect: I’m not talking about hitting a financial dry spell and putting off needed maintenance and repairs in order to stay fed and housed…we’ve all been there. Hall pass.

I’m talking about misplaced priorities: shelling out for after-market appearance toys but balking at paying for an oil change or scheduled service. Those plastic chrome rims are going to look sweet as your car is hauled away by Triple A for the fifth time.

I used to work with a guy who put off some needed emissions work on his car so he could buy expensive after-market mods instead. The car was belching a rainbow of oddly-colored exhaust, but hey, it had those cheesy mods. I’d never seen a late-model Toyota beater in the wild before that.

Trashing the interior: I shouldn’t complain, but I will. The upholstery of my borrowed car had a film of some grimy substance of questionable origins. Sand and tanning lotion residue were everywhere. Food wrappers. Two semi-full soda bottles that should have been flung a week ago.  A gym shirt that I swear was moving under its own power.

Things had been that way in that car for a long time.

Part of me wanted to hurl and the other part of me wanted to take the poor car to a car wash and then detail the interior myself. If I wasn’t staring down the barrel of a one-hour turnaround I would have done just that.

Deliberately putting off needed body or paint work: If you’re broke, once again you get a hall pass. If you’re putting off that body work or paint job because you’d rather spend the money on rims or other after-market treats, you’re driving a beater.

Paint and body components  help maintain the car’s appearance and structural integrity and to  protect it from the elements.

The air where I live is a tasty combo of smog and sea air that will eat paint and rust out exposed parts so quickly that most auto techs in the area can tell where we live just by the state of our car’s paint and wiring.

A beater won’t stand a chance here. If the year-round sun doesn’t claim it first, the salt air and smog will.

Neglecting safety features: Deactivated airbags, broken seat belts, non-existent or non-working child seat fasteners. Your car’s not only a beater, it’s dangerous. Fix it or replace it now. Seriously.

With extra cash and some elbow grease you can restore your car from a sad beater to a well-maintained and well-oiled machine.

First order of business: ditch those plastic wannabe chrome rims.

There. All better.


Spring Clean Your Car

Banish winter funk with some spring cleaning for your car

red-255110_1280If you’re bringing your car out of hibernation, chances are it’s going to need some serious spring cleaning–inside and out. Set aside a morning or afternoon, grab some supplies, and bring your car back to life after a long winter’s slumber.

Remove and recycle anything you no longer need. Get rid of papers, food wrappers, that old jacket you tossed in your backseat. Toss any winter clothing in a “to be washed” pile and recycle or trash any disposable items.

Pull up and wash floor mats. Once you have everything out of the car, pull up the floor mats and give them a good scrubbing. Try for a carpet cleaner that won’t leave a residue. I’ve had great luck with stain removal/cleaning products such as Nature’s Miracle (no affiliation).

Let floor mats dry in the sun for a day or two to dry completely and to get rid of any lingering odors.

Wash your car…carefully. If you live in snow or rain country, your car’s paint will have taken a solid beating from road salt and mud. Before using any car wash products or sponges, hose off the car thoroughly. You’ll spare the paint by not rubbing in any leftover dirt or road salt.

Better yet, invest in a good hand wash at the local car wash if you can spare the cash. It can go a long way in preserving your car’s appearance if you’re not able to use the DIY approach.

Check for rust and take care of it pronto. Today’s minor rust spot can quickly morph into a serious trouble spot if left untreated. Treat rust spots early and often. Don’t skip this step even if  your car is a beater. Beaters need TLC (and decent paint) too.

It goes without saying the windows will need a good washing and the same goes for the inside of your windows. Find a good quality streak-free cleaner or make your own. Driving around with your windows closed for the past three months can leave a residue on the inside of your windows.

Clean the upholstery and carpets. Time-consuming, yes. It’s also the best way to freshen your car’s interior and to get rid of a winter’s worth of  mud, dirt and salt that have been ground into the carpeting  and upholstery.

Cleaning your car’s interior will also get rid of any funky odors (wet dog, anyone?) and keep the fabric and other materials in good shape. Just be sure to spot-test any upholstery/rug cleaners first…just in case.

Air out your car. Let it sit in the driveway with the windows down. It’s a great way to banish that winter funk of stale air, wet pets, mud, dirt, food odors and whatever else was lurking in your car this winter.

Spring cleaning your car can be an adventure(so that’s what was lurking under the driver’s seat) and it can also preserve and maintain your car’s appearance. Your car will look incredible, no matter how old it is.