Attention to Detail
By Paul Morrone CFP®, CPA, MSA
Most people are happy quickly washing their car with soap and water, or maybe even driving through the car wash at their local Mobil station after a topping off their gas tank. I am not most people. You won’t find water bottles rolling around my passenger footwell, empty coffee cups in the cupholder or even a straw wrapper that has slipped down between the seats in my car. For me, keeping a clean car is as therapeutic as it is gratifying. That’s not to say I enjoy the washing process, which often involves wet feet and cold hands in the winter and a lot of sweat and sunburn in the summer. I do find it allows me to shut my mind down, listen to music and just get in the zone doing mindless work for a while. At the end, there is the instant gratification of having a nice clean car that looks too nice to even drive (even though it’s more fun to drive a clean car than to look at it).
I’m not quite sure where this crazy obsession comes from. My father always kept a clean car, and does so to this day which is certainly an explanation for part of it. I’m sure another part of it can be attributed to my general love for anything automotive, which by now is not a secret to most of you. And maybe the last part is just my overall appreciation for cleanliness and organization that manifests itself in the form of a a perfectly clean car. Either way, Jill thinks I’m nuts and probably wishes I had the same devotion to having a clean house as a clean car (I don’t enjoy cleaning the house nearly as much). She doesn’t complain, however, when she has a shiny car of her own to enjoy.
Over the years I’ve accumulated an arsenal of washing and detailing tools that have made my life infinitely easier. These tools make all the difference in how enjoyable the process can be. While it may seem like overkill at first, the concept makes perfect sense. You wouldn’t use a hammer instead of a screwdriver, or a rake instead of a shovel, so why would you use one sponge to clean your tires, rims and body panels. I know I sound a little crazy, but having a variety of buckets, mitts, brushes, sponges and vacuum attachments makes sure that you can clean even the hardest to reach places that most sane people would not even notice. My cleaning ritual begins with the interior, which just the preamble to the exterior wash, but on a hot day is by far the worst part (especially with leather seats). Either way, no stone is left unturned as I’ll even go so far as to clean out the AC vents and wipe down door jams. Then it’s on to the exterior; rims and tailpipes first, switch water, soap and tools, and then wash paint and body panels. The drying regiment and sealant application gives the car that deep shine that turns heads when you’re driving down the road.
Just as hard as it is to clean the car, it is equally as difficult to keep it clean. My fanatical nature led me to promise myself that I’d never buy a black car, because when clean there is nothing better, but that cleanliness never lasts more than a few hours. That promise lasted me 14 years and 4 different cars, but now both Jill and I own black cars and there is no escaping the relentless amount of dust, pollen, water spots and other contaminants that are seemingly attacking our cars at an alarming rate. Either way, it’s a small price to pay for that big smile I have on my face each time I see those shiny black cars sitting in the driveway fresh from a bath.