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Preparation and maintenance can reduce winter's toll on your vehicle's interior

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It's a concept you're familiar with from the entrance way to your house: in wintertime, salt, sand, dirt and moisture all wind up getting inside and making a mess. Whether tracked in on boots, clothing or pets, the above wind up attacking flooring and carpeting and can be easily ground in- causing damage if not properly cleaned up.


The same problem occurs within your family's car, truck or SUV in the cold months- though it stands to suffer more harm since few take the time to clean their vehicle's interior when it's twenty below.

Of course, a bit of interior maintenance and cleaning can go a long way in keeping your vehicle looking, feeling and smelling new and well taken care of. This becomes especially important when the time comes to trade in or sell. A car that's been well maintained and presents itself that way will ultimately be worth more than one that wasn't.

So, how do you stop that abrasive, salty solution from further ruining your vehicle's carpeting? The answer is relatively simple and deals with fairly common-sense preparation and maintenance.

Preparation may come in the form of some all-season floor mats, strategically installed prior to wintertime. A generic set can be found for about $20 from your local car parts retailer, while custom shops or your dealership may charge over $100 for a set of form-fitting mats tailored specifically to your vehicle. The latter is the most desirable choice if they fit your budget. They'll catch just about everything tracked inside the car, even around the edges.

A decent all season floor mat is made of thick, robust rubber and is deep enough to trap large amounts of water and sand. By letting the easily washable floor mats trap slush and salt, you'll wind up keeping your carpeting free of abrasion and stains.

If you drive a minivan, five-seat pickup or crossover SUV, consider a single-piece floor mat that stretches the width of the rear seating area. This type of mat resists shifting and offers added protection when larger cargo items are loaded on board.

Maybe you're already halfway through the winter and your carpet floor mats look like frozen fabric ice-blocks spotted with chunks of hardened salt. Even if that's the case, it's not too late for a set of rubber mats. Just yank the carpeted mats and clean the salt stains with a bristle-brush in your laundry room wash basin.


If the carpeting under the floor mats is also in poor shape, it's important to clean things first, rather than just covering the mess. A good vacuuming will remove loose sand and salt, though a brush or even carpet shampooing may be required to remove deeper stains. Some say a kettle of boiling water and a shop-vac work well to dissolve and suck up salt stains, too. Let the carpeting dry thoroughly before putting a heavy rubber floor-mat on top though- or you'll almost definitely wind up with mildew.

When considering a set of rubber mats for your ride, note that what you see in salt and moisture on the carpeting is only the beginning. That corrosive solution of salt water will easily soak through carpeting and into the floor-pan beneath, causing accelerated corrosion and body damage.

If you haven't got the time or tools to properly clean your vehicle's interior when it's cold outside, your dealership likely offers a selection of cleaning services that can be performed during your next oil change or tune-up. Be sure to ask about a carpet shampoo and some form-fitting mats next time you're in.
photo:Jupiter Images, Philippe Champoux