With temperatures already hitting the 107-degree mark in Phoenix, one might be forgiven for questioning the fact that the summer solstice is still a month away. Regardless of the heat, however, for the procrastinators among us there is enough of the previous season remaining to justify a “spring cleaning” recommendation for customers.

The experts at Meguiar’s have put together a simple five-step plan to accomplish just such a cleaning. And while the plan is obviously aimed at the DIY consumer, the steps work just as well, and with greater convenience for the motorist, in the DIFM professional car wash/detailing environment. The entire appearance-care program, with few exceptions, can even be performed in today’s high-performance automated tunnels.

Here are the five steps Meguiar’s regards as essential:

1. Wash the Car — Well, duh! Yes, this most basic recommendation is obvious, but it is also the most important. Ridding the surface of grime helps prevent corrosion, discourages the settling of further contaminants, and is a preparatory step in the paint protection process. Where better to accomplish this task than in a modern car wash with its blend of specialized chemistry, safe friction (or high-pressure) washing, and spot-free rinsing — not to mention water saving? Also recommended: using high pressure to wash the undercarriage and wheel wells. Again, the place best equipped to do this is the local professional car wash.

2. Clean the Interior — For this particular task, the express exterior wash might come up short for the DIFM customer, unless the operator has added some labor to provide additional services. But even without those extra services, the express is ahead of the game. The DIY customer will not find a more effective vacuum outside of an express wash, and consider the convenience of the on-site coin-operated mat cleaner. At a self-service wash the customer will find these facilities and more: carpet shampooer, spot remover, fragrance dispenser, vending machines, etc.

3. Clay the Car — Granted, for this one the customer will probably need to visit a full-service or flex-service wash — or possibly employ the services of a detailer. While the modern conveyor tunnel goes a long way to eliminating stubborn, hard-to-remove grime, claying still results in a smoother prepared surface.

4. Paint Protection — In this regard the professional car care business offers the consumer a wide choice. The latest pay wax applications in the conveyor tunnel offer great protection — and you can’t beat the speed. Whole car polishing in a polishing tunnel is a step up. Express polishing in the detail area offers a further choice. For the ultimate in paint protection, read the Auto Detailing column in this issue (page 12).

5. Wheels — We already know how important wheels are in clean-car perception.

In the International Carwash Association’s latest Consumer Research Study, survey participants placed clean wheels and rims at the top of the list of what they valued most. Car wash operators are well placed to meet consumer expectations. From CTAs to tire brushes to high-pressure blasters to tire-dressing applicators — the conveyor tunnel has everything necessary to produce clean and shiny wheels.

Considering the time and effort involved in manually performing tasks one through five, one must conclude that it is only the seriously committed car enthusiast who would still choose the DIY route. My suggestion: seek professional help.