Nancy Knows: Miles of a Mom’s Musings

Having raised 4 children while running a small business, I’ve logged in a lot of miles. I have driven more than one of our family vehicles well beyond the 200,000 mile-mark during the last 33 years. You could say I know a thing or two about keeping a vehicle safe, reliable, and looking good for the long haul.

In addition to finding a trusted mechanic (I happen to be married to mine) and having the routine auto maintenance services for the proper mileage intervals done as recommended by the owner’s manual, there are a few things you can do to maintain the appearance and fresh smell of your vehicle to enhance its long term value.

  • Vacuum your carpets and upholstery regularly.  Invest in a good wet/dry shop vacuum and use the crevice tools and brushes to get into every nook and cranny. This will help remove dirt that’s been tracked in by little Johnny and 5 of his Little League teammates, or food crumbs that have collected in the booster seat from feeding your toddler in the car on the way to little Johnny’s games. If you have a teen/pre-teen at home, this is a great job for them! You can play a game of:”Try to identify this previously edible food item.” Kids are naturally intrigued by anything gross. Go with 

  • Shampoo your car interior as much as possible.  I know. I know. You hardly have time to shampoo your own hair, let alone the car interior.  Trust me, staying on top of this will help eliminate those offensive smells that linger from the sweaty bodies crammed in during carpool, as well as the errant bodily functions that often times occur on long distance family road trips. A mixture of baking soda and borax makes a great dry shampoo for your carpets and fabric upholstery. Sprinkle it on, work it in with a brush and let it set in for a couple of hours or overnight; then vacuum. This will clean and deodorize your vehicle when wet shampooing is not possible.

  • Make sure to blot spills and accidents as they occur.  Keep baby wipes and/or bleach-free disinfecting wipes and a roll of paper towels in the car at all times. You have these in your arsenal of parent tricks already don’t you?  If so, you can disregard this point.

  • Purchase heavy duty mats for your vehicle passenger and cargo areas.  I am a big fan of the WeatherTech Extreme-Duty Digital Fit Floor Liners: ( These laser-measured beauties are worth every penny. The high lip prevents the most hideous spills such as that fluorescent Gatorade, from reaching the carpet underneath.
  • Use charcoal to control odors.  Another product I love is the 200 Gram Bamboo Charcoal Bag from  (also available at Bed Bath and Beyond).   These bags naturally remove odors and bacteria.  They are fragrance-free, non-toxic, eco-friendly and they last up to two years.  To rejuvenate them, place in direct sunlight once a month for at least one hour.  It’s pure genius.  If you prefer a more distinct aroma, try using essential oils on cotton balls placed under the seat or onto a clothespin that’s clipped to the air vent. 
  • Wash and wax your vehicle regularly.  A good professional car wash with an     undercarriage cleaning is a must during the winter months. This prevents corrosion from road salts and de-icing solution.  During the warm weather months, consider washing and waxing it yourself and enlist your kids to help.  Some of my most favorite family memories are of us washing the car together in the driveway.  Just be sure to practice patience.  You can’t expect perfection:”Hey, you missed a spot!”  It is amazing how much laughter is created by a bucket of car wash soap, some sponges and a garden hose.  Just remember to close the windows and doors before you turn on the water!