AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
How to wash your car 47
Small SUVs and full-sized pickups 48
MAINTAINING YOUR CAR'S appearance is a big part of optimizing its resale value, and the more elbow grease you're willing to invest, the less money you'll need to pay someone to do it. Here are some tips to help you:
Wash often. Use a soap designed for cars, since it is less likely to strip wax. Wash in cool shade or when it's overcast; the surface should be cool so that it doesn't dry quickly. Work in sections, to keep the soap from drying before you rinse. Use a chamois or microfiber cloth to prevent scratching when drying.
Wipe your wipers. Use window cleaner to keep your windshield wipers clean and keep them tight against your windshield. Replace the wipers twice a year.
Polish periodically. Wax your car a few times a year, especially in the spring and fall, to protect the paint from the sun and elements. Liquid and paste car waxes are more durable and clean better than spray products, but they require more effort. Some inexpensive waxes, notably by Turtle Wax and Black Magic, perform as well or better in our tests as the pricey ones favored by enthusiasts, but preventing streaks might require some effort. Make sure the polish you use is safe for clearcoat finishes, now found on most cars.
Clean your wheels. Gently remove brake dust and tar by using a dedicated wheel cleaner and a sponge. Use a cleaner that's labeled safe for use on all wheels.
Rub out scratches. Fine scratches can often be polished out. Scratch removers are effective, but some create hazing; we've found that Quixx performs best. Try a remover in a hidden area first. Scratches that expose the primer or metal must be repainted. You can use touch-up paint, but a professional should give the best results.
Tend to inside details. Clearing trash and cleaning filmy windows tackles only part of the job. Less obvious tasks such as cleaning dusty air vents go a long way toward making your ride more pleasant. Also clean buttons and switches because excessive grit can cause them to fail. An all-purpose household cleaner is all you need for hard surfaces; automotive vinyl cleaners leave a glossy residue that can create glare on top of the dashboard and make the steering wheel slippery. Use a cotton swab and a small paintbrush to clean in seams, vents, and other tight areas.
Clean your fabrics. Steam cleaners work best for carpets and cloth upholstery. Otherwise, use a stiff brush to work a spray-on cleaner into the carpet or a softbristled brush for seats and the trunk. Don't soak the fabric, which can cause mildew. Leather surfaces need a dedicated leather cleaner. Follow up with leather conditioner. Vacuum last, since cleaning other areas often dislodges dirt.
Scrub under the hood. Wear gloves and eye protection, especially when working around the battery. Clean the battery with a stiff brush dipped in a mixture of water and baking soda, and pay special attention to corroded parts. Wash engine parts with soap and water or a degreasing cleaner. Keep water away from the air intake, fuse box, cable junctions, and any electrical connections.
Those steps won't turn back the clock for your vehicle, but they'll make it more pleasant to drive and perhaps fetch you a better price when it comes time to sell.
Upscale sedans We test the Acura TSX, Audi A4, Infiniti G37, and Volkswagen CC. Plus: Toyota's new Venza wagon.
The four-cylinder RAV4 tops our latest tests
THE FRESHENED TOYOTA RAV4 earned the top score in our latest test of small SUVs and outscored the redesigned Subaru Forester 2.5X, which we tested for the August 2008 issue. In this class, the RAV4's score of 82 is below only that of the more expensive, turbocharged Forester 2.5XT and RAV4 V6.
The RAV4 got a new 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine for 2009, replacing the old 2.4-liter. The smoother, quieter engine delivers the same fuel economy as the one it replaces, which at 23 mpg overall is the best of any automatic, nonhybrid SUV we've tested. Other incremental improvements also helped the RAV4 outscore all others in this group and edge out the similarly equipped Forester.
The RAV4 and Forester are excellent choices. The Forester has a slightly more comfortable ride, and the RAV4 is a bit more sparing with fuel. The RAV4's edge over the Forester in the popular low- to mid-$20,000s price range is why we named it our Top Pick in the April Auto Issue.
The Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner twins have been updated this year, with revised four- and six-cylinder engines, six-speed transmissions, and better brakes. (Mazda's Tribute is virtually the same.)
We tested a Ford Escape with each powertrain and found the improved V6 engine to be powerful without degrading fuel economy. We also tested a Mercury Mariner Hybrid, which returned 26 mpg overall, the best fuel economy of any SUV we've tested. Both the Escape and Mariner now score well enough in our tests to be recommended.
Rounding out this month's test group of small SUVs are the Suzuki Grand Vitara, now available in a four-cylinder version, and the updated Jeep Patriot. The Patriot has gotten a bit quieter and has improved interior finish, but it scored too low in our tests to be recommended.
Prices for our small SUVs ranged from $22,563 for the Suzuki to $36,615 for our loaded Mariner Hybrid.
The redesigned Chevrolet Equinox joins the small-SUV category in June. Our early impression is that the Equinox is much improved over the previous model.
Road-test videos of recently tested vehicles are available free at www.ConsumerReports.org. Click on Videos at the top of the home page.
Full-sized pickup trucks
The freshened Ford F-150 narrowly outscored the redesigned Dodge Ram in our latest tests. But the F-150 did not unseat the top-rated Chevrolet Avalanche, with its unusual unified cab and cargo bed, or the updated Chevrolet Silverado, which has a new transmission that improves acceleration and fuel economy.
The F-150 is very capable, with improved performance and braking and a quieter cabin. With average reliability, it is also recommended.
The Ram has an improved interior and is quieter and more refined than its predecessor. Rear coil springs have given it a much improved ride. But the redesign is too new for us to have reliability information, so we cannot recommend it.
See reports on pages 53-55.
The RAV4 is a well-rounded package, combining good all-around performance with a comfortable ride, agile handling, and outstanding reliability. It also provides a civilized new engine that gets impressive fuel economy and an optional third-row bench that brings seating to seven in a pinch. Cabin furnishings include straightforward …