Mother's day gift suggestion: Car care for mom

Consumer Reports News: May 07, 2010 11:15 AM

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Need a last-minute gift suggestion for Mother's Day? Consider treating her ride to a makeover. Admittedly, this may not rival sending her to a true day spa, breakfast in bed, a fancy dinner, or even flowers, but it can be done at home on a modest budget, investing mostly time and elbow grease.

Let's face it: moms spend a great deal of time in the car, shuttling little ones around, running errands, and commuting to work. For many busy moms, there is likely little energy, time (or, probably, interest) for car detailing.

Taking on the chore of cleaning the car--top to bottom--can enhance her "mom's taxi" experience, provide a low-cost yet well-meaning gift, and help preserve the car's resale value.

To get you started, here are some tips to help keep the mom-mobile in top shape.

  • Declutter. Most of the stuff packed in the car isn’t necessarily mom’s items. Clean out toys, music, DVDs, and books. Either remove them from the car or neatly pack them into a side compartment or seat back pocket. Removing every non-essential item also lightens the car, improving fuel economy.
  • Remove the trash and freshen up. Take out all the garbage and put in a sweet smelling air freshener to remove the stench of the smelly soccer cleats or week-old french fries.
  • Give the car a good, careful scrubbing and vacuum out the interior, including in the seat crevices. Make sure you have the proper supplies like a dedicated car-wash product and soft sponge. See our car-washing tips for a list of dos and don’ts.
  • Fill’er up. Fill up the gas tank and top the fluids (such as the windshield washer reservoir). And give the car an oil change if it’s due.
  • Check the tires and wipers. You don’t want mom stuck on the side of the road, so check and replace the tires if the tread is getting worn. (We recommend less than 1/8 inch of tread left.) Also check the wipers for any streaks that can hurt visibility. See our Ratings and buying advice on tires and windshield wipers.

While these are inexpensive ways to keep mom happy in her car, they go a long way to relieving the stress busy moms face. And, trust us--moms don’t want to deal with these things. For those moms interested in some help navigating the roads, see our GPS buying advice and Ratings. Also, check out some techie gift suggestions outside the car from our Electronics blog.

For more on car maintenance, see our guide.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Liza Barth

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