A new car would be great right now: shiny new paint, new MP3 player, awesome speakers. There’s only one problem — no money. The economy hasn’t exactly put you out of a job, but it has somewhat decreased your discretionary spending. If you’re looking to add a little something to your car, there are still some things you can do, especially since spring and summer are right around the corner.
But be careful. There are plenty of companies, particularly Internet sites, that will claim to sell brand new quality products for less than half the retail price, products which may end up being defective, says Boomer Johnson of Boom Did It Custom Car Audio and Airbrush, located in Rockford, Ill. Do your research first, he advises.
Johnson has done everything from installing a car stereo with 26 speakers to “Pimp My Ride” style work, referring to the popular MTV reality show where literal lemons are turned into colorful vehicles that only your imagination could concoct. The company has been around since 1988 and they have worked on vehicles belonging to Michael Jordan, Missy Elliot and even Dennis Rodman.
Johnson advises anyone who wants to buy electronics to buy the quality product first, not the generic version. “When you install something generic, there’s a greater chance of malfunction, which leads to spending more money for a new product and installation,” he explains.
His customers were willing to spend a nice chunk of change on their cars. But now, compared to one client who spent about $30,000 on their car about two or three years ago, customers spend no more than a couple thousand. “I guess they’re figuring out that they can do more with the money they were once spending on their cars,” says Johnson. For the colder months, the more popular add on to cars is a remote starter that runs usually around $200, and car alarms, which are the most practical accessories.
While plenty of people are being practical about where they’re spending their money, Eddie Guzman, of Guzman Custom Car Audio, 2711 W. 51st St. in Chicago, says that there are still some customers with new cars who come in and just start picking out all the electronics they want installed.
“They’ll come in to transfer their stuff from the old car to their new car,” says Guzman, whose family-owned store was started by his father about eight years ago. The shop installs everything from car radios to televisions and navigation systems.
According to Guzman, many clients come in looking for functionality. A customer’s radio could have been stolen or speakers might have been blown out, and they come in to get those accessories replaced. Other times, cars bought from dealerships offer standard radios and electronics that are low-end. Guzman says that by going to a shop, a car owner can save at least $200 for a remote start compared to getting one installed at the dealership.
A SPA FOR YOUR CAR
Your car’s look can be, by far, more important. After enduring extreme heat or cold, the paint on your car can
look a little dull and lackluster. You may get your car washed and waxed on a regular basis, but that still doesn’t bring out the shine that you saw the day you brought your precious baby home.
Ivan Rajic, of LUSTR Auto Detailing (www.lustrdetail.com), is a a car detailer: he washes and waxes your car deeper than any mop-like spaghetti-cloths. Think of it as a deep facial cleansing for your car. According to Rajic, anyone can do the actual cleansing process as long as they have time for practice and a little reading.
First, Rajic washes the cars in order to get rid of the dirt on the paint. “It should be done fairly often because the less dirt you are removing from the car, the less chance you have of scratching the finish with that dirt,” he says.
Next, he dries the car, which is pretty self-explanatory, although he does recommend that it be done with microfiber drying towels as opposed to anything terry cloth. Drying should be done with a light hand, and minimal pressure.
A clay bar is used once the car is dry to remove contamination from rail dust, tar and any small particles that are impossible to remove by just washing the car. These particles sometimes emerge during simple washes and end up scratching the paint. The clay bar will make the paint feel smooth as glass, Rajic says.
The fourth step is polishing. “Polishing is the process of removing microscopic amounts of paint in order to level the swirl marks and scratches and make them invisible,” explains Rajic. “Swirl marks are basically deeper than the paint level, so polishing removes paint around the swirl marks in order to make them even, or even enough to be invisible to the naked eye.”
When done the right way, polishing will remove almost everything that can’t be seen on the surface, as well as make the paint vibrant. If this step is not properly done, says Rajic, it can cause paint failure due to the removal of too much paint.
Sealing, which is also known as waxing, protects the finish. The sealant Rajic uses is usually a polymer, acrylic-based wax that lasts longer than the regular carnauba waxes often used in automobile waxes.
“[The polymer, acrylic-based wax] protects the finish by creating a barrier of protection from rain, snow, bird poop, salt,” he explains. “It not only protects the paint, but makes washing easier as stuff comes off much easier than on a non-sealed surface, which is why it’s very important to seal a car regularly and often.”
The last and most important step is done by the owner. Rajic says that it’s important to keep the car clean and waxed as often as possible. Proper upkeep allows for a longer paint life and it increases the value of the car. It also determines whether or not Rajic will take the time to work on your car. “I will turn away a client if they won’t properly maintain their car,” he says. “There’s no point.”
The process takes anywhere from seven to eight hours and starting at $350. He recommends that this process be done at least once a year, possibly less if the owner does his or her part to keep the car clean. Rajic also recommends that a car owner wash and wax properly every two to three months.