Primp Your Ride

I don’t know too many moms who really “identify” with their vehicles. I mean, it’s not often that you’ll hear a woman say, “Hey, what do you think of my new red mini-van? Isn’t she sweet?” And it’s probably even more rare to hear her talk about suping up the engine, raising the suspension, or painting racing stripes on the Mom-Mobile. It’s just not done.

However, most mothers do spend a great deal of time in their cars. Field trips, errands, and the daily commute keep Mom on the road, up to several hours a day. Not only is this great wear and tear on the vehicle itself, but carting kids and cargo all over town also takes its toll on the insides.

Well, Mom, as the family’s official Queen of the Road, it’s time to take charge. The following are some tips to keep your chariot neat and organized, ensuring that your ride will be a smooth one.

Take an hour or two and completely empty the contents of your vehicle. Chances are you don’t need five lipsticks, a sand shovel, or three empty yogurt containers. Discard what is trash and put away the items that you won’t use on the road at least daily or weekly.

Deep clean.
If taking your car to the detailers is out of the budget, enlist some able body helpers (spouse, children, neighbor kids, friends) to wash windows and vacuum the interior. Wipe dust, grime, and goo off dashboards, consoles, arm rests, and cup holders. Repeat this on a regular basis to keep your interior in good condition. Likewise, give your vehicle’s exterior a good washing regularly.

There are a number of organizers on the market made especially for automobiles. However, a plastic tote or caddy also suffices for holding cell phone, maps, a small makeup bag, bottled water, whatever small items you may need while out and about. Keep them contained so that they are within easy reach and not flying about willy-nilly. Placing a similar container between the kids’ seats gives them a place to hold small toys and books. Encourage the kiddos to clean up their stuff when leaving the vehicle.

Organize your tunes.
Sort through the collection of CDs and tapes that has grown over time. Refresh your selection by adding new choices and taking the old ones back to the house. Situate these within easy reach in your vehicle. Periodically, rotate your choices so that you’re not bored on the road. Consider checking out audio books from the library as a way to spice up your drive time.

Perform mechanical checks and maintenance on a regular basis.
If you are not mechanically minded, make arrangements to have fluids and tires checked regularly. Have your oil changed at least every 6,000 miles. Many quick service oil centers will do all the necessary checks so that you can keep your vehicle in prime working condition. 

Be prepared for little emergencies.
Stow a box in the trunk or cargo bay with a first aid kit as well as a change of clothes for each child, a few non-perishable snacks, and bottled water. If there’s a baby in the house, store a spare diaper bag packed with supplies.

Meals on wheels.
Chances are you have at least one meal a week on the road. Pack a small box or basket with extra condiments, straws, plasticware and napkins. Having a plastic tablecloth along also makes it easy to stop at a park and enjoy that meal in a more leisurely manner.

Instill good habits.
Keep a stash of plastic grocery sacks or small trash bags in your vehicle for periodic cleaning. Encourage kids to remove their belongings each time you hit the driveway. Make a habit of emptying trash and washing the windows each time you stop for gas. Stock a packet of window cleaning wipes and paper towels to make this easier.

Fill the tank.
Nothing makes the morning dash for school more harried than the fear of running empty. Keep the tank filled. Stop at the filling station before you’re in a hurry. Heed the warning lights on your dashboard. Check often and tank up when you hit a quarter tank.

While these suggestions won’t solve traffic or the problem of road rage, making a few changes in how you organize and maintain your car can help the ride be a little more pleasant. You won’t be driving the Mom-Mobile forever, so enjoy the ride!