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FJ Cruiser Cleaning

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cleaning coverOpinions and information on the best way to clean your FJ Cruiser is plentiful and varied. We each have our own products, methods, and traditions that we’re used to. Before we discuss what’s worked best for us, we should say that if you’re happy with what works for you, stick with it. Hopefully you’ll find some of these tips helpful. If you have tips that we haven’t covered here, send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and we’ll add them to the Readers Thoughts section on the website.

Most people that look at your FJ see the exterior, so why not keep it looking great? We understand that many FJ’s are meant to be used and therefore will never look like they did brand new, but taking good care of the exterior will help your truck last longer. During and after events, we generally use a pay wash to get the mud & gunk off our truck, but when it’s time for a hand washing, there are plenty of options available.

It seems that every manufacturer claims that their car wash is the best, get’s off the most dirt, and is all around...amazing! In our experience though, a car wash is a car wash. Buy a quality brand that you’ve heard of and you should be OK. We like either Meguires NXT or TurtleWax ICE for a basic car wash.  If you do choose to use a drive-through car wash, make sure it’s the “No Touch” variety. Automatic washes that use fabric brushes can leave tiny swirl marks or scratches on your truck.

Exterior Wax

Most detailers recommend waxing your truck at least twice a year, maybe more depending on your climate. We usually wax the FJ once in the fall & once in the spring. If we notice that water is no longer beading up on the paint we'll sometimes have a quick wax done at a detail shop. We've always used Mothers Carnuba Cleaner wax for full wax jobs and have never been disappointed. For this article, however, we wanted to compare a few different products. Autoglym is a well known car care product company in Europe that has recently expanded to the US. They sent over a few items for us to include in our comparison: The Perfect Palm applicator, their High Definition Wax, and their Vinyl & Rubber Care (see below). For good measure, we also included Turtle Wax ICE Synthetic spray on wax in this comparison.

Starting with Turtle Wax ICE, it's easy to see that this product is not meant for a full wax job. This spray on, buff out wax is certainly quick and easy, but it just doesn't shine the truck as much as a traditional wax. I would say this is a good in-between hand wax alternative, at only about $9.99 for a bottle, it's not a bad investment for a quick detail.

The tried and true Mothers Carnuba Cleaner Wax always performs great. One thing we really like about this traditional wax is that it takes off little water spots and other debris that may have been missed in the initial washing. After applying the wax, letting it set up, and buffing it out, the black paint on our TRD really shines. This wax usually lasts between 2 and 4 months, depending on the weather and how often we wash the FJ. At about $9.99 for a 12oz can, it's a great, dependable option.

Autoglym's High Definition wax is a  blend of durable polymers, Carnauba and microcrystalline waxes, hydrocarbons, and oils that applies easily and goes a long way. The HD wax kit comes with two applicator sponges, a 5.3oz can of wax, and a microfiber buffing cloth. We found that a little of this wax covers much more area than traditional waxes, which means less time applying wax to the FJ. The included application sponges are more comfortable than a regular wax applicator, and their design allows you to get into smaller areas. We also tried the Perfect Palm Applicator from Autoglym, and it works great for larger areas (like the hood), but in the small tight areas it wasn't flexible enough to apply wax properly. We also found that after extended use the Perfect Palm caused a little cramping in our hands.

Black Plastic Trim
One of the other major areas on the FJ that needs regular attention is all the black plastic. After a few trips in the mountains, the associated quick washes, and general weathering, the black trim pieces end up looking gray at best. To address this problem, Autoglym also sent us a bottle of their Vinyl & Rubber care product. We've always used 303 Aerospace Protectant and Mother's Back to Black to take care of our black trim, so let's see how the three compare.

As it turns out, 303 Aerospace Protectant is great for the interior (see below), but isn't the best product for the exterior plastic. In our comparison picture it's clear to see that the Autoglym product and Back to Black really bring the plastic back to life. While these two products are very close, in our opinion the Back to Black makes the trim pieces 'pop' a little more. Still, we applied  the Vinyl & Rubber care to the drivers side of the FJ, so we can test the long term durability. In the past we've noticed that Back to Black can wear off in a few weeks. We'll update you on how the Autoglym product holds up.

Here are some other products we’ve heard good things about to help clean your exterior:
Meguires NXT Product Line
Goof Off to get the wax off of plastic

Editor's Note:
One paint care option we're not covering in this article is using a clay bar treatment. Many people use this method to remove all surface contaminants from your paint completely, so the new wax will protect your FJ better. While this method is very common among show vehicles, we find that many FJ Cruiser owners don't use a clay bar very often. Still, if you're looking for the absolute best wax shine, using a clay bar will help out immensely.

Interior Care
Depending on how you use your truck, you may very rarely touch the interior of your FJ. We’re on the other end of that spectrum and really prefer our interior to be clean and dust free as much as possible. We use the basics for cleaning our interior: soap & water. A couple of drops of dishsoap in a spray bottle of water easily get the dirt & dust off the dash and all the plastic parts. We then follow it up with a coat of 303 Aerospace Protectant to protect against UV rays and keep everything looking sharp. We've also tested Autoglym's Vinyl & Rubber care on our interior plastic to see how it performs, and so far it's matching the 303 Aerospace very well. We'll keep you updated on how it holds up over the long term. For applying these products, we've found a clean microfiber cloth works best and doesn't leave lint behind.

For the seats, we usually vacuum them well and use the same soap & water spray to get any spots out. Hair from our dogs always gets embedded in the seats, so it takes quite a bit of vacuuming to get it out. We've just added the Wet Okole seat covers (page 10), and we'll be reviewing the Clazzio seat covers in the July 2010 issue. We'll update more on both of these options in future issues.

For cleaning the glass in our FJ, we use a non-ammonia based cleaner we picked up the last time we had the windshield replaced. It’s very high grade and isn’t cheap (about $7/can), but it’s streak free and won’t harm any of the UV protection on our windows. Again, we use a microfiber cloth for a lint and streak free cleaning.

Under the Hood
While some people are very meticulous about cleaning their engine bay, we lean more toward the 'once a year whether it needs it or not' side. With that being said, this article would not be complete without comparing a couple of engine cleaning options. Please keep in mind that when we clean our engine, we give it the good once over, so it will always have some dirt left. For those that wish to have a perfectly clean engine bay we recommend several brushes of varying sizes.

Like all other cleaning products, there are dozens of engine cleaning options at your local auto parts store. We decided to go with two popular options for our test: Black Magic 2 in 1 Engine Shine, and good old Simple Green. We've never used Simple Green on our engine before, so when we read online that it worked very well, we had to give it a try.

It's pretty clear to us that for a no-brushing, no-scrubbing engine cleaner solution, the foaming action of the Black Magic 2 in 1 Engine Shine works better than Simple Green. While Simple Green was able to get some dirt out, it left more residue than the Black Magic. Again, there are many different engine cleaning options, so read all product labels carefully before deciding which one to use.

We also want to mention a couple of key points when cleaning your engine:
1)    It's better to clean a WARM (but not HOT) engine than a cold one.
2)    After you apply the product, let it stand in the shade for 15-20 minutes (see directions for the product you're using)
3)    Be cautious of your belts, alternator, and any aftermarket wiring you've installed. Too much water can damage these components.
4)    ALWAYS use LOW PRESSURE water. High pressure can get where it's not supposed to and really make a mess of things
5)    Clean your engine at your own risk. Failure to follow directions on the product you're using can cause damage.

It's interesting that after we spend the better part of a day getting our FJ Cruiser detailed, it usually stays that way for less than a week. We love how our TRD looks when it's clean, but these trucks really need to be dirty. Do you have any before/after or dirty/clean pics of your FJ? Send them to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. & we'll add them to this article. You can also tag your pics with “FJCMagazine” on Flickr for them to show up in our photostream.



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