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Road salt can wreak havoc on car's paint job, carpeting

Dear Car Fix: I have a 2006 White Buick Lucerne. The car is in great shape, but over this winter, I wound up with salt stains on my carpet and paint (a couple of spots and some lines). Hot water and Dove dishwasher detergent did not remove it. I'd really appreciate any suggestions.

-- F.K., Angola

Dear F.K.: The first thing that stands out is that you are not using the correct products to remove the stains. Using household products removes all the wax down to the paint which can dull the finish.

I don't expect you to rush out and detail your minivan for a concourse show. But a clean car should make you feel proud to operate whatever you drive. And don't think that you can cut a corner by waiting for the next rainstorm to clean your ride. Rain doesn't qualify as nature's free car wash either.

If you choose never to clean your car, I promise that rust will appear on your vehicle and will spread, leaving you with an ugly car and a repair bill. It also will affect the resale value and the safety and structure of your vehicle. There are plenty of reasons to get rid of the grime.

Here are a few ways to get the job done right.

1. Visit an automatic car wash and pay extra for "deluxe" treatment.

2. Use the local hand washing station (done by you or by other hands).

3. Burn some calories, do-it-yourself and inject some pride into your investment.

We have harsh winter weather, so we are potential victims of salt damage. The spray wands at hand car washes provide a great way to get under your vehicle and remove this corrosive element. This salt, ash or mixture can rot exhaust systems, destroy brake lines, eat away at fuel lines and create the colorful rust that grows and spreads like cancer. Remember that salt doesn't do much to your car on subzero days. It corrodes your vehicle on warmer days when the temperatures rise into the mid-20s and higher. Get rid of salt regularly, before it eats your car.

Remember always to use automotive products.

High-quality automotive cleaning products are available online and through catalogs.

Fortunately it's easy to get salt stains out of a car carpet.

1. Vacuum up the loose pieces and stray dirt.

2. In a spray bottle, mix a solution of half warm water and half white vinegar.

3. Spray the stained area with the solution.

4. Press a dry terry-cloth towel over the wet area.

5. Remove the towel when it's soaked. Repeat until solution and white salt stains are gone.

Avoid the temptation to rub the stained area. It may damage the carpet. You can also use a foaming carpet cleaner from an auto store, working in the solution with the soft plastic brush they provide.

Automobile carpet is totally different than what's in your home. There is no padding and the backer is made of jute (which is basically insulation) plus pieces of string compressed to control sound. I get a lot of e-mails from people who have used the wrong carpet cleaning products and cost themselves more money.

Everyday weather can leave interesting gifts on our autos: acid rain, tree sap, bird droppings and bee spots. Remove such "gifts" as soon as you can. Left in place, they can etch paint and release surface contaminants that can eat away at paint.

A good coat of automotive wax will protect the outside of your car and 3M ScotchGard Auto Interior Fabric Protector helps keep auto interiors looking like new and repels oil, water and stains.

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Dear Car Fix: I would like to purchase a 2011 Nissan Murano SUV. I looked it up on the Edmunds site where it stated that premium fuel was recommended for this vehicle. Can you tell me if this is true and if it is, would using regular gas cause a problem ?

J.C., Albion

Dear J.C.: The 2011 Nissan Murano does state the use of unleaded premium gasoline with an octane rating of at least 91 AKI (Anti-Knock Index) number. If unleaded premium gasoline is not available, unleaded regular gasoline with an octane rating of at least 87 AKI can be used.

However, maximum vehicle performance will decline if you don't use the proper fuel. Newer cars have "anti-knock" sensors, but I have had some e-mails lately from drivers who were told that the dealer may not stand behind the vehicle's engine warranty if the proper fuel is not used. This can be detected by the manufacturer's computer which can be accessed by the technician.

e-mail: contact@laurenfix.com

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