Northwest Cruisers Spokane and Coeur D' Alene Area PT Cruisers Club

Car Care

Below we feature some tips and suggestions for taking car of your Cruiser.

Disclaimer: the topics below are presented only as informational suggestions. Attempt them at your own risk. Discuss them with professionals and get their advice as well before attempting.

Headlight Covers:

In the past 15-25 years, the headlights on cars have changed from glass sealed beam units, to assemblies with special bulbs and plastic lenses or covers. The lenses have a problem in that the plastic oxidizes over time, becoming opaque if left alone. Being opaque they not only look bad but reduce the light output so they become a safety hazard. The only option for some time was to replace the lens, which often meant the entire headlight assembly as they were often only available as a complete unit. In answer to that problem, kits were developed and are available at auto parts stores, that claim you can use these to clean your lens. The kits usually come with two or more grades of sandpaper, some abrasive fluid and some polishing fluid and contain only enough material for two headlights. These kits are a lot of work to use, and after we tried two different kits, the results ranged from poor to a real mess. To fix the mess we obtained a third kit that proved to be easy to use and gave great results. The kit is from Meguiars®. It is their One-Step Headlight Restoration Kit. The kit includes a compound, a buffing pad and a polishing cloth. The only tool required is a drill motor. You put the pad in the drill, put a small amount of compound on the pad and begin polishing the headlight. Within a couple moments the polish will dry and you then finish with the polishing cloth. If the headlight cover is is not yet clear, you can repeat the process as needed. When done rinse out the pad, dry and store for future use. The kit contains enough compound for multiple headlights. Meguiar's website has an instruction video if you wish to view it. Not all auto parts stores carry the kit, but if they carry Meguiar products they should be able to get it for you, You may also buy it on-line at Highly recommended.

Rock Chips:

If you drive you car you will eventually get some rock chips in the paint. You can also get door dings in parking lots from inconsiderate people. The chips should be fixed to protect the area from rust and the car looks better without them. The first rule is to get the proper touch-up paint from the Chrysler dealer. DO NOT waste your time and money on touch-up paint from the auto parts store. It will not match your car color and is likely not the same chemical composition as the paint on your car. A tube of touch-up paint costs about $10. To be sure you get the right color, have your dealer check the paint code on the driver's door tag. The tube has a small brush (much like fingernail polish) and a ball tip applicator. The cardinal rule in applying the paint is to use multiple thin coats, letting each coat thoroughly dry. Keep a rag and some lacquer thinner handy to wipe off any excess. Nail polish remover will work as well. For small chips this is likely all you will need to do. However, you may can also suffer a small scratch, especially in a door. You can avoid the cost of repainting the panel using this same procedure, but with additional steps. Fill the scratch with multiple applications of the touch-up paint until the paint surfaces are the same height. Then sand lightly with wet 2000 grit sandpaper to blend. Clean the area well and then use a power buffing pad in a drill or similar device. Apply some Meguiar's Diamond Cut Compound to the pad and buff the area. If you have a favorite body shop you may wish to discuss this with them, or just have them do it, but it is not difficult once one has watched it performed and understands the process. As an example, last winter a piece of equipment fell against my Cruiser and put two scratches in the door each about 1-2 inches long. The estimate for the proper fix (repaint), was over $700. Using the above methods, one can not now see the scratches when walking around the car, but repeated applications will be needed to make the scratches go away completely. We feel its better to save the big $$ for actual body repair due to physical damage and fix the scratches and dings using the methods above.

Taking Care of Your Leather Seats:

Keep seats vacuumed and wiped. Clean with a proper leather cleaner. Treat with a proper leather care product. We suggest doing this at least twice a year, Spring and Fall. If the seats are exposed to a lot of sun, such as in a convertible, treat more often. The point is to keep the leather clean and supple. When leather dries out it shrinks, cracks, peels and is ruined.

Taking Care of Your Cruiser Ragtop:

The challenge is how to best protect the top. The only sure way is to always keep the car in the garage and under a car cover. Do not expose the top to dirt or dust, do not park under trees, keep it covered to protect against droppings, do not get it wet, and do not expose it to direct sunlight. None of the above are very practical for a ragtop, however, so one must actively take care of the top fabric to make it last.

The enemies: Dirt, Bird Droppings, Tree Sap, Water, Sun.
To Pre-Clean:
To Clean & Protect:

Other things to watch for are any signs of fabric wear at specific spots. Such wear is usually due to pressure points on the fabric when the top is down. If fabric is fraying use a fabric cement (sparingly) to bind the fibers. It may leave a small stain but that is better than letting the fabric fray. Also, locate the source of the wear and see if it can be corrected. If not practical to correct, attempt to pad the fabric with a cloth at the wear point when you put the top down.

You may ask why not just let the top deteriorate and replace it when needed? – Consider, the only source for a new top we’ve located is Chrysler. They do still list it on their direct parts web site. It is listed only in black, and it is the entire top assembly meaning all the arms and pump unit. It costs $5,000, and it still has to be installed. My favorite body shop's database listed the headliner for $2,500, the top for $1,500, and the back window for nearly $700, but we doubt the parts are actually available. We have thus far found no independent manufacturers of replacement tops.

The Cruiser ragtop is one of the best ragtops ever built due to its design, but somewhat because of how it is constructed, it is nearly irreplaceable, and very expensive to do if even possible.

Taking Care of the front lower fascia and lower grille:

This entails driving habits, not car care in the normal sense. But to violate what we will tell you herein will do moderate to severe damage to the lower front of the car. This applies more to the 2001-2005 "Gen I" models than the 2006-2010 "Gen II" models, but both are affected. The problem stems from the front end design that gives the PT some of its "retro" character. The design provides only a few inches of ground clearance, but its just enough clearance to allow the front to slip easily over curb stops and some sidewalks unless one makes a concerted effort to not drive over these obstacles. Going forward over the obstacles scratches the bottom of the lower fascia and flexes it as well. The most damage occurs when backing off these obstacles. The effect is similar to dragging a rake. Its stresses the entire lower front fascia and can actually tear the plastic its made of. On the "Gen I" models the lower grille is an insert to the main bezel assembly. It is actually attached by several Velcro discs that are glued to the main fascia. The stresses from backing up tend to pop the Velcro glued discs from the lower fascia, allowing the lower grille piece to flop around. Repeated episodes of damage can destroy the bottom of the fascia and the Velcro retainers. At that point the fix is to replace the parts, normally at a cost somewhat over $1,000 including the parts, painting and removal and installation. Other severe damage can be done as well. The 2005 Cruiser convertible I recently bought and am fixing up, has been abused in the front so bad the lower radiator support member was badly bent and had to be replaced. The lower fascia is destroyed on the underside and will have to be replaced as well. All this damage from driving over curb stops and sidewalks. PT's are not the only modern cars with low fronts that will be adversely affected by driving over curb stops and sidewalks but this web site about Cruisers. The prevention of damage is quite easy; develop the habit of not driving all the way into a parking slot, stopping short of the curb stop or sidewalk. Its simple prevention. If one does not drive over the obstacle, one won't do damage by backing off the obstacle. Your Cruiser can stay better looking for longer.

Washing the Car:

We find some folks do not wash their cars correctly. We suggest never using a car wash facility that uses the large rotating brushes and other such devices. These can do actual damage to the vehicle ( we know of antennas ripped out and fenders and mirrors damaged by such equipment). Also, they are using the wrong soap and other chemicals. We also don't use the "do-it-yourself" facilities that use the spray wands and brushes, again the soap and chemicals are wrong. If you have a heavy accumulation of dirt as we do in our area all Winter long, its OK to use the spray wand only in rinse mode to get the heavy layers off. The most common error committed when washing at home is to use the wrong soap. Do not use dish soap, laundry soap or anything else but soap made particularly for washing cars. Such soap is readily available from numerous manufacturers at your local auto supply store. We like Meguiar's products but there are numerous good choices of brands. Follow the product directions to mix the soap with water in a bucket. Try not to wash in hot direct sun, but in any case use clean water first to wet the car and cool the metal if needed. Apply the soap solution generously with a wash mitt or other such soft applicator. We use a device with a gimbal wash head on a telescoping shaft. We find that device easy to use to reach all the car surfaces including the high and low areas with out ladders or getting on your knees. Wash small areas and then thoroughly rinse the area before moving on to the next area. You should find that using the proper soap makes the washing task easier than you may have experienced with the wrong soaps. It even is quite effective at removing all but the most stubborn bugs. Once the car is washed wipe it down with a chamois or microfiber towels to prevent water spotting or streaking.



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