When your auto’s exterior looks good, chances are you feel good. Driving is especially enjoyable when you can climb behind the wheel of a shiny, clean vehicle. With some preventative maintenance, it’s possible to maintain your vehicle’s paint job so that your car keeps looking like new.

Here are six steps to maintaining your car’s exterior:

1. Wash your car on a regular basis

The longer dirt, grime and environmental stains remain on a vehicle’s paint, the duller the paint becomes. Keeping your car clean helps the paint retain a vibrant color and shine. Whether you wash your car yourself or take it to a car wash, ensure that all dust, dirt, and other damaging substances are completely removed.

2. Use cleaning products designed for autos

When washing your car, avoid using household cleaners, as they can be harsh and can damage vehicle paint. Always use a cleaner made for cars. Choose wisely what you use to scrub the car, as the paint scratches easily. Opt for a terry detailing cloth or a microfiber.

Use a chamois to dry the surface of the car after washing. If you skip the drying step, your car is likely to develop mineral spots that can stain the paint when hit by the sun.

3. Spot check and clean between washes

It never fails. Soon after you wash your car, it’s hit by bird droppings. Even though spot cleaning is a hassle, it’s important to do it between washings. Substances like bug splatter, bird droppings, pollen, and road tar dry up and cake onto your vehicle. The longer the substances remain, the more they eat into the vehicle’s paint job. Once such substances have dried on, they become much harder to remove. You may even scratch the finish trying.

4.Wax your car regularly

Though your car’s paint does have a clear coating to protect it, that’s often not enough. Sun, rain, and snow will eat through that protective layer. To ensure that your car’s paint job is shielded from the weather, wax your car at least twice a year. This provides an extra line of defense against the elements.

Car wax can also restore the shiny finish to your auto’s paint job. If your car is exposed to extreme weather, such as snow and salty roads or hot sun, you may need to apply wax several times a year. Always use a wax designed for your vehicle’s type of paint.

5. Get an annual detail

Even if you keep your car cleaned and waxed, it’s a good idea to have the vehicle professionally detailed at least once a year. A professional detail will ensure that every inch of your car’s exterior (and interior) is thoroughly cleaned.

Detailers will use special auto cleansers and/or a clay bar to remove stubborn stains that have adhered to the car’s paint. They can also take off light scratches and will wax and buff your auto to a bright shine.

6. Keep the car covered

Parking your car in a garage as much as possible will help maintain the paint job. If you don’t have a garage, it’s a good idea to use a car cover. A quality car cover will protect your vehicle from UV rays, which can fade the paint. A cover can also shield your car from hail damage and items that may hit the vehicle during windy conditions. In addition, car covers protect your auto from falling debris, such as bird droppings.

Choose a car cover that fits snugly and is made of breathable fabric. You don’t want to trap moisture in between the car and the cover, as this can cause damage to the paint.

It’s never too late to start maintaining your car’s exterior. The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll feel like you’re driving a brand new vehicle.