How to Protect Your Car From Your Kids

Parenthood and great cars – can they ever mix?

From soiled tissues to crushed-up Cheerios, door dings, and mystery patches of goo, a mom or dad’s quest for a gleaming ride – whether it’s for the love of the car itself or just an appreciation of spotlessness – can seem futile.

But lift your weary heads, ye valiant, nose-wiping souls, for I bring glad tidings of hope. There are products and strategies out there that can save your upholstery and make keeping things neat a whole lot easier. And the best part is that most of them are relatively inexpensive – and the ones that aren’t are things you’re probably going to buy anyway.

Here’s a wholesale look at the ways that kids can wreak havoc on your car and what you can do about it.

Buy the right car seat

Your car cleanliness strategy starts with a solid choice of car seat.

Any properly installed seat that’s not a booster shouldn’t have enough wiggle room to let stray food bits get trapped underneath it, so that’s not a primary concern. But there are two major ways in which your seat can make a big difference for you.

One is in the fabric cover. Before you choose a car seat, make sure that the cover is stain-resistant – completely liquid-repellant is even better but is harder to find – and that it can be easily removed for washing. (You’d be surprised at how many aren’t. Do they know they’re designing these things for children?)

The other thing to look for is the cup holders. Are they deep enough to keep a juice box upright? If you have a favourite style of to-go drink bottle, drop it in. Does the bottle flop around, and would a small bump send it flying? If so, you might prefer to opt for a different model.

Some seats have a second cup holder, which can be especially helpful as an easily accessible place to stow snacks. Picking up a separate snack cup that can be removed and cleaned regularly (or even a disposable or silicone muffin cup) can help to avoid crusty build-up in the bottom corners.

Consider a seat cover

If you have intricate details or stitching in your upholstery, or you have a messy eater or a toilet trainer (though there’s only so much that can be done on that last point), a seat liner can spare you a lot of misery. Since it will need to be placed underneath your installed car seat, you’ll need to check that the liner’s material doesn’t impede a safe installation in any way, doesn’t cause any slippage with either the car’s seat material or the child’s seat, and that it won’t leave marks due to rubbing.

Truthfully, though, you can go a long way in this department just by choosing less messy snacks. This gets easier as kids get older, but over the years we’ve had success with crumb-free options like squeezable applesauce, cheese strings, and dried fruit strips.

Protect your seat backs

For some parents, this is their absolute number one bugbear. Kids just love to put their feet on the backs of a car’s front row seats, and that inevitably means scuff marks.

The cheapest and easiest way to combat this is to make your kids take off their shoes when they get into the car. This is my household’s preferred option – when we remember to enforce it. Sometimes, we don’t.

There are also plenty of seat back protectors on the market. Some are just a clear sheet of plastic, while others have lots of pockets for stowing away kid paraphernalia like toys and books. These can come with challenges, namely that they’re unsightly and aren’t always easy for a child to reach. But every car and every family is different, so you might find one that works for you.

Alternately, you can simply resolve to keep wet-wipe manufacturers in business.

Cover your carpet

That plastic sheeting that you put under a desk chair to protect the carpet in your office can be cut to size and placed over the floor in the rear seat to protect your carpets. Or, if your backseat floor mats have a rubber backing, just flip them over.

Save your door panels

Once your kids get old enough that they decide they want to let themselves out of a car, you’ve got two more things to worry about: your own doors and those of the cars around you.

Car door edge guards can help avoid small dings in parking lots and range in price from very cheap to a fair bit more depending on how much coverage you want and how much you care about the colour matching your car’s paint. These will help to avoid minor scratches but not the deep dents left by the full-strength heaves of surprisingly strong toddlers, but it’s better than nothing.

At home in a garage, the solution is even simpler: buy some plumbing brackets and tack a couple of pool noodles to your walls at the same height as the widest part of your rear doors.

Step away from the Shop-Vac. 10/6/2017 10:00:00 AM