Piston Slap: You Dirty, Dirty Panther You!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Casey writes:

Hey Sajeev,

You once answered one of my questions regarding my Fusion of Malcontent, a car which NEVER stopped giving us issues even after we sold it: the new owner refused to put it into his name and we got many tickets from red light cameras.

Anyway, last month I purchased a beautiful Panther-platform Grand Marquis. I got a good deal on it and it’s in pristine condition with less than 50,000 miles. There are no issues with the car mechanically, but it was previously owned by someone who lived down a long red dirt road. There is dirt EVERYWHERE in the car. It’s in the light assemblies, the dash, pretty much every crevasse that one can think of.

I’ve begun the long and tiring job of cleaning it, but wondering if you have any tips, suggestions, or ideas about how I should proceed?

Currently, I’ve cleaned the entire outside of the car, the engine bay, and generally the driver’s area…but every time I look up I swear I find something else that’s covered in red dust.

How do I clean this car so that I can stop obsessing and start enjoying the Panther body that I’ve always dreamed of?

Sajeev answers:

Damn son, after your previous inquiry I assumed you’d trade the Fusion for another Camry.

No matter, I’ve seen dusty car interiors during a business trip to Lubbock shortly after a massive dust storm, so let’s get your Panther sorted!

To your query: to remove dirt or dust properly from a car interior, strip out the interior fabrics, rent a steam/carpet cleaner and go to town. One able-bodied person can do it in a weekend (this is a ridiculously easy car to strip!) but help is always encouraged when removing/installing big items like the power seats:

  1. Interior Door Panels
  2. Dash plastic and wood trim
  3. Glovebox
  4. Instrument panel below steering column
  5. Gauges
  6. Stereo
  7. HVAC head unit
  8. Front and Rear seats
  9. Rear carpeted parcel shelf
  10. Sun Visors/Overhead console
  11. Plastic Trim holding down the carpet
  12. Carpet
  13. Trunk Carpet (come on, it’s easy!)

With everything out, steam or carpet clean every non-electronic item. You could wash the Panther’s numerous hard plastic items by hand in a bucket/sink, but steamers are likely as effective and way easier on your sanity.

Also steam the HVAC vents, following up with a towel and skinny fingers/tool to collect any serious buildup. Clean electronic panels and door switchgear like a keyboard, follow up with contact cleaner on rheostats (like the volume knob on older Panthers). Though, speaking from experience, if your switchgear is a bit flaky, you can replace them for dirt cheap: peep this replacement master window switch (2006 CVPI) for $13 with free shipping on eBay. Woot!

Speaking of cheap, install entry-level aftermarket (co-axial) 5×7 speakers: Panthers were rarely blessed with quality audio (i.e, classic Ford beancounting), so play your cards right and you can get a set of four with pigtail adapters for $100-ish. It will make a world of difference.

And now that the dash and floor are mostly exposed, vacuum/mop/dry every square inch: even the door’s guts, as there could be enough dirt/dust to clog the water drains. Also consider lubricating the window regulators.

If the headliner material hasn’t peeled and/or become a foamy goo, clean it with towel/steam or a power tool…and perhaps do that before removing the back seat, so you’ll have a nice place to take a break.

What else am I missing, Best and Brightest?

[Image: ShutterStock user SpeedKingz, © 2018 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars]]

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

More by Sajeev Mehta

Join the conversation
2 of 22 comments
  • Lou_BC "respondents between 18 and 80 years old" Basically anyone deemed an adult who might be allowed to drive.
  • Lou_BC They will do fine if they come up with some cool sedans ;)
  • Mister They've got their work cut out for them. I live in a large metropolitan city of 1.2+ million people, the is a single Mitsubishi dealer. It's really more like a used-car dealer that sells Mitsubishi on the side. With the remarkably cheesy name of "Johnny Legends".
  • Kjhkjlhkjhkljh kljhjkhjklhkjh WHAT !?
  • Jeff Matt--I think this is a good move for Mitsubishi to expand their presence with satellite dealers. I had a 85 MItsubishi Mighty Max and my sister had a 83 MItsubishi Starion. MItsubishi needs to add a compact pickup to compete with the Maverick and the Santa Cruz but offer it for less. A smaller more affordable truck will sell. I believe MItsubishi should still offer an inexpensive subcompact like the Mirage it will sell in a slowing car market with high msrps. Yes I know the Mirage is probably going to be canceled but I believe in these times it is a mistake and they should reconsider cancelling the Mirage. Toyota is having problems selling the new redesigned Tacomas and Tundras with the turbo 4s and 6s. Most Tacomas have MSRPs of well over 40k. There is room for MItsubishi to grow their market share with more affordable vehicles. I am not saying Mitsubishi is going to overtake Toyota, Honda, or Nissan but they should take advantage of the more affordable market segment that these companies for the most part have abandoned. MItsubishi doesn't have to be the biggest just increase sales and become more profitable.