By on December 14, 2018

crown vic

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!

Crown Victoria Power Window Switches, Image: Sajeev Mehta

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 [email protected] 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.

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22 Comments on “Piston Slap: You Dirty, Dirty Panther You!...”

  • avatar

    Or you can just take it through a carwash with the windows open ;-)

  • avatar

    I use an old electric leaf blower I picked up at a yard sale for $5 to remove any excess water. My friend has been using one for years on his motorcycles. It also makes cleaning the windows/any chrome easier. It’s helpful in engine bays, too, where you don’t necessarily want water hanging around after washing. Best $5 I ever spent.

    Also, not sure how tough it is to remove the pieces around the cowl/wiper area, but I bet a lot of dirt has settled in there.

    • 0 avatar

      I used to hate leaf blowers because they are so loud but I have gotten the hang of them and they are very useful. I think it would work really well for the Casey’s purpose here. As long as everything is dry it will blast the dust out of everywhere.

  • avatar

    Ignore what you cannot see.

  • avatar

    I’d just be lazy and take it to a well-regarded detailer.

    • 0 avatar

      Ding Ding….you win!!

    • 0 avatar
      01 Deville

      This. Seems like the car has low miles and you plan to keep it for long time and cleanliness is important for you. So, unless cleaning you car is something you enjoy (there are all kinds of people out there) take it to a good detail shop, and don’t hesitate to spend the money. I would always pay a couple hundred to save a weekend

      • 0 avatar

        For less than $300 bucks there’s a place in Albuquerque where I can get the whole 3 rows of my Highlander detailed inside and out even buffed with an orbital polisher.

        What’s your time worth? (Don’t assume your labor is free. What else is on your to-do list?)

  • avatar

    How to clean a car? Seriously? You just, umm, CLEAN IT! Helps to have a garage or to wait for decent weather, but aside from that, just clean it!

  • avatar

    Leaf blower +1000 for interior dust and dirt removal.. Works like a champ and it is fast. You can shampoo/vac after. It will make a huge diff.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    This. Seems like the car has low miles and you plan to keep it for long time and cleanliness is important for you. So, unless cleaning you car is something you enjoy (there are all kinds of people out there) take it to a good detail shop, and don’t hesitate to spend the money. I would always pay a couple hundred to save a weekend

  • avatar

    I just hope that when you get to the carpets up front you wont witness the surprise that I was in for, RUST!

    Otherwise, while you’re gutting the interior you may as well play around with junkyard parts and add some extra features Ford removed from these cars, like door working lights. Clean the trunk out too, is slopes down so dirt gets backed up in there under the carpet.

    Finally, remove the plastic wiper cowl area up front, its probably backed up with loads of dirt and leafs. If it is, you can end up with water going onto your floors.

  • avatar

    Or just sell it.

    Because nobody who isn’t getting paid to while wearing a uniform should have to drive one of these god-awful arks.

    • 0 avatar

      This: If you are a car guy (and reading this site) then if you have Panther Love, go for it. Generally, though, they don’t strike me as either current or enthusiast. Hey, folks collect Pacers and Vegas too, and folks will cluster around them at car shows, so cool.

      A good buy for the right person, big, inexpensive….but kinda like a supersize. More of it, but not necessarily better.

      • 0 avatar

        I simply find that unless you are a fleet operator, these things have no redeeming value. They are huge on the outside but cramped on the inside. Slow but thirsty. They handle with all the grace of the average oil tanker. The ride is an annoying combination of jittery and wallowy, and I have never driven one that tracked down the road worth a darn. The steering has all the feel of a frisbie held at arms length. If you simply must have a big, dumb, cheap, RWD sedan, buy a Volvo 940. It’s the Panther done properly, with MUCH better seats.

        I have driven WAY too many of these things due to Hertz having a sense of humor when it comes to what “upgrade” means, especially in places like Lincoln Nebraska. Thank God they are all gone from the fleet. I’m no fan of the ubiquitous Hertz Infiniti Q50, but it is roughly 10000X as good a Grand Marquis. Unless you run a taxi service. At least I was getting paid, even without the uniform.

        • 0 avatar

          As a Panther fan and after driving many examples myself… I dont disagree. As dull as Camrys can be theyre a more practical beater. Ditto 940/740s, when you can find them.

          Panthers good for demo derbys and fleet use where their few good traits (durability and cheap parts) shine. Mines been quite reliable but its hard to park, gulps gas, awful rust, worst paint Ive seen on a car. I absolutely loathe the steering myself, makes me want an old Volvo 240 again, or even my Tercel.

          PS: On a side note Hodes1, Im looking into a 95 940 sedan with 108k on it and a 98 Saab 900 turbo, which do you reccomend as a daily driver?

  • avatar

    Fusion is much better car, don’t see how someone can enjoy GM after driving Fusion (in proper trim of course not base one). But I digress. When I owned Lada Sputnik (a.k.a. 3 door Samara) I striped interior, completely, just for fun because had nothing better to do during long Russian winter. It was very easy, did not need any help, but better I would not do that. Because what I saw was rust everywhere, on the floor, on the roof, on the doors. I was terrified because time would come when floor and roof will fall off while I am driving the car. I bought that car used. Year later I sold it and bought Toyota which did not have any issues with rust.

  • avatar

    “new owner refused to put it into his name”

    In MN, it doesn’t matter IF you go to the DMV when you sell the car and you put it in their name. Sold my car to my neighbor. He’s honest and probably put the car in his name right away. Regardless, I did it too.

    Most people don’t know this is an option. Not sure how other states work.

  • avatar
    Dean Speed-e-poole

    The answer you seek is “air duster” on a compressor !

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    A Fusion is a much better car.

  • avatar
    CKNSLS Sierra SLT

    A dirty dinosaur finds a new home……

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