Piston Slap: You Dirty, Dirty Panther You!

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap you dirty dirty panther you

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.

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2 of 22 comments
  • Johnster Minor quibble. The down-sized full-sized 1980-only Continental (which was available with Town Car and Town Coupe trims) gave up its name in 1981 and became the Town Car. The name "Town Coupe" was never used after the 1980 model year. The 1981 Lincoln Town Car was available with a 2-door body style, but the 2-door Lincoln Town Car was discontinued and not offered for the 1982 model year and never returned to the Lincoln lineup.
  • Zipper69 Some discreet dwebadging and this will pass for a $95k Lucid Air...
  • Zipper69 Does it REALLY have to be a four door?Surely a truly compact vehicle could stick with the half-door access with jump seats for short term passengers.
  • ToolGuy See kids, you can keep your old car in good condition.
  • ToolGuy MUAWGA