Keeping a vehicle clean is not as hard as some people might think. The basics of cleaning are getting easier and easier, as today's car care companies have spent millions in R&D ("research and development") to bring you the best products for your needs. These companies know that different people have different needs; some people want to get down and dirty while others want to get the same results with minimal effort.

That's why some manufacturers have developed new technologies like "wax as you dry," which leaves a smooth, deep finish on your car without turning it into an all-day project. Today's technology has come a long way from years ago. For one thing, the involvement of environmental groups has forced the industry to "clean up its act" and step up its game. Car care companies have had to create products that can clean while using less water, as the run-off can contaminate the oceans. They have developed car washes that recycle water, and most car washes in the nation are being converted to this new technology.

The paint finish industry has really evolved as well, producing urethane paints that can be color-sanded and buffed just a few hours after they've been sprayed (if shot properly). This means that the process and products for buffing a car's finish have also evolved. The chemicals and solutions involved to give you a deep color are better than ever. Automotive paints-whether a single-stage lacquer or three-stage urethane-are not the same as in the past. To this day, paint manufacturers spend thousands of hours making sure that their finishes look as rich as the old-style paint jobs. By 2009, custom painting is going to be done with water-base format paint. The paint companies will most likely have to reinvent themselves, in turn bringing new care products to accommodate the new paint finishes.

New waxes are not like the old waxes that you had to strip off after several coats and start over due to too much build-up. Believe it or not, there are now a few waxes on the market that are designed to work with having more wax put on top of it, getting rid of all the unwanted swirl marks and light scratches caused by improper care or even normal wear and tear. Some manufacturers, like Turtle Wax, have developed wax that dries clear. These waxes also don't stain plastic trim like other waxes did in the past.

How to keep it clean is sometimes easier than you think. A little elbow grease and you're on your way. The first step in cleaning the interior of your car is to vacuum it thoroughly. Use a vacuum with a flexible extension and a crevice tool. This will help to reach difficult areas like around the dash and console. The first step in washing your vehicle's exterior will normally be to clean the tires and wheels, which prevents splashing your car's freshly cleaned and waxed paint.

This is an extremely important step, since brake dust, if allowed to remain, can permanently bond with and etch some wheel surfaces. When you're ready to wash and wax your vehicle's exterior, make sure that the paint surface is cool to the touch. It's also a good idea to start washing your car from the top and work your way down.

Here are nine simple steps for maintaining a clean, beautiful car. How many of these steps do you perform when cleaning your ride? Following this order should help keep your car looking like a champ.

1. Vacuum the interior2. Clean the wheels3. Wash/dry the exterior4. Quick wax5. Polish/wax6. Dress the tires and exterior trim7. Dress the interior8. Glass surfaces9. Final wipe and touch-up

Our 2007 Car Care Guide will take you back to basics, as we're going to show you how to clean and wax your ride the lowrider way. Now check out some of the latest car care items that you should not be without.