Buying a car is likely to be one of the biggest investments you’ll make in a lifetime, next to buying a house. Because it’s such a big investment, you should know the proper steps to detailing your car to make it look immaculate. If you spend all that money on a car, you won’t want to drive around in a car looking like it’s never seen water before. I will guide you and tell you the step by step process in detailing your car without ruining the paint and make it look brand new. (It’s a more detailed process than you think.)
Step 1: The Wash
This would seem like a simple to most, but those people don’t realize they might be doing it wrong in a way that is hurting their paint more than helping it. The best wash method is the two bucket method-which is exactly what it sounds like. You use 1 bucket with soap (car wash soap, not dish detergent because it will strip any wax that is on the car, unless that is your intention) and water and the second bucket has just clean water and a grit guard, which is important. Using a microfiber wash mitt is the best option to clean the exterior because it works well and won’t scratch the paint. Dunk the wash mitt in the bucket with soapy water and clean one panel of the car at a time. Once clean, you put it into the bucket with just water and rub it up against the grit guard to clean the mitt. Repeat for the remaining parts of the car. Another thing to keep in mind- do not wash your car in direct sunlight because the sun will dry the water on your car and leave annoying water spots. To dry the car, use a dedicated waffle-weave like towel that is soft and won’t cause scratches.
Step 2: Wheels and Tires
There are many different products to use that give different effects that it really is up to the detailer. Some tire shines give a deep black shine while there are other that give it a natural flat black look. As for the wheels, the are many cleaners that claim they clean wheels the best, but I’ve always had the best luck with degreasers such as Simple Green or Greased Lightning. You can dilute it to the strength you need and cuts away at any road grime and brake dust built up on the wheels. A good tool to use a soft bristle wheel brush so you don’t scratch the rims. For the tires, it’s a good idea to get a stiff bristle brush that is dedicated just for tired and use soapy water to clean the tires before applying shine.
Step 3: The Clay Bar
This is exactly what it sounds like- a bar of clay. This is a very useful technique. Basically, you take a bottle of quick detailer and spray a generous amount onto one panel at a time. Then, you rub the clay bar back and forth until the surface feels buttery smooth. Take a clean microfiber towel and wipe away the excess detail spray and move to the next panel. If the clay bar is dropped on the ground, throw it away because it has picked up particles on the ground that you would now be rubbing into your paint and scratching it. The clay bar is useful because it picks up mircocontaminants from the paint that weren’t picked up by the wash. Definitely a key step.
Step 4: Polishing
Polishing is an important step if you clay barred your car. The one negative of using a clay bar is that is sometimes causes paint marring. This can be cleaned up easily if you plan to polish your car. There are many brands of polish that all work about the same, so you can’t go wrong with any that you choose. The big part here is if you plan to polish your car by hand- goodluck. It is an arm workout and will leave you sore. A dual action polisher will help out tremendously and make the job much easier. Put a a few small amounts of polish on a pad and work it back and forth on a panel of the car, then wipe the excess off with a clean microfiber. What this does it further cleans the paint and can get rid of small swirl marks.
Step 5: Compound
This step mirrors the polishing step. Application is the same and will be much easier and work better with a dual action polisher. But, compound is gritty paste that takes small small microscopic layers off a paints clear coat to remove scratches and swirl marks in the car’s paint. This step isn’t necessary to do every time you detail. It usually only needs to be done every 6 month or so. But, it is important to do to keep that shine looking right.
Step 6: Wax
This step is what will give your car a deep wet shine and make it really pop. Again, many different types of wax. There is carnauba wax which gives a deep shine and is an inexpensive product. But, it is usually applied by hand so it is very time consuming and requires a lot of elbow grease. The protecting level is also somewhat low, as well as the longevity of it compared to something like a synthetic wax. It is very useful to give your car that wet shine the night before a car show so it is really glossy. It can be applied my using 3-4 dime size amounts on a foam applicator pad and applied in a back and forth rhythm. Let it dry to a haze and wipe clean with a microfiber. The next type of wax is synthetic. This wax is much easier to apply. A dual action can be used to apply with the same amount and same technique to wipe clean. Benefits of synthetic is it offs better protection and lasts a lot longer with out reapplication. Cons are it may not give you the high gloss shine like carnauba and it is a bit expensive. Then theres’s spray wax that will give a basic shine, but not as good as the carnauba or synthetic.
Step 7: Windows
Having clean windows is important for the best visibility. Also, streak marks from poor glass cleaning are super annoying. The old myth of using newspaper doesn’t clean the window it just pushes the dirt around. The best way is to use a glass cleaner that is ammonia free, 1. because it decreases the chance of streaks and 2. it is safe on tinted windows. The way to do is to have 2 microfiber towels. Don’t use a lot of cleaner because then it will streak. Put 2-3 sprays on the window and wipe with a microfiber. Take the second microfiber and wipe away excess cleaner. This will have your windows looking clear as day.
Detailing can be a long, tedious process, but the payoff is well worth it. Obviously, you could go much more in depth with cleaning with things like renewing trim pieces, polishing headlights and much more. This step by step just brushes the surface of detailing. If you follow these basic steps, the exterior of your car will be looking brand new and shining like never before.
In the videos tab, I added two videos which I think hep further explain and give some tips on automotive detailing.