How To Detail Your Car

September 2, 2021

Most people drive their vehicles every day by commuting to work, shuttling the kids around or simply to run errands. Despite some basic maintenance, the new car will not always look new. How can the old car look newer again? This can be accomplished through detailing. This service offered by dealerships and car washes can be expensive, though, from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Why not give it a try yourself?

What Is Detailing?


More than a simple wash on the exterior and wiping down the inside quickly, detailing is all about getting into every detail of your vehicle, which can include big devices but also small ones, like a toothbrush or Cotton-tipped stick, to get into every dirty corner. This effort can take your vehicle from clean to looking like new.

Tools Needed for Detailing


This job is easy to do yourself, but requires patience and time, at least 4 to 8 hours. You will need the usual car-washing tools, but you also will need a few specialized tools. Depending on the level of detailing you want to achieve, here are some items to have on hand:

  • Bucket
  • Water
  • Soap
  • Sponges
  • Variety of rags
  • Variety of small brushes
  • Cotton-tipped sticks
  • Car wax
  • Chamois
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Upholstery and carpet stain cleaner
  • Canned air

Start On The Inside


You want to start on the inside, so that the dirt and grime doesn’t mess up a newly cleaned exterior. It might be a good idea to wear a mask for this portion, as dusty, hair and food particles will be flying around in a confined space. Open up all the doors to get a good look inside, and remove anything that is getting in the way of cleaning.

Clean The Carpets And Upholstery


First, pull out and clean is the carpets. Any removable carpet should be placed on a flat, dry surface and vacuumed. If you are having trouble getting stubborn hair, turn tape sticky-side out and run across carpets. Also do this with your inside cushions and carpeting, trying to get into every nook and cranny. Next, grab your upholstery and carpet cleaner and pinpoint areas where there is a stain. Follow the directions on the bottle to ensure proper use.

Clean Any Hard Surface

Car door

Next up is the hard surfaces, usually the dashboard, the center console, the windows and the trims. Use glass cleaner to minimize streaking on the windows, and try first spraying a mild, all-purpose cleaning solution on a rag before wiping down hard surfaces to spread cleaner evenly. You might want to avoid silicone-based protectants, as experts have negatively pointed out their glossy shine and greasy film they tend to leave on surfaces.

Get In The Nooks And Crannies


Now is the time to get out those toothbrushes and cotton-tipped sticks. This also is a perfect time for canned air and spray bottles, to get out fallen debris in weird spots. Don’t forget door jambs, steering wheel column and the small crevices in your center console. Another interest tip is to coat a plastic knife with cloth to help dig out debris.

Fix Any Damage


If there is a heavy stain or holes, figure out a way to fix the damage. Try to get a cloth that matches the cloth you are fixing, or contact the manufacturer. You can also use a small piece from under a cushion, out of sight. Cut out the damaged spot with a razor blade or scissors, being very careful. Use a water-resistance adhesive to prevent any more damage.

On The Outside: Start With The Wheels


After the inside is done, work on the outside of the vehicle. Start with the rims and tires. Rims are where the most dirt and grease accumulate, so the rim cleaner needs to sit for at least a minute. The type of product you need depends on what your rims: rough-textured alloy wheels can handle acid-based cleaners, but do not use this on alloy wheels or clear-coated wheels. Then clean the tires with whitewall tire cleaner.

Give The Exterior A Thorough Wash

Car Washing

Make sure your car is in the shade, and the car is cool to the touch. First, spray the vehicle with a high pressure hose to unstick dirt and bugs. Next, grab rags and buckets of water and cleaner. Make sure not to use regular detergent or soap, which can strip car paint. Buy special car cleaner to ensure this doesn’t happen. Use those small brushes again to get into the small crevices on the outside.

Finish Off With A Shine


After you spray off the soap from your car, do not let it air-dry or it will get soap spots. Use a chamois or terry cloth to get all the water off your vehicle. Also use window cleaner to clean the exterior of your windows. Next, apply polish and then wax with a dual-action polisher, an orbital buffer or by hand. Use length-wise sections, paying attention to door jambs and hinges. Let it dry to a haze, and then buff it out to let it shine.