Evaluate Your Car First
The most difficult part of any new skill is knowing what to do first.
This goes with anything in life. Detailing a car is no different.
Ask three professional detailers what to do first. You’ll get three different answers!
Do a Paint Evaluation
The first step in any detailing program should be an evaluation of your car’s paint.
Take a minute to walk around your car. Do you see bug stains, water spots and tar spots, or is it completely free of contamination?
Ask yourself something!
How does the paint feel to the hand? Is it rough, does it have small surface bumps? Is it smooth like glass?
It comes down to this…
You’re in luck if the paint is smooth and free of contaminants. The only maintenance needed is regular washing (30 to 45 minutes a week).
But here’s the thing.
Stained or rough paint isn’t acceptable. A clean finish should pretty much feel like silk.
So, what can you expect?
It’s kinda like exfoliating skin. Somewhat similar to deep-cleaning pores.
So, why is this done?
Because bonded contamination starts the oxidation process.
Inspect for Imperfections
OK, so your car’s paint is clean.
If so, at this point, closely inspect the paint for scratches, swirl marks and water spots.
These minor imperfections can be fixed with a good polish. Some elbow grease too (usually 1 to 2 hours).
This should be taken care of prior to waxing.
I recommend using a good orbital polishing machine for faster results.
Do not panic if your paint has deep surface scratches (meaning not scratched through to the primer or metal).
You may just need a scratch remover polish formula. Most scuffs and scratches can be polished. They’ll no longer be visible (1 to 5 minutes per scuff or scratch).
When are you ready for a waxing?
Let me be clear: When your paint is contamination-free and polished to a high gloss.
Here’s what your route should look like:
Deep-cleaning and polishing is best done twice a year. Wax, on the other hand, should be applied 4+ times yearly.
The takeaway is this.
With proper care, the paint finish will remain in good condition for many years.
Check the Tires & Wheels Closely
Neglected tires and wheels take a lot of care to bring back to life.
Expect trouble if your tires aren’t regularly washed and treated with tire dressing.
Sadly, they’ll quickly turn brown and dull.
Weekly washing and periodic waxing is a must. Fine wheels will become pitted and develop black stains from brake dust and road tar.
Neglect of wheel maintenance turns into permanent damage. Repairs or replacement is expensive, especially with modern luxury or sports cars.
People often learn that the hard way!
What you want to do is this:
Closely evaluate your tires and wheels. Are the tires brown and dull? Do the wheels have brake dust buildup?
If so, spend just 15 minutes or so on each wheel.
You need a brush, a quality tire and wheel cleaner and a bucket of soapy water. Makes a huge difference!
Evaluation of Your Car’s Interior
Now, let’s turn to the inside.
In any case, the condition of the car’s interior greatly reflects how the car is being used.
It stands to reason that if you haul kids around, the inside of your car will have more dirt and stains than that of a businessperson. Likewise, a truck that’s used for construction has a different set of cleaning needs.
So does it need heavy or light vacuuming? Is it dusty? Does the upholstery need cleaning? Is the leather dry?
Do you have stains or spills to clean? How does the interior smell?
Is it musty? Not Judging!
If you vacuum regularly (twice a month), it usually takes no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Done infrequently, it can take 30 minutes or more.
Spend just 3 to 5 minutes each time you wash the exterior. Keeping the dash and upholstery clean will be a cinch!
Needless to say, cleaning the dash and upholstery can be a 1 to 2 hour chore if you don’t stay on top of it.
Doing a little interior detailing maintenance every time you wash the car is a lot easier than trying to do a full interior detailing once or twice a year.
Want an alternative?
If you don’t detail your own car, consider having a full interior detailing once yearly.
A full interior detail includes vacuuming and shampooing the upholstery, carpet and floor mats, as well as cleaning the dash, console and vents. Don’t forget, after cleaning, leather and vinyl dressings and fabric protection should be applied.
To maintain a full detail, have the interior vacuumed each time your car is washed. Also, apply dressing to the dash, vinyl and leather each time the car is waxed (every 3 months).
This level of interior detailing will keep your car in good condition.
Take Matter Into Your Own Hands
Do yourself a favor and get an Vacuum. No other tool works as well to keep your car’s interior clean and tidy.
Keep after the interior a little bit at a time. Then, you won’t be overwhelmed.
Random Pro Tip: Based on my experience, shampooing and interior fabric protection should be done in the spring or summer. Why? Nice weather helps speed up the drying!
How to Dress for Success
You’ve made it this far, so stay with me here!
A big part of the car detailing process includes applying dressing to those surfaces that can’t be waxed or otherwise protected.
As already mentioned, your car’s dashboard and other vinyl and leather surfaces need regular protection. Leather, vinyl and rubber dressings protect and beautify.
Dressing: Don’t Get Carried Away
For best results, dressings should be used sparingly and frequently.
Many people who detail their cars go overboard with applying protectants and dressings. Maybe they think that if a little dressing is good, a lot is even better.
Fact is porous surfaces, such as leather and rubber, can absorb only very small amounts of a dressing.
Typically the leather, vinyl, or rubber has absorbed as much as it can within 3 to 5 minutes of applying a dressing. The rest of the dressing is waste and should be buffed off.
If the excess isn’t buffed off, it can create a greasy mess that attracts dust and dirt.
For the best results, dressings should be used moderately.
The Devil’s in the Details
The difference between a good-looking car and a great-looking car is in the small details. If you take your car to a professional detailer, make sure they take care of the small details before you give the okay to do the job.
Here’s a 20-point detailing check list:
Wash and dry exterior paint with Car Wash Shampoo (soap) and a Car Wash Mitt (20 min.)
- Scrub tires and wheels using a Wheel Cleaner and a Car Wash Brush (20 min.)
Clean and polish exterior windows and mirrors using a good Glass Cleaner (15 min.)
- Clean and polish paint using a Clay Bar followed by Car Polish (60 to 90 min.)
- Wax paint using the Liquid Car Wax or Paste Car Wax of your choice (45 min.)
Polish chrome trim using a Chrome & Metal Polish (15 min.)
- Clean door, hood and trunk jambs with a Microfiber Cleaning Towel (10 min.)
- Clean and dress rubber seals using a Rubber Conditioner (10 min.)
- Treat tires and trim with a Tire & Trim Dressing (15 min.)
- Vacuum (2 min.)
- Scrub or shampoo floor mats (15 min.)
- Shampoo carpet using a Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner (45 min.)
Clean fabric upholstery using a versatile Carpet, Leather & Upholstery Cleaner (45 min.)
- Clean the dashboard and console (20 min.)
- Clean vents using a Vent Duster (10 min.)
Apply a specialized Water Repellent Leather Conditioner or Vinyl Protectant to console, vinyl and leather (20 min.)
- Clean interior windows and rear-view mirror with an ammonia-free Glass Cleaner (10 min.)
- Empty and clean ashtrays (5 min.)
- Deodorize vents and carpet (10 min.)
- Protect carpet and upholstery fabric (20 min.)
If you look at the estimated average time assigned to each task, you can see that a complete car detail is no less than a full day’s job. Most professional detailerscharge a good sum to do this level of work.
If you have an expensive or neglected car, expect to pay up!
Stay Out of the Sun’s Rays
If possible, work in a cool garage or in the shade. Most detailing products don’t work well on hot surfaces.
I’m not kidding.
Washing your car in the sun is a sure recipe for water spots and streaks.
Work from the Top Down
Your car is dirtiest on the bottom and cleanest at the top. Washing from the top down keeps your wash water clean longer and helps prevent swirl marks.
Similarly, dry your car from the top down leaving your bumpers, rocker panels, tires and wheels for last.
Roll Lint & Pet Hair Away
Invest in a masking tape lint roller designed to remove lint from clothing. These rollers are great for removing lint and pet hair from interior upholstery.
Lint rollers also work equally well on canvas soft tops.
Roll away for a beautiful, lint-free top!
Hey You, Cool Your Jets!
Never wash your car fresh off the road.
Cold water can severely damage hot parts including brake rotors, exhaust components and your engine. Let it cool down for 20 to 30 minutes first.
Sometimes your enthusiasm can work against you. Chill, literally!
When Less can be More
Have you ever wondered why the instructions on most hair shampoo bottles read “Wash, rinse, repeat”? It’s pretty simple; they want us to use more product.
Most car care products are meant to be used sparingly and the instructions will say so.
Let’s face it, most of what we apply ends up being wiped right back off again. Use less and save money. You’ll get the same results, maybe better.
Hey, is it Foggy in Here?
That nasty film on the inside of your windows is a polyvinyl fog created by new plastics and vinyl.
As your car ages, the polyvinyl fog diminishes. Reduce the amount created by using interior dressings and protectants sparingly, and wiping the dash and console dry.
On new cars, windows should be cracked as often as possible. This will allow the polyvinyl gases to escape.
Of course, the use of a sun shield also helps.
Be Careful Driving Topless
Sweat, oils from your skin, lotion and sunscreen may soil fabric upholstery as well as damage vinyl and leather upholstery. If you drive scantily dressed, cover your seat with a seat cover, towel or an old t-shirt.
In addition to upholstery damage from sweat, sunscreen and lotions, driving topless brings additional wear from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Details, Details & Details
You’ve just finished polishing and waxing your car. Maybe it glistens, but all of your hard work is overshadowed by white wax residue around the trim.
Has this happened to you?
This problem is easily solved while the wax is still fresh by using a few shots of detailing spray and a detailing brush or towel.
If you have any questions please give us a call at the office (757) 776-1034