If you’re the type who likes to keep your ride looking great and staying clean no matter what, you’ve probably looked at having it professionally detailed at some point. But the $100 - $250 dollar or more that some of them charge seems like a little bit much. Well, the dirty little secret that professional detailers don’t want you to know is that you can easily do it yourself, at home, for a fraction of what they charge.
There’s no real trick to anything they do. You don’t even need to use the same professional car care products that they use. The real secret is that just plain old hard work and elbow grease that will give you just as good a result as they get. You may have to lay out a little extra cash in the beginning to collect some tools and car cleaning products, but every time you detail your vehicle after that, you’re saving money. So let’s look at some of these secrets of car detailing and see just what’s involved:
1. Use two buckets for the initial wash
Every good detailer will use the two bucket method for that initial car wash. One bucket contains the soapy water and the other just plain water. After you use the soapy sponge on the vehicle, rinse it out in the clean water bucket before you put in back in the soapy water bucket. That way you are not transferring the dirt and grime you just washed off the car into the clean soapy water and right back on the car’s surface again!
2. Use microfiber towels
Use a separate, color-coded microfiber towel for every product you use during the detailing. One for polish, one for wax, one for tire shine, vinyl protectant, etc., and never get them mixed up. Also never wash your towels in with the regular household laundry. Use very little detergent and no fabric softener in your wash. Remove any labels from your towels that could scratch and remember that you get what you pay for. Those cheap discount towels will cost you more in the long run. Buy the best quality towels you can find.
3. Do the trim first
If your vehicle has plastic trim on the bumper ends and/or on the sides, use a product designed for that job first. That way it will protect that plastic trim from any wax you may accidently get on it. The wax can stain the finish of plastic trim and make it look cloudy.
4. Use a buffer to apply, a towel to remove
Use a power buffer to apply polishes and waxes and a microfiber towel to remove them. Using a buffer to remove waxes and polishes is just asking for swirl marks in the finish. You will also avoid burning through the paint and you’ll get a much better, thin, even coat of wax.
5. Use a dual action polisher
We mentioned above tht you will have to shell out a little money now to save time and money down the road. A good quality dual-action polisher will serve you better than an orbital buffer. It will handle 90% of the polishing chores that you will run into and make your job much easier.
6. Use a clay bar system
There simply is no better way to remove all those contaminants and little particles of junk that become imbedded in your paint. A good clay bar kit will contain a spot detailer for lubrication of the bar, an 80 to 100 gram bar of clay, a towel, and instructions. Use the clay bar right after washing to remove stuck on bug parts, tree sap, tiny particles of rubber and other road rash that will cling to the surface of your vehicle’s paint.
7. A plastic grocery bag is a great way to check for a clean surface
Once you’re done with the clay bar, put your hand inside a plastic grocery bag and run it all over the surface of your vehicle. The plastic will amplify any little imperfection so you can go back over those spots again. Keep rechecking until the entire vehicle is smooth and free of contaminants before you move on to the polishing and waxing stage.
8. Dry the glass in two directions
Here’s a great tip for spotting those inevitable streaks when cleaning your glass. Always dry the outside of the windows with a vertical motion, and inside horizontally. That way when you see those left over streaks, and you will, it’s easy to tell if they are on the inside or the outside!
9. Use a brush first
When you start to clean the upholstery, always use a good brush first. It’s better to remove the loose dirt and dust with a brush than with chemicals or products. Even on the carpets, the brush will help loosen the dirt from the fibers so the vacuum can pick them up. The same goes for door panels and seats, though you should use a gentler brush on those.
10. Static electricity is your friend
Put on a pair of latex gloves, (You can buy a box of 100 latex gloves in any home improvement store.) and rub them all over the carpeting. The static electricity this creates will help lift pet and human hair out of the carpet so the vacuum can pick it up more easily.
11. Never mind the headliner
One part of the car that you should avoid detailing, if at all possible, is the headliner. Even a little cleaning can cause the glue holding it in place to begin to fail and then you’ve got much bigger problems. If you absolutely must clean your headliner, do it very gently and use as little moisture as possible.
And there you have it, eleven easy tips to help you achieve a perfectly detailed ride that won’t break the bank. Doing your own detailing is also a great way to bond with your vehicle and help make your investment in it last longer, look better, and be more fun to drive!