Auto DIY - Car Detailing

Washing motor vehicles is a popular American pastime, but the simple soapy wash down isn’t enough for many owners today. Instead, they are relying on deluxe cleanings. This DIY car detailing makes their vehicles look better while helping extend the life and value of the car.

What is Detailing?

Auto detailing is the next step up from simple cleaning. It isn’t wiping it down with soapy water; it’s utilizing the proper tools to get every little detail clean on the vehicle. A good detail job will make a car look like new once again, but it takes a serious time commitment to do right. Many experts recommend a minimum of four hours to detail a car, and it’s not unheard of to take twice that time to do a really thorough job.

Rounding up Supplies

Before getting started, you’ll need to assemble a bunch of supplies. A single bucket and sponge just won’t do it. Instead, you’ll need most of the items listed below to do the job right.

  • Compressed air
  • Interior upholstery cleaner
  • Cotton balls
  • General cleaner
  • Small and large brushes
  • Cotton and terry cloth rags
  • Powerful wet and dry shop vacuum
  • Vinyl or leather surface protectant
  • Car wash
  • Window cleaner
  • Car wax
  • Newspaper

Cleaning the Interior

When detailing a vehicle you always want to clean out the interior first. That’s because you won’t risk messing up your clean exterior while cleaning out the inside this way.

Vacuum - Begin by thoroughly vacuuming all the carpets and upholstery throughout the vehicle to get up most of the sediment and debris. Take your time with this step as stepping on dirt trapped in the carpet will cause it to wear much more quickly.
Wipe the Hard Surfaces – Using a general cleaner, wipe down any hard surfaces to remove smudges, food, dust and dirt.
Stain Removal – Use carpet spray and upholstery spray to clean any stains. Be thorough and really scrub away the gunk.
Window Washing – Use a good glass cleaner to wipe the inside of the windows and windshield.
Protect the Upholstery – Follow the directions on the bottle of protectant to coat your vinyl or leather upholstery against stains and other issues.
Buttons and Knobs – Using mildly soapy water, wash around knobs and buttons with fine brushes or cotton swabs to get them thoroughly clean.

Exterior Detailing

Now the interior is mostly clean, it’s time to move on to washing down the outside of the car. This is a more exciting portion of the job because you’ll see the results every time you look at the vehicle.

Spray it Down – Spray down your vehicle with a pressure hose to remove any loose dirt from its surface.
Wash the Wheels – Wipe down the rims and tires of your vehicle with soap and water to make them look nice and new. Focus on the sidewalls and rims in particular.
Wash the Body – Add a car washing detergent to a bucket of warm water and use rags to wash away dirt from the body of the vehicle. Change out the rags as they become dirty to avoid scratching the paint.
Dry it Off – Take a clean chamois or cotton cloth to dry off all the body surfaces of the vehicle
Wax it – Once the car is thoroughly dry, wax the body if it hasn’t been done recently. This will help protect the paint.
Windows – Finally you have to clean up the exterior of those windows and make sure that you get rid of all the streaks. Some professional detailers would tell you that newspaper is just the thing to get this last step done and will help in avoiding streaks.

There is one more step: Get your shiny clean baby out on the road and show it off. Detailing will not only make your car look great, it will protect your investment as well.