As with anything worth spending time and effort on, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to detailing your car. The art of car detailing comes in many different levels of sophistication, and even the most basic approach still requires 11 meticulous steps, which we’ve outlined in the points below. Follow these steps, and your car will look like you’ve invested in a professional car detailing service.
Step 1: Wheels
The wheels are always the first port of call – always. Your wheels are undoubtedly the dirtiest component of your car exterior, so be sure to give them a thorough pre-soak with quality wheel cleaner. Use a decent brush to access the hard-to-reach areas, and use a separate wash mitt and bucket than what you’ll be using for the paintwork.
Step 2: Pre-Cleaner (Stage One)
It’s crucial that you use a specially formulated pre-cleaner that’s capable of removing bugs and stubborn grime, whilst still being gentle to wax or sealant layers. Apply this spray to the lower sections of the car exterior, as well as bug-splattered areas.
Step 3: Snow Foam (Stage Two)
For the uninitiated, snow foam is designed to dislodge stubborn debris and break down excess grime before proceeding with the physical contact washing. This step is vital for avoiding swirl marks on the paintwork, as any contaminants are removed rather than being pushed around while washing.
Step 4: The Two-Bucket Method
Time to start washing your car – it goes without saying that you want to invest in a high-quality shampoo for this. Fill the first bucket with your wash solution, and the other with clean water.
Wash your car from the top down, tackling small sections at a time. Be sure to regularly wash your mitt in the fresh water bucket before bringing more shampoo to the car – this helps to ensure you keep your wash solution clean throughout the entire wash.
Step 5: The Decontamination Stage
Apply an iron dissolver to your car exterior – this will eradicate a different set of contaminants, like industrial fallout and rail dust, for example. Once you’ve sprayed your car with an iron dissolver, move on to a solvent tar remover to soften any tar that may have fused itself to the paintwork. After this, repeat the two-bucket shampoo wash method to the areas of the car that you treated with the solvent.
Step 6: Drying
Just like the washing stage, start at the top of your car and work your way down to the bottom. Section by section is the most efficient way to ensure you don’t miss any panels. Try to hustle so you don’t wind up with water spots, but be thorough enough that you don’t leave any streaks!
Step 7: Polishing
You can apply polish to your car by hand or with the help of a machine polisher. That being said, if you don’t have experience using a machine polisher we recommend polishing by hand instead (you can hone the craft by picking up a car panel from a scrap yard to practise on).
Step 8: Wax or Sealant
By carefully applying a layer of wax or sealant to your car’s exterior, you essentially reinforce all the hard work you’ve done in detailing your car so far.
Step 9: Tyre Dressings & Trim
Now that the bodywork is taken care of, you can give your tyre dressings and trim a good cleaning. Invest in quality products that are specially designed to clean your tyres without leaving them greasy.
Step 10: Glass
It’s unfortunate how many car owners neglect the windows when they give their vehicles an otherwise thorough clean. Make sure you apply a quality glass cleaner to the inside and outside of every glass panel.
Step 11: A Final Detail
To wrap things up, apply a detailer to remove any leftover residue from waxing/sealing, plus fingerprints you might have accidentally left behind during your car’s overall detailing. It’s this final step that often gets overlooked, but for all the hard work you’ve invested in detailing your car, it’s worth taking a few minutes to ensure it has that unblemished showroom finish.
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