Car Detailing 101

Photography by: ©2014 Toni Avery

Car Detailing 101 offers just some of my easy and quick detailing tips for keeping your car clean. Most of these are something you can do once a week while others are something that takes maybe five minutes at the end of each day. Keeping your car consistently clean a little bit every day will avoid time-consuming bucket or hose washing.

Before you start, make sure your car isn’t too far gone for just a quick detail. A good rule of thumb I like to use is if you wipe your finger somewhere on the paint and black comes off, you’re probably at the point of needing a bucket or hose washing. I’ll get more into that later in the rainy season.

Always start your detailing on a car that is cool to the touch, not hot. This means you may have to wait a while after driving. And don’t clean in direct sunlight or right in the middle of the day. Sprays and water tend to dry up quickly leaving you with spots all over, which doesn’t look great. If you use a car cover during the day when parked outside this will ensure you protect the paint from bird droppings, fading from the sun, dirt etc. But be sure to only use a cover when the car is clean. If used when the car is dirty it can actually scratch the paint.

Step 1: A California duster is an inexpensive investment that quickly and safely removes dust off the car’s surface. Before you start, giving the car a quick once over with the duster will remove a good amount of dust that could potentially rub into the paint with a rag.

Duster: California Car Cover 

Price: $24.99 with wood handle

Step 2: I like to use Quick Detail from Meguiar’s as my cleaning spray. Always start at the higher parts of the car (roof, hood, higher parts of the doors and upper part of the trunk). This is because most of the rocks and/or mud you might pick up while driving will be in the lower parts of the car, closer to the ground. Starting higher up will lessen the chances of picking up a small rock or clump of dirt in the rag and as a result, scratching the paint.

Spray: Meguiar’s Quick Detail 

Price: $9.97 a bottle

Step 3: Moving to the lower portions of the car, make sure you are turning the rag to a clean part to ensure there is no chance of picking up a stray rock. We like to use the ultra soft microfiber towels. Old beach towels work great for soaking up water from a bucket wash, but aren’t the best for your cars paint. If you drop a towel when cleaning don’t continue to use it. There’s the potential of picking up small rocks and dirt from the ground. And microfiber towels only last so long after many washes. You are the best judge to know when it’s time to retire a towel, but when it stops being soft is a good indication.

You’ll also want to make sure you clean the doorsills. More often than not dirt and dust ends up in there.

Towel: Microfiber

Price: varies depending on how soft you want it but anywhere from $10-20 each or you can start off cheap with a set from Target

Step 4: After you have cleaned all of the paint, the rims are next on the list. Rims see more dirt than most any other part of the car so don’t skimp on the spray. I like to use Quick Detail for the rims as well. Spray the entire rim well. I usually start with the spoke that has the valve stem cap to keep track of where I started.

Step 5: Now let’s not forget about the interior. With the same rag you used to clean the paint and rims you can use to wipe down the dash. The dash tends to gather dust and a quick once over with a slightly damp rag (like the one you’ve used for the rest of the car) will pick up whatever dust is there. Meguiar’s make special products just for this, but if you’re on a budget then this is a great solution.

Another way to remove dust is using something most commonly used on computers. A can of dust off is a great and easy way to remove dust in those hard to reach places on the dash and in the instrument cluster.

Dust can: Dust Off 

Price: around $7 a can

Step 6: Finishing off the interior is the all-important vacuuming. If you have a narrow attachment for your vacuum you’re set. Be sure to move the seat up and back, take out the floor mats and get in between the seat and the center console.

Step 7: Last but not least are the windows. For these I like to use a synthetic chamois. The reason I use synthetic and not real is that the real ones have oils that smudge all over the window, which seems counterproductive. I also use a designated window towel. Don’t use the same one you used for the paint, ever. Keep one towel, usually a super soft one just for the windows. Make sure to turn the towel often when drying up after the chamois. This will prevent streaking and make for a super glossy shine. Another thing to remember when cleaning your windows is to clean the blade of the wipers. These accumulate dirt and when it rains you’ll just be spreading dirt all over with the chance of scratching the glass.

Synthetic Chamois: Synthetic Chamois 

Price: $14.99

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