What to look for when detailing your car
The following are the key areas which help make that all important "first impression" when someone is checking out your car. First they will take in the visual effect of the overall shine and finish of the paint on the body, next they usually look at the tires and wheels, and then they will go all around the interior and dashboard, followed by an under the hood and inside the trunk inspection.
There are some simple mistakes which people make are when they detail their own cars, because we tend to overlook the finer points. This could be exactly why the process is called auto "detailing." The areas you need to watch for are inside the door jambs and the door edges all around, including hatches, sliding doors, and around rear entry doors and windows. Next would be the undercarriage, and wheel wells, then the carpet on the floor and the mats, lastly the little hidden nooks and crannies of the interior, like the ash tray, the glove box, and any console storage compartments.Is there a secret to getting that paint to really shine?
You can go to extremes and do things like polishing the surface with compounds using motorized polishing pads, but the easier path is reached by using a simple tool called Clay! Yes that is right, it is based on just plain old simple clay. Don't get me wrong, it is not exactly the same type of clay we messed with as children, this is really high technology stuff. The purpose of this clay is to get right down onto the paint surface and remove all the tiny bits of debris that our car collects over time. So it turns out that clay is one of the simplest auto detailing secrets we can use to obtain a super finish on your car's paint!
Turtle Wax makes a nifty "all in one" super paint finish cleaning kit which is called the "ICE Clay Kit." This kit can be found at many car parts stores, on-line, or at some superstores which have large automotive departments. You can also go for just the clay and it's matching lubricant from a company called "Pinnacle Wax." This company offers an auto paint detailing clay which removes embedded impurities including dirt and old wax. This creates a very clean starting point for buffing, polishing and or simply waxing the car. When this multiple step process is done properly the paint surface can look like it did when you first saw her on the showroom floor. This is a professional level activity, but the average Do It Yourself car person can easily learn this simple process.Finally getting started!
There are some basic preparations required before you can even use this clay, and it's required lubricant to deep clean the finish on your car. First off you need to have the car washed, rinsed, and dried really well. You can do a deep preliminary cleaning at the coin operated car wash, which helps get the bulk of the dirt and road grime off the car before you even start the real process of detailing your car or truck. Don't forget to spray down the floor mats by laying them on the concrete in the coin op wash and pressure spraying them thoroughly, followed by a good rinse. Also plan to use the vacuum system to clean the interior and in the trunk if required. Even if you run it through the coin operated or automatic car wash, it would not hurt to wash it once more by hand using a car wash soap which removes old wax as well. This is an important preparation step for deep cleaning the paint on your car.Time to really get the crud out
Now it is time to start the clay based crud removal process on your paint. After you allow the car to dry very thoroughly, you take the putty like clay, and with it's lubricant, you apply it to small areas at a time. When working with the clay you simply press the clay onto the surface and then pull away the crud. The clay is then rolled by hand until new fresh clay is exposed and repeat the process. One manufacturer suggests you do areas of around two square feet at a time. At this pace you would be working on this process for about 2 hours on an average sized car. The clay is reusable, and can last for multiple uses, and has no shelf life if you keep it moist with the lubricant.Going deep inside
Cleaning the interior can be done with mild soap, and a shine restorer car interior cleaning products. Wash the leather and plastic with a small cloth wet with a dilute soap solution and rinse with a second towel and dry with a third. Lastly apply the shine material of your choice. Don't forget to use a q-tip in the edges of the dash and your air vents. Next wash the windows inside and out using paper towels with a non streaking glass cleaner. Vacuum carpets really well, and dab in some carpet freshener powder to make the car smell nice and clean inside. Make sure the spare tire is in good condition, and check for the jack and any other tools that came with the car.Tires and wheels
As for deep cleaning the tires I typically go for the completely low tech approach of using an old school steel wool pad with grease removing soap. This is dunked into warm water, and with some elbow grease, I will scrub the tires until all the discolouration and dirt are easily rinsed away. Once the tires are are dry, I apply a polymer based protector like "Meguire's Hot Shine" tire dressing spray. The wheels need special care, and you don't want to scratch the clear coat finish on most modern wheels. Abrasives are a poor choice on alloy wheels. So you need to use either a spray on rinse off style wheel cleaner, or you can use some car wash soap in warm water and more elbow grease.Putting on the finishing touches.
I prefer to use liquid car polishes for their ease of use, and the "ICE polish" from Turtle Wax can be applied in sun or shade! For best results you may want to polish the car a few times over as this will add lustre to the finish and your reward will be a super deep shine on your ride! Once your car's finish is looking good, keep the car out of harms way by parking it under cover if at all possible.Most of the tools which could be required:
Clean wash bucket
Clean wash mitt
Good quality car wash soap
Pack of microfibre towels
Clay based finish cleaning kit
Good quality car polish
Strong vacuum for floors and mats
Medium sized soft scrub brush
4-5 soft towels
Streak free window cleaner
This is a very basic process listing for getting your car to look like new without spending a lot of cash, there will be those of you who have a different view so lets hear them.