standard car wash

Written by: AUTO CAR

10 Tips to Detail Your Car Like a Pro

There’s a pretty big gulf between a standard car wash and a professional-level car detailing. One of those differences is price, and for some it’s a bit too high. Does that mean you have to miss out on the many benefits of a professional detailing, though? Absolutely not!

If you want to upgrade your regular car wash to a detailing without the expense, then you can do it yourself. You can get a stunning final effect just like the way the cars look when you rent a car with driver at Renty — sparkling, shimmering, exactly like new. In this piece, we’ll give you 10 tips that will help you to detail your car like a professional. 

Tip #1 – Buy the right equipment and position the car well

To detail properly, you’ll need to do some shopping and update your car cleaning collection. If you were thinking of just using household detergents and cleaners, think again. Your cleaning products need to be specifically made for cars. Household products often contain chemicals and additives that are damaging to the car’s paint and interior surfaces. On top of cleaning products, look into washing mitts, microfiber towels, a strong vacuum cleaner, a hose pipe, at least two buckets (three is better), a couple of paintbrushes and some socks you no longer have use for (more on that below).

Tip #2 – Use multiple buckets

Any level of car wash should be done with two buckets, but a real pro knows that three buckets is the magic number. The first bucket you’ll use to wash the wheels, and the other two for washing the car’s exterior. The point of multiple buckets is to keep the clean soapy water separate. You use one for your clean soapy water, and another for rinsing off your washing mitt after each wipe. In this way, you keep the freshly removed dirt and other contaminants from finding their way back onto the car’s surface.

Tip #3 – Rinse the car first

Before you even start applying soapy mitts, it pays to give the car a rinse with the hose first. This will remove the “big” dirt, and give you a cleaner canvas to work on from the get-go. That’s good news for your mitt, your water buckets, and your timeframe.

Tip #4 – Start with the wheels

Start with the wheels

It seems counterintuitive to start with the wheels, but professional detailers know it makes sense. When washing the wheels, the risk of overspray and simply shifting the dirt from the wheel to the side of the car is great. It therefore makes sense to clean the wheels first, and then rinse them again once you’ve done the rest of the car. This is pro-level knowledge.

Tip #5 – Work from the top down in sections

Once your wheels have had the once over, it’s time to get the main part of the detailing job done. When detailing your car, you should work from the top down, and divide the car into sections. For example, the roof is one section, followed by the side windows, hood, front doors, rear doors, trunk, windshield etc. Approach each section individually, working your way down to the lower parts of the car. This method will ensure that dirt is always moving downwards, and eventually off your car.

Tip #6 – Use a clay detailing bar on the paint before waxing

Most people balk at the idea of rubbing a bar of clay of the car’s paint. How can that help? The clay bar is an amazing innovation, when used properly. Lubricate the surface first with the accompanying solution, and then you rub the clay bar as instructed on its packaging. It picks up the most stubbornly embedded particles; ones that you thought you’d never be able to get. 

It’s the perfect prelude to applying wax, sealant or another protective coating because a cleaner surface means better bonding between the paint and the protective product. A better bond means better protection.

Tip #7 – Apply wax or ceramic coating spray

A regular wash will make the car look clean, but it can never offer the restorative power of detailing. The professional detailer will make use of special waxes, sealants or ceramic coating sprays to give your paint a shine that takes it back to showroom quality. They can also make the car’s surface “hydrophobic,” so dirty water will just flee the surface like a rat from a sinking ship. This step can add months of extra protection and shine to your car, and make future detailing easier as the worst excesses of dirt are kept at bay.

Tip #8 – Agitate the carpets before vacuuming

Turning now to the interior, there are some great tips from pro detailers that can help you here. First of all, use a hard-bristle brush to scrub the carpets before you get to vacuuming. Doing this will bring up deeply embedded dirt to the surface and make it easier to vacuum. This is especially important to do if you haven’t cleaned the carpets in a while. There’s no point using products to clean them if there is dirt buried deep within, you’ll just be making things worse.

Tip #9 – Let any upholstery cleaning products dry fully before putting car in garage

This simple trick will stop any risk of your car becoming musty or even moldy after you store it back in your garage. Any moisture left on the upholstery will create a smell or mold if it is then left in a damp environment, which garages usually are.

Tip #10 – Use paintbrushes and socks for the little details

Finally, how to make use of those socks and brushes we mentioned in Tip 1. The brushes are perfect for getting out dust from vents and other tricky spaces, allowing for the real detailing effect. The sock is a fantastic tool for getting into the contours of the cupholders. Simple tools like these make all the difference in getting the deep clean effect on every nook and cranny.

Last modified: June 11, 2020