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car detailing guide

Generally, people take both terms of cash washing and car detailing in the same manner, but auto detailing typically refers to the thorough cleaning of the vehicle. This comprehensive cleaning doesn’t only consist of standard car washing and seat dusting, but it involves cleaning the exterior and interior of the car as much as possible. However, auto detailing typically doesn’t include paint and repair service.


Cost and Purpose of Car Detailing

The fundamental objective of car detailing is to overcome scratches, restore paintwork and get rid of accretion of dirt to give a brand-new look to the vehicle. This whole process doesn’t only improve the looks but also increases the life of the automobile with in-depth cleaning. As far as the the cost of car detailing, it varies on the basis of vehicle size and type. However, rough guesses say it is about $50 to $125 if you are looking for service for an average-size vehicle and you have to pay from $75 to $200 in the case of SUVs or big automobiles.


Exterior Car Detailing

Auto exterior plays a significant role to determine the worth of the vehicle especially if it is about selling a pre-owned automobile. That’s why exterior cleaning has a significant concern of the car detailing. Basically, it is consisting of several steps and a variety of methods that we are going to discuss comprehensively.

Wash & Dry

Washing and drying is the first step of car detailing and should be considered the foundation of any detailing process.

Pre-wash Set up

You need to ensure that you have enough microfiber towels, 2 buckets for rinsing or washing, standard car shampoo and a right wheel brush and wheel sealant. On the other hand, it is also vital to attach your hose with water source fitly.

Pre-wash Your Car

Pre-washing is a step where you casually pressure wash your vehicle before the actual wash stage. The primary purpose of pre-washing is to reduce the surface dust, scratches and swirl marks from the car that could appear in the upcoming washing phases. Moreover, it is better to attach an in-line water purifier with your water source to get a mineral free wash.


Pre-wash Degreasing


Most car detailing service providers don’t include this step, but if your vehicle is having greasing issues, then you should also follow pre-wash degreasing before actual wash. Principally, a degreaser is used to unlock the various kinds of contamination such as tar, bird droppings, sap and dirt etc.


How to Do Pre-wash Car Degreasing

Here, we are going to share a step-by-step guide to this process.

  • Step 1: Though there are numerous degreasers are available in the market, but you should select a good degreaser with your desired grease removing strength.
  • Step 2: Instead of starting degreasing from the top, it is suggested to begin this work from the lower parts of the vehicle because they have more grease issues.
  • Step 3: In the third step, you should leave the vehicle with a degreasing product from 30 seconds to 5 minutes to disband the contamination correctly. Then, soak the wash mitts into the water.
  • Step 4: It’s time to wash the vehicle with low pressure of water. After washing, you should apply the soaked wash mitts on the different parts of the car to know how much contamination is still left. Nevertheless, if you find more contamination, then it is better to repeat this process twice or thrice.
  • Step 5: After completion of the degreasing process, it is advised to wash the vehicle, mitts and used buckets with fresh water.

Note: It is also crucial to understand that degreasers ordinarily abolish the protective layers of the wax or sealant. Therefore, it is essential to apply a protective wax coating after this car detailing phase.


car washing

Clean the Wheels & Tires


It is a myth that wheels and tires should be clean at the end of car detailing that is wrong. As they are the dirtiest components of the vehicle, they need serious attention from the owner.

How to Clean Wheels & Tires

The wheels and tires cleaning process is being summarized into three easy steps for the ease of our readers.

In the first place, you should sprinkle a synthetic wheel cleaner on the dry tires and wheels and leave it for 5 minutes. After five minutes, it is the time to bathe the tires to remove all dust particles.
Now, apply a wheel cleaning spray on all sides of the tire and scrub the tire into round motion to pull out remaining muck. For wheel and obstinate areas, it is better to use a foamy sponge. Furthermore, it is also suggested to use a scrub brush to clean internal parts of the tire.

At last, after rinsing and drying procedure, you should apply the tire dressing to the tires and brake dust repellents and rim protectant to the rims to increase their life.

Note: It is essential to know that it should be avoided to apply any spray or polish to rims in direct sunlight. In the same token, tires must be thoroughly dry when you initiate to putting any wheel cleaning product.

Two Bucket Wash

If you want to overcome the addition of imperfections towards your car paint, then two bucket wash method is a secure approach. Nevertheless, it is vital to use a proper car shampoo to proceed further, and it is recommended to avoid the use of detergents and washing liquids as substitutes. Here, we start this process.

  • Step 1: Fill the first bucket with water to rinse the wash mitt. Fill the 60% of the bucket with water and add the mentioned (on car shampoo) amount of car shampoo in it. Then, just mix the water and car shampoo appropriately till it converts into assembled suds.
  • Step 2: Dunk the wash mitt into soapy bucket and twist it. Now, it’s time to start applying wet wash mitt on the vehicle. You should begin from the top and clean the small sections gradually. In the same token, don’t forget to soak the wash mitt continuously.
  • Step 3: It is recommended to apply wash mitt with a soapy solution twice in a straight line or emphasize to follow the pattern of the panel that you are washing. The second application of wash mitt will loosen the hard contamination and dirt on the car.
  • Step 4: The work of the first bucket with entirely clean water begins now. Yes, it’s time to wash your vehicle with cold and clean water. In the case of short of water, you are open to refill the bucket again.
  • Step 5: To avoid the dry soap and its consequences, it is better to wash the vehicle twice to clean it properly because dry solvent could lead the paint stains that will waste your effort.

Note: To remove the bug, tar spots, bird dropping and other stubborn spots you should prefer to use tar or bug remove because rasping can damage the paint of the vehicle.


Dry Your Vehicle


Drying is fairly significant in the car detailing the process and that’s why car owners should conduct this detailing step with great care. Following methods will help you respectively to dry your automobile:

Sheeting Method: To remove a majority of water from the car without touching the surface sheeting method is preferred. In this method, you would have to use an open-ended hose without a nozzle. Below are the directions that you need to follow.

• Beginning from the highest point of the vehicle by moving the hose from left to right. Then, water will start draining from the corners.
• Now, target the lower areas from where water is falling and apply the water from right to left.
• Continue this method until you reach the lowest section of the car.

This method will eliminate about 80% of water from the car, but you shouldn’t perform this technique in direct sunlight.

Blower: Now, you can use a blower to discharge water from the areas where it is hard to remove water such as gaps, panels, lug nuts and mirrors.
Drying Towel: At the last, with the use of clean drying towels or microfiber cloth you can wipe out the surface of your car from top to down without affecting the paint.


Use a Clay Bar

The main purpose of using a clay bar is to get rid of implanted contamination that doesn’t get removed after the wash and dry process. We only suggest using a clay bar twice in a year – especially before polishing. However, it is essential to know that car owners can’t just use a clay bar to perform this process without experience.

You would need a clay lubricant with a mixture of water and car shampoo to apply the clay bar on the surface of the vehicle smoothly and without affecting the paint. The absence of clay lubricant will also create a great hassle while removing the dry clay particles from the vehicle.

How to Apply Clay Bar to Car’s Paint

Step 1: First of all, squeeze the clay bar into your hand and give it a round shape to have a good grip on it.
Step 2: Apply the clay lubricant on a small area of the car where you are going to rub the clay bar.
Step 3: Move the clay bar back and forth on the selected section to remove fixed contamination. However, you should avoid sliding the clay bar into circular motion because it can cause stretches.
Step 4: Continue to claying the area until you eliminate all the contamination but don’t rub on the dry surface that means clay lube should always be there.
Step 5: After claying your car, just wipe out the excess amount of clay lubricant with the help of a clean towel.


Ordinarily, people mix the concepts of polishing and waxing. Basically, polishing is done once in a year to erase the imperfections of the paintwork especially after the claying but the waxing a car refers to the provision of a protective layer after polishing. Therefore, after claying the vehicle, you can apply any good polish on the surface with your hand. Otherwise, you can also perform it with the help of a buffer to get excellent polishing results.


orbital buffer on clearcoat


How to Protect Your Car Paintwork


After the completion of polishing in car detailing, the concerns that arise are how to protect car surface and its paintwork. Here, we are going to disclose further car detailing procedures with you in terms of vehicle paintwork protection.

Wax Your Car

Waxes are reasonable means to give some extra shine and protection to the paintwork. Moreover, the coating of wax provides a defensive layer against water dropping or severe stretches that lead to sheet off car’s paint. Unfortunately, these waxes only last for 5 weeks or sometimes with good sealant you can prolong it up to 3 months. You can decide between a manual hand wax vs using a buffer to wax.

How to Apply Wax Coating on Car

Step 1: Take the right foam applicator pad and car wax.
Step 2: Spread a thin layer of wax on the foam application pad.
Step 3: Start applying wax on the vehicle surface back and forth, in a circular motion and up and down with some pressure. You can also use a buffer for wax coating.
Step 4: After 10 to 20 minutes, you can buff off the extra wax and rerun the same course from 3–4 times to get a perfect wax coating.


Ceramic or Semi-Permanent Coating


Ceramic coating is expensive as compared to wax coating, but it provides exceptional paint protection and enduring shine in the long run. This coating is also applied after the car polishing stage but it lasts for 1 to 3 years, and you can apply the wax coating after semi-permanent coating as well.

How to Do Ceramic Coating on Car

  • Step 1: Get a ceramic coating kit and one sponge.
  • Step 2: Cover the sponge with a cloth that you find in the kit.
  • Step 3: Spill a few drops of the coating liquid on the cloth and wipe the car surface with this cloth gently.
  • Step 4: After coating, leave the vehicle for natural drying for 2–3 days. Note: Make sure that the car body is entirely dry and cool. Additionally, this coating is only done by hand.

Interior Car Detailing


First, remove the floor mats, parcels and other movable stuff from the car and then, vacuum the car interior from top to down. Yes, it will include seats, rear cargo area, shelf, and truck, etc. You can also use the air compressor at the places where it is it is difficult to use a vacuum cleaner. On the other hand, mats should be vacuumed separately.

Glass Cleaning

The cleaning of mirrors and windows is also a hard job, but the availability of glass cleaning sprays and lubricants are making it a little easy. It is better to get an all-purpose glass cleaner and clean the interior glass surface from top to down vertically.

Steam Cleaning

To remove blemishes and stains from the carpet and mats, steam cleaning is considered as a reliable method. So, to clean carpets and rug properly, go with steam cleaning. Withal, it is better to wash rubber mats with any detergent in open water to save time and money.

Clean Air Vent Grilles & Hard Interior Surfaces

Usually, microfiber cloths are used to clean the air vent grillers by households, but professionals prefer to use detailing brushes to pick out dirt effectively. In the same manner, the all-purpose cleaner is applied to remove contamination and dust from the hard interior of the vehicle. You can also use a sponge to wipe out stubborn stains.

Clean the Seats

The leather seats are probably clean with vinyl or leather cleaner with soft brushes. However, if it is about cleaning the cloth or nylon seats, then you can get an excellent detailing result by shampooing them with the help of a wet-vac extraction machine.


At the end of car detailing, it is always recommended to leave the vehicle with a pleasant odor. You can sprinkle any of your favorites perform in the car. Many fancy dashboard fragrances or air fresheners are also available in the market.


Mistakes to Avoid While Car Detailing


Wash the Car in Sunlight

Almost all detailing products, waxes and coatings don’t perform adequately in the direct exposure of the sun. Hot surfaces also increase the drying speed of water and soap. Therefore, it is more suitable to perform car detailing in a garage or under a roof.

The Absence of the Right Supplies

Another mistake that car enthusiasts make in a hurry to detail their vehicle at home is the absence of required supplies. In the deprivation of exact supplies, they use the substitutes or other products that cause problems later. Likewise, a proper car shampoo is used for car detailing and it is only a misconception that dish washing liquid or detergents will work as an alternative.

Use Only One Bucket

As we have already explained in the two buckets method, it is necessary to use one bucket for fully activated suds and one for clean water, but it is noticed that car owners try to detail the vehicle with only one bucket that leads the poor results.

Use of Only One Towel

As mentioned earlier, several towels or microfiber mitts would be required and the use of only one towel or mitt will not give desired cleaning results especially if we talk about exterior car detailing.

Updated: July 2022


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