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Most people consider car cleaning more of a chore than an accomplishment. Cleaning a car from top to bottom is often compared to punishment rather than pleasure because it is labor-intensive, time-consuming, and extremely tedious.
Knowing where to begin and setting aside the time to thoroughly clean every crevice of an automobile, as with any “detail-oriented” endeavor, is frequently the most difficult part. That is why we are here to aid with detailing cars for beginners.
It’s time to get up for a good scrub. We’ve put together a simplified DIY guide to detailing cars for beginners.
What exactly is detailing cars for beginners?
Detailing cars for beginners is a self-explanatory procedure that entails a “detailed” cleaning process, frequently accompanied by restoring damaged components. Externally, detailing protects paint, glass, and body parts from UV rays, contaminants, and damage caused by driving.
Today, the detailing industry is multibillion-dollar, with thousands of unique detailing products pumping beneath its hood, each with its genetic backbone, sales approach, and market distribution. In order to put the scope of this operation into perspective, the auto detailing market in the United States alone was valued at USD 10.3 billion in 2020, despite taking a massive hit due to COVID-19.
Detailing cars for beginners: Exterior Vehicle Detailing
For detailing cars for beginners, we will most likely adhere to the following general guidelines:
Clean the Exterior: The first step in detailing a vehicle should always be a thorough cleaning with quality detailing products and a reliable source of water. This removes any dirt, debris, road grime, pollen, or other surface gunk and exposes any serious issues lurking beneath the surface. To decrease the risk of scratching or marring the surface, car owners must use a microfiber cloth or wash mitt along with a low pH car wash shampoo for this step.
Protect the Exterior: During detailing cars for beginners, a thorough wash is essential for removing surface debris. However, car detailing goes beyond a thorough scrub-down by applying surface protectant coatings. You can use car wax, paint sealants, clear bras, tire dressing, ceramic coatings, vinyl wrap, paint protection films, and other protective products. Tire dressing improves the appearance of other exterior components, such as tires. Many people use glass cleaner to clean their car windows.
Quick Tip: When it comes to exterior detailing cars for beginners, you can purchase an all-in-one DIY detailing kit. Else you can piece together your custom setup by purchasing individual car cleaning products.
The first step in protecting the paint is to prepare it with a clay bar.
Wheel cleaner and tire and wheel-approved brushes are recommended by car detailing experts for detailing cars for beginners.
Many car owners believe that replacing air fresheners or applying tire shine is all that is required to detail their vehicle. Sure, you could buy some high-end car wash brushes, various synthetic car wash shampoos, and a heavy-duty pressure washer, but these products will not guarantee amazing results.
The world’s best car detailing professionals all agree that to get an automobile to look immaculate, one must have the right tools, a laser-focused work ethic, a lot of patience, and a lot of practice.
Detailing cars for beginners: Beginning the process
Detailing cars for beginners is not a difficult task. However, even the act of washing a vehicle has the potential to cause significant harm if the wrong procedures or products are used. But knowing what steps to take and which products to use is only half the battle.
For example, if you have towels, mitts, or other car cleaning fabric or sponge-like material that is not microfiber, you should get rid of them. The trash basket is the only spot for products that leave blemishes on vehicle exteriors.
Remember, we’re trying to repair a vehicle’s exterior to its original condition here, not slap a shitload of scratches and swirl marks on it.
Now that we’ve given you that tidbit of information on detailing cars for beginners, it’s time to move on to one of the most significant things you can do to maintain your car’s finish looking pristine: wash it regularly. And do it correctly.
Mud, dirt, bird turds, road grime, bug guts, deicers, pollen, and sap slowly seep into a car’s clear coat if left for too long. Laziness will only hurt you in the long run, so clean that machine once a week if possible, and remember the six golden rules of car washes.
- Never wash your car in the sun
All detailing cars for beginners will perform poorly in direct sunlight or on a hot surface. Heat also hastens the drying of soap and water, resulting in stubborn water spots and streaks. Always perform indoors or in the shade, and only when all exterior surfaces of the vehicle are cool to the touch.
- Prevent cross-contamination
Cross-contamination occurs during detailing cars for beginners wash when the same materials are used at each stage of the cleaning process. As a result, avoid using the same items (towels, brushes, buckets, water, etc.) for multiple purposes or areas of the vehicle. The reasoning is that you don’t want to move contaminants from one part of the vehicle to another or scrub a clean section with a filthy microfiber mitt. This is important to remember when cleaning dirtiest areas such as wheels, lower rocker panels, bumpers, and exhaust ports.
- Apply the two-buckets-and-a-beer method
While dumping your water frequently and not using the same cloth or mitt for every surface will help reduce cross-contamination, the two-buckets-and-a-beer method is equally important. One bucket for rinse water and another for bubbly water creates a safe place to dunk that filthy sponge between scrubs, which helps keep that bucket of soapy shampoo free of contaminants.
- Work your way down from the top.
The lower parts of a car come into contact with road pollutants, and you don’t want that dirt to extend to the vehicle’s far more unsoiled upper parts. That said, starting with your wheels and tires is good, but not with a scrubbing session and soap.
Use a trusted spray-on and rinse-off chemical approved for the type of wheels you are rolling on, as this will allow a concentrated blast to hit the filthiest part of the car. After that, wash the car from top to bottom, avoiding cross-contamination by using a different scrubbing media on the wheels and tires.
- You should always use lubrication.
Car surfaces benefit from lubrication when there’s friction. Vehicle paint and clear coat require something slippery to prevent marring, aside from a gentle wipe-down with an ultra-plush microfiber dusting cloth.
- Get the necessary supplies and towels.
As previously stated, using sponges and traditional cloth wash towels on the exterior of a vehicle is akin to using a 120-grit sandpaper in the shower. It will exfoliate. Purchase a proper wash mitt and some plush microfiber towels for cleaning and drying your car, as both items greatly reduce the risk of scratching the surface. While at it, order a pH-balanced car shampoo because household dishwashing liquid works, but it destroys a car’s clear coat.
Detailing cars for beginners: Few must-have supplies
You’re probably thinking at this point, “I have to go through all that every time I want to wash my damn Datsun? Why can’t I just take my car to the nearest car detailing shop?”
Sure, you could take your car to a professional detailer, who will most likely give it the shine it deserves. This method makes sense if you intend to sell the vehicle or only drive it occasionally before parking it in a spotless garage.
However, professional car detailing costs will quickly add up. Pricing varies according to the size of the vehicle and the level of detailing required.
If you were to detail these same vehicles at home, you would spend much less on all materials and tools, including high-end interior and wheel cleaning products. This may appear to be a significant investment, but remember that you can reuse these products and tools repeatedly, making the process less intensive over time.
We’ve compiled a list of must-haves for detailing cars for beginners that can be modified or substituted as desired. Remember, it’s your ride and your money, so go with what you think is best for your vehicle.
What you’ll need is as follows:
- 1 bottle of car wash shampoo with a low pH
- 2 to 4 wash mitts
- 2 big buckets
- 12 high-quality microfiber towels
- 1 clay mitt or clay bar
- 1-2 ceramic coating bottles
Detailing cars for beginners: How to wash your vehicle correctly
Contrary to popular opinion, you do not have to wash your car weekly. Every time you scrub your car, the likelihood of damaging its exterior surfaces increases exponentially, especially if you are new to hand-washing or are using the incorrect method. Naturally, this is affected by how dirty your vehicle becomes weekly and the type of driving environment it encounters while in use.
With the disclaimer, here’s a general rundown of what needs to happen for your ride to get a safe scrubbing.
Detailing cars for beginners – Step One: Get your things together
After gathering and inventorying cleaning supplies, move everything you intend to use to the area where the vehicle will be cleaned. By this point, your two-bucket-and-a-beer setup should be complete, with the first bucket reserved for rinsing the unclean wash mitt or cloth and the second soapy H2O solution for dunking.
You should also have plenty of microfiber cloths, a soft scrubbing brush for the wheels and tires, two or three wash mitts, and a garden hose with a sprayer wand.
Using a neutral water source is also a fine idea because using the wrong tap water can cause many problems. Remove any accessories you wear that may scratch or damage the vehicle’s various surfaces. This means belts, long necklaces, bracelets and watches, rings, fanny packs, chastity belts, and monocles should be removed before detailing the vehicle.
Detailing cars for beginners – Step Two: Spray it as you mean it
Spray your vehicle with water until all visible debris, pollen, bird poop, or other filth has been rinsed away, keeping in mind to avoid direct sunlight at all costs. You should also spray the entire vehicle in one session, starting at the top and working your way down. The only exception would be if the vehicle’s wheels and tires were extremely filthy, in which case you would blast those first to prevent grime from splattering onto freshly rinsed surrounding areas.
Unfortunately, many people skip the initial rinse stage in favor of scrubbing, which results in surface contaminants being pushed across the clear coat and glass, causing significant surface damage. A quick spray-down will help reduce the formation of swirl marks and scratches.
Detailing cars for beginners – Step Three: Hit the rollers and rubber first
Tires and wheels are the filthiest parts of a car due to the amount of road surface grime, road salt, brake dust, mud, and other contaminants that come into contact with their rotating surfaces. This is why cleaning all four corners first is critical, especially if the vehicle hasn’t been detailed in a while or if you’ve just returned from a muddy adventure.
Simply use a tire and wheel cleaner that is spray-on and rinse-off. After allowing the product to sit for the recommended amount of time, hose it all down before scrubbing your tires in a circular motion to remove any stubborn grime. A sudsy wheel sponge or brush will come in handy here, especially if it is small enough to reach hard-to-reach areas within the alloy wheel itself.
Always thoroughly rinse your wheel wash bucket before using it for another area of the vehicle’s regular wash. Outside of engine bay grime and undercarriage contaminants, wheel and tire contaminants are usually the dirtiest things on a car.
Detailing cars for beginners – Step Four: Two-Buckets-and-a-Beer Time
After dumping the recommended amount of car shampoo into one of the buckets, run water through it and your rinse bucket. Once filled, take out your wash mitt or microfiber cloth and follow these simple steps.
- To guarantee that all surfaces are free of loose contaminants, spray the entire vehicle with water.
- Soak the washcloth or wash mitt in the soapy water solution. Wring it out over the surface you want to scrub once it’s fully saturated. This acts as a pre-soak, lubricating the surface and allowing the shampoo to loosen any gunk stuck on the surface.
- Begin scrubbing the vehicle after the entire area has been coated in sudsy water, focusing on one section at a time. Consistently start at the top and work your way down, dropping your mitt in the rinse bucket as you go to terminate pollutants before soaking more bubbly water as needed.
- When scrubbing, wash in straight, overlapping lines rather than circles, which can cause swirl marks to appear. Be gentle with this first pass, as you will most likely pick up a shitload of debris during this initial scrubbing session, and you don’t want to grind it into the glass or clear coat.
- Depending on how filthy the vehicle is, the water in the rinse bucket may quickly become cloudy or tainted with grime. In this case, discard the contaminated water and refill the bucket with clean water. It’s also a suitable idea to check the quality of the soapy H20 bucket because even with a pre-rinse bucket, deeply embedded contaminants can end up in this foamy solution.
- After scrubbing one section or body panel, rinse it with the hose or pressure washer before moving on to the next. Make sure to move quickly to prevent the soap from drying, and rinse from top to bottom. Keeping the entire vehicle wet can avoid water spots and soap residue hardening on the surface.
- After the first scrub and rinse session, you’ll be able to tell which stubborn spots need some extra “coaxing” to be safely lifted from the surface. While some swear by the quick and easy chemical “bug and tar remover” method, others believe the slow and soapy method is the safest. Whatever technique you use, be cautious when dealing with sticky or deeply embedded contaminants, as this is when surface marring occurs most frequently during the detailing process.
- With stubborn stains and debris safely removed, drain the water from both buckets, rinse your wash mitt or towel, and repeat the entire top-to-bottom scrub-down procedure with fresh soap and water in each bucket. This second pass will help ensure that any missed areas are covered, as there are bound to be a few that were either overlooked or require additional attention.
- While scrubbing a detailing project, it’s not a bad idea to occasionally blast your wash mitt or microfiber cloth with fresh water from your garden hose or pressure washer. This will help ensure that contaminants do not degrade the quality of your soapy water or, worse, end up on the exterior of your vehicle.
Detailing cars for beginners – Step Five: Dry it up
Yes, drying has its step. We don’t care what the label on your automotive shampoo says; allowing a vehicle to air dry fully will result in watermarks and streaks. Sure, some will brag about using compressed air or a leaf blower, but they always follow up with a thorough microfiber wipe-down, knowing that this process will most likely necessitate more than one fluffy towel.
Begin at the top and work your way down the vehicle. Taking it panel by panel will be the most efficient way to ensure that every area is streak-free. It is critical to work quickly (to avoid water spots) while remaining thorough to avoid any drying streaks. If any water spots remain, a quick detailer is an excellent product to remove them.
This wipe-down will not only remove any potential water spots or pooling issues and expose stubborn contaminants, making them prime targets for the next weapon in your detailing utility belt: The all-powerful clay bar.
Detailing cars for beginners – Step Six: Time for clay bar
If you’ve never used a clay bar or detailing mitt before, you’re in for a treat. Because both products serve the same purpose: to make the surface of your car smoother, the clarity and luster they add to a surface are unparalleled. Clay, on the other hand, is intended to be used only once and must be discarded if it is dropped on the ground.
A clay mitt also fits over your hand, making it easier to use and hold onto. They are also much larger and can thus cover a larger surface area. Whether you use a detailing mitt or a clay bar, both rely on the lubricant to help them glide across smooth surfaces, and you should NEVER try to use one without squirting lube everywhere.
The steps to clay barring or detailing a vehicle with a mitt are extremely simple, with the four steps listed below being the most important.
- Saturate the painted surface with your detailing spray or lubricant, working in small areas at a time, and if using a clay mitt, spray its palm surface as well to ensure that it slides easily.
- In a cross-hatch pattern, lightly glide the clay mitt across the surface. There will be little opposition at first, but as you move the mitt around, you will notice that it becomes easier to maneuver.
- When you no longer feel any snags, wipe down the area you just went over with the clay bar or mitt with a clean microfiber towel. Compare the freshly scrubbed surface to the area you are about to hit with clay with your fingertips. There should be a prominent difference in the slickness of the two surfaces.
- Repeat the preceding steps on every part of the vehicle, one panel or section at a time, and keep the surface adequately lubricated.
Detailing cars for beginners – Step Seven: Polishing
Polishing or buffing a vehicle’s paintwork can significantly affect its overall appearance. That said, you will only need to polish a vehicle when necessary, usually at the end of a detailing job or before applying a ceramic coating. Using a powered buffer speeds up the process by distributing pressure more evenly than a traditional hand-polishing pad and allowing you to change the speed on the fly. Just be careful not to concentrate too much on one area, or you will damage the vehicle’s clear coat.
Detailing cars for beginners – Step Eight: Cleaning glass
People frequently overlook the importance of glass. A good-quality glass cleaner is a must in any detailer’s kit, whether for light scratches or fingerprints.
Detailing cars for beginners: How to protect the exterior of your car
After all, contaminants have been removed, and all surfaces have been thoroughly dried and polished, it’s time to arm that machine, at which point we recommend ceramic coating. Why?
To begin with, the level of protection provided by a high-end ceramic coating is unrivaled, as is its ability to repel water while providing years of protection. Second, you’ll be relieved to learn that most of the work involved in applying a ceramic coating is in the surface prep stage, which you have just finished!
While waxes are inexpensive and simple to apply, they typically last only a few weeks before reapplying, with ultra-high-end products lasting as little as two to three months.
Ceramic coatings, on the other hand, provide unrivaled protection and shine over time. Sure, they take a little more elbow grease and time to apply and cost a little more, but when you consider that they only need reapplication every 2 to 5 years, the value always favors ceramic.
Regardless of the type of surface protectant used, wax and ceramic coating products should only be applied to cool-to-touch surfaces and with a clean, non-abrasive cloth or pad, away from sunlight and wind.
Detailing cars for beginners: 5 Mistakes you should avoid
Talking about mistakes, you can make numerous detailing blunders on cleaning day. While everyone has different product preferences and preferred detailing techniques, the errors listed below are the most common and should be avoided at all costs.
Detailing cars for beginners: Mistake One.
Mistake: Using the incorrect cleaning fabric or the same fabric on all surfaces
Remedy: Scrub brushes and double-sided sponges are no longer in use. Simply get a microfiber mitt and some high-quality microfiber cloths, and call us first thing in the morning. Oh, and remember to use different cleaning and drying microfiber products in different areas. The last thing you want to see on your perfectly polished clear coat is something nasty from your tailpipe smeared across its surface.
Detailing cars for beginners: Mistake Two
Mistake: Washing in direct sunlight or on a hot vehicle
Remedy: Most detailing, aftercare, and protective products react vigorously when exposed to direct sunlight or a hot body panel, so work inside or in the shade whenever possible. This reduces the likelihood of water spotting and soap residue adhering to surfaces.
Detailing cars for beginners: Mistake Three
Mistake: Using dish soap or household cleaning products
Remedy: There’s a reason why automotive shampoo was invented, and dish soap still says “dish” rather than “the car.” This shit will eat through your clear coat faster. So, if you must choose between waiting it out and detailing your ride another day or scrubbing the entire vehicle with dish soap, go with the first option.
Detailing cars for beginners: Mistake Four
Mistake: The same bucket is used for soap and rinsing
Remedy: When washing a car, ALWAYS use two buckets, never just one. The first should be filled with sudsy car shampoo, and the second with safe rinsing water. To avoid cross-contamination, rinse your dirty wash mitt or microfiber cloth in pure water before dipping it in the soapy solution.
Detailing cars for beginners: Mistake Five
Mistake: Cleaning wheels and tires at the end
Remedy: When you wash a wheel or tire, you’re likely to spread road grime and brake dust across the surrounding surfaces. Wash, scrub, and rinse the rollers and rubber before moving on to the rest of the vehicle. You can always give them a final polish with some detailing chemicals and a microfiber cloth at the end of the detailing process.
Detailing cars for beginners: Interior Vehicle Detailing
Is it time to service your car’s interior? Restore its luster with an at-home pro-level interior car detailing. People are increasingly turning to professionals to wash their cars. According to the International Carwash Association, 77 percent of drivers in 2019 reported using a professional car wash the most frequently, up from around 48 percent in 1994.
Car interiors accumulate dirt, dust, and grime, and trips to the car wash and detailing shop can quickly add up. However, you can clean your car like a pro with a little know-how and a few helpful hints.
Detailing cars for beginners: Step One – Gather your cleaning equipment
Instead of using household cleaners, invest in car care cleaners specifically designed for automotive applications. Household products, such as dishwashing soap, can damage the paint, interior, and plastic surfaces of automobiles.
Gather cotton swabs, fluffy make-up brushes, microfiber cloths, a scrubbing brush, and a vacuum cleaner with brush and crevice attachments in addition to car cleaning products. If you prefer a cleaning product set that includes exterior detailing,
Detailing cars for beginners: Step Two – Empty the car
Remove the floor mats, large items like car seats, bags, and anything else large that you keep in your car. Remove the big trash bag you have in your car too.
You can keep a small trash bag on hand on the road. Then you can easily dispose of the bag and replace it with a new one as needed.
Detailing cars for beginners: Step Three – Jot down your plan
There are nooks, crannies, and crevices in vehicles. Before you begin cleaning, inspect the interior of your vehicle. Note any dirty areas or spaces you may not notice while driving the vehicle.
Under the seats (reach under there carefully! ), floor mats, and the back sides of sun visors, air vents, cup holders, and storage compartments are some of the most commonly overlooked areas. The cargo and trunk areas are frequently overlooked as well. Make sure to visit these locations like the pros.
Detailing cars for beginners: Step Four – Clean Surfaces and Vacuum.
Vacuum and wipe down the car’s interior. It sounds simple, but for a car detailing-level clean, take your time and ensure you get into every nook and crevice. Work from top to base as much as possible, but remember that you may need to go back over some areas. Cars have cramped quarters, and dirt can fly around; you may need to return to complete a crevice you missed.
Keep the following car detailing tips and tricks in mind as you finish this marathon step:
- Pre-vacuum: Before vacuuming, use a soft, natural bristle brush to loosen dirt from all interior surfaces.
- Headliner: Don’t forget about the headliner, the fabric that covers the inside of the roof. Wrap a microfiber towel around a stiff nylon brush, spray an upholstery cleaner on the headliner, and lightly agitate it. This is a great way to avoid oversaturating the headliner with cleaner.
- Moving seats: When vacuuming the interior, move the front seats forward and back to get underneath the seat. Move reclined seats as far as they go in both directions to reach any hidden dirt.
- Use your resources: Your vacuum cleaner’s crevice attachment was designed to fit into tight corners. Use it frequently when detailing your car. Use cotton swabs and make-up brushes to clean air vents and around buttons.
- Make an informed decision: Use cleaning products made specifically for the material. If necessary, apply a conditioner or protectant to vinyl or leather surfaces.
- Check the spare: Ensure your spare tire is in good shape while cleaning the trunk. Check that all of the tire-changing tools are present.
- Spray with caution: Always spray your interior cleaning solution on your towel or detailing brush to avoid streaks and damage to electronics.
Detailing cars for beginners: Step Five – Clean the Windows.
Wash the windows last. This step is best accomplished with specialized window wipes. Even though you’re focusing on the car interior in this step, any exterior grime inside your newly detailed car interior will be visible. While you’re at it, clean the outside of the windows.
Detailing cars for beginners: Step 6 – Clean the floor mats
Remove any loose dirt from your floor mats by shaking them. Vacuum and then scrub with hot water and an automotive carpet cleaner, as directed by the manufacturer. Allow the mats to dry completely.
Detailing cars for beginners: Step 7- Reset the car
After you’ve finished detailing your car, replace the fully dried car mats, return any items you want to keep in your car to their proper places, and return your seats and mirrors to their proper positions. You’re now ready to drive away in your freshly cleaned car.
When you finish detailing your vehicle, which has been meticulously scrubbed from top to bottom, you will do what every detailer in history has done. You’re going to take a step back and look over your work. Will you be satisfied with your efforts? Will you be ashamed of what has happened? Only you can turn a perfectly planned detailing experience into a complete disaster, so follow the rules, and no one’s clear coat will be harmed.
The procedures above, precautions, and products may appear slightly extreme. However, there is only one option for those looking to eliminate harmful contaminants and protect their mode of transportation: full car detailing, and a full detailing procedure is extreme. That is, extremely intelligent!