A complete car detail can take a few hours if you are doing it by yourself. Following the right steps can lead to an excellent and very satisfying work, though. The more you do it, the better you will get. You will keep advancing your skills every time you do it. A complete car detail is recommended every four to six months (two to three times a year). Your vehicle will last longer and look great if you treat it to a complete detail every about six months. It feels wonderful to drive a clean and shiny vehicle. Here is how to do a complete car detail:
WHEN: You want to avoid your products drying up on the car as you use them. Choose a time a day or time when the sun is down. Choose a cloudy day. If you are doing the detailing in a garage or under a shade, you can then work any time except when it is too hot that the heat is drying the cleaning products too quickly. Also, if you have just been driving the vehicle, let the engine cool down for at least an hour if you plan on detailing the engine bay.
PROTECTION: Thoroughly inspect the vehicle to see what you are getting yourself into. Since you are going to be dealing with chemicals, it is important that you protect your body from absorbing the chemicals. You will need rubber gloves to prevent penetration through your skin. Eye wear will protect your eyes. And, you may need a N95 mask to prevent inhalation through the nose and/ mouth.
A. ENGINE BAY
Now that you have chosen an appropriate time, it highly recommended that you start out with the engine bay, because there will be some splash to the out parts of the engine surrounding the engine. If you have just been driving the vehicle, for better use of your time, I suggest you start out with the interior cleaning as the engine cools down. Check all electronics covers to make sure the covers are tight enough to prevent water from getting into those electronics. For most, if not all, cars manufactured after 2005 the components that should not have water in them (spark plugs, intake manifold, fuses, fuse boxes, etc) are already covered up. You don’t need to cover up the battery or alternator as you will blow off all the water with an air blower to dry off the entire engine.
If you are working on a vehicle with a cold air intake, and/or other exposed electronics, make sure those are covered up before you apply any chemicals, sprays or water to the engine bay. Again, if your vehicle is a 2005 or later, most likely everything that needs to be covered is already covered, and so, don’t over think it as long as all the covered are as tight as they should be. If you need to cover anything up, I suggest you use aluminum foil as that is easier to mold around parts. If you are still concerned about introducing water into your engine bay, you may ask someone that works at a car detailing shop on how they rinse the engine bay.
A1. WATER PRESSURE: A garden hose is recommended. If you use a pressure washer, keep it on low setting to prevent the high pressure water from opening up any components and/ introducing water where it is not supposed to be.
A2. HOOD: Apply degreaser to the inside of the hood. Spray it on liberally. Avoid spraying the heatshield as the added weight may make it heavy enough to fall off. Let the degreaser dwell for a couple of minutes and then rinse with a garden horse. You may use engine foam instead of the degreaser.
A3. ENGINE COMPARTMENT: Spray the engine bay with water to hose off any loose dirt. Liberally spray engine degreaser or engine foam on the entire engine bay and let it dwell for a couple of minutes. Use the different kinds of brushes to brush as many parts of the engine bay as you can get to. You may spray super clean degreaser on the brush tips as you brush surfaces. Then rinse the entire engine bay with the garden hose.
A4. DRYING AND SHINING: Use a dryer, car blower or a leaf blower to dry off the engine immediately after rinsing. Then liberally spray the engine shine on all parts of the engine. Finally, use a microfiber towel to buff off and rub in the shiner to as many parts of the engine as you can get to.
B. WHEELS: Work on one wheel at a time. Spray the wheel with a pressure washer to wash off any loose dust/dirt. Spray wheel cleaner on to the wheel and brush the tire with a tire brush. Spray the iron remover to all the metal parts of the wheel and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Brush the inside of the wheels with the Easy Reach Wheel and Rim Detailing Brush. Use a wheel and lug nut brush to clean the front of the wheel and the brake calipers. Always work from top to bottom. Then re-wash the entire wheel with the microfiber wash mitt. Next, clean the wheel wells with the wash mitts or a wheel brush. With a pressure washer or garden hose, thoroughly rinse all surfaces of the wheel, tire, and wheel wells. Dry with a microfiber towel/ leaf blower/ dedicated blower. Following the directions on the tire dressing bottle, apply tire dressing to the tire. If you plan on detailing the entire exterior, the tire dressing should be applied after all the exterior washing is complete.
C. EXTERIOR/ OUTSIDE: Now that you are done detailing the engine bay and cleaning the wheels, the next step is to clean and detail the exterior/outside of the vehicle. Make sure all the doors and windows are properly closed to be sure the water does not get into the interior of the vehicle. Always work from top to bottom.
C1. PRE-WASH: Rinse off the entire vehicle with a pressure washer to wash off any loose dirt. With foam cannon, apply foam to the entire vehicle exterior to loosen up any loose contaminants and dirt. Then, rinse thoroughly.
C2. WASHING: You are now ready to wash the vehicle. You will use a microfiber wash mitt and two buckets. One bucket will contain the soapy water while the other will contain the rinse water. Dip the wash mitt into the soapy water. In straight lines and applying little pressure, start scrubbing the vehicle with the microfiber wash mitt. When the wash mitt runs out of enough soap, rinse it in the rinse bucket each time before you dip it into the soapy water for more soap. When the entire exterior has gone through the soapy washing stage, you are now ready to rinse the entire exterior again. Next, spray tar removal on the paint to remove more contaminants like traffic film, greases, and insects. Rinse again. Then, spray an iron remover on all the paint to remove any iron particles embedded in the clear coat. Rinse thoroughly. Next, use a clay bar and clay lubricant on the entire exterior including paint, lights and glass to remove any remaining contaminants. Rinse thoroughly. Dry the entire vehicle with the blower or waffle weave microfiber towel. Use a soft bristle brush to clean emblems, rims, budges and areas of similar kind.
C3. POLISHING: Now that the exterior has been thoroughly cleaned, you are ready for the polishing stage to give your vehicle that gloss, shine and protection. Protect the trims with masking tape. You can polish with an orbital polisher or by hand with a microfiber towel. Any time you use the orbital polisher, run it side-to-side and then up-and-down on the same area. Put three to four pea-size dots of the compound on to the pad. Apply compound to the selected portion of the pain in one direct (like forward and back) and then in the opposite direction (like left to right) over the same area. Apply minimal pressure and let the weight of the orbital polisher do most of the pressing down for you. Use a wire brush to clean the pad between application of the compound. After the first application, the following application will need less compound as the pad will already be saturated. Next, with a microfiber towel, apply an oil and polish eraser to remove all the polishing oils prior to the protection phase. Then, with the polisher, apply a paint sealant or carnauba wax or Nu Finish wax. Let the wax or sealant dry and then buff it off with a microfiber towel to reveal the shine and gloss.
Apply the compound if the vehicle has a considerable amount of scratch marks. If the vehicle has minimal to no scratch marks, I suggest you skip the compound, but instead apply a scratch remover on all the paint using an applicator pad and wipe the haze off with a microfiber towel. With an orbital polisher or applicator pad (orbital polisher is preferred), apply carnauba wax or Nu Finish the-once-a-year-polish. Remember to polish the headlights to remove or reduce the yellowing and restore clarity. Once you are done polishing, buff off with a microfiber towel to let even more shine come through. If you wish to take the gloss to another level, you may apply a spray-on detailer and wipe off with a microfiber towel.
C5. TRIM: It is time to shine up that trim. Using an applicator pad, apply trim dressing to all the plastic trim. Also, if you haven’t applied the tire dressing, this is now a great time to do so. To apply tire dressing, simply spray it on to the tires and rub it in with an applicator pad.
C4. GLASS: If you haven’t already done so, clay bar the windshield to remove any remaining contaminants. Before applying the clay bar and lubricant, make sure the glass is clean or clean it with an all-purpose cleaner. The pattern for cleaning the window should be cleaning all the corners, then right to left and up and down. To clean the wiper blades, spray glass cleaner on a microfiber cloth and thoroughly wipe the wiper blades. Using a waffle weave microfiber towel, clean all the glass inside and outside with an ammonia-free and streak-free glass cleaner that is safe for all types of glass including tinted glass. With a microfiber towel, apply glass sealant to the outside of the glass. Finally, apply antifog to the interior of the glass/window. You may also use the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser for cleaning glass.
D. INTERIOR: Declutter the vehicle by taking out all the floor mats and all belongings that will be in the way of the cleaning.
D1. FLOORMATS: (You are doing this outside of the vehicle). If the floormats are plastic, rinse them with a pressure washer. Spray on a multi-purpose cleaner or degreaser. Brush with a carpet brush to agitate the dirt. Rinse with a pressure washer. For upholstery floormats, vacuum thoroughly, spray on a carpet or upholstery cleaner, scrub using a carpet brush and wipe all the excess solution with a microfiber towel.
D2. VACUUMING, DUSTING & WIPING & SHINING: Thoroughly vacuum the vehicle moving seats back and forward to get to all spots. Dust the dashboard and other applicable areas with a soft bristle detailing brush while keeping the vacuum suction close by to pickup the dust. Use a gel cleaner to pick up the extra dust on all the screen and from the vents. Use an all-interior spray clean and a microfiber towel to clean all applicable parts of the interior. Using a steam cleaner and a microfiber towel, clean all the door jams and door seals. To clean the headliner, spray the all-purpose or all-interior cleaner on to the tip of a soft bristle detailing brush, clean all areas with stains or need that touchup, and wipe off with a microfiber towel. Using a microfiber towel and all-purpose cleaner spraying on and wiping off to clean, clean all plastic and door trim. With a microfiber applicator pad, apply plastic and rubber protectant to all the plastic, plastic and vinyl surfaces of the interior. With a microfiber applicator pad, apply leather condition to the leather seats and other leather surfaces. To protect the upholstery seats, carpet and other upholstery surfaces, spray on a mist of fabric protectant and let dry.
D4. AIR FRESHENING: The final step is to deodorize the vehicle. Turn the air conditioning on to full blast and in air re-circulation mode. Choose an air freshener of your liking. Spray the air freshener in the front of the vehicle by where the feet rest so the air conditioning can pick it up to re-circulate it to the entire vehicle. If you have already cleaned the glass, make sure to re-check the glass to make sure it is spotless.
E. Admire your work. After all that hard work, it is now time to admire and enjoy your work. Congratulations!
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