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DIY Auto Detailing

Cleaning of interior of the car with vacuum cleanerIs your car looking grimy lately? If it’s a daily commuter, it could probably use a little love. While soap, a hose, and bucket are good enough to knock the crud off, a full detail will restore that like-new shine. Spend a little more time cleaning the professional way, and you will have a ride that will look better, and stay clean longer. Here’s a few tips to get you started.

Top, down, and inside, outside

This is a simple reminder of the order you want to work. Start from the top of the vehicle and work down, that way you do not drop cleaners or dirt onto an already cleaned area. Do the interior first, then the exterior.

Basics first

Obviously, clean up your interior by removing all those old fast food wrappers and shopping lists from 2 years ago. Hit everything with a can of compressed air. It’s easier than feather dusting, and works just as well. Try to work your way down, so the dust and grime drop onto the floor mats. This will make them easy to remove and vacuum.

Make it pretty

Auto DetailingThe interior is where you spend your time with the vehicle, so it is worth it to go all out cleaning and detailing the inside. Use a dedicated plastic interior spray to remove any messes and protect the interior from UV damage. Use a leather conditioner on leather surfaces. Cloth can be cleaned with a multitude of cleaners, but try to stick with something organic, that way there will be no chemical off-gassing during the heat of summer. Use a glass cleaner on all glass surfaces, inside and out. Use a soft bristle brush or old toothbrush to get into hard to reach areas.

Wheels/tires before paint

Use a wheel cleaner approved for your type of wheels. For example, not all aluminum cleaners are approved for chrome, or painted wheels. Read the back of the bottle for guidelines. Once the wheels are clean, use a dedicated tire cleaner and scrub brush to bring back the shine. A “wet” tire product is just for looks, but can be applied now, just don’t overdo it or you will splatter it everywhere on your first drive.

Wash, clay bar, wash again

Wash your vehicle using car wash soap. Be sure to open the doors and windows, and get into the nooks and crannies. There are many overlooked spaces that need a good cleaning, such as in the door jambs, hood and trunk latch areas, and the wheel wells. Be sure to hit the weather stripping too. Then use a clay bar to remove any stuck on deposits, as well as paint imperfections. Clay bars work wonders, but will require another wash.

Polish and/or wax

Finally, protect your shiny clean paint from the sun with a polish and/or wax system. The “and/or” is there, as some detailers do either step, but both are best. The polish is usually more expensive and time consuming, but creates an amazing deep finish. The wax goes on easy, and protects the paint, but needs to be reapplied every season.

Here’s a quick shopping list of tools you will need: car wash soap, bucket, water hose, wash mitt, microfiber cloths, interior cleaners, compressed air, shop or handheld vacuum, soft bristle interior brush, wheel cleaner, tire cleaner/conditioner, wheel brush, clay bar, wax or polish, glass cleaner.

Every vehicle and detailer will have their own style, so feel free to adjust as needed. Let’s hear from you. Any tools or steps you would recommend?

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