For those that want to detail their own car & don’t quite know what to do, I am going to break it down for you. All in All, this takes about 4 hours. This is the process I used when I worked for a detail shop here in San Diego. Any car should be fully detailed every 6 months.
Here is a list of supplies you will need for a good detail:
Obviously a place to do the detail that is COMPLETELY shaded
A high-pressure hose nozzle
A REAL Chamois (sp?)
Terry Cloth Towels
A high-speed buffer (preferably NOT the orbital kind)
Good/New Buffer Pads
About 8 Sponges (big like a 3X5 or a 5X7 & not the ones with the scratchy side)
Car Wash Soap (NOT DISH SOAP)
Car Wash Mitt
Dressing (for vinyl, tires, etc)
Wheel cleaner (optional)
Wax (3 recommended: A Swirl Away type, a normal liquid wax, and a paste wax to finish & carnauba is good for the last 2)
Shop Vac (one that blows air & Vacuums)
Alot of normal Towels
Window Cleaner (I have found that a foam window cleaner works really good)
2 new small 1” paintbrushes
Air Freshener of your choice
Long Industrial extension cord (usually they are Orange)
Ok The Wash:
Rinse car down & pop hood. Use high pressure and rinse down the wheel wells real good & the underbody as well.
Make sure engine is cool; cover any part you do not want to get wet. On cars w/ a distributor, cover with a plastic bag grocery bag. Cover any parts you do not want to get wet with a plastic bag as well.
Spray/mist down engine, Do not high-pressure rinse it; use a spray setting on the nozzle.
Spray on your engine degreaser. DO NOT let it get on the Paint outside the engine bay. It will eat your paint off your car. Let it sit for about 10 minutes.
Spray/mist the engine degreaser off.
Spray on Dressing onto engine & soak it real good. This will make everything plastic have a nice shine to it. I would not recommend the 2001 or Armor All dressing for it collects dirt real bad! It does not matter about the dressing on the engine itself for it will evaporate when the car gets warm.
Close your Hood & proceed to wash your car.
Scrub Tires & use wheel cleaner on the wheels if you wish.
When done washing, spray Dressing into wheel wells. Soak it down good.
Use Chamois to dry car off. Wring out often. From the top down works best. Start with roof, then the windshield, side windows & rear windshield. Hood, Trunk. Sides then bumpers.
Once car is mostly dry, use the shop vac to blow out the water in all the cracks. Make sure to get the front upper & lower grill, the mirrors. Just go over every crack that you see. Carry the chamois with you so when you blow out the water, you can wipe it up. Also remember to get the wheels where the lug nuts are.
Once that is complete, open the doors, trunk, and hood & gas door.
Use a damp towel to wipe out all the doorjambs, under the hood, around the trunk, in the gas door. Do not use the chamois because you may get grease on it from the door hinges & that grease will get on your car in the next wash you do. The damp towel is so any water that has dried & left a spot will come up no prob.
Wipe down wheels as well.
Once that is complete, shut all the doors, hood & trunk.
You are now finished with the wash
Time for the Interior:
Pull all floor mats out & shampoo them.
Use the bucket w/ warm water & the carpet cleaning solution & the huge sponge. Wring out the sponge real good. Shampoo/scrub all the floor mats real well.
After you shampoo them, go back over them with a dry regular towel & scrub them again with the dry towel frequently flipping & refolding the towel so you are not scrubbing the dirt back into the mats.
Place them in the Sun to dry.
Repeat process for the carpet in the car.
Use soap & water & a big sponge to clean any dirty panels/plastic parts. Once washed, wipe with a dry towel.
Use dressing for all that you want a shine to in the car as you normally would. Stay away from the pedals & the steering wheel. I don’t think I need to explain why.
Spray dressing on one of the 1” paintbrushes to get into the vents & hard to reach places.
Once you dressed all you are going to do, give it a final wipe down with a dry towel.
If you have leather seats, use leather cleaner to clean them.
You can shampoo the roof liner, but if it is fabric, I would not recommend it because water will ruin it more than likely.
DO NOT vacuum the car yet.
Time to get back to the outside of the car:
Get your buffer & a good buffer pad.
Some Rules to follow when buffing with a High Speed Buffer:
1: Do small sections at a time. About a 3’ by 3’ section is good. This is a must.
2: DO NOT hold the buffer in one place for any longer than a second. Keep it constantly moving. If you do not, you will burn your paint off!
3: DO NOT apply pressure to the buffer unless you know what you are doing. Just let the weight of the buffer apply the pressure.
4: DO NOT go over any non-painted plastic or the wiper nozzles with the buffer. Be careful around the rubber trim of the windows as well. It will burn the plastic!
5: FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE BACK OF THE WAX BOTTLE.
Use the buffer & the swirl away/cleaner type wax & buff the whole car 1 section at a time.
Use the 3X5 or 5X7 DAMP sponge to apply the wax to the car. Follow the instructions on the back of the bottle.
Take your time. Usually in the same way you dried the car, from the top down. Make sure you keep a good amount of wax going while buffing. Once again, following the directions on the back of the bottle.
After that coat is done, start on the second coat. You do not need the buffer for this coat.
Continue with the small sections. Same order as before, Top on down. Avoid getting wax into the cracks of your car or on the non-painted plastic parts. Take your time!!
Remove wax with a terry cloth towel. Change out towels often so you are almost always using a clean surface on the towel to remove the wax.
Now, with that coat done, its time to dress the outside of the car w/ a damp sponge & the dressing of your choice. Use your dressing on any plastic, vinyl, etc. that you want it on but try & be neat about it, but if you cant, its not big deal if you are sloppy with it. It will be more work later if you are sloppy with it though.
Dress your tires with a separate damp sponge. The tires are always filthy, so the sponge will turn black almost immediately.
Remember that the dressing, if sprayed, will mist the WHOLE CAR! Take great care by putting the nozzle in the sponge & spraying it or holding it away from the car as low as you can to the ground without putting it on the ground itself. If you spray it from any distance, the mist will get on your car & if you don’t plan on waxing it after the dressing, you will have spots all over & it does look like crap.
After you are done dressing the car, wash your hands. They will be greasy from the dressing.
Now, grab your paste wax (carnauba) and lets start the 3rd & final coat.
Apply with a new 3X5 or 5X7 damp sponge. Don’t use too much, but don’t use to little.
Do in smaller sections than the previous coats. This is the final coat so you want it to look the best.
Let it dry & buff off with a cloth diaper. TAKE YOUR TIME!! Follow the same rules above in regards to the wax on plastic, etc…
Once that coat is complete, get a clean cloth diaper & wipe down the whole car.
Use the other 1” paintbrush to clean the wax from all the cracks, emblems, around the wiper nozzles, etc. You get the picture.
Time now for the windows.
Crack all windows that you can roll down about a ½ inch to an inch.
Now you want to use 2 terry towels to clean the windows.
Spray window cleaner on towel & clean the top edge of the window. Buff dry with the 2nd terry cloth towel.
Once complete with all the edges of the windows, roll them back up.
Clean windows following the same process of spraying cleaner on window, clean window, and buff dry with 2nd terry cloth towel. Make sure to use ammonia free cleaner on tinted windows.
To get all the streaks, look thru window @ something dark from multiple angles. As you see the streaks, buff out with the dry terry cloth towel.
Now, Vacuum the inside of the car. This is the last step because of the pieces of fabric likely to come off the terry cloth towels in the car. Also, vacuum the floor mats after they are dry.
And last but not least, crack open your favorite beer & sit back & look @ your job well done.