Investing your time in detailing your car is important. Taking care or your car’s appearance is smart vehicle ownership. You can hire a professional auto detailer to care for your car — or you can swipe their secrets, do it yourself and save some dough.
There are a few professional organizations for detailers, like the National Association for Professional Detailing & Reconditioning (NAPDR) and the Professional Detailers Association, where you can find references for local detailers. You can also search local directories. But just because an auto detailer is a member or listed in a directory, doesnít mean theyíre competent. If you’re going to hire a detailer, ask a lot of questions, ask for references and to see sample work, and agree to a price in writing before they begin detailing your car.
If you choose to detail your own car, you should be prepared to spend a little bit of money gathering the proper tools and materials. You may already have most of the right stuff handy in your garage; if you must gather everything brand new, you will probably spend about $30 to $100 or more, depending on how extensive of a detail job you intend to do.
The most important material that you’ll need is already in your tool kit. The secret ingredient is hard work and elbow grease. Good detailing is about 90% about your product. The best detailer can get decent results with decent products.
The following are the top 11 secrets that will help you to get professional results, make your detailing more fun, more successful and easier.
Secret #1: Use Two Buckets
Great detailers know that best way to get the exterior of your car clean is by using two buckets. Use one bucket to hold your clean suds, and another bucket to hold your clean water. Before you dip your cleaning mitt into the clean suds, rinse it off in the clean water bucket and wring it dry. That way you’re always putting a clean mitt into the clean suds that will go on your car. If you only use one bucket, you’re just moving dirt off of your car, into your suds and back onto your car.
Secret #2: Use Microfiber
We are living in the microfiber revolution. Professional detailers tend to use color-coded, task-specific microfiber cloths and towels. This helps them to be more efficient, but they also have lower friction and scratching and makes washing easier, as well as rinsing and drying. However, its important to remember with microfiber, and anything else for that matter, you get what you pay for — those cheap packs of microfiber from the warehouse store are not as good as the ones you can find at online specialty stores.
Secret #3: Detail Your Trim First
Use a trim protectant/restorer like Mothers’ Back to Black before you wax your paint. Wash and dry your vehicle, then apply the trim protectant. The product will repel polish and wax that might otherwise stain your trim. Some professional detailers use masking tape to protect the trim during waxing — this can help save time and cleanup, if you do it.
Secret #4: Apply product with a buffer, use a Towel to Remove
Its very common to get confused by the name, and use a power buffer to remove wax or polish from your carís painted surface. But this is not a good idea at all. A buffer can leave swirl marks in your clear coat and paint if used to remove product, that’s not what it’s for. You should use the buffer to apply wax, and then use a soft, dry cloth to remove it. By doing this, youíll avoid burning the paint or damaging the clear coat, and you’ll wind up with a thin, even coat of wax.
Secret #5: Use a Dual Action Polisher
Instead of purchasing two separate tools, for just a little bit more, you can get the perfect blend of both tools with a dual action polisher like the Flex XC 3401 VRG. (This tool usually sells for about $280). The XC 3401 VRG, or a similar product is one of professional detailersí favorites for exterior finishes. It can handle about 80% of the polishing chores youíll come across when detailing. Consider the splurge and make your job a little easier.
Secret #6: Use a Clay Bar System
This secret may not be such a big secret, but it’s so good that its worth repeating. There is no better way to remove surface contaminants from your carís paint than with a good clay bar system. Professional auto detail services have been using clay for years, and at home versions have been on the market for at least the last 10 years. A good clay bar system includes a spray lubricant, usually a detailing spray, a clay bar, and a towel. After washing and drying your car, you rub the clay bar on the paint to remove the contaminants without removing paint thickness. The smoother paint surface takes polishing and wax better, and extends the life of subsequent treatments. Most clay kits retail for about $20.
Secret #7: Use a Plastic Grocery Bag to Check the Paint Surface
Here’s another tip to help you with your carís exterior paint. Once you have cleaned your paint’s surface with a clay bar system or other cleaner, it’s very important to make sure that you’ve really removed all the dirt before you seal the surface with a wax. Put your hand in an ordinary thin plastic grocery bag, and run it over the surface of the paint. The plastic bag will amplify any bumps and imperfections for you, so that you can go back and detail again. Keep rechecking until the surface is totally smooth, then its safe to polish and apply protective wax.
Secret #8: Dry Your Glass in Two Directions
Thatís right, dry your glass in two directions. You should get into the habit of doing your final wipe of interior glass in a horizontal direction, and the final wipe on the exterior in a vertical direction. Then, when you find the inevitable streak, you’ll instantly know whether it’s on the inside (horizontal) or the outside (vertical) of the glass. You’ll get perfectly clear glass without jumping in and out of the vehicle chasing that streak. This is a tip professional auto detailers use all the time. Because, come on, who doesnít hate a streak.
Secret #9: Brush It First
When its time for you to focus on cleaning the interior of your car, your first attack should be a good brush. Before vacuuming your carís carpet, de-mat the fibers by using a stiff nylon brush. Then, when you vacuum, the dirt will be free in the carpet, and will be much easier to extract. The same goes for door panels, you just need to use a gentler brush. If more aggressive cleaning is necessary, use a gentle solution of fabric cleaner, and dry with a soft cotton cloth.
Secret #10: Use Static Electricity My Friend
To remove any pet hair, or other hair for that matter, from your cars carpets, put on a pair of latex gloves (which come in boxes at any home improvement or box store) and then rub your hand over the carpet. The static electricity caused by the latex glove will help bring the pet hair up to the surface of the carpet for easy removal by hand or vacuum.
Secret #11: Leave the Headliner Alone
There is one part of the car that professional auto detailers avoid if at all possible: the headliner. Even a little bit of agitation can cause the glue in a headliner to fail, causing way more problems than it is worth. Keep it to a minimum when it comes to cleaning, brushing and tending to the headliner fabric. If you positively must clean your headliner, use very little moisture, and never allow it to soak through the outer fabric.
If you feel like you donít have the money to invest in regular auto detailing appointments, doing your auto detailing yourself can be a great way to cut costs in the long run, but you will have to make an initial investment. Auto detailing can be a great way to bond with your car, and to make your automotive investment go farther, last longer and look better. Of course, detailing your car yourself requires a lot of time, so ultimately youíll have to decide where you want to make the investment. However, it is extremely important that you keep your car clean and looking nice. Investing in a good auto detailing plan is what any responsible car owner should do.