How to detail your car, the proper way

By ATL - February 14, 2017

So you’ve read how to wash your car the proper way, here’s how you detail your car…the proper way.

But first, lets see what ‘detailing’ actually means. Wikipedia has it down as this:

Auto detailing is the performance of thorough cleaning, restoration, and finishing of an automobile, both inside and out, to produce a show-quality level of detail.

That pretty much sums it up! This is the next step up from cleaning. You’re basically aiming for showroom condition and long lasting protection for your paintwork.

The Kit

Buying your first detailing supplies can be a bit of a nightmare, there are hundreds of different products on the market with weird and wonderful names, many of them doing the similar things.

This list is the bare minimum to get you going.

  • Tar & glue remover
  • Fallout remover
  • Alloy wheel cleaner
  • Alloy wheel brush
  • Clay bar
  • Autoglym Rapid Detailer
  • Meguiars Ultimate Compound – See what it can do below
  • Autoglym Super Resin Polish
  • Hard wax – Autoglym HD Wax or similar
  • Acrylic spray on sealant – Carlack or similar
  • Multiple microfibre cloths – buy more than you think you’ll need
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Image from Meguairs.co.uk

The wash

Come on, this is easy! You need to make your ride squeaky clean before you can get to work beautifying it.

So go back and read our post on how to wash your car the proper way.

The Method

Right, now you can begin!

Firstly you need to coat your car in fallout remover. It typically comes in a spray bottle, it’s clear in colour and turns purple when it reacts with the fallout on your car.

Fallout is all the crap in the air that drops and settles on your car. If you’ve never used this before on your ride, then use a whole bottle.

Auto Finesse Fallout Remover - carfixtips
Image courtesy YouTube

Start with the roof, then spray the windows, the sides, front, rear…cover everywhere.

It’s best to do this on a cool day; you don’t want the fallout remover to dry onto your paintwork.

Leave it for 5/10 minutes. It should have turned purple by now.

Hose it all off, from top to bottom. Then hose it down once again to make sure there’s no fallout remover left on the car.

Alloys

Alloys can be a pain in the ass, they are fiddly to clean, have hard to reach places and are normally baked in brake dust.

This is where a decent alloy wheel cleaner comes into its own.

It should be a non-acidic, alkali wheel cleaner.

Spray it all over the wheel and agitate it with a brush.

First, circle around the edge of the alloy, then the face, before finally working your way onto the spokes.

Then hose down each wheel.

Paintwork Cleansing

Fallout remover does a good job, but sometimes there’s still spots of tar, or bits of fallout you can’t see. This is where the clay bar comes into action.

Again, if you’ve never clay barred your car, now’s a good time, to put in the time.

Grab your quick detailing spray and coat a panel at a time, you want it to be wet when using the clay bar.

Break a small amount off of the clay bar, a piece about an inch square is good.

Mould it in your fingers for a minute or so and then, press it against the panel.

Autofinesse Clay Bar - Carfixtips
Image courtesy AutoFinesse

You want to move it backwards and forward as if you were using sandpaper, make sure you don’t miss any part of the panel.

Oh, and you need to be working from top to bottom, the grimiest parts of the car are nearest the road.

Check the clay now and then to see what its picking up, then mould it by folding the dirty side into the middle so you have a fresh surface to continue using.

If you drop the clay, THROW IT AWAY. You don’t want any small bits of dirt or grit being rubbed across your paintwork. So if it ends up on the floor, break a new section off.

Work your way around the car doing this. This stage should generally take a good few hours. Yup, you can even do the roof if you like, we won’t stop you.

If you find any spots of tar that are particularly severe, this is the time to crack out the tar & glue remover. Put a small amount on a microfibre and rub the tar spot until it disappears, magic.

Paintwork Enhancement

Next up you want to give the car a wash down, just to make sure there’s no little bits of clay stuck to the car.

Once you’ve dried it off, you can start with repairing some of the damage to your car’s paint.

There are many compounds available, but we use Meguiars Ultimate Compound. It’s safe for anyone to use, and gets some splendid results either by hand or with a dual-action polisher. It works by removing a small amount of top coat on your paint, in turn this helps eliminate any swirls or marring.

Swirls stop the reflectivity of your paintwork, which means the final finish won’t be as good. Meg’s compound also cuts away any UV damaged layers of the clear coat; again this can impede a glossy finish.

Put a pea sized amount of Ultimate Compound onto a microfibre cloth and rub it into your paintwork in circular motions.

We know the images show it using a machine polisher, but that paint is atrocious…you can get great results using it by hand. Trust us.

Image courtesy of Meguiars
Image courtesy of Meguiars

You want to keep going until it’s near enough clear, if you’re doing your whole car by hand this will take you a very, very long time. But it is doable, even if you have a dose of repetitive strain injury along the way.

After the final panel has been compounded, you can start to remove the residue. Grab a fresh microfibre cloth and buff off all the compound.

Next Up

So you’re hand is about to fall off after all the buffing you’ve just done, the car’s looking great and you think your finished…but wait!

You need to use some polish next. And Autoglym Super Resin is the dogs!

It’s not a polish in the typical sense as it contains fillers. Fillers help mask swirls. You’re never going to get 100% correction on your car with a compound, that’s a job for professionals…but with Super Resin Polish you’ll get a super glossy, ultra smooth finish with the majority of swirls hidden away.

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Again, take a pea sized amount on a microfibre and rub in circles onto each panel. Buff it until it turns white and powdery, when that happens put some more polish onto the cloth and keep going.

Be careful not to get it on any rubber or plastic trim; it’s a bitch to get off!
If you do, use baby wipes to get it off. Trust us, it works.

Nearly There

Home stretch now!

Finally, you’re on to the LSP – Last Step Product.

You can do one of two things…or both for added longevity.

First up is car wax. You need to look for one that includes Carnauba, this is a natural wax which is very hard in nature. It’s used in everything from eyeliner to coating pills. Its main property is that it provides a very high shine, which is good for cars!

Peugeot-106-GTi-Paint-Correction-Carwitter-10 Peugeot-106-GTi-Paint-Correction-Carwitter-08

By using this on your car, you’re in effect protecting all that hard work you’ve just put your wrists through, uh hum 🙂 …

Waxes typically come with a foam type applicator, you just wipe this over the wax and then onto your car in a circular motion. Don’t apply it too thick. Otherwise, it will be a nightmare to remove later on.
Additional coats are better than one thick one.

Once again, make sure you don’t get it on any plastic or rubber trim.

Buff off with another clean microfibre cloth.

Your whip should be ULTRA shiny by now.

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But wait, theres more…

This is the second way you can do LSP. Sealants.

Sealants can last far longer than wax. Wax can be broken down by rain, road dirt and the atmosphere. They typically only last around a month or so. Sealants can last up to four to six months.

Buy an acrylic based sealant, rather than a wax carnauba type. Acrylic is far more resistant to being broken down. Thus it lasts a lot longer.

Carlack is a good one to chose, but there are plenty of other brands out there.

Drying Towel

As always you dab a small amount onto a microfibre cloth or pad and work it into the paintwork until it’s almost transparent.

Wait for it to set (normally 10/15 mins) and then buff off with yet another clean microfibre cloth.

You can use more coats to built up layers of protection if you wish.

Or, you can even use a sealant and then use a top coat of wax. Mind. Blown.

Done

There you go, all sorted. That should have taken you roughly a day from start to finish…if done properly that is.

Now that’s a long old process, granted. But you’ve cleansed, repaired, filled, and protected your paintwork.

It will make cleaning far quicker and easier; dirt will just wipe off, saving you time during each wash.

Ideally, you need to do this every quarter, so four times a year should see you right.

The products can be pricey to get you set up, but the wax, sealant and clay should last you at least a year.

Peugeot-106-GTi-Paint-Correction-Carwitter-05

About the Author - ATL

I'm a freelance automotive writer. Nuff said.

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