What Is Auto Detailing?

More than just washing the outside of your car using a rag and soapy water, or just using Armor All on the inside and then vacuuming, detailing your car means just what it says. It will focus on and clean all of the little details on your car and take it from just clean to like new.

Detailing A Car

Detailing is different than just washing your car.  It is much more involved and it’s goal is to bring the vehicle as close to factory new as possible.  You will need s specific set of tool and the time to get the whole project done.


Before you start the whole detailing process, you will need all the needed tools and cleaning products. Besides your basic car washing tools such as chamois, car wax, sponges, soap, water, and a bucket, you will also notice that you are going to need some specialized tools when it comes to the nitty gritty. While everyone can develop their own toolbox of magic based on their car, and the level of detail that they want, below are a few suggestions that can help to get you started:

  • Surface protector for leather and vinyl surfaces
  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Carpet stain cleaner
  • Upholstery cleaner
  • Canned air
  • Plastic spray bottles
  • Cotton swabs and Q-tips
  • Various small brushes of different sizes such as paint brushes and toothbrushes
  • Variety of rags such as thin cotton rags and terry cloth towels
  • Vacuum cleaner which should be for dry and wet surfaces and needs to have multiple attachments, especially for tiny areas

Detailing The Interior

Begin with the inside of your car, so that you will not mess up the just washed exterior while you are wiping out and vacuuming the inside. While the order of the steps isn’t really important, here is a suggestion of the areas that you should clean:

  • Upholstery: vacuum the seats and you will take care of the stains the same way that you removed them on the carpet. Be sure to dry the seats with the doors open.
  • Carpets: vacuum completely then remove stains using stain remover and a brush. Let the carpets dry. For small stains, just dilute the solution with a bit a water, and spray it using a spray bottle. You want to use very little moisture to keep from causing mildew. Clean the floor mats using a stiff brush and then you will need to put them outside to dry.
  • Door interiors: Clean the non-cloth areas using a soapy solution. Concentrate on the little cracks and areas that will collect grime and dirt. Dry the area using a thick cloth.
  • Door jambs: open your doors and wipe the plastic and metal parts using soapy solutions. Dry the jamb using a clean rag and follow up with a smaller tool such as brushes or Q-tips to remove tough spots and stains.
  • Center console: use detailing tools to ensure that all indentations and seams are cleaned and free of grime. Dry using a thick cloth.
  • Dashboard: don’t spray cleaning solutions or water on the dashboard. Use small area tools and apply the cleaning solution to the tool and then clean around all buttons and knobs. Dry everything.
  • Steering wheel column: use soapy solution to remove stains and dust. Dry completely, and then apply a surface protectant to the surface.
  • Windows: use soapy solution or glass cleaner to make the inside of the windows shine. Don’t worry about the exterior. Dry completely and erase any streaks.

Here are a few more tips to make things much easier:

  • Remove tough dirt and grease using a solution of water and detergent. Scrub hard using a stiff brush and then vacuum using a wet vac.
  • Remove pet hair from the carpets and seats by using duct or masking tape around your hand with the sticky side out. Run your hand over the cloth surfaces until hair free.
  • Experts state that silicone products like Armor All can be harmful to your car because of the greasy film and glossy shine that is left on the surfaces. You can find protectants with a matte finish, silicone free and will block UV rays.
  • Use canned air to blow the grime and dust from crevices and cracks that can be hard to reach.
  • Use a plastic knife that is covered in thin cloth to get into deep crevices and dig out any caked-on dust and grime.

Detailing The Exterior

You will want to start with the wheels. Most auto stores will have solutions that are made for rubber tires, but you can also use a soapy solution that you use on the rest of your car. You might want to remember that some household detergents can strip the wax off your car, so it is best to use a car washing solution that doesn’t have detergent in it. You should check your local auto store for the brands. Then using a pressure washer to remove all the stubborn dirt and mud, and then using a stiff brush clean the rim on your tire and make them sparkle.

Change out the water and using clean rags, begin to wash the rest of your car. You will want to give the car a complete wash using plenty of soapy solution and water. Wash all of the small areas, starting at the roof and try to make sure that the surfaces do not dry out. You can keep spraying the cleaned areas with a hose until you are ready to dry the car.

You want to take some extra care and change the dirty rag for new ones whenever it gets too much dirt on it. You do not want to scratch the finish on the car with the dirt that is on the rag.

Then take smaller brushes and tools for the areas that need more attention such as the rims that are around your tail lights and headlights, side mirrors and indentations on the door handles. Ensure that you keep rinsing everything using clean water.

Drying And Waxing

Once the whole car has been completely cleaned, then dry it off using clean chamois or cotton cloth. You can use your tools to dry water lying in the window wells or in cracks. Now is the time to wax your car if you want. After you have waxed the car, you could find small areas of dust or wax deposit after it has been completely dried. Clean this using a small brush.

The last thing that you will want to do is to make the exterior windows and windshield streak free and drip free. Newspaper works really well to get a streak free shine and it does work on mirrors as well.

Even though it could seem to be a lot of work, it is best that you detail your car every couple of months. It will help to keep the surface of the car as well as the finishes protected and healthy, not to mention lengthen the life of your car. Who doesn’t love driving around in a spotless, fresh car.