Nobody likes spending their money to have somebody else detail a car! If you have no experience with detailing, then it can be tricky doing it yourself. On our site, you can learn all the tips and tricks on how to detail a car even if you have zero prior experience. Detailing a car is an art, and if you want to learn the cheapest, most efficient ways to detail a car at home, then you’re in the right place.
Steps to Detail a Car:
- Prepping Yourself and Your Car for Detailing
- Cleaning Wheels and Washing Door Jambs
- Cleaning Interior Panels / Windows
- Cleaning Seats
- Vacuuming and Washing Carpets / Mats
- Washing and Waxing the Exterior
- Finishing Touches (Excess Wax / Greasing Tires and Plastic)
Step One: Preparation
When preparing to detail your car, you want to start off by obtaining your supplies and making sure you will have enough room to reach any part of your vehicle. Supplies needed include:
- Two Buckets (one toothbrush)
- Washcloths and Drying Towels
- Few sets of Gloves
- Car Washing Sponge and Interior Brush
- Shop Vacuum with Multiple Attachments
- Interior Cleaning Product
- Rim and Door Jam Product
- Window Cleaner
- Car Wash and Wax (with Buffer)
- Access to an Air Compressor (Microfiber Duster can be used, also)
- Access to a hose
Once you have gathered all your necessary supplies, you are ready to go. Start off with dusting the inside of your vehicle. Use either a microfiber duster or an air compressor to get rid of the hard to reach areas of dust before you actually get to cleaning. This will save a lot of time when it comes to vacuuming hard to reach spots (in between seats, air vents, dashboard, etc.)
Once the vehicle is fully dusted or sprayed out, you can now prep the outside of the vehicle. The main goal here is to remove any unwanted dirt and scum from the outside of the vehicle to make washing it much easier and reduce the chance of scratches. Simply hose off the car thoroughly and try to reach everywhere. This includes the wheel wells, front grill, side skirts, etc. With preparation completed, you can now move on to cleaning.
Step Two: Wheels and Door Jambs
When cleaning rims, all you need is a bucket with some cleaner, a toothbrush, and hose. To start off, just completely rinse the rim to ensure they have no excess dirt on them. Next just apply the cleaner and use the toothbrush to scrub. A toothbrush is very easy to find and allows you to reach all the hard angles within a rim.
Cleaning the door jambs is a tad different from the rims, but is very easy to do. First, apply the cleaner to all parts of the door jambs and just let it sit for a few minutes. You want to avoid using any type of brush to scrub the door jambs, as it can not only scratch the car, but it is also unnecessary to do. After letting the cleaner sit, simply use the hose to rinse out the door jambs. Since the car hasn’t been vacuumed yet, don’t worry about getting the carpets wet during this step.
Step Three: Panels and Windows
This is a rather easy part when it comes to detailing a car, and it’s even easier if you completed dusted out the vehicle. For the panels of the vehicle, including the steering wheel, dashboard, and center console, all you have to do is apply the interior cleaner and use the washcloths to scrub everything down. With the vehicle dust free, this part is not hard at all. You can also use a small brush like a toothbrush to help get into any small areas. Wipe the interior until you are satisfied with the looks.
Now you can do the windows. Just like cleaning any windows, car windows are essentially the same. Just spray window cleaner on and then wipe it off. It helps to use two towels for this part. One “wet” towel and one “dry” towel. The wet towel is used to wipe off the cleaner after being applied and the dry towel is used to dry up any missed spots and help avoid any streaks. The hardest to reach spots are the front and back windshields. So if needed, you can purchase a window cleaner tool with a handle that can help you reach those hard to get angles.
Step Four: The Seats
Cleaning the seats will be the same regardless of the seat material, but you just have to make sure that you use the correct cleaning product for your type of seats. To start off, vacuum the seats to the best of your ability to remove any surface dirt. For people who keep pretty clean, you will most likely not have to wash your seats, but if you have stains, you need to scrub them clean using cleaning product and a brush. Start by using the brush and scrubbing the seats until you can no longer see the stain. Then use the vacuum to dry up any moisture. Lastly, use a cleaning wipe to go over one more time to ensure it’s clean.
For leather seats, you can also buy protectant spray to help avoid stains in the future. Leather seats need more care and higher quality products to clean them, so it’s not a bad idea to help protect the seats. For cloth/fabric seats, you will sometimes have the problem of dog or cat hair not coming out. A good tip to remove it is by using a slab of rubber. The rubber helps to get into the fabric and pulls the hair right out, making life much easier for the vacuum.
Step Five: Mats and Carpets
When it comes to vacuuming a car, there isn’t any real right way to go about it. Depending on how dirty the interior is, this step can be fun or very difficult. To start off, remove the mats on top of the carpets and shake them off outside the vehicle. You can take these on the side, and vacuum them until they look clean. Then, you want to take your brush and cleaner and scrub until you can see no more dirt. An easy way to tell if the mats are fully clean is to simply rinse it off. If it is fully clean, the soap will still be white when rinsed off, rather than looking dirty. Once clean, vacuum the mats dry one more time and let them sit out in the sun.
With the mats drying on the side, you can turn your attention to the carpets of the interior. If you used an air compressor to spray out the car, then the vacuuming will be much easier. Use the vacuum and clean to the best of your ability. If you have multiple attachments for the vacuum, use the narrow piece to help get in between the seats and center console. After you vacuum once, you can now use the carpet cleaner and a hose to wash the carpets. Just like with the mats, scrub the carpets clean until you no longer see dirt when rinsing with the hose. After you scrub the carpets completely clean, vacuum it until the water is gone and close up the car. It’s now time to wash the vehicle.
Step Six: Washing and Waxing
Washing a car is the most fun part of detailing a car. This part doesn’t need much explaining, but the main focus is get off all dirt and mud on the vehicle and avoid scratching the car. Simply take a bucket full of warm water and car wash, along with a sponge or brush, and clean each section of the car separately. After washing one part of the car, completely rinse it off and move on to the next one. Once you fully wash the car, you can dry it with micro fabric towels to help avoid scratching anything. Also, having natural sunlight speeds up the process of drying, just make sure you don’t let any sun spots appear. Once the car is fully washed and dried, it is now time to finally buff (if needed) and wax it.
If your car has a lot of scratches, it would be best to buff them out before waxing it. Simply take the buffer pad along with some compound, and go over each scratch in circle motions until they are gone. If a certain scratch won’t go away, it is very likely that it is too deep and will need to be repainted. Now to wax the car, take a wax pad and wax and go over the entire car in circle motions. It is best to wax the car in sections because it will be easier to wipe off compared to waxing the whole car at once. After the wax is applied, use another micro fiber towel and simply wipe it off. When you get all the wax off, you are finally done with detailing you car! However, if you are a picky person there is one more step to the process. That is simply the finishing touches.
Final Step: The Finishing Touches
For this final step, it isn’t completely necessary. If you are satified with the results of your car, then you can finish before this. But for those who like to perfect their car, then follow along.
The first thing you want to do is ensure that you got all the wax off of your car. Sometimes you can miss spots of wax when wiping it the first time, so it’s always good to go over the entire car one last time. Another thing you can do is apply grease to your tires and any plastic on the outside of the car to make it shine and stand out. Shiny tires always look great with a fresh, clean car. You can also add any car scents that you would like to give it that fresh, clean smell.
Take a few laps inside and out of your car and if you’re completely satisfied with the job, then you have successfully detailed your car on your own!