The Beginner's Guide to Car Details

For most people, the act of cleaning a car feels more like a chore than an achievement. Labor intensive, slow, and tedious as hell, cleaning a car from top to bottom is often compared to punishment rather than pleasure.


As with any "detail-oriented" endeavor, often the hardest part is knowing where to start and setting aside the time to thoroughly clean all the cracks in a car. That is precisely why we are here to help. It's time for you to get up, get up, and go to that mode of transportation for an intense scrubbing session. Since we're in a bit of a good mood today, we've taken the time and put together a kind of simplified DIY guide. A way in which you can learn to correctly detail a vehicle through a series of logical steps, all accompanied by a series of tips and warnings intended only for beginners.

With that said, today we are going to focus exclusively on deep cleaning a car's exterior and save the entire discussion of interior details for another article. In this way, we can keep both guides as informative and focused as possible and in turn, you can have a flawless vehicle in record time. So let's get started!

Detail basics and the zen art of car care

For certain car enthusiasts, the act of deep cleaning the car's details is equal parts a DIY puzzle and a Zen ritual. An OCD obsession with perfection, which goes far beyond the cleanliness levels of cars. showrooms, transcending the realm of jammed interstate highways and highway dirt, for the sensation of raking a Japanese rock garden or pruning a 200-year-old bonsai.

Much like the art of bonsai and Japanese rock gardening, there are multiple levels of difficulty and reward when it comes to automatic details. While almost all forms of practical and detail-oriented work come with a wide range of various techniques and theories as to what works best and why car detailing is unique in that it can be easily augmented with chemicals.

These products are often as unique and numerous as the techniques used by the people who apply them. Ask three professional detailers which products to use and which application and removal techniques work best, and you'll likely get three very different answers. This brings us to the first big question that deserves an answer.

What is the car detail?

Full Auto detail is a fairly self-explanatory procedure, as it involves a "detailed" cleaning process, often accompanied by restoration of damaged components. Externally, the details help protect paint, glass, and body parts from harmful UV rays, pollutants, and damage from driving.

Today the detailed business has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, with inexpensive pistons pumping under its hood consisting of thousands of unique detail products, all with their genetic base, sales focus, and market distribution. unique. To put into practice the scale of this operation, in the United States alone, the auto retail market was valued at $ 10.3 billion in 2020, and that's after taking a massive hit due to COVID-19.

Starting the car detailing process

Detailing a car is not a particularly difficult task. However, even the act of washing a vehicle has the potential to cause great harm if one follows the wrong procedures or uses the wrong products. But knowing the necessary steps and which products work best is only half the battle.

For example, if you own towels, gloves, or any other car-cleaning cloth or sponge-like material other than microfiber, you may want to throw them away. The dumpster is the only place for products that leave scratches on vehicle surfaces. Remember, we're trying to restore a vehicle's exterior to its original state here, not hitting a ton of scratches and swirl marks on your butt, like a hired man coming out of a dominatrix dungeon.

Now that we've left you that little nugget of knowledge, it's time to move on to another one of the most important things you can do to keep your car's finish looking new: wash it regularly. And do it the right way.

Contaminants such as dirt, mud, road debris, bird droppings, insect guts, pollen, de-icers, and sap slowly seep into a car's clear coat if left to sit for too long. Being lazy will only hurt you in the long run, so scrub that machine once a week if possible and remember the following six golden rules of car washes.

1. Never wash your car in direct sunlight

Almost all detailing products perform poorly in direct sunlight or on a hot surface. Heat also accelerates the drying of soap and water, resulting in stubborn stains and streaks of water. Always work indoors or in the shade, and only when all exterior vehicle surfaces are cool to the touch.

2. Avoid cross-contamination

Cross-contamination during a car wash occurs when you use the same materials for each stage of the cleaning process. Therefore, do not use the same items (towels, brushes, buckets, water, etc.) for multiple purposes or areas of the car. The reasoning here is that you don't want to move contaminants from one part of the vehicle to another or use a dirty microfiber glove to scrub a relatively clean section. This is particularly important to remember when tackling heavily soiled areas such as wheels, lower rocker panels, bumpers, and exhaust ports.

3. Use the two buckets and one beer technique

While flushing the water frequently and not using the same cloth or glove for each surface will help reduce cross-contamination, using the two buckets and one beer approach is just as crucial. By having one bucket for the rinse water and another for the soapy H2O, you create a safe place to dip that dirty sponge between scrubs, which in turn helps keep that soapy shampoo bucket free of contaminants. Beer is there for moral support.

4. Work your way up and down

The undersides of a car come in close contact with road pollutants and you don't want that dirt to spread to the much more pristine tops of the vehicle. That said, it's generally a good idea to hit the wheels and tires first, but not with a scrubbing and soap session. Use a reliable rinse and spray a chemical that is approved for the type of wheels you roll on, as it will allow the dirtiest part of the car to be hit with a concentrated blast. After that, wash the car from top to bottom, leaving the wheels and tires for last, using a different scrubbing medium for your surfaces to avoid cross-contamination.

5. Always use lubricant

Our naughty parts aren't the only things that enjoy a little lubrication when friction is involved. Aside from a soft microfiber cloth to remove dust, vehicle paint and clear coat require something slippery to prevent damage.

6. Get the right supplies and towels

As we mentioned earlier, using traditional cloth sponges and towels on the exterior of a vehicle is similar to ripping up 120-grit sandpaper in the shower. It will exfoliate well, but at what cost? Get yourself a suitable wash glove and make a marginal investment in terry microfiber towels to clean and dry your car, as both items will greatly reduce the risk of scratching the surface. While you're at it, go ahead and order a pH-balanced car shampoo, because while household dishwashing liquid does affect bacon grease, it will ruin a car's clear coat.