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Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved
Some say that Guido da Vigevano built the first car in 1335 that used a windmill
type assembly to drive a set of gears to turn the wheels. I would say that if that is the
case, that he probably was also the first one to clean a car. Now the carwash/detailing
industry has become a multi-billion dollar industry. Although why would you want to
spend you hard earned money on having some one else detail your car? When you could
do it yourself, and make sure it is completed correctly and the way you want. Besides I
know a lot of car enthusiast out there who would really prefer to detail their cars
After years of experience and talking with some of the best product/technical
representatives around today, I have compiled a how to guide for car owners that want to
do there own work. This guide is intended for all car enthusiasts on all levels. Maybe you
are new to car detailing or you are just looking for some new “tricks” to give you the
advantage at your next car show. Either way I hope that this guide helps you on your
First off detailing is handwork and time consuming. No matter what your reason
for wanting to detail your car from wanting to attend a car show to selling your vehicle
detailing will be well worth your time and effort. Now there are products out there that
say that it will cut your time in half, and that you only need to do it once a year.
However, several professional detailers I talked with said that many of the new cheaper
products are indeed too good to be true and can damage paint jobs. This is why I suggest
staying away from low quality products and sticking with the known products. There is
nothing that works as well as hard work and some elbow grease. I will make some Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved
suggestions as I continue through the guide, but if you have a product you really like, go
ahead and use it.
Before you get started you will need:
• Paper towels, rags, chamois. Old t-shirts work well, and if you can find any old
“clean” cloth diaper use them because they make excellent rags for polishing the
finish and are great for windows.
• Brushes. You'll need a few different varieties and sizes to get into the hard to
reach areas. An old toothbrush works well, and several cotton swabs.
• Wash bucket. Make sure it is clean, and you may want to keep is as your car
washing bucket only. This may help prevent getting unwanted dirt and chemicals
in a bucket you use to clean your car with.
• Wash mitts and or a good quality sponge.
• Bug removal sponge
• Power Washer or a good hose nozzle with different head types. Power Washers
are getting pretty reasonably priced now and you can pick them up at any
• Shop Vacuum or equivalent.
• Orbital Buffer. Again these are getting pretty reasonably priced.
Now where to begin? Most professionals I talk to suggest starting on the interior first,
so the dust and dirt you brush out won't settle on a cleaned exterior. Remove any floor Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved
mats and give the carpeting and upholstery a good vacuuming. Move the seats forward
and backward to get all the dirt including in the tracks, and door jams. You should also
use one of your harder bristled brushes to get any dirt out from the cracks; it is also good
for stirring up the carpet matt so you can get most of the junk out of the carpet.
Now if you have any stubborn stains in the upholstery or carpet this is the time to deal
with them. Use an all purpose cleaner to get the stubborn stains out. Saturate the stain
with cleaner, working it in with a damp sponge. Let it sit awhile and then blot it out with
a dry towel. Make sure to read the direction on the cleaner for specific precautions. You
can also use a window cleaner sprayed on a rag to get the headliner clean. Don't forget
the trunk/hatchback areas as well.
You can repair burns and holes in your carpet by cutting out the area with a razor
blade. Then cut a similar size piece from a hidden spot, such as underneath the seat, and
cement it in place using a water resistant adhesive. Blend in the repair by brushing the
repaired piece with the old. You can also go to a carpet outlet and can buy a carpet
sample for pretty reasonable price that could match the carpet of the car.
If your carpet is still looking bad you can shampoo it to get any remaining dirt and
grease out. You can usually rent these machines at a carpet store or even you local
grocery/retail chain. Start with the carpets on the driver’s side then the seats; this keeps
the water to a minimum. Move around the whole car until you're done. Again make sure you read any precautions from the manufacturer. Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved
Now move on to the interiors hard surfaces, clean them with a damp cloth and a mild
all-purpose cleaner. If you have leather upholstery, dress the surfaces with a leather
conditioner; spray it on a rag for tight areas. Never use a vinyl product on leather. Worn
or torn areas of vinyl can be repaired using kits made for this purpose. Repairs are made
with a patch that lets you match the color and grain of your upholstery. Worn areas of
leather can be touched up with dyes or a high grade shoe polish.
Now for one of the harder parts the dash. First you can blast any dust away with a can
of compressed air. Clean air vent grilles with cotton swabs and brighten them up by
misting on some spray on rubber dressing. Spray any dress up cleaner on a soft towel and
then apply it to the rest of the dash, be careful around the instrument panel.
Then move on to the windows. If you are like me, then you hate cleaning windows
for the fear of streaks. Some pointers in this area are to don't spray directly on the
window, but onto a rag. Have a dry cloth ready to wipe it dry. You can even use
newspaper to wipe it dry, the abrasiveness acts like a polish and it won't leave any
streaks. Also make sure you rinse your hands off before cleaning your windows, this will
help remove any unwanted dressing. If you have aftermarket window tint film, it may be
degraded by cleaners that contain ammonia or vinegar. Factory tinting is in the glass and
is not affected by these cleaners.
Now it’s time to move to the exterior of your car, well kind of, detailing your engine.
First you will need to cover any sensitive equipment such as electrical components. Try
using a heavy duty aluminum foil for this step. If you use a home pressure washer for
this, be careful, you can blow water in areas that weren’t meant to get wet. I prefer using Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved
a regular garden home for this step. After you have sealed everything off, spray a heavy
duty degreaser on to the cool temperature engine. Again read any warnings or precautions
on the degreaser. Use a pointy brush to get any stubborn deposits. Then spray down with
your hose, making sure you get all of the degreaser off. Once you're satisfied, start up the
motor and let it run for a while with the hood down. Then remove the foil and use a rag
sprayed with the degreaser and wipe down any parts covered. Now you can wipe
everything down with a rubber dressing or shining product. However, do not spray or
wipe down your belts, and make sure you read any precautions on the product.
Were finally on to the part about actually washing your car. Make sure that you are
using a clean wash mitt or sponge, and that your bucket is free of dirt and contaminates.
Work in the shade and make sure the surface is cool. Make sure that you are using a
good carwash, and don’t use dishwashing detergents. The dishwashing detergent
damages the finish, stripping it of vital oils causing it to dry out.
Presoak the car first making sure you get rid of any of the big dirt. Also remove any
bug and tar items time using tar & bug remover with a sponge. Move on to the rims, since
rims collect brake dust and road debris. Use a wheel cleaner that is made for your type of
rims such as being clear coated or not. Don't overlook the under side of the vehicle, and
the gas cap lid as well. Now start at the top of your vehicle and move your way down.
Make sure that you get all areas, and rinse often. To do a final rinse, remove the spray
head from the hose and flood the finish. The water will tend to run off in sheets,
minimizing spotting. When drying the vehicle off, you can use a chamois to get the bulk
of the water, but finish it off with soft towels. Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved
When you're done washing and the car is mostly dry, apply your rubber dressings to
the tires, bumpers and any plastic parts you want to shine. This gives the car to finish
drying and you can then look for missed areas or water runs.
Most people stop here and say they are done, if they even get to this point. They over
look one of the most important steps in detailing and preserving a vehicle, and that is
waxing. Now the market is full of different types of waxing products, but how many of
them actually work? Most of the average cheap waxes contain a very small portion of
wax in them, and use petroleum instead. Products that are like this do very little in
preserving and waxing the paint, if anything they just waste your time and money. Also
be aware of the spray on wax with water. These waxes might give some protection for a
day or two, but nothing like the protection of a carnauba wax.
Before you wax you need to get rid of any oxidation you may have. Typically, you
will not have to do this every time. Oxidation depends on how much you wax, when you
wax, how much sun the car is exposed to, and other weather conditions. Oxidation can
usually be removed with a clear coat compound. For standard finishes you can step up to
polishing compound, which is mild but still too harsh for clear coats. If you do use these
products, you must seal the paint after.
If you decided to use a compound for oxidation, then you must seal the paint. You
can buy a glaze/sealer to do this. Most sealers or glazers you apply by wiping on. Then
use soft towels to remove it after it has hazed over. Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved
Now you are ready to wax. Make sure you are using a good wax, preferably one with
high amounts of carnauba wax in it. Again, start at the top of your vehicle and do small
sections as you work your way down. Don't let it sit more than 5-8 minutes before
removing, and two thin coats of this is much better than one thick coat. Also apply it with
a side to side motion instead of circular to prevent swirls. Be sure to include doorjambs,
and the areas beneath door hinges and behind bumpers. Minor blemishes may be
neutralized by wrapping a cotton cloth around your index finger and burnishing the
polish into the finish.
If you machine-buff the polish/wax to a high luster, go with an orbital rather than a
rotary model, which would be more likely to burn the paint. The rotary buffer is much
faster than orbital but in the wrong hands can easily damage paint. Treat the plastic
chrome as if it were a painted surface and protect it with a light coat of wax. Try and not
get any on the black rubberized parts. If you do, spray it with a mist and wipe product and
wipe it down with a terry cloth towel. If that doesn't work a professional detailer gave this
as a suggestion: Microwave some peanut butter and apply it to the stain with a soft
toothbrush. Peanut butter's oils dissolve the wax and its abrasive enough to lift the stain.
If you get a polish/wax residue around emblems or in crevices, break out the cotton
swabs and toothbrushes. After removing it all go around and remove any excess from the
cracks and emblems using a brush and towel. Cloth diapers are excellent for buffing up a
shine. Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved
Here's a tip: break the car down into equal sections. Apply the prep/sealer/wax to one
section at a time before moving on to the next. This let's you concentrate your efforts on
small areas at a time.
Also keep a good car duster around for getting the dust that some products leave
Plus remember to protect your cars finish from the elements as much as possible. This
means storing the car in a garage, covered area, or with a good quality car cover. A car
that is constantly exposed to sunlight and other environmental hazards will deteriorate
quicker and require significantly more cosmetic maintenance.
We hope that you found the information helpful.
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Copyright 2007© Moose Pak LLC. All Rights Reserved