Whether you’re preparing to sell your car at a higher resale value or just wanting to give your vehicle a much-needed facelift, a full car detail can help to extend the life of the car. Follow our complete new car detailing guide on how to perform a full at-home car detail with the right Turtle Wax products
The average person may assume that car washing and car detailing are the same thing, and while there are some similarities, there are vast differences between the two. Car detailing goes deeper into the nitty gritty, beyond simply just cleaning out your car.
Yes, car detailing does include the task of washing your car and vacuuming the interior, but auto detailers tackle the extended task of reaching every nook and cranny, inside and out, with specialised tools and cleaners. Removing parts may be necessary to truly reach every surface.
After the detailed cleaning has been completed, auto detailers will often use specialised enhancing formulas and products to bring your car back to like-new conditions, with a revived shine and that new car smell that we all love.
In order to detail your car like the pros, you’ll first need tools and supplies specialised for the job, as well as a few hours to a full day of your time. A newer car that has already been routinely cleaned with general vacuuming and washing will only take about an hour or two to clean. But an older car that has been neglected may need a full day for a first time detailing clean.
The thought of having to set aside a full day of detailing might make you want to scrap the whole idea and call a professional instead, but consider these points:
Always start with the interior first, since repeated in-and-out during the detailing process can leave the exterior filthy. Focus on the inside of your car first, and after it’s pristine, close the doors and windows, and turn your attention toward the exterior.
These next steps will highlight the useful tools needed (bold), the cleaning products recommended (underlined), and tips from the pros (italicised), to get professional results right at home.
Pro Tip: To speed up the drying process, use a wet-dry vacuum to suck up excess water.
Pro Tip: For dust in small spaces and cracks, a little trick that comes in handy is using a long-bristled artist’s paintbrush or makeup brush, with a light spritz of furniture polish on the bristles.
Pro Tip: Instead of spraying the cleanser directly onto the surface, spray it onto a microfibre cloth, to prevent overspray and dripping.
If your car has a leather interior, special care will need to be taken. Because of its sensitive nature, the wrong products used can cause it to dry out, fade, and crack. Use a conditioning formula specialised for leather, like our POWER OUT! Leather Cleaner & Conditioner, which does not use harsh chemicals and will leave you leather seats feeling soft and supple. Use the integrated soft brush to scrub out any stains. For stains that are a bit tougher to loosen up, try diluted citrus or organic cleanser first.
Pro Tip: Working from top to bottom is best, because loosened dust and dirt will fall.
Use a wet-dry vacuum, ideally with automotive accessories, to suck up dirt and dust off the carpets. Move the front seats as far back as they’ll go, to get all the debris that tends to collect underneath. If you’re able to, with a few hand tools, remove the seats completely, along with the centre console and other inside trim pieces to ensure every bit of carpet doesn’t get overlooked.
Pro Tip: Before you vacuum, ruffle the carpet with a stiff brush to knock the dirt in the fibres loose.
Pro Tip: For cars with upper window frames, roll down the windows just a bit, clean the top edge of the glass, then roll the windows up and clean the rest of the glass.
The task of exterior detailing is a bit more extensive than simple washing and rinsing. Move your car out of direct sunlight, ensure all the windows are rolled up completely, then pop the bonnet and fuel door.
Pro Tip: Cleaning the tyres last means you may accidentally splash dirt and other contaminants onto the body of your clean car.
Pro Tip: The degreaser will work better if the engine is warmed up.
Pro Tip: Use warm water, no hotter than 60°C, to help the soap mix better in the water. Be generous with the amount of soap you use on your car — don’t let it dry!
Pro Tip: Clay bars work well on glass and chrome surfaces, but are NOT safe to use on rubber, plastic, or polycarbonate.
Pro Tip: Use masking tape to protect your plastic and rubber trim, emblems, and headlights from the compound.
You’re done! You can now stand back and admire your freshly detailed car, show it off to your friends or family members, and take pride in the hard work you just accomplished. While your first time detailing at home may have been exhausting, the more you tackle the task on your own, the easier it’ll become.
1. Why should I detail my car?
Detailing a car is all about long-lasting protection, rather than just basic cleaning.
2. How long does it take to detail my car?
If it’s your first time, it could take anywhere from two to eight hours, but subsequent details should take two hours or less.
3. How often should I detail my car?
Ideally, a full auto detail is needed only once a year. However, wax and paint sealants usually last only a few months, so touch-ups will be needed in between full detailing.
4. What supplies do you need to detail a car?
It’s best to use materials that are designed and formulated specifically for cars. Home remedies may negatively affect automotive finishes.
5. Is hot water bad for car paint?
Try to keep the water between 37° C and 60° C, the ideal temperature that’s warm enough for helping car wash soap cut through water, but not too hot that it damages your car paint. The “Goldilocks” temperature, if you will.
6. Why should I wax my car?
Car wax improves shine and adds a protective coating against sticky substances like bugs and road grime. It’ll need to be reapplied every few months.
7. Why should I polish my car paint?
Compounds use abrasives to refine the surface of the clear coat, so the underlying paint coat shines through beautifully. Compounding can be done by hand or with a dual-action (DA) orbital polisher.
8. Can polishing remove scratches from my car?
Different grades of abrasives are used for different levels of severity. Swirls and light scuff are typically just on the clear coat layer, and can easily be refined with a polishing compound. However, deeper scratches that reach into the paint layer will need wet-sanding, touch-up paint, and a fresh layer of clear coat to fully restore the original finish.
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