Car Detailing for Dummies - 11 Step Guide

New to the world of car detailing? No idea where to start and what to use? Feel all the different levels of products overwhelming? We’re here to break it down and simplify the whole process from wheels to polishing.

Step 1 - Wheels 

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. You should always start with the wheels. Your wheels are the dirtiest and grubbiest area of the car so will need a good pre-soak with a high level wheel cleaner. Use a brush to get to all the out of sight and hard to reach areas, as well as a separate wash mitt with a bucket which will be separate to the one on your paintwork. For this we would advise Carbon Collective’s React Fall Out Remover 2.0 as well as the Gtechniq Wash Mitt.



Step 2 - Pre Wash 

Next up, use a pre-cleaner or a pre-wash. Ideally one specifically made to remove grime and splattered bugs. For this we would recommend Auto Finesse Citrus Power, which is infused with citrus cleaning properties to safely but effectively remove road grime with the added benefit of being easy on wax or sealant layers., something that will come into its own on washes later down the line. Ideally use this on areas lower down on the car which collect grime and bugs. 

Step 3 - Snow Foam

We’ve done a How To Guide on snow foam already so if you want a more in depth idea of how this process works check it out HERE.

Snow foam breaks down any stubborn dirt as well as removes any loose contaminants before the contact wash stage. This removes as much dirt as possible to help reduce the risk of creating swirl marks to the paint finish. After leaving for a minute or so, rinse off with a pressure washer, from bottom to top so it’s easier for you to see where you’ve been. 

A great example of a snow foam we sell is Carbon Collective’s Ultimus Snow Foam.


Step 4 - The Two Bucket Method Contact Wash 

This is the big one, actually getting stuck in and washing the car. Grab yourself a high quality car shampoo such as Garage Therapy’s /ONE: Car Shampoo V2, and two buckets - One soapy bucket with your shampoo and the other to rinse off the mitt. Work from top to bottom, rinsing the mitt between sections. Use the mitt to really get into the nooks and crannies of the car and get rid of the layer or dirt the snow foam would’ve softened up. Then, once again rinse off the water.


Step 5 - Decontamination 

Again, we did a full post about this recently so for a little more detail click HERE.

In this stage, you spray your iron remover onto your wheels, wait for the lovely purple and then rinse off using the pressure washer. Also use this spray around your vehicle and be sure to pick off any bits of rogue purple and spray it away. Use this time to spray on a tar remover to eliminate any tar that may be stuck to the paintwork. Then, once again rinse off.

Finally, if you wish to really get down and dirty into it, use a clay bar and applicator to bring out any heavier bits of contaminants from the paintwork. For your iron fallout we recommend Gyeon Q2m Iron Wheel Cleaner. For your tar remover Sam’s Detailing Tar & Glue Remover and the clay bar also Sam’s Detailing Clay Bar Set with Clay Lubricant

Step 6 - Drying

Nice and easy. Using a microfibre towel, such as the Gtechniq - MF2 Zero Scratch Microfibre Drying Towel, drag the towel across the car in a line, starting from the top of the car and moving down panel by panel. It’s important to be quick with this stage as to not leave too long and create water spots. If any water spots are left, a quick detailer such as Pyramid’s Quick Detailer Pro will eliminate these. 


Step 7 - Polishing

You can either polish by hand or you can polish using a machine polisher. Polishing by hand will give you a good finish, but it won't be anywhere near as good as a machine polish (if you know what you're doing). We have products for both applications. An all in one polish which does the job is Stjarnagloss Skära Gloss Enhancing PolishWe'd advise against putting any machine polisher to your car without experience. Our top tip would be to practice on a separate panel first. These are easy enough to pick up from scrap yards. Better that than burning through the paint on your car, resulting in a full panel respray or even a whole car respray.


Step 8 - Sealants

Each one of these stages is as important as the other, but waxing or sealing is right up there in the must do list. Applying a layer of wax or sealant will protect all your previous hard work from step one through to eight. One of the best examples and one of our bestsellers is Gyeon’s Q2m Wet Coat.


Step 9 - Tyres dressing and trim

Following the cleaning of your tyres and trims, now it's onto the preening. There are products to get plastics back to their true colours, as well as things that will spruce up your tyres without making them greasy. Some examples are Chemical Guys  Tyre Kicker Extra Glossy Tyre Shine and Meguiars  Endurance High Gloss Tyre Gel.


Step 10 - Glass

Nearly there now, just the final stretch. Glass is something people often forget. Whether it's light scratches or just fingerprints, a good-quality glass cleaner such as Auto Finesse’s Crystal is a must in any detailers kit.


Step 11 - Finalising 

Final touch-up and wipe down with a quick detailer will finish off all the previous hard work. A good quick detailer will rid the surfaces of any potential residue left from waxing or sealing, as well as any fingerprints perhaps left from you going around your vehicle, and generally tidy-up any missed bits or trim dressing that has strayed. It's finishing touches like this that often get overlooked, but can be the most important, especially for that show-finish we all so desperately want to achieve.

Now yes, that’s a lot of steps but if you follow each one correctly then there’s no reason why you can’t get your car show ready and being so shiny you can do your hair in the reflection. 





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