Do you know how to properly take care of your paint job? Are you getting the most shine out of your ride? A few years working as a detail manager I learned a few easy tricks in really making a car shine.
It Starts With the Right Suds
Even though hand dishwashing liquid is a great degreaser, it's not the thing to use on your vehicle's finish. Yes, it removes dirt, grease and old wax. But it also sucks important oils right out of the paint's finish. Use it repeatedly and you shorten the life of your paint job. Instead of dish soap, use a cleaner formulated for vehicles (available at any auto parts store). Set aside an old section of hose that you can dedicate to only car washing and then use a utility knife to cut off the metal threads where the water comes out. This little trick will allow you to rinse your car without scratching it and the removal of suds will be faster with a flow of water rather than a spray. This will also remove most of the road grit from the washing mitt to prevent scratches. When you're finished, throw the mitt in the washing machine to get it completely clean.
Clay It Up
Your vehicle's clear coat deflects some of the road debris but can hold the sharper grit. Washing removes the surface dirt, but clay-barring is the only way to pluck out the embedded stuff. Buy a clay bar kit which includes a lubricating spray and several pieces of synthetic clay. Prepare the clay by tearing a piece into four sections. Flatten one section into a small pancake in the palm of your hand and rub it over the paint with a back-and-forth motion. Fold the clay against itself, knead it and flatten until the clay turns gray. Then toss it and use a fresh piece until you remove the imperfections and get a glass-like finish.
Polish the Finish
Many car owners confuse polishing with waxing. But they're separate steps. Polishing removes small surface imperfections and scratches and buffs the finish to a shine. Waxing adds more gloss and protects the finish from the elements. Most DIYers skip polishing because they don't want to invest the money for a polisher or the elbow grease for a hand polish. But polishing your vehicle's finish is the key to getting the best gloss (pros would never skip it). Apply a dollop of polish to the pad and wipe the pad across a 2 x 2-ft. area. Run the polisher at a slow speed to spread the compound over the entire area. Then boost the speed and let the polisher do the work for you.
Get a Mirror Finish With Synthetic Wax
Some people swear by carnauba wax. It produces a deep, warm shine. For the ultimate shine I prefer the wet-gloss look of the newer synthetic polymer waxes also known as paint sealant or liquid wax. Apply the wax to the foam applicator and rub it into the finish with a swirling motion. Then wipe off the haze with a microfiber towel. Swap in a clean towel as soon as the first one loads up.
Suck Up the Dust As You Go
Start at the top and work your way down. Vacuum the headliner, dash, console and door panels. Then clean all the glass, and dust the nooks and crannies. Sweep the dust out of the cracks with a detailing brush. Catch all that crud right away with your vacuum.
Slide Seats Forward and Clean Out the Junk
You'll be surprised by what you find behind the seats. Vacuum the seats, remove the mats and vacuum the carpet. Use a brush attachment for the dash and door panels. Don't forget to clean out and vacuum those handy door pockets (another source of buried treasure).
Wash the Windows, Including the Top Edges
Ever notice that line of grime on the tops of windows when they're partially rolled down? Most people overlook this detail when giving their vehicle a quick wash. A few minutes with Windex and a clean rag is all it takes.
Brush Out the Air Vents
Air vents are a real magnet for dust, and a vacuum with a brush attachment just won't get it all. Take an inexpensive artist's paintbrush and give it a light shot of furniture polish. Work the brush into the crevices to collect the dust. Wipe the brush off with a rag and move on to the next one.
Remember to Clean Nooks and Crannies
Detailing means just that—finding and dealing with all the trim lines and recesses that a quick once-over cleaning job misses. Wrap a cloth around an old, worn screwdriver (without sharp edges) and spray Simple Green or other all-purpose cleaner on the cloth. Move it gently along the trim lines to pick up the gunk. Keep refreshing the surface of the cloth. Go around all the buttons and controls as well. Follow up with a rejuvenator like Armor All.