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Thread: Detailing Guide - An overview

  1. #1

    Detailing Guide - An overview

    The aim of this small guide is to try and give a general overview of how each of the main detailing steps should be carried out. It is by no means definitive and if people feel the need to add to it just go ahead. I will also try to type it up in order, I.E a commonly accepted routine for doing a whole car start to finish.

    Wheels, Tyres and Arches

    Most people tackle the wheels first to avoid splashing wheel cleaner onto freshly cleaned bodywork. If cleaning your wheels for the first time in ages it is advisable to take the wheels off the car so that you can more effectively clean, polish (where applicable) and seal the back / inner areas. However, as a guide I will just put a step by step process for cleaning the wheels on the car. PLEASE NOTE: This process is not to be carried out on non-lacquered mirror polished wheels:

    -Spray an APC (all-purpose cleaner) onto the side walls of the tyres and your arches / arch liner (I use Autosmart G101 diluted 1:5). Agitate the tyres with a Swissvax style brush and the arches with a Vikan brush and rinse.

    -Spray your wheel cleaner onto your wheels (Acid free wheel cleaners are better, Espuma, Autobrite and Bilberry / Redberry are all good). Agitate the solution on the faces with a Swissvax style brush. The inner areas and behind your spokes can be cleaned using some wheel woollies, a long reach brush or similar tool. Rinse thoroughly.

    -Spray a tar remover onto your wheels (Autosmart Tardis), leave to work, wipe over with a MF cloth and rinse.

    -Spray a decontamination gel onto your wheels (Wolfs Decon, Iron-X) again leave to dwell and rinse (see individual product guidelines for the two products Iíve mentioned as they are used differently).

    -Clay the wheels. A lot of people donít use clay on wheels but it is highly effective. For detailed instructions on how to use clay see the Clay Bar section.

    -Polish. Thatís right, polishes used on your bodywork can also be used on painted, lacquered wheels. For detailed instructions on how to polish by hand see the Hand Polishing Section.

    -Seal. A very important step. Waxes arenít up to the challenge due to the heat given off by the brakes and the high traffic that the wheels experience. There are a number of good wheel sealants on the market, a popular one being Gtechniq C5. This can be tricky to use if you are new to this so go steady. It is pretty much wipe on wipe off, but see the product for detailed instructions.

    -Dress tyres and arches. Pretty self-explanatory, Meguiars Endurance Tyre Gel is popular for tyres and Chemical Guys Bare Bones is widely used for arches.


    Here are the two most common methods of prewashing:

    1)Use a citrus pre wash (Valet Pro Orange Prewash or similar) diluted between 1:5 and 1:8 depending on the level of soiling. Spray the whole car including arches and wheels. It is also common practice to work the solution into awkward areas while it is on the car. A Swissvax style brush is good for use around door seals, handles and badges.

    2)Use snowfoam coupled with a proper HD foam lance (available from Alex at ECC). Commonly 1 Ė 2 inches of snowfoam should be poured into the foam lance bottle, topped up with warm water. Cover the whole car in the foam, leave to dwell for 5 Ė 10 minutes then rinse off.


    Here is the most common wash method (often referred to as the two bucket method or 2bm for short) :

    -Use two buckets (Grit Guards are widely regarded as beneficial too, although not by me). Fill one with your wash solution (shampoo and water, your wash bucket) and the other with fresh water (rinse bucket).

    -Rinse the vehicle thoroughly to remove any excess dirt.

    -Take your wash mitt (Car Pro Swirl Free and Dodo Juice Yeti / Wookie mitts are good), dunk it in the wash bucket and begin washing the car. Standard procedure is to start at the top (roof) and work your way down. Note that if it is sunny or the panels are hot to the touch then you should only wash small sections at a time before rinsing as you do not want to let the wash solution dry on your bodywork.

    -Use two mitts. One for the top half of your car and another one for the high traffic areas / lower parts of the car.

    -When finished give the whole car a ruddy good rinsing.

    -Iím not going to go into too much detail on washing as Iím sure most of you know how itís done, plus there is another guide for it on here.

    -Some good shampoos Ė Chemical Guys Glossworkz, Dodo Juice Born To Be Mild, Auto Finesse Lather (never used it but is getting rave reviews).


    There are two acceptable methods for drying your car:

    1)Use a touchless vehicle dryer. Donít be tricked into buying a ďvehicle dryerĒ though. If you do opt for one then get an Aeolus dryer. They are fantastic and can be found a lot cheaper as they are marketed as pet / dog dryers. Using one is very easy and can be picked up quickly. Start at the top and work your way down the vehicle using sweeping motions. These are especially good for drying round shuts, grilles, handles, mirrors etc . . .

    2)Use a good quality drying towel. These help to minimise the marring caused by drying your vehicle. I like to use the yellow deep pile ones from Alex at ECC. It is good practice to pat the area dry instead of using an aggressive rubbing motion. Again this is fairly self-explanatory.

    Tar Removal / Decontamination

    A very important couple of steps here. People often skip them and go straight to claying which is bad as you donít want to be picking up great lumps of tar on your clay:

    -Spray the lower areas of the car with a Tar Remover (Autosmart Tardis), leave for a few minutes for it to work (you should be able to see the tar spots begin to run), gently wipe over with a MF cloth and rinse.

    -Cover the entire vehicle with decontamination gel (Wolfs Decon Gel or Iron-X). Leave it to work (should be able to see purple runs or spots also known as bleeding), gently wipe over with a MF cloth if desired and rinse very thoroughly. There is no real need to dry at this point as you will be claying next which requires lubrication / wet panels. The only time I would suggest drying again is if you are working in very warm conditions and you think the water will dry before you can clay the whole car. (see individual product guidelines for the two products Iíve mentioned as they are used differently).

    Clay Bar

    Widely used by a lot of hobbyists now, and a very important step. There are lots of clay bars out there. Some of the aggressive ones will almost inevitably leave behind marring which is a problem unless you will be correcting the paintwork subsequently anyway. My clay bar of choice is Sonus ultra-fine. If you have completed the decontamination steps above then you are unlikely to need anything more aggressive. My favourite clay bar lubricants are Dodo Juice Born Slippy and Wolfís Pink Slip.

    -Break a piece of clay off your bar (I use about 40g at a time). Warm it in your hands until pliable.

    -Work half a panel at a time. Spray the clay in your hand until it is dripping wet and also spray the area to be worked very well, lubrication is the key. I always continue to spray lube while Iím working the area too.

    -Initially the clay will grab slightly; this is OK as it means that the clay is picking up any remaining embedded contamination. Once the clay bar glides over the surface you can move on. Also try to use linear motions as opposed to oscillatory.

    -Again start at the top and work your way down. You can also clay your glass and wheels as mentioned elsewhere in this guide.

    -If you have used a clay lubricant such as Born Slippy you should wash and dry the vehicle again once finished claying.

    Machine Polishing

    I donít have time to give an in-depth machine polishing guide, there are some very good ones out there (notably DaveKGís guides over on Detailing World). It just isnít practical for me to type out all of the procedures, products and steps as I would be here for days.

    Hand Polishing / Glazing / All In One Products

    A lot of you on here will choose not to buy a machine polisher; whether it is the outlay of cash or the fear of causing damage. But all is not lost. There are some excellent polishes for hand application and some good glazes that can fill the defects that canít be corrected by hand.

    Firstly I would always advise removing as many defects as you can before resorting to fillers. The ideal combo for this is Gtechniq P1 and a Sonus Applicator Pad (German Pad). Work a small area (about 15cm2) using about two skittle sized drops of product on the yellow side of the pad. Work the product thoroughly with moderate pressure for a couple of minutes (yes it makes your arms ache), and then turn the applicator over and, using light pressure, refine with the black side of the pad. Then wipe the residue with a MF cloth.

    This combo should be able to remove light defects, swirls, holograms etc . . . but it wonít be able to remove deeper imperfections. The only way to tackle this is to use a glaze, such as Poorboys Black Hole / White Diamond, Chemical Guys EZ CrŤme Glaze etc . . . You apply these with a foam applicator, work them and then buff off (glazes are used differently so see the productís usage instructions).

    Another option is an All In One product. These have a light cut to remove defects, filling properties to mask deeper damage and also sealing properties to protect the finish. A good AIO product is Zaino AIO, good things are also being said about Auto Finesse Tripple, although I havenít had the opportunity to use it yet.

    Last Stage Protectants

    Possibly the most ďopen to interpretationĒ section in terms of what is on offer. I will suggest products that some people will thing are rubbish. I will rubbish things that people think are brilliant. It is all down to personal preference at the end of the day. So I will just give some general application guidelines and product recommendations that will hopefully help most of you.

    -Sealants: These have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and have become very popular for daily drivers, winter protection and silver / white more sterile coloured cars. Sealants will not help to hide defects so should only really be applied to corrected paintwork; otherwise they can show your paintwork up. There are lots on the market and as with everything you will have to refer to the specific product for usage instructions. A popular ďtraditionalĒ sealant is Jetseal 109, a very good product which can be used on wheels and metal as well as bodywork. Nano coatings have also become more widely available. Products such as Gtechniq C1 and Car-Pro C-Quartz have revolutionised long term protection. They can however be tricky to use. They require a perfectly clean surface to bond to (all sealants prefer this but the lacquer style coatings are especially fussy) so an I.P.A (isopropanol) or Car-Pro Eraser wipedown is essential. Again you will have to refer to the product guidelines.

    -Carnauba Waxes: These have been with us for decades and decades and Iím sure most of you know how to use them. Even so people do get it wrong (the below is very general and application methods / curing times and other factors vary):

    oCan be applied with your bare hands or using a foam applicator. N.B Do not apply a wax with your bare hands if you have rough skin or callouses. Also be sure to take any rings / watches / bracelets off.
    oThe thinner the better. The thinner the layer of wax the better, so donít be worried youíre not applying enough.
    oUse only very light pressure and linear motions.
    oAverage cure time is about 10 Ė 20 minutes.
    oBuff off using a deep pile MF cloth. N.B Some waxes will need removing with a cloth with more bite and a shorter pile.
    oWaxes can be layered; but some should be given 24 hours before a second layer.

    -Something else to remember is that you can layer a wax over a sealant but you canít layer a sealant over a wax. As I said there are a plethora of available products so there is no way I can tell you what to do and not to do with each one.

    Trim Cleaning / Treatment

    Your textured black trim can look pretty dreadful pretty quickly if it is not cared for. Here are some common treatments to restore your plastics:

    -Heat Gun: Not one I would recommend as you risk deforming the surface and it tends to leave a patchy finish.

    -Ground Nut Oil: Readily available and a better alternative to the combustible and unstable boiled linseed oil. The budget option.

    -Forever Black: A good kit, just follow the instructions.

    -Sealants: As with paintwork technology has advanced to create long term coatings for your trim. If are thinking of buying some C5 for sealing your wheels then this can also be used on trim. The trim should be thoroughly degreased with a stiff brush and correctly diluted degreaser (Autosmart G101 or Bilt Hamber Surfex HD) before the sealant is applied.


    Often overlooked but if you are trying to achieve a show finish then your glass is very important:
    -Clean with a good quality glass cleaner: I use AG Fast Glass and Dodo Juice Clearly Menthol. Also bear in mind that you will need to use a cloth with some bite, deep pile plush towels need not apply!

    -Clay: (see clay bar section for usage guide).

    -Polish: Glass can be machine polished, and there are also some dedicated glass polishes out there.

    -Seal: As with trim, wheels and bodywork there is a wide range of advanced sealants that will provide lasting protection. Similar spiel is applicable as with the other sealants. They need a clean surface and can be tricky to use.

    Stone Chips / Minor Repairs

    These are very unsightly but pretty much inevitable. They can be touched in so that they are hardly visible. I always use the kits from Paints4u as I find them good value and they give a good colour match:

    -Clean up the affected area with some diluted IPA (isopropanol), which I think comes with the Paints4u kit.

    -Touch the chip in with the kit (some have lacquer in with the colour coat, some are seperate base and lacquer, you'll have to check).

    -Wait 24 hours for your first application to harden, then apply another layer if it has sunk / doesn't fill the chip. Keep repeating until it has been filled and sits slightly proud.

    -After this has dried, apply your lacquer if it comes seperately and again wait for it to dry.

    -Wet sand the repair and about 2.5cm square until you get a uniformly dull but level finish (Recommend Meguiars unigrit 2500 grit).

    -Machine / hand polish to a good finish.

    If you don't feel comfortable with wet sanding your paintwork then don't do it, it's just my recommendation. The important thing is to make sure that you let the paint dry properly / harden before moving on to the next step.

    So there we go lads and lasses; a very brief overview of each detailing step. There will be lots that I have left out and lots of spelling mistakes but I just thought I would knock a quick guide up for you guys.

    Also I would always recommend using Alex at Elite Car Care for your purchases providing he has what you need. Top bloke and a Dub man. Also don't forget the discount code "edition38" when checking out.

    If you have any questions after reading this just drop me or one of the other knowledgeable chaps on here a PM.

    Happy detailing !

    Ashley Hazell
    Auto Clarity Bespoke Vehicle Detailing

  2. #2

    Re: Detailing Guide - An overview

    Thats a very tidy (pardon the pun) guide there, especially for someone who is new to all this Detailing lark, like myself.

  3. Post whore status: Winding up

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