DIY detailing


Make your car stand out from the crowd with superior do-it-yourself detailing. 

Smarter car washing

The drought may be over in some parts of Australia but many of us have changed our thinking about how to clean our cars. New waterless car wash products encourage us to waste less HO2 in the process.

If you are in the fortunate position of having ready access to clean water, then obviously the job is easier but for the purpose of this article the assumption is that you will be using a bucket and that the car has not just completed a rally on muddy roads. In other words it will be only moderately filthy. If you’ve got bottomless water, you can do all that good stuff like hosing under the guards, otherwise we’ll just concentrate on the outer surfaces.

Car detailing essentials

First we’ll assemble all the products we need. Start with a bucket and a sponge. A cheap car wash product is useful but not essential. Don’t use dishwashing detergent because it tends to strip any wax or polish off the paint. If you’ve got some waterless car wash, that will help. It’s best to buy this as a kit because you’ll get the right kind of cloths as well as the liquid. If you don’t have these materials, buy a genuine chamois. Buy a can of spray-on tyre cleaner. You will need a vinyl cleaner for the interior or else just try some WD40 which has impressive cleaning qualities. If you don’t have ready access to a vacuum cleaner, the old-fashioned dustpan and brush will do. Use Windex or some such product to clean the glass, paying special attention to the inside surfaces. Leather deserves to be treated with a product designed specifically for it and you will find the right thing at any of the well known car accessory outlets.  

Cleaning your vehicle’s interior

Start with the interior. The windscreen is likely to have quite a layer of film, which comes from the plastic of the crashpad when it is exposed to UV. Plenty of elbow grease helps here. Don’t use any product on pedal rubbers, floor mats or steering wheel that will leave them slippery to the touch (it’s a detail some detailers forget). As you would with the exterior, start from the top and work down. Get all the dirt out of the interior before doing the boot.

Cleaning the engine bay

If you are keen, you can tackle the engine bay. This is where discarded shirts, jeans and even socks come into their own. Engine degreaser, WD40, steel wool or disc scourers, lots of rags and elbow grease are all you need, although some black paint in a spray can might mask some sins. Use water sparingly. If things are seriously grotty under there, go for professional steam cleaning.

Exterior car detailing

Now the worst is out of the way and you can concentrate on the exterior. You will probably get away with no more than four or five buckets of water if you are careful. Most cars can be wet down pretty well with three bucketsful. Then use your car wash solution – about half a cupful to a bucket - to clean the surface quickly. Rinse it off. Because you have selected a shady area and a cool time of day, you won’t be racing to rinse the surface before it dries all smeary. Then use your waterless car wash kit.

If you don’t have a waterless wash, you can achieve the same result with your chamois but you will have to keep rinsing it out thoroughly. You can actually clean the bodywork of a quite dirty car with just four or five buckets of clean water and a good chamois. The imitation ones, despite all claims, do not work as well.

Clean the windows first if you are using a special product such as Windex. That way all you will have to do later is chamois them dry. Work from the roof down, dividing the car into sections depending on its shape. Next do the bonnet and front guards, then the rear including the boot and rear guards, then the centre sections. Leave the wheels till second last and spray the tyres to finish the job. It’s amazing how much difference shiny black tyres make and how few people bother.

The devil is in the details!

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