How to Wash, Wax and Detail a Car

Cleaning a car seems like the simplest thing, but you need to know the finer details to get it just right. Learn how to wash, wax and detail a car properly right here.

There is a distinct difference between a car wash and a professional auto detailing company. Automotive detailing is to car cleaning what Picasso is to the kid next door who won the art prize at school.

Auto detailing means comprehensive and meticulous cleaning and protection of a car to showroom condition or better.

Time and expertise are required to take things to this level. There is a significant demand for automotive detailing. Car cleaning can be done at a dedicated site or offered as a mobile service. Depending on the range of services offered, relatively little machinery is required. Add it all up and it makes for a great business idea.

How to Wash a Car

A pressure washer is the best equipment for a quick and thorough wash but it is advisable not to exceed 1500 psi pressure to avoid damaging the paint work. Portable machines with a flow rate of 0.5 gallons per minute will suffice and ensure that not too much water is wasted.

Clean gently with car wash shampoo so as not to damage the paint work. If the car is really dirty, rather wash the car twice with finesse than once with more power. Spray off all the soap with clean water, making sure that all the hard to reach areas get the proper attention. If you fail to do so, you will leave streak marks as the soap dries.

Preferably wash the car in the shade. Aside from the fact that you don’t want to get skin cancer one week into your new job, it delivers a better result.

Wash windows along with the rest of the car, but do the wheels separately. You may want to give your windshields, windows and mirrors some extra attention by cleaning them with a specialized glass cleaner.

Drying the car is a very important step. Chamois can easily collect dirt and scratch the car so microfiber towels are recommended instead. They are synthetic and collect more moisture and provide a streak-free finish.

Washing the wheels is best done last as typically they are the dirtiest part of the car. This is due to the brake dust from the brake pads. Be sure not to use any cleaning products on the brake discs or pads that will hamper braking performance. Wash the tires but do not worry about the tire tread and driving surface of the tire as this is pointless and may even hamper tire performance.

The engine must be washed with care. Firstly, cover the air intake and electrically sensitive areas such as the fuse box, altenator and battery. Ensure that products used to remove grease and oil do not damage rubber or plastic. A steam cleaner delivers a great looking result but will lead to degradation of hoses and other parts therefore this is not advised. You will not use it if you really know how to wash a car.

The correct and safe method of cleaning your engine is to spray your engine with an engine degreaser and scrub it with a cleaning brush. Once that is done, gently rinse away the degreaser with water - Do NOT use a pressure washer as the powerful stream might damage the electrical and fuel system components.

Contact cleaner will help clean the battery and battery cradle. Do NOT reuse the same rags for cleaning the battery on the rest of the car as they may pick up some battery acid. Don’t forget the underside of the hood, detailing is in the details.

How to Wax a Car

After you've learned how to wash a car you need to know how to wax and polish a car

Polish, cleaner and rubbing compound are all abrasive products. Polish is the least destructive of the three. Learn more about these products and when to use them. An orbital buffer is a helpful tool. A badly done auto detailing job will result in swirls.

Swirl removers are available should you need to correct someone else’s poor workmanship, hopefully not your own!

Wax after polishing to protect your hard work. Polishing will remove the wax.

Claying the car is a technique using a special clay and a lubricant to collect imperfections and small dirt particles. This service is normally charged for as an optional extra as it takes time and skill.

How to Detail a Car

After you've learned how to wash a car and how to polish a car it's time to learn how to clean the interior

Vacuum first, including areas which you going to clean with a wet product such as vinyl and glass. Use a brush attachment for areas that may scratch.

Remove the mats and clean them separately, outside the car. Make sure not to get dust onto the clean and shiny car! Do not use any slippery dressing on the mats for driver safety.

Depending on the level of detailing required, remove the seats, plastic trim and other loose items to get rid of any trapped dirt.

The jury is out on dressing vinyl and plastic parts of the car. You may want to avoid airbags and areas requiring good grip.

Use leather products for leather trim.

A Q-Tip can be used to get into those hard to reach nooks and crannies such as air vents.

Meguiar and Mothers both sell excellent individual products and comprehensive car cleaning kits. Turtle Wax is also a great brand.

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