Auto Detailing Steps

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A Step by Step Guide to Weekend Detailing

Before the detail any vehicle,we must first wash the vehicle. In this stage we will be cleaning the engine, wheels and exterior of the vehicle.

Engine cleaning – (Optional)


  • Hose
  • Water-based Engine Degreaser
  • Air Compressor (optional)

This step is optional as it requires proper disposal of the waste water. Assuming you have taken the engine cleaning precautions outlined here, we will lift the hood of the vehicle. Make sure the engine is not hot, it can be warm but letting it cool down for 15-20 minutes is recommended.

Follow the steps below.

  • Rinse off engine and compartment
  • Apply environmentally safe water based engine degreaser to entire engine and areas where excessive dirt build up exists
  • Let sit for 5 minutes, do not let degreaser dry, keep it wet
  • Rinse engine completely and thoroughly
  • Start engine and let run for a minute or two
  • If you have an air compressor it is a good idea to blow off any excess water
  • If engine or plastic dressing is to be applied, this is the time to apply
  • Close hood

Washing the vehicle


  • Wash bucket
  • Wash mit
  • All wheel safe cleaner
  • Wheel brush
  • Chamois

Now we are ready to rinse the entire vehicle. Start at the highest point of the vehicle, usually the roof and rinse the vehicle of dust and road grime.

Clean the wheels first. To do so, apply an all wheel safe cleaner and scrub the wheels with a good wheel brush and promptly rinse the wheel and move on to the next until all four are complete.

At this time we are ready to soap the vehicle. Start as always on the roof and apply the soap and lightly scrub the vehicle surface in a clock wise rotation moving down to the quarter panel and around to the trunk.

Once you have completely soaped the vehicle it is time to rinse, again start at the top and work you way down and around the vehicle.

If you are going to clay the paint now is the time to do so while the vehicle is wet. Start on the hood and apply the clay lubricant to a small square and work around the vehicle in small areas, make sure to rinse when complete.

Drying the vehicle

Now we will dry the car with a chamois. Take one lap quickly around the car to get excess water off the vehicle. Wring the chamois out completely and start on the roof and work your way around until the entire vehicle is dry.

Interior cleaning


  • Portable Vacuum with attachments
  • Clean hand towels or paper towels
  • Plastic or vinyl cleaner
  • Foaming upholstery cleaner
  • Leather Conditioner (optional)
  • Carpet Brush

To begin with the interior, use the vacuum and begin with the seats and work your way down through the crevices and end with the carpet. Start from the front and move to the back making sure to move seats and vacuum all accessible areas. Use the crevice tool to get in between seats and tight areas.

Now clean all plastic and vinyl surface with the cleaner. Start in the front seat with the seat completely slid back. Clean and wipe all surfaces in an orderly fashion make sure to clean the door panels as well at this time.

You can use on old soft paint brush or toothbrush to get in between the cracks and vents in and around the dash and center console areas. Be sure to extend head rests and arm rest to clean any hidden areas of dirt.

Now it is time to clean the carpet and or velour surfaces. Using the foaming cleaner spray directly on to carpet or velour. Use a carpet brush to scrub the surfaces clean and follow up with the vacuum over the carpet and seats, this will remove any excess foam. Run over the carpet one more time with dry carpet brush to apply clean stripes to the carpet.

The trunk area will now need to be cleaned out and brushes with the carpet brush, if heavily soiled, follow same steps as interior carpet cleaning.

Waxing the exterior


  • Paste or liquid wax
  • Pre-wax cleaner
  • Several micro fiber towels

This is best done in the garage and out of direct sunlight. Never wax a car in direct sunlight.

If your vehicle is light colored and it has been a considerable amount of time since the last wax you will want to use the pre-wax cleaner. This step removes any stains or dirt that has worked its way into the paint surface.

To apply the wax, start with the roof and apply a light coat and if possible apply in the same direction as the panel. In other words, do not swirl around when applying simply wipe back in forth from front to back. This will eliminate any cob webbing affects that can occur when viewing the car in the sun.

To remove the wax simply start where you began and remove the wax by wiping back and fourth with a clean micro fiber towel. Do no use paper towels or regular towels as they can scratch the paint’ surface.

Final Detail


  • Several clean micro fiber towels
  • Tooth brush (to remove any wax left behind in the cracks)
  • Window cleaner

Begin by taking a quick lap around the car and remove the majority of any wax left behind. Now clean the windows inside and out using a window cleaner, if your windows are tinted, make sure you use a window film safe cleaner.

Now it is time to “detail” the car. Start at the fender and wipe it down paying close attention for any wax left behind. Wipe down any chrome or trim moldings as needed and continue around the vehicle under. If your hands have touched every inch of the car, chances are you are complete. Take one last looks around to be sure nothing was missed.

If you vehicles has swirl marks, hard water spots or is in need of a professional detailer to bring the life of the paint back we recommend seeking your local detail professional.


The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Trouble-Free Car Care
Model: 0028635833
Author: Dan Ramsey (1996)
To order this title from, click here.

Ultimate Auto Detailing
Model: 0879389419
Author: David H. Jacobs (1995)
To order this title from, click here.
Motorbooks International

Auto Detailing: Step-By-Step Procedures for Complete Automobile Detailing
Model: 0801983940
Author: James Joseph (1998)
To order this title from, click here.
Chilton Book Company[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][mk_custom_sidebar sidebar=”General”][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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