Exterior Detailing Guide
Before beginning to clean the exterior of your vehicle, you will need the following materials:
Microfiber towels. Use a high quality pack of microfiber towels. This pack of 50 microfiber towels will ensure you have plenty of clean towels, plus they are color coded. Always use fresh, clean towels when starting a new step!
Microfiber sponges. Use these to wash the car without causing scratches. I use these great microfiber sponges by Chemical Guys.
Hose with spray nozzle
Car wash soap. I always use Meguiar’s Gold Class car wash soap when washing my car. It’s a simple and effective soap that won’t strip wax.
Clay bar kit. Mother’s California Gold Clay Bar System is one of the best clay bar kits available and is what I use personally.
Paste or spray wax. I recommend Meguiar’s Ultimate Paste Wax to wax your car. I use it personally and it produces great results. It protects well and is long-lasting.
Step 1 – Wash
Prepare wash mixture
Combine car wash soap with water in a bucket
Check the car wash soap bottle for the recommended amount of soap to use.
Rinse the vehicle
Use hose to wash off any large dirt and dust particles.
Rinse from top to bottom.
Wash the vehicle
Wash from top to bottom using the microfiber sponge starting at the roof.
Use up-and-down or side-to-side motions. DO NOT wash in a circular motion; this can cause swirl marks.
Flip the microfiber sponge before cleaning the lower half of the vehicle to prevent previous dirt from scratching the paint.
Remember to soak the sponge throughout this process to keep adequate lubrication and rinse off dirt; this will prevent scratching.
Wash the tires, wheels, and wheel wells
Use a different microfiber sponge (or wheel brush) for this process, as these areas are usually extremely dirty.
Remember which sponge you used for your wheels; this will be your dedicated wheel sponge.
Rinse from top to bottom
Leftover soap will leave a residue, so ensure all soap is rinsed off.
Be careful when pointing the hose at the ground near the vehicle, as it may spray dirt from the ground onto the vehicle.
Step 2 – Dry
Pick a drying towel
It is recommended to use a large, very soft microfiber towel for drying the car.
Use a towel that has never been used before; keep this as your dedicated drying towel.
Never use this towel to wipe up dirt or other particles (even if it’s small); these will easily scratch the car during the drying process.
Dry the vehicle from top to bottom
Lightly drag the towel over the paint starting from the top of the vehicle, soaking up the water.
DO NOT use circular motions or apply pressure.
Check your towel for dirt
After drying the vehicle, check the drying towel for dirty spots.
If you find dirt on your drying towel, this means you missed spots while washing.
Step 3 – Clay
Do You Need to Clay Your Vehicle?
After washing and drying, feel the paint lightly with your fingers in various places around the car. Focus on areas where dirt heavily accumulates, such as the hood, front bumper, or lower section of the doors. If the car still feels dirty, you need to complete this step before moving on. If your paint feels smooth like glass, you can skip this step completely or only focus on a few small areas, rather than the entire car (this may be the case for newer vehicles with less miles).
Prepare to use the clay bar kit
If your vehicle isn’t very severe, consider only claying spots that need it.
Read the instructions on your kit for extra assistance.
Keep the paint lubricated
Use a detailing spray (possibly included with your kit) or very soapy water to provide lubrication for the clay.
Keeping the paint lubricated during the process of claying is very important to prevent scratching.
Clay the car
Glide the bar in straight motions on the lubricated surface, working in sections.
You will feel the bar grabbing the embedded dirt out of the paint until the clay slides over the paint smoothly.
Check often for large particles in the clay and take them out to prevent scratching.
Frequently knead the clay bar to get a fresh surface.
Check each section for smoothness using your fingers before moving to the next section.
Check your work
Check for spots that were missed and correct if necessary.
Carefully glide your fingers across the surface to detect missed spots.
Step 4 – Wash and Dry
Wash the vehicle
Refer to back Step 1, excluding #4 (Wash the tires, wheels, and wheel wells).
This will remove any reside from lubrication or particles loosened with the clay bar.
Dry the vehicle
Refer back to step 2 for detailed assistance.
You may choose to skip this step if you are using a spray wax that requires the vehicle to be wet; check the directions on your spray bottle to find out).
Step 5 – Wax
Spray vs. Paste Wax
You may use a spray wax or paste wax. Spray wax is quicker and easier but does not last as long or give as much protection as paste wax. If using spray wax, follow the directions on the back of the bottle to wax your vehicle. This step will give instructions for using paste wax.
Check the vehicle
Ensure the vehicle is completely clean and dry.
Wet spots will cause streaking during the waxing process.
Apply the wax
Apply a thin coating to the vehicle’s paint using a clean microfiber towel or sponge applicator.
Work one section at a time.
Avoid plastics and glass.
Let the wax dry to a light haze.
Buff with a clean microfiber towel to remove the leftover wax.
Step 6 – Wheels and Tires
Check the wheels for brake dust or dirt missed during initial wash.
Shine the tires
For a long-lasting, intense shine use Black Magic Tire Wet Gel.
Follow specific instructions on your tire shine product to receive the desired shine.
DO NOT apply tire shine to the surface of the tires that touches the road, as they will become very slippery and dangerous.