How To Wash And Detail Your Car For Cheap
You might not be able to afford a brand-new car, but you can get the one you already own looking almost as good as new. Spending a sunny weekend afternoon washing, waxing and detailing your car can be enjoyable, and once you see the shiny, clean results, you’ll be glad you invested the time and elbow grease. A professional detailing job is usually $150 or more, so doing it yourself is a great way to save money.
Detailing a car, as the name implies, is much more than a quick once-over with the hose and a soapy sponge. You’ll be vacuuming, sponging, waxing, wiping, spraying and more. You can, of course, choose to leave certain steps out, but the more work you do, the better your car will look.
Get Ready To Clean
Pick a day to detail your car when the forecast calls for clear, warm weather with no wind. Plan to spend at least four hours at the task, and start early enough to finish before it is dark. Gather up all your equipment beforehand, and move everything out of the driveway except the car to be detailed. For the very best results, you should be in a somewhat shaded spot to keep the car from drying too quickly as you work.
You Will Need:
- Garden hose and water source
- Vacuum cleaner with hose attachments
- Bucket with grit guard
- Car detailing kit (contains most of what you need to detail the car)
- Compressed air can
- Glass cleaner
- Rug/upholstery cleaner
- Carpet/upholstery brush
- Leather cleaning spray (if you have leather upholstery)
- Leather conditioner (if you have leather upholstery)
- Tire gloss
- Applicator pads
- Microfiber cloths
- Drying towel
Cleaning The Interior
- Remove everything that doesn’t belong in the passenger area or trunk: trash, sporting equipment, books, toys, clothing and anything else that belongs elsewhere. Empty the car’s trash holders.
- Take out the floor mats, and lay them to the side where they won’t get wet.
- Use the can of compressed air to blow out any dust in tight corners and the air vent grills. Dust control buttons and edges on built-in electronics and dashboard instruments.
- Vacuum the floor mats and then vacuum the entire interior of the car, including the trunk. Pay special attention to the edges of the seats, the floor under the pedals, the back dash and underneath the seats.
- Spray fabric floor mats and carpet with rug cleaner. Use the rug brush to work the cleaner thoroughly into the rug fibers, and work through any stains or spots to remove them. If you have rubber floor mats, they will be cleaned later.
- If you have cloth upholstery, spray with upholstery cleaner, then wipe thoroughly with a microfiber cloth. If your car has leather seats, spray on the leather cleaner, and wipe in well with a microfiber cloth. Then, follow with a treatment of leather conditioner, rubbing gently for a smooth shine.
- Use the interior cleaning spray and a clean microfiber cloth to wipe down all hard surfaces on the dashboard, steering wheel and column, center console, instrument panels, inside trim of doors and around the windows, cup holders and any other hard trim.
- With glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth, clean the inside of all windows and the rearview mirror.
Cleaning The Exterior: Wash
- Fill your bucket with water, and add car shampoo.
- Open your car doors, and use a microfiber cloth dipped in the soapy water to wash down the inside edges of the doors and the doorjambs. Dry thoroughly with the drying towel. Close the doors.
- Spray the tires with tire gloss, and wipe with a microfiber towel. If you have rubber floor mats, wash them with car shampoo, then hose clean.
- Hose the entire car down. Afterward, starting at the roof, wash the car with the cleaning mitt dipped in the soapy water. Give extra attention to dried bird droppings, dirt and grime. Rinse off the soap from each area as you finish.
- Use the drying towel to wipe the car completely dry.
- Starting at the top of the car, spray sections of the paint with the Quick Detailer from the kit, then rub a kneaded bar of clay over the moistened area to remove any areas of hardened contaminants that mar the smooth surface of the paint. Continue in sections over the entire car, then wipe with a microfiber towel to remove lubricant.
- Apply the Scratch X from the kit over all painted surfaces, using an applicator pad. This removes impurities from under the paint for extra shine. After applying the product, wipe the car with a microfiber towel.
Cleaning The Exterior: Wax
- Now it’s time for wax. Use an applicator pad to buff the wax into all painted surfaces, rubbing the wax in thoroughly for smooth shine. Buff until the paint feels satiny smooth.
- Get out a clean microfiber cloth and the glass cleaner. Start at the top of the windshield, and work your way down, wiping the glass thoroughly, and getting the cloth into each corner. Clean all the windows and side view mirrors.
- Your final step is using the plastic cleaner to restore clarity and shine to the plastic over the headlights, taillights, and any other clear plastic on the car’s exterior. Rub in with an applicator pad to remove any leftover dirt or wax smears.
- Put the floor mats back in place, and give your car a final look over.
Once you have put away your cleaning supplies and rinsed out your bucket, reward yourself with a cold drink, and take a few moments to admire your car. Your time and attention will have rewarded you with a car that looks nearly as good as it did the day you drove it off the dealer’s lot.