A person’s car can be one of their most prized possessions, which is why people tend to take very special care of them. That can mean anything from going to the car wash every week to buying a number of extras for a vehicle.

Some people make sure that their vehicles are detailed on a regular basis. They spend serious money detailing their vehicles. However, few people understand how car detailing works.

Basic Preparation

When a vehicle is delivered, the first step is to clean and dry it. The vehicle is cleaned to remove any old wax.  The detailer takes care to ensure that a vehicle is not scratched by any stray debris.

The car is washed using the two-bucket method, which uses suds in one bucket and rinse water in the other. The vehicle is then blow-dried in order to better remove any extraneous debris. Some detailers use a two-towel method using microfiber towels: one towel to remove the moisture and the second to pick up any remaining dust and other debris.

The detailer then uses detailing clay to further remove any debris. The clay acts to pick up any debris that may have found its way into the cracks in the clear coat. This debris can make painting difficult and create additional scratches in the painting.

While he is cleaning, the detailer will also go over the lights and windows in order to make sure that they are clean. This ensures that there is nothing to cause cracks later on.

It is not a bad idea to re-wash the vehicle before painting in order to make sure that the clay will not interfere with the painting.

Taking Care Of The Outside

After washing and claying, the next step is to inspect the vehicle. The detailer will look for paint swirls and areas that need correcting.

An extremely powerful Xenon or LED lamp is passed over the vehicle in order to find extra scratches and other potential issues.

If your vehicle needs paint swirl corrections, the detailer will typically bring out an orbital buffer. 

“Buffing” requires some polishers, a good rag, and some elbow grease; the buffer is used to buff out problems in the paint job before paint is further applied.

The outside is then protected by a sealant or wax. The sealant and wax combination can add years to the life of your vehicle, making this step one of the most important parts of the detailing of the vehicle. While a synthetic sealant can be used all by itself, carnauba wax gives it a better shine as well as additional protection.

If you are detailing your vehicle alone, keep in mind that it is a good idea to do the outside first.  That’s because the wax can take some time to cure, so doing the outside first gives you a chance to do the inside while the outside dries.

Going Inside

The inside of your vehicle is usually cleaned from top to bottom in order to avoid cleaning the same area multiple times. A good non-stick inside trim protector is used for most surfaces. Every crook and cranny is vacuumed thoroughly in an attempt to get rid of any hidden debris and other objects.

Any carpet should be shampooed in order to ensure that it is thoroughly cleaned. The fabric will need special treatment in order to remove any stains and hard-to-remove odors. The leather will require its own solution.

Lastly, you should apply stain guard to the fabric, carpets, and mats in order to protect them from future problems.

Back Outside

The tires should be removed to be inspected and cleaned properly. Use clay to prepare them for cleaning. Applying sealant will keep them cleaner longer.

The wheels should be dressed. The windows, headlamps, and tail lights should be treated with a non-abrasive sealant to keep them protected from UV issues and keep them slick. The door jambs should be cleaned and cleared. Sealant should be applied to the outside trim for better protection.


Not all vehicles are created equal. Some vehicles require a good engine cleaning, and that should be done before the outside is even touched. Detailing is not something you should do if you are in a hurry, especially if it has been a while since the car has been detailed.

Car detailing is something that can help your vehicle last a lot longer. We recommend it to anyone who values his or her car.

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