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We all seem to have quite a lot of time on our hands at the moment, so here is a comprehensive detailing guide that you can either follow religiously, or cherry pick the parts you fancy having a go at.
Enjoy....

Step by step Car Detailing / Maintenance cleaning process

Under each section I have listed products that I have used for some time that I have found to be easy to use and produce great results. (This does not mean that they are better than others but just my personal opinion).

I buy most of my products on line. Clean Your Car, Slims Detailing are a couple of examples of companies available, or the odd trip to Halfords where most of the suggested products can be found.

Wash steps for a full detail (omit steps 7, 8 & 9 for maintenance washes)

In brief:
1. Clean Wheels
2. Snow Foam
3. Rinse
4. Wash (using wash mitt) including door shuts, boot opening and the panel gaps around the bonnet (lift the bonnet for this)
5. Rinse with open ended hose
6. Dry (with soft micro fibre cloth and Quick Detailer)
7. Clay (if required) and dry each panel as you go along (including tar and iron filling removal)
8. Polish (either by machine or hand)
9. Sealant or Wax (you can use one or the other or both. NB if using both then it's sealant first then wax. You cannot put a sealant over a wax - it won't adhere properly due to the oils in the wax).
10. Quick detailer (if required)

These 4 steps can be done anytime between items 6 - 10, whilst waiting for wax to cure for example
11. Windows
12. Sealing and protecting alloys
13. Applying tyre dressing
14. Clean and polish exhaust tail pipes

15. Engine (for those with OCD)

16. Interior (this can be done before you start or at the end)


In Full

1. Clean wheels
This is done first as you don't want to splatter nice, clean paintwork with dirt and mud from the wheels/ tyres. Power wash down the alloys first removing as much brake dust as you can. If you choose to use a wheel cleaner then make sure it is not acidic as this can cause corrosion to the alloys especially, but not only, if they have been scuffed. Once alloys have been sealed and protected they should be no need to use alloy cleaner. A power wash and then shampoo and water is all that is required during the durability period of your chosen product. Use 2 buckets, one for rinsing your brushes as you use them and one containing shampoo and water.

There are various brushes on the market to help make wheel cleaning easier. Brushes for front of spokes, backs of the alloys, nooks and crannies like brake callipers, wheel bolts, wheel arches and also for the actual tyres.
EZ Brush ( rear of spokes )
Wheel Woolies ( from Polished Bliss)
Tyre cleaning brush
Wheel Schmitt ( for wheel arches)
Swissvax Detailing Brush
2 Buckets

2. Snow Foam
In my opinion, snow foaming is THE most important part of washing the car. It helps to remove / soften contaminants such as tree sap, bird mess etchings, dead flies, etc without the need to rub at the paintwork. Rubbing induces swirls and scratches. Leave to dwell as long as stated for your particular product. Some are longer than others.
Foam Lance
Karcher Power Washer
Chemical Guys No Touch Snow Foam
ValetPro ph Neutral Snow Foam (summer snow foam)
ValetPro Advanced Neutral Snow Foam (a better cleaner than the one above during the winter months). Even better if you use it in a chemical sprayer as a pre wash. Dilute up to 1:30 - it's brilliant - can also be used as a wheel cleaner

3. Rinse the Snow Foam
It's very important to make sure that the snow foam is thoroughly rinsed from the car using a power washer. This is an important part of the car cleaning process and helps to remove the excess grime on the car. The more that is reduced at this stage the less "contact" you will have when actually washing. Power wash from the bottom up as this is where the snow foam is most needed on the dirtiest parts of the car. Spend a good 10 minutes doing this.
Karcher Power Washer

4. Washing (important to use the correct dilution for your shampoo as the wrong dilution can strip your wax or sealant)

The 2 bucket method is a must here. One containing shampoo and water, the other containing just water for rinsing. This helps to eliminate scratches from grit, etc. Starting with the roof, work from top to bottom of the car - roof, bonnet, rear, sides. Maybe use a different wash mitt for the lowest areas of your car. Wash a panel at a time and rinse your mitt, then onto the next panel. Don't forget the door shuts, including the boot and the panel gaps where the bonnet is (lift the bonnet to get into these areas). Also raise the spoiler manually and clean underneath there too.
Chemical Guys Citrus Wash and Gloss or Werkstat Autobody Wash ( same as for wheels)
2 buckets
Carpro wash mitt (the softest by far)
Dodo Supernatural Wash Mitt

5. Rinsing
Rinsing with an open ended hose leaves less standing water on the car making it quicker and easier to dry, especially once the car is protected.

If you live in a hard water area then I strongly recommend an Auto Gleam water filter. It won't leave calcium marks on your car. In fact you can just leave it to dry naturally, if you wish. Mine's lasted 13 months so far and used every week.

6. Drying
Use a very good quality, ultra soft micro fibre drying towel to dry your car. I can't stress this enough. A poor quality drying towel will inflict swirls or scratches on your car. You should attempt to pat dry rather than drag the towel over the car. It's also useful to use a Quick Detailer when drying as this helps to repel water and helps stop streaking and watermarks. Spray a couple of squirts on a panel and then pat dry. Don't forget to dry your door shuts, boot and those bits under the bonnet that you washed And under the spoiler. Remember to dry your alloys at this point too but with a separate cloth.
(it's worth having specific cloths for specific tasks, don't swap and change). If you drop a towel on the floor DO NOT use. Use a clean one instead.

Dodo Juice Soft Touch Premium Drying Towel (my personal favourite)
Monza Ultra Soft Fur Drying Towel
Monza Super Soft Large Drying Towel
Chemical Guys Synthetic Quick Detailer

7. Claying (done 2 or 3 times a year)

If you want the best finish possible for your paintwork, then claying is the single most important part, followed by polishing. Claying will remove environmental contaminants such as tree sap, bird mess etchings which can seep into the paint if not removed promptly, ground in tar deposits, etc. If you run your hand over the paintwork and it feels rough, this is the contaminants. You can probably hear the roughness too. On a clayed car, the paintwork is silky smooth and becomes glass like. There are different grades of clay, ultra fine to aggressive. An ultra fine one will be sufficient in most cases and will not mark your car if used correctly. Very little pressure is needed but plenty of lube is required. Some clay kits come with clay lube. This is basically a mix of Quick Detailer and water. In most cases especially ultra fine clays, you can just use water. You can cut a clay bar into 2 or 3 pieces and just keep refolding the clay as you do each panel ( put clay into a pot of warm water to help make it more plyable, especially in cold weather). Spray a panel (and the clay) then clay in straight lines until you stop feeling the clay picking anything up. Run your hand over the paint and you should feel a very noticeable difference. Dry each panel as you go with an ultra soft micro fibre towel.

At this stage I will also removing any remaing tar deposits on the paint or alloys using a specific product. One that I can highly recommend is Autosmart Tardis. Spray on, wait a couple of minutes for it to work and then wipe off. Then rinse each panel again. Warning - if you use this on a car that is already waxed or sealed, then it will remove it and a top up of wax or sealant will be required on the necessary panels. THROW AWAY THE MICRO FIBRE CLOTH THAT YOU HAVE USED TO WIPE IT OFF - DON'T PUT IT IN THE WASHING MACHINE - IT WILL STINK!

If you drop the clay bar on the floor throw it away, DO NOT use.

Another important step is removing iron fillings / rust spots. These are particular noticeable on white paint but ALL cars will have them. Claying does not remove these, just merely takes the top of them but leaves them inbedded in the paint. A good product on the market is Iron-X. You spray it onto a panel at a time, leave for a couple of minutes and then stand back and watch as your car turns purple! Don't worry, all this is doing is showing the amount of iron fillings/ rust spots on your car and how the Iron-X is dissolving it and removing it from the paint. After two minutes, agitate with a clean micro fibre cloth and then rinse off and dry down. Do this on each panel. You will be surprised how much this stuff removes.


Meguiars Smooth Surface clay
Meguiars Clay lube (or water in a spray bottle)

8. Polish
Polishing adds shine and reflectivity to a car's paintwork. It can also remove swirls, scratches, oxidiation depending on the "cutting" ability of the polish being used. These polishes should be used with caution as they do remove a layer of paint. Unless you have a something called a Paint Depth Gauge then usage should be limited. Other polishes contain "fillers" which means that they mask the swirls or scratches temporarily. It looks like they have been removed. In about a month, they will re- appear.

By hand
There are some polishes on the market that can remove swirls / scratches by hand. For more serious defects, machine polishes are necessary. Autoglym's Super Resin Polish is a very well known " filling" polish and it adds a brilliant shine. G-Techniq's P1 can be used by hand and will permanently remove swirls/scratches but like all things, it is hard work by hand. P1 can also be used by machine for optimum correction.
Some manufacturers offer pre wax cleansers which are used before applying their waxes. These are very much like a polish and usually contain fillers but if used by machine can afford some abrasion to remove swirls and scratches.


Autoglym Super Resin Polish ( fillers)
G-Techniq P1 Polish (can correct, no fillers)
Werkstat Prime Polish ( deep cleanser, no correction)
Chemical Guys EZ Creme Glaze (no fillers)
Dodo Juice Lime Prime Pre Wax Cleanser (some fillers but will cut by machine)
Zymol Pre Wax Cleanse ( some fillers)

By Machine (should be used only if fully competent with machine polishers/ rotary)
There are many different polishes on the market which can be used be machine and offer varying degrees of correction. This is only half the story though, as "cutting" ability is also determined by the polishing pad being used. Some are more aggressive than others. The rule of thumb is to choose your polish then choose the least aggressive polishing pad and see if that removes the imperfections. If not go up to the next aggressive pad and then assess the paint and so on. The idea is to remove the least amount of paint as possible. If in doubt, STOP. 100 % correction is not always possible.

Dodo Juice Lime Prime (mild)
Meguiars 105- Compound (very aggressive)
Meguiars 205 - Polish (mild)
DAS 6 Dual Action Polisher
Chemical Guys Hexlogic Pads

9. Sealant or Wax (or both) or Coatings+
(you can use one or the other or both. NB if using both then it's sealant first then wax. You cannot put a sealant over a wax - it won't adhere properly due to the oils in the wax).

A wax or sealant provides protection to a car's paintwork. A lot of people think the shine on a car comes from wax (or sealant) but this is not true. That is the job of the polish or pre wax cleanser. A wax seals in the shine and also provides protection from the elements, rain, UV protection, fallout, etc. I apply a wax or sealant to the door shuts, kick plate, around boot opening and also under the bonnet on exposed metal.

It is up to you to choose whether you go for wax or a sealant. Both provide exactly the same protection but both offer different looks for the paint. Sealants provide a more glassy, reflective finish and enhance the flake in metallic or pearlescent paints and are said to repel dirt better than waxes. Waxes on the other hand provide a warmer look, with depth but can tend to mute the metallic flake. Some waxes can also provide a "wet look" to the paint. It depends entirely on the sort of look you want to achieve. Each also offer different lengths of durability. Some can last 8 or 9 months+ some can last a matter of a few weeks only.

Again, the important thing to remember is use ultra soft micro fibre cloths when applying ( sealants) and buffing off sealants and waxes. Quality is all important. An applicator pad is normally used for applying waxes and very often goes on better if the pad is moistened slightly.
The main thing to remember is less is more! Apply as thinly as possible as this makes it much easier to remove. If it's caked on then you can induce marring to the paint as you will be applying more pressure then you need to.
Multiple layers of wax or sealant can be applied. For wax 2 layers is sufficient. For sealants up to 6 layers can be applied, or even more if you wish.
Waxes:
Dodo Juice Waxes - Any (varying durability but usually 3 months, some more)
Bouncer's Capture the Rapture (2 months durability)
Zymol Concours ( gives a phenomenal wet look but very expensive) (2-3 months durability)
Victoria Concours (adds lovely wet look) (2 months ish! durability)

Sealants:
Werkstat Acrylic Jett ( 6 months durability with 5 or 6 layers )
Chemical Guys Blacklight (2 months durability but can be topped up when you wash)
Chemical Guys Jetseal 109 (2 or 3 months durability)
G-Techniq C2v3(lasts 8-9 months)
G-Techniq EXO v1 (aerosol) - Hybrid sealant but can last up to 2 years.
G-Techniq EXO v2 (liquid) - Hybrid sealant but can last up to 2 years

Coatings
Coatings are a relatively new product to the market. In existence for about 3-4 years they have taken car detailing to a completely different level with regards to durability. Coatings can last 1, 2 or even 3 years in some cases. Coatings offer an extra layer of clear coat to your paint, if you like. Extra hardness which offers scratch resistance and which will protect your car for a long time. What does that mean? Well whenever you wash your car, however careful you are, you will be marring your paintwork. With the added hardness/layer of clear coat, it is making it more difficult to inflict swirls therefore leaving your paint shinier for longer. Swirls and scratches dull the appearance of the paint. As the sun shines on the car and it and catches the edges, these are the the swirls that you see. Obviously the darker the colour of your car, the easier they are to see but even on white or silver, they will be there.

Coatings do tend to be harder to apply (or rather more care needs to be taken) as they "flash" off quite quickly so you can only apply to one panel at a time before you need to wipe the residue before it becomes very difficult to remove. Coatings tend to be only removed by machine polishing. Even hand polishing can degrade it. Due to the nature of the coatings and the hardness that they give, the coating crystallises on the paint (invisible to the eye) but the pads or cloths that you use to apply them will harden, if you leave them for a few hours. In the case of some, within minutes. Any pads or cloths that you use for applying these coatings should be thrown away and not re-used.

Moreover, coatings usually need a longer curing time and should not get wet for 12 or 24 hours in some cases. It's therefore important to keep an eye on weather forecasts if you do not have use of a garage to store the car overnight. They should also be used on very clean and decontaminated paint to get the best out of them. There are many coatings on the market but those listed below are the ones that I have personally used.

Soft 99 Fusso Coat (wax)
G-Techniq C1
Wolf Chemicals Hard Body
G-Techniq EXO v1 and v2 (included here too as they are a hybrid and flash off in the same way as C1)


10. Quick Detailer
A Quick Detailer (or QD) is used to add an extra layer of shine, if you like. They tend to be used after subsequent washes following a wax or sealant being used. It prolongs the life of the wax / sealant and also gives that "just waxed" look. After a normal wash, when the car has been dried, apply the QD (couple of squirts per panel and then buff with a clean sift micro fibre cloth) and you are done. It's also very useful on windows too.
Chemical Guys Synthetic Quick Detailer
Chemical Guys V7 Hybrid
Dodo Juice Red Mist Tropical ( use this about 3 weeks after you have waxed the car, onwards)
Werkstat Glos
Zymol Field Glaze

11. Windows
Spray the windows with a glass cleaner and wipe with a soft micro fibre cloth. If windows are heavily watermarked then a glass polish may be required.

You may also want to apply a water repellent to the windows, especially the windscreen and rear window. A water repellent will repel the rain and move up the windscreen, especially at higher speeds, reducing the need to use your windscreen wipers as often. One that I have used and is MY favourite product ever is G-Techniq G1. Even at low speeds the water repels on the RCZ and lasts 2 years or 20k miles.
Meguiars NXT Glass Cleaner
Werkstat Prime - very good glass polish and also good on the roof arches.
G-Techniq glass cleaner
G-Techniq G4 - glass polish
G-Techniq G1 -water repellent


12. Sealing and Protecting Alloys
Once you have thoroughly washed and cleaned your alloy wheels, removing all brake dust, tar spots, etc then it is beneficial to seal your alloys with a wheel specific wax or sealant. These act in much the same way as those you put on the paintwork. They help to stop brake dust etc adhering to the alloys and make it much easier to clean them each time you wash the car. You will only need shampoo and water. Again, some last longer than others and there are plenty on the market.

G-Techniq C5 wheel armour - lasts a year to 18 months
Planet Polish Wheel Seal and Shine lasts for 3 months between applications (6 months with 2 coats) and adds a lovely shine too.
Chemical Guys Jetseal 109 - lasts about 2 months


13. Applying Tyre Dressing
To finish the look of the car and to give that "showroom look" then a tyre dressing is a necessity. To my mind, it just finishes the car off. There are lots of tyre dressings to choose from. Some give a matt finish, some glossy - it all depends on the look you like. These are usually applied with a pad or foam sponge. Less is definitely best as too much can cause the product to sling along the side of your car when you are driving. Usually wipe down each tyre after half an hour to remove any excess. My personal favourite is Meguires Endurance Tyre Gel.

G-Techniq T1 (does not sling)
Carpro PERL (can be used neat or diluted half and half)
Autosmart Highstyle (*can sling on white or light coloured cars)
Meguiars Endurance Tyre Gel (*can sling on White or light coloured cars)
Swissvax Pneu
Autoglym Tyre Dressing

14. For Those With Exposed Exhaust Tail Pipes.
Don’t forget to clean and polish your exhaust tail pipes. Like the tyres, it finishes off the car nicely. I use the Britemax twins to clean and polish mine. The wire wool is used with the Easy Cut to remove stains, etc.

Britemax Easy Cut – Metal Cleaner and Polish
Britemax Final Shine – Metal Polish and Sealant
Extra Fine Grade Wire Wool #00

Also worth coating the exhausts with G-Techniq C5.

15. Engine Bay
This job is best done at the very start of your detail. I clean mine about once a month.

For those of you who like to clean every little nook and cranny then the engine bay will also benefit from a bit of TLC. A product that has proved to do a great job in the engine bay for minimal effort is 303 Aerospace Protectant. Just spray it on, leave for a few hours if you wish and then rub down with a cloth ( not one that will be used on the main parts of your car). Leaves a lovely sheen to the rubber, plastic and vinyls in the engine bay.
303 Aerospace Protectant
Carpro PERL

16. Interior
I tend to clean the interior at the very end but it can be done whenever it suits you. There is no right and wrong way.

I polish the brightwork first, the chrome surrounds, door opener, the handle to close the door, etc. Then it's on to hoovering the carpets. If the hoover nozzle is difficult to get between the front seats, stick a straw in the nozzle and it should reach where you want. If the mats wanted more than a brush down, then I take them out right at the very start and clean with an all purpose cleaner and stiff brush and then leave them to dry in the sun.

Next it's on with cleaning the leather seats and the "fake" leather dash and door surrounds. I use the Furniture Clinic cleaner and Protector.
It's very important to regularly clean and protect leather as it helps to replace the moisture that is lost inside the warm environment of a car. It stops leather from cracking, which is caused when it dries out. The seats and " fake" leather are cleaned fortnightly with the cleaner and then every 3 months the protector is applied. I've used many leather cleaners and have found that the more you pay for them the better they are. Some cheaper ones can make the leather go shiny, which is not what should happen, it should remain matt looking. They can also make the seats become very slippy and then you slide around in them, which is not good.
Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner
G-Techniq C6 Matte dash - use on all plastic areas in the car - door cards, plastics lower down and lasts 6 months or more.
Furniture Clinic Leather Cleaner And Leather Protector (in a kit).

17. Black trim - bottom of wing mirrors, scuttle panel, rear valance, engine bay
A product that has caught my attention recently and seems to give good results is Gtechniq C4 - Permanent Trim Restorer. Apply it to black trim on the bottom of the wing mirrors, the scuttle panel at the bottom of the windscreen (exterior), the rear valance (where the exhausts are) and if you wish to the engine bay. This provides UV protection to trim and stops it fading. It lasts for up to 2 years. It gives a lovely matt sheen. It doesn't alter the colour of the trim. You just need to make sure that the areas you are going to apply it are thoroughly clean, washed and degreased, before the C4 is applied. DO NOT apply it in full sun. It comes in a little bottle and is quite expensive, but you only need to use one little splash on the applicator pad and a little goes a long way. Once applied, immediately wipe over with a clean cloth, don't buff it.

Many thanks to RCZ1 for contributions above.

That's about it. Car should now look stunning 👍
 
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