If you want your car to truly glow without spending hundreds of dollars at a detailer, this is the car grooming guide for you.
There are no shortcuts for drivers who truly want to be able to look back and admire their handiwork.
Modern grooming products make the processes easier, but you must still acquire the right gear.
Be ready to put in the hours!
CAR GROOMING STEP#1: PROPER WASHING SETS THE STAGE
Washing your car isn’t complicated, but if you want to do it properly, you’ll need more than just a bucket and a used rag.
Proper car grooming means investing in the following for washing:
- Two buckets and two synthetic wash mitts
- Two grit guards (they stop dirt from rising to the top of the buckets)
- A wheel brush and a tyre brush
- Wheel and tyre cleaner
- A good drying towel (or two)
Of course, you also need a good car shampoo that helps lubricate the surface and wash away nasty contaminants.
They have been making car grooming products for a long time.
Fill one bucket with a mix of water and car shampoo, and the second bucket with just plain water.
Wheels and tyres first!
Begin the washing process by cleaning your wheels and tyres.
You don’t want to clean them after you’ve washed the entire vehicle and risk flinging dirt onto clean bodywork.
If your wheels are caked in brake dust, you’ll need the wheel cleaner to help dissolve this gunk.
If not, the wheel brush and car shampoo should be adequate.
Remember, when the wheel and tyre brushes get too dirty, rinse them in the clean water bucket before continuing.
Bath time for the car
Next, thoroughly rinse down your car to remove large bits of dirt.
Wash your car from top to bottom and never the other way around.
Part of car grooming is knowing that the bottom part of your car is always dirtier than the top.
When your wash mitt needs more car shampoo, rinse it in the bucket filled with clean water first.
That way, you’ll minimise transferring dirt into the shampoo bucket.
If your first wash mitt is too filthy, switch to the second one before tackling the bottom half of your car.
If needed, don’t forget to clean the door sills and the are beneath the boot lid.
Thoroughly rinse your vehicle from top to bottom.
When that’s done, whip out your drying towel and dry the car in the same order.
As you go along, this is your chance to inspect your bodywork for any embedded contaminants.
If there are none, then the surface will be as smooth as glass.
CAR GROOMING STEP #2: TO CLAY OR NOT TO CLAY
In car grooming, automotive clay bars are used to remove embedded contaminants.
This preps the paint for any polishing or waxing that is to be carried out.
Some believe that car grooming should always involve this step.
However, we believe that unless you feel the paintwork is contaminated, you can skip this car grooming step.
If you do need to clay your car, invest in a good quality clay bar.
The manufacturer usually has a lubricating formula to go along with it.
Squash that clay
To begin claying, cut a section of the bar and flatten it.
Spray some lubricating formula onto it and onto the small section of your vehicle’s body.
Move the clay bar back and forth without applying pressure.
When the contaminants have been removed, the clay bar will glide seamlessly across the surface.
Periodically check the clay bar. If the side you’re using gets too filthy, fold the bar in half and use a clean side.
If the entire piece is too dirty, toss it and get a new piece of clay.
When you’re done, dry the sections using a clean microfibre cloth.
CAR GROOMING STEP #3: TO POLISH OR NOT TO POLISH?
Like claying, polishing is also seen by some as a necessary step in car grooming.
You do not need to polish your car unless it is covered in fine scratches or the paint has badly oxidised.
If you take proper care of your car, you might only need to polish it twice a year.
A good car polish will “feed” much needed oils back into the paint while removing fine scratches or swirl marks.
A bit of the clear coat is polished off in the process.
If you have prepped your paintwork and determined that it is time to polish your car, always remember to start from top to bottom.
Use small amounts and work in small sections.
A microfibre applicator pad is usually supplied with your car polish.
DO NOT let polish set on the paintwork. It will be hard to remove!
Always wipe down the panel you’ve finished polishing with a clean microfibre cloth before moving on.
CAR GROOMING STEP #4: WAX ON, WAX OFF!
Waxing your car is an integral part of car grooming.
No car grooming or detailing process is complete without this!
If you have done car grooming steps #1-3, you are ready to wax your car.
Apply a small amount of wax to the applicator pad (usually supplied with the car wax) and work in small sections.
Using big amounts of product will not give you better results.
On the contrary, it will just be harder to remove, thereby making your task harder.
Remember, the car’s paint can only absorb and bond with a finite amount of wax.
CAR GROOMING STEP #6: A SECOND COAT OF WAX (OPTIONAL)
If you have the time, you can consider a second coat of wax.
However, we advise against applying it right after the first coat.
You want that initial layer to bond with the paint first before applying a second layer.
That means not being able to use your car right after you’ve detailed it.
If you don’t feel like a second coat, then let’s move on.
CAR GROOMING STEP #7: TYRE SHINE
To complement that shiny paintwork, you need to apply a tyre dressing that darkens your tyres and makes them shine.
Some drivers want a matte finish, while others prefer their tyres to be shiny.
Nicely detailed tyres make a good contrast, especially against lighter-coloured paintwork.
CAR GROOMING STEP #8: THE INTERIOR
There’s no point in detailing the exterior but leaving the interior messy.
To complete the car grooming process, you need to address the inside.
What you’ll need:
- A decent car vacuum (at least a Black & Decker)
- Interior trim cleaner/detailer
- Leather cleaner/conditioner
- Carpet shampoo
Begin by vacuuming your interior. When that’s done, wipe down the dashboard and plastic trims
Apply the interior detailer or cleaner of your choice.
A good product helps stop the plastic trim from ageing or cracking due to the harsh sunlight.
Ditto for the leather cleaner/conditioner.
If the carpet is dirty, use the carpet shampoo in your kit.
CAR GROOMING STEP #9: ADMIRING YOUR HANDIWORK
After having spent hours detailing your car, take a few moments to catch your breath.
Walking around your vehicle and admiring it also gives you the chance to spot areas you may have missed.
Perhaps a bit of wax is still on the paintwork.
Maybe a bit of leather cleaner hasn’t been worked into the upholstery.
Oh, and pray/hope/wish that it doesn’t rain!
CAR GROOMING STEP #10: DOING IT ALL AGAIN
Constant attention is required to maintain your car’s aesthetic condition.
If you’re very busy, a weekly wash and vacuum is fine.
Avoid eating or drinking in your vehicle to prevent spills and roaches.
You can re-apply wax every month or every two months, depending on your paintwork’s condition.
Don’t forget to keep your wash mitts, drying towels, microfibre cloths and microfibre applicators clean in the meantime.
You can do this by chucking them in the washing machine after every use.