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Step-by-Step Instructions to Detail Your Vehicle

Step-by-Step Instructions to Detail Your Vehicle

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Everyone loves a nice looking clean, fresh smelling car. But not everyone can afford detailing their vehicle every 2-3 months. Detailing costs anywhere between $100-$1,000+ depending on the options you get. Detailing your own vehicle can not only be a great way to save and ensure a job well done, it can also be a great way to enjoy an afternoon if you have some great tunes playing. Here are Step-by-Step Instructions to Detail Your Vehicle.

 Detailing the inside of your vehicle:

Clean everything out of your car.

Turn on some great music and park so you are not in direct sunlight or heat.

Use an air pressure hose to blow dirt out of small crevices and nooks. You can also clean out the air vents using a proper air pressure hose attachment that will fit through your vent cover.

Use stiff bristle brushes on carpet and mats before vacuuming. This loosens the dirt and makes the pick up much quicker.

Vacuum well, using appropriate attachments and going over each area thoroughly.

Use toothbrushes, soft bristle brushes, etc. to get dirt, dust, and little pieces of stuck stuff out of crevices around console and stick shift. Vacuum or wipe up what you were able to get out.

Give surface areas a good wipe down and dusting.

Treat surfaces with an appropriate solution.

For the upholstery and carpet, use a solution of six parts water and one part Woolite. It’s very gentle and cleans well. For tough stains, try this Meguiar’s cleaner.

Add a PERK Vent Wrap. These are amazing. We love the PERK Visor Wraps but these Vent Wraps are way awesome as well! I love that they are so discreet and practically invisible!

Step-by-Step Instructions to Detail Your Vehicle

They install in seconds. You simply clip it on to the vent. The air isn’t blocked by it and the vent still moves as normal. They work whether the air vent is on or off too.

Further, they save money (which I’m all about). Each PERK Vent Wrap lasts about 15 days, so a 4-pack offers up to 60 days of yummy scent.

Detailing the exterior of your vehicle:

Clean tires and wheels first (before cleaning paint). I hate when I forget to do this. The tires and wheels are often the dirtiest part of the car and as you spray them off the dirt gets on the paint and the vehicle. So spray and clean tires and rims first (and undercarriage if you choose), then move on to the rest of the car. Use a different towel, sponge and bucket for wheels and tires than you do the rest of the car.

Be very careful what kinds of cleaner you use on your rims. We bought our Armada and the previous owners took it to a car wash before delivering it to us. They accidentally used the wrong rim cleaner. They felt terrible but two of the rims had oxidized and caused the chrome finish to bubble up and crack. The other two rims didn’t look as bad but they still weren’t that nice looking. Four beautiful chrome rims were ruined in one wrong application of cleaner!  Be very careful to read up on which cleaner to use on your rims.

The best wash is a hand wash using a car detergent (normal dish soap can strip a car of its protective finish).

Use two or three buckets, one for rinse and one for the soapy water. Rinse your hand mitt or sponge into the rinse before dipping it into the soap and washing the car (each time). This prevents you from rubbing dirt and grime back into the surface of the vehicle.

Rinse off soap from top to bottom. Spray off the hood and top of the car and then make your way down. Gravity will help the soap run downwards and help you clean it off.

Use a squeegee/water blade or air blower to wipe away or dry water on the car. Spot dry with a micro fiber towel.

Run your hand over your dried clean car. If there are spots that aren’t smooth and are somewhat grainy, that spot needs to be cleaned again. Using a clay bar (as long as you follow instructions and keep it lubricated) will provide you with an awesome showroom shine and get the tough grit off gently!  Watch tutorials online and read up on this before you use one!

Also, WD-40 or a similar lubricant is an excellent bug and tar remover, and about as cheap a solvent as you can find.

Just be sure to rewax any portion of the car you cleaned with it.

Once the surface of the vehicle is clean, smooth, and dry, polish it. Use a foam applicator pad and polish cream or if you are a pro use professional power polish equipment—just be sure you know what you are doing. This is often the step that results in swirls and will require professional correction.

Protect trim. If you have trim that is chrome or needs protecting. You’ll want to do that with appropriate product or painters tape before applying wax.

Then use a wax. Wax absorbs dirt, grime, and can even prevent scratches to your paint. You should wax once at least each season of the year.

Clean headlights with a headlight restoration kit.

Clean glass last. Use a cleaner with NO ammonia (most household glass cleaners have ammonia in it and can damage upholstery) and a microfiber cloth to scrub both inside and out of your windows. Vinegar is a good option. Wipe the glass on the outside in horizontal stripes and the glass inside with vertical. This way you can tell which side the streak is on if you get one. Another tip is to keep your microfiber cloths marked with ‘G’ or something for glass so you don’t mix them or wash them with the microfiber towels you used to apply wax with. If you get them mixed up the waxed towels will most likely always leave a residue on your windows.

Finally, apply Rain X to the exterior side of windows- follow instructions on how.

Although this is a few hours of work (and an investment at first), detailing and caring for your vehicle yourself can save you thousands each year. Further, it protects and lengthens the life of your automobile investment.

Have fun detailing!

Supply List

Quik Interior Detailer Cleaner


Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

PERK Vent Wrap

squeegee/water blade

clay bar

foam applicator pad

polish cream


headlight restoration kit

Rain X

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Step-by-Step Instructions to Detail Your Vehicle



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Friday 9th of October 2015

I would love to try the clean laundry scent.


Wednesday 7th of October 2015

The carribean sounds great

Anita Fowler

Tuesday 17th of November 2015

Linda YOU WON! I'll email you.


Sunday 4th of October 2015

golden vanilla sounds great


Saturday 3rd of October 2015

golden vanilla sounds awesome

Chelsea @ Life With My Littles

Tuesday 29th of September 2015

This is awesome! I had no idea there were so many tiny things that could be done! And an air pressure hose is genius for blowing dirt out of those tiny places! Thanks!

Anita Fowler

Friday 2nd of October 2015

You're welcome. Yes it totally is a great idea!