Introduction to Car Detailing - How To Detail For Shine

Introduction to Car Detailing - How To Detail For Shine

Car detailing tips will vary depending on the nature of the task at hand.  Ask any three professional car detailers for auto detailing advice, and you'll get three different answers.  So, perhaps the most important step of all is the initial paint detailing evaluation.

Paint Detailing Evaluation

The first step in any detailing program is the evaluation of your car's paint.  Take a quick walk around your car.  Do you see bug stains, water spots and tar spots, or is it completely free of contamination?  How does the paint feel to your hand?  Is it rough (small bumps), or is it smooth like glass?

Sonus Detailing Clay Bar

Even if the paint surface on your car was just waxed, running detailing clay over the hood will reveals bonded paint contamination that waxing cannot remove.  This paint contamination makes the paint feel rough and allows oxidation to begin.

If your paint is smooth and free of contaminants, the only cleaning maintenance it needs is regular washing (30 to 45 minutes a week).  If the paint is stained and rough, it needs a good cleaning.  Clean paint feels like silk.  Cleaning your paint can take 30 minutes or 3 hours, depending on the level of perfection you want to achieve.  Professional car detailers use a paint pre-wax cleaner (a special cleaner/polish) or a paint-cleaning clay to remove surface paint contamination.  It's like exfoliating your skin to deep-clean the pores.

Once your car's paint is clean, you can more closely inspect the paint for scratches, swirl marks and water spots.  All of these minor imperfections can be fixed with a good polish and some elbow grease (1 to 2 hours), and should be taken care of prior to waxing.  If you prefer, use a good orbital polishing machine for faster results.

If your paint has deep surface scratches (not scratched through to the primer or metal), you may need to use a good compound such asBLACKFIRE Compound.  Most scuffs and scratches can be polished so they will no longer be seen or noticed (1 to 5 minutes per scuff or scratch). 

When your paint is contamination-free and polished to a high gloss, it's ready to be waxed (45 minutes to an hour).  Most cars will require deep-cleaning and polishing twice a year, whereas wax should be applied at least four times a year.  With proper care, the paint finish will remain in good condition for many years.

Dressing for Success

A big part of the car detailing process includes applying vinyl dressing and other protectants to those surfaces that can't be waxed or otherwise protected.  As just mentioned, your dash and other vinyl and leather surfaces need vinyl protectants and other regular protection.  Leather, vinyl and rubber dressings protect and beautify. 

Many detailers go overboard with applying protectants and dressings.  Maybe they think that if a little dressing is good, a lot is even better.  Not so.  Porous surfaces, such as leather and rubber, can absorb only very small amounts of a dressing.  Typically the leather, vinyl, or rubber has absorbed as much as it can within 3 to 5 minutes of applying a dressing.  The rest of the dressing is waste and should be buffed off.  If the excess dressing is not buffed off, it simply creates a greasy mess that attracts dust and dirt.  For best results, dressings should be used sparingly and frequently.


Fewer than 10% of all car owners detail their own cars instead of going to professional car detailers.  Chances you are reading this auto detailing advice because you want to learn more about caring for your car yourself.  That makes you a car enthusiast and a kindred spirit.  Most car enthusiasts find cleaning and waxing their cars rewarding, possibly even relaxing.