Just like phones and computers, car detailing products have come a long way over the past few years. Soaps, polishes, waxes, and brushes have changed drastically. The biggest thing that has changed is the paint on your car. Manufacturers are painting cars differently than they did in the 80’s even 90’s. So logically, you’d need to take care of your paint differently.
Washing your car comes with a lot of variables. How hot is it outside? How dirty is the car? How long ago did you seal your paint with a wax or sealant? Are you going to polish and/or seal the paint today? Depending on the answers to these questions, the steps I take to wash my car vary. Let’s assume I’m going to perform a standard wash and the car is moderately dirty. By moderately dirty, I may see some actual dirt residue or sand on the car and some bugs on the front end.
I follow a 3 bucket method. Bucket 1) Wheels bucket w/ grit guard, 2) soap bucket w/ grit guard, and 3) water only bucket
- Wheels first!
- Spray Diablo cleanser on the wheels and let sit for a few minutes
- Prepare Wheel Soap bucket (Honeydew or Diablo soap) and water. Grit guard in the bottom of the bucket.
- Spray Diablo cleanser on the Wheel woolies and scrub the wheels. Front side and back
- Scrub tires with Tire brush
- Pressure Wash soap off
- Foam Cannon (note – I haven’t sprayed the car with water yet)
- 3-5oz of Honeydew soap in the MTM Foam cannon
- Spray foam on the car from the bottom up to the top. Make sure to foam the wheels as well. If you foam from top down it usually runs off faster.
- Let the foam run almost complete down the sides of the car. You don’t want the soap to dry though. Be careful if it is hot outside.
- Pressure wash soap off from top down.
- Hand wash – 3 bucket method
- Prepare your soap bucket with 3-5 oz of Honeydew soap. Make sure you have your grit guard
- Using the microfiber wash mit, wash the car from the top down. I do one section then rinse the mitt in the water bucket and get more soap. Depending on the temperature and your speed, rinse the car off as your go so no soap dries on the paint. I break the car into 3 zones from top down. Further down you go, typically the more dirt you’ll encounter and the more often you’ll need to rinse your mitt.
- Zone 1 – Horizontal flat panels and windows. Roof, windows, Hood, trunk
- Zone 2 – Top half of vertical panels: sides above the wheel wells.
- Zone 3 – Lower half of vertical panels and front/rear bumpers
- Pressure wash soap off from top down
- I never just drop a dry towel on the paint and start rubbing. Wet your Pluffle microfiber towel first and wring it out.
- Spray Ammo Hydrant into the Pluffle and dry from the top down. Skip the windows.
- Depending on the size of your car and the temperature outside, you may need 2 or 3 towels to completely dry the car.
- Using another wet Pluffle, dry the windows.
- No products on the windows for me. I haven’t found any hydrophobic window sealants that don’t muck up the windshield wipers when it rains.
- Tire gels, shines, protectors
- This is where the arguments usually start. In my opinion, friends don’t let friends have shiny tires.
- I like Chemical Guy’s Silk Shine on the tires. Rub it on, it dries to the touch and the tire have a black look but aren’t shiny.
Detailing Gear I Use
Step 1 – Wheel Cleaning Products
Chemical Guys Diablo Wheel Cleaning Gel – This does a great job loosening up brake dust and dirt on your wheels. Smells like candy too.
These are the best brushes I’ve ever used. Long flexible handle and the brush fibers clean wheels like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Not a lot to say here. 2-3 inch bristle brush to clean the lug nuts of your wheel.
Step 2 – Foam Cannon Wash
Chemical Guys HoneyDew car wash shampoo. Great soap for standard wash and foaming cannon. I consistently get 2 inches of foam when using this soap. Smells great too.
The trigger handle is very nice and the swivel connector eliminates a lot of the hose twisting.
There are hundreds of foaming guns out there and they all pretty much work well. I’ve gone through 4 so far. On one, the plastic bottle thread wore down and caused a leak. The other 2 had some rust issues in the foaming nozzle. This one from MTM has better foaming performance than others I’ve used, the bottle is easier to handle when your hands are wet and soapy, and the nozzle feels more sturdy and well built.
Step 3 – Hand Wash
Sponges?? Sponges were used in the 80’s and 90’s. Microfiber is the way to go, but don’t just grab any microfiber towel. Most microfiber towels are designed to grab and hold on to dirt, sand, and dust. Get a wash mitt. This one is thick and easy to hold on to and holds a lot of soap and water. Use both sides before rinsing and soaping up.
If you have a big vehicle, like a truck or van, get an extension pole. It comes with a microfiber mitt on the end. I don’t encourage leaning or climbing on the vehicle to get to the hard to reach areas.
Step 4 & 5 – Drying Products
Drying your car is where most people screw up and create scratches in their paint. Different microfiber towels do different things and I’ve tried a number of different drying microfiber towels. The Pluffle is like no other I’ve used. I use the Pluffle and Ammo’s Hydrate spray to dry my vehicles.
A little of this goes a long way. Spray this in your Pluffle towel to wipe dry your car. You’ll see a very tiny amount of liquid on the car after you wipe a section dry. This is the hydrating wax layer being left behind. It gives your paint that little bit extra protection.
Step 6 – Tire Dressing
Doesn’t leave an oily or shiny residue behind. Once dry, tires look nice and silky black.
Spray your dressing on the foam applicator, then rub both clockwise and counter-clockwise around your tire. Apply dressing to all four tires and then lightly hose off when done. I usually get a 20-30 washes out of these. They are pretty durable, but wear will vary depending on your tire’s side walls.