If springtime has you inspired to do some cleaning, start with your vehicle. Car detailing protects it from the elements and keeps it looking its best—but pros charge anywhere from $20-$500 for the service. From cleaning the carpets to making the wheels—yes, even the wheels—shine, here are the DIY detailing tips you need to make your ride look like it just rolled off the showroom floor.Pretty on the Inside
Start on the inside so that you don’t risk soiling a just-cleaned exterior.
Step 1: Vacuum
Begin with the seats, and then go to the floors, removing mats after cleaning. If you use stain remover for spots, be sure to wet as little as possible to avoid mold and mildew. Keep the doors open to allow for drying. Use leather cleaner for leather seats.
Step 2: Wipe Down
Wipe the non-cloth parts of the doors, handles, and steering wheel with a clean rag that’s lightly moistened with a soapy solution, and then dry with another clean rag. Repeat on the metal and plastic parts of doorjambs.
Step 3: Duct Work
Mold and mildew can build up in your vents, causing odors. Try canned air, available at office-supply stores, to clear out deep, hard-to-reach crevices, including air vents, where dust can settle. Check and replace any old air filters.
Step 4: Windows
Use glass cleaner on the inside of your windows. Make sure to dry with a clean rag to avoid streaks.
Step 5: Steering Wheel and Dash
Apply a small amount of silicone-free surface protection to your steering-wheel column. Then use a soapy solution to wipe the dash, paying attention to knobs and buttons. (A cotton swab dipped in solution can get into narrow areas that your finger can’t!)
Now that the inside sparkles, get ready to make the outside shine.
Step 1: Treat Your Tires
It’s best to clean and protect tires first. Pros recommend using a degreaser designed for auto use to clean your wheels. Scrub with a tire brush and make sure to get the hard-to-reach areas, then rinse.
Step 2: Wash and Dry
Hand washing is the most effective way to give your car the best possible cleaning. Get a large, full sponge and use a car wash solution—dish detergent can damage the paint, because it strips wax coatings. Use a clean rag or a special tool like a silicon blade to dry the vehicle.
Step 3: Spot Clean
Even after the best cleaning, dirt, sap, and bird droppings can be left behind. Check over your car, and clean any remnants that you find.
Step 4: Polish & Wax
To polish like the pros, you’ll need a handheld buffing machine. Once the paint is as glossy as you can get it, it’s time to wax. This is an important last step: Wax will take the hit of the elements first, protecting the paint. Choose from liquid or paste wax, and apply in small, circular strokes.
Step 5: Repeat
To keep your car looking its best, plan to detail it every season.