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How to Detail The Exterior of My Car?

Introduction

The weekend is finally here - you go outside,sun is shining, you look at your car in the driveway, and instead of a rich reflection all you can see is a layer of dirt. So you think, is today the day I finally wash this thing? But maybe you don’t know how to approach it and what tools/products to use.

perfect car interior detailing

Don’t worry, here at Polaris Auto Detailing, we’ve got your back. We’ve crafted this expert guide on how to perform the professional exterior detailing job right from the comfort of your home. We are going to advise you on which products to use, best techniques, necessary tools, and steps to safely wash your car. Let’s dive in!

Chemicals

There are a million different chemicals to use, so it can be quite overwhelming. You really can’t go wrong with brands like CarPro, Sonax, Griot’s Garage but these brands can be a bit pricey. A cheaper, good brand is Chemical Guys. There is a bit of controversy, you either love them or hate them, but I have tried a bunch of their products and they’re not bad, definitely a brand I would recommend for personal use.

Here are the products I use:

  • Prewash (optional) - CarPro Lift
  • Shampoo - CarPro Reset or Chemical Guys Snowball
  • Tire/Rim - Hybrid Solutions Hyper Foam
  • Wax - Meguiar’s Hybrid Ceramic Wax
  • UV Protectant - 303 Aerospace Protectant
  • Leather Conditioner - Koch Chemie Top Star or Chemical Guys Leather Conditioner
  • Iron Fallout Cleaner - Sonax Fallout Cleaner

Tools

As far as car detailing tools go,you don’t need to spend your money on all the different brushes and power tools you see the pros use. Well… maybe just buy one detailing brush.

For the pressure washer you can buy a small one from your favorite hardware store or you can simply use a garden hose. An advantage to using a pressure washer is that you will be able to easily rinse off a lot of the dirt and dust accumulated on the paintwork, which will result in less micro-scratches during the washing process.

If you want to get really serious about auto detailing from home, you can pick up a small steam cleaner for a couple hundred dollars on amazon, but it’s not necessary.

Where to Buy Products

Although you can find the above products and many others on websites like amazon or ebay, I find walking into a brick and mortar store is the best way to go. The staff there are usually able to recommend products. My absolute favorite is Pro Auto Detailing Supplies in Mississauga. Another good one is 3D Products in Bulington and Vaughan. It might be a bit of a drive from Milton, Hamilton, Oakville, or Bramton, but trust me it’s worth it.

Steps to Properly Wash Your Car

Step 1

The first thing you are going to want to do is set up all your chemicals and tools. It’s best to stay organized otherwise you will just get annoyed having to stop and look every time you’ll need tools. Fill your buckets with water about ¾ of the way. It’s best to use 3 different buckets, 2 for the paintwork and 1 for the wheels.

Step 2

Let’s detail the rims and tires. The reason why is because our wheels carry the most dirt so we want to wash it all away first. Rinse them well to start. Really get in there, starting from top to bottom, including the wheel well.

Grab your bucket and throw in your brushes to get them wet. Spray down all the parts of your wheel with the dedicated wheel cleaner. Now wait 3-5 minutes for the chemicals to do their thing and dissolve the brake dust, sut, dirt and grime. Most cleaners change color to purple when reacting with brake dust.

Once the color does change, it’s time to start brushing. I usually start with the tire, then move on to the rim. As you brush the product will start to foam up, which I personally just find so satisfying. Use the detailing brush to really get into all the corners of the rim. You can also use a wash mitt but I usually just stick to the brush.

Now rinse fully, top to bottom, making sure to get all the soap out.

Step 3

If you chose to purchase a pre-wash and foam cannon, now is the time to cover your whole car in it. Head to toe, get into all the crevices including the wheel wells. Let it soak for 3-5 mins, then rinse it off.

This step is optional but really does help to get even more dirt off of the paintwork. Basically we want to get everything and anything we can off before physically touching the car’s exterior. The pre-wash process plays a key role in minimizing the amount of micro scratches created during the next step.

Step 4

There are two methods to approach this, the “two bucket” method and the “one bucket”. The second method does require a foam cannon for car detailing and a pressure washer.

1 - The "Two Bucket" Method

You’re going to want to grab the two remaining buckets and insert grid guards into each (optional). Having previously filled them with water, now add soap into one of the buckets. Add more water to foam up the soap and grab your wash mitt. Now it’s time to wash!

Start from the top down avoiding the last foot from the bottom. It’s the part of the vehicle that gets the most dirty so we wouldn’t want to pick up any of that and then drag it across our nice hood or doors. Every panel or so, rinse the wash mitt in the bucket with water only, then dip it back into your soap bucket and back to the car you go. Do this until you have fully washed the car.

2 - Foam Cannon Method

This is the faster of the two methods as it applies the soap directly to the car leaving you only to rinse your mitt. If you’re really into car detailing you probably already own a foam cannon and a pressure washer. Time to put them to work!

Dilute your soap with water in your foam cannon and attach it to the pressure washer. Fill one bucket with just water. Now start spraying the car the same way as when you used the pre-wash. Dip your wash mitt in the water bucket and wash the car just like described in the “Two Bucket Method”, only now, you just have your rinse bucket.

Step 5

This step is for all you perfectionists out there. It really focuses on the details such as your front grille, any lettering, top rails, and any other crevice you can’t really reach with your wash mitt.

Dilute your soap with water in your foam cannon and attach it to the pressure washer. Fill one bucket with just water. Now start spraying the car the same way as when you used the pre-wash. Dip your wash mitt in the water bucket and wash the car just like described in the “Two Bucket Method”, only now, you just have your rinse bucket.

Grab your exterior car detailing brush. Dip it into some soap and detail all around these hard to reach areas. Make sure to do it for a good few seconds to ensure best results.

Step 6

Time to rinse! Grab your hose or power washer and rinse away the dirty soap top to bottom. Soap really loves to accumulate in the side windows, grille and behind license plate, so keep rinsing till it’s all gone.

After rinsing, although it’s an optional step, it’s a good idea to decontaminate the paintwork using an iron fallout remover and a clay bar. This prevents the build up of brake dust and other particles of dirt you could not get rid of throughout the regular wash process. I really recommend it, especially if you have a white car, as the brake dust will turn to tiny rust spots on your paint and become visible.

I’ve had to restore cars from this condition and it’s always a long, tiring process.

Iron Fallout

This super simple step simply requires you to spray the chemical on the lower sections of your car. No need to worry about the roof or windows. Just do the hood, rear, and door panels. Wait the time instructed on the bottle and rinse it all away!

Clay Bar

You can also use a clay mitt, the point is to get rid of any final contamination. Use a clay luber spray or just mix some soap and water in a spray bottle to give the clay bar a slippery surface to glide across. Work in small sections running the bar horizontally and vertically. You’ll know it's done when you feel the paint with your hand and no longer feel any bumps. Once done, rinse away and continue on to step 7.

Step 7

Grab a big towel, could be an old shower towel, as long as it's absorbent and not too rough. Dry away with almost no pressure - always keeping in mind not to leave any scratches. Use a blower or a hair dryer to get all the water out of the crevices, seals, and gas cap, otherwise it’ll drip and leave marks.

Step 8 - Last Step

Wax on - wax off! Time to give this ride a glass like reflection. Apply your favorite wax either by hand using a wax applicator pad or with a DA Polisher. Work in small sections at a time, rubbing in the wax and then wiping away with a dry microfiber towel. Work your way around the whole car.

Conclusion

ALL DONE! Congrats on getting your car looking almost as good as new! With just a few materials, and an hour or two of your time, you were able to transform your car’s exterior into a masterpiece. The more often you choose to perform this exterior detailing process, the faster it’ll take each time.

If you choose to fully decontaminate your car’s exterior, you’re almost halfway through the process to apply a ceramic coating. Performing a light polish or a full paint correction are the only steps in between.

Polaris Auto Detailing

I am the proud owner of Polaris Auto Detailing. We are happy to help you with any of the above, as we specialize in everything from simple interior car detailing to exterior detailing and ceramic coatings. Perhaps you would want us to restore your car to a new-like condition? Our full detailing packages are sure to suit your needs and budgets.

Since we’re a mobile car detailing service, we are happy to serve the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), including Mississauga, Etobicoke, Brampton, Vaughan, Milton, Georgetown, Oakville, Burlington, Hamilton and surrounding areas.

Check out our car cleaning packages packages and book your experience today!