Detail your car the right way

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Detail your car yourself and save hundreds each year
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For auto buffs, the term detailing refers to the process of meticulously cleaning both the inside and the outside of a car. While for most of us, a simple wash and wax will do, for those who take pride in having a pristine automobile, detailing ensures that their car is the snazziest on the block. To detail your car, try the following tips.

Detailing is steps above and beyond the service you receive at a car wash, unless you pay a premium for the service. A commercial car wash is always an option when you don't have time to detail your own car.

Start working on the interior first to ensure that the dust and dirt you clean out doesn't settle on, and ruin the shine of the exterior.

Lose the junk

The first step is to empty your car. Once this is done, vacuum the entire vehicle making sure to move the seats forward and backward to get to all the dirt underneath.

What is that stain?

Next, clean your carpet with a foaming cleaner. Use a damp sponge to scrub it in and then blot it off with paper towels or a cotton towel or cloth. Clean carpet floor mats the same way and rubber mats with an all-purpose cleaner and a hose. Let them dry outside before putting them back into the car.

To get that new car look, you might want to clean the car upholstery - it will take longer than cleaning out the junk from your trunk, but it is a key element in getting that perfect clean.

Tip: Cheap shaving creme (not the gel kind) is good for removing melted crayon stains from carpets and mats. Squirt it on, let it sit for about 10-15 minutes, then use a moist rag to take up the crayon stain. Spot test it in an inconspicuous area before using it on a big section of carpet.

Scrub it down

Clean the dash, seats and other interior surfaces with an all-purpose cleaner. Use products especially made for vinyl or leather accordingly. Note that vinyl cleaner on leather seats can cause streaking and high gloss products will make your seats slippery. Torn sections can be repaired with kits sold at auto-supply stores and worn areas can be buffed with high quality shoe polish. Simply color match as required.

Blast away dust

Small cans of compressed air or cotton swabs will help you clean small places such as dials and buttons on the dashboard and air vent grilles. Pull off any removable knobs to clean underneath. Once debris is removed, use accent spray to shine and brighten these areas.

Make those windows shine

Clean your windows with a high quality glass cleaner that won't leave streaks. Take caution when cleaning windows coated with after market tint as it can be degraded by cleaners that contain ammonia or vinegar. Factory tinting is not affected by these ingredients. One trick that the experts use for a clear finish is to rinse windows with seltzer and then do a final wipe with a ball of crumpled newspaper.

Get out the hoses

Now that the inside of your vehicle is pristine, turn your attention to the outside. Wash your car when it's parked in the shade; hot sun can cause the soap to dry before it is rinsed resulting in a cloudy finish. Using car wash soap, work in sections beginning from the top and working down and when finished, make sure to rinse thoroughly. For the final rinse, remove the spray head from the hose and flood the finish so the water will run off in sheets. This will minimize spotting. Finally, dry the car with a quality chamois or soft, thick terry cloth towel.

Don't forget the wheels

To thoroughly detail a car, cleaning the wheels in an important step. Make sure the wheels are cool before cleaning; if they are hot, they will dry spotty. Clean out the dirt and debris with an all-purpose cleaner or tire cleaner and rinse with a pressure wash. Do not use acid-based cleaners on polished alloy or clear-coated wheels, as it will cause cloudiness. Apply a vinyl dressing on the wheel wells for added shine. Chrome wheels can be shined with metal polish or glass cleaner.

Take a look under the hood

For the true enthusiast, detailing a car includes cleaning under the hood. Wrap all electronic components in plastic and then spray on diluted all-purpose cleaner. Hose it off with light water pressure and apply vinyl or rubber protectant to shine non-metal areas. Let it soak in for a glossy look or wipe it off quickly for a matte finish.

Let it shine

Last on the list is the wax and polish. Polish is important, not only for shine but to prevent the paint from drying out by providing it with essential oils. Minor blemishes can be buffed by putting a soft cloth or chamois around your finger and rubbing the polish into the finish. Try not to get wax or polish on rubber, flat black plastic areas, door handles and emblems, as it is very difficult to remove. If this occurs, microwave peanut butter and apply with a small toothbrush. The oil in the peanut butter dissolves the wax and is abrasive enough to lift the stain.

Following the above tips will help you detail your car and provide you with ample bragging rights for having the spiffiest ride in the neighborhood.

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