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Old 10-26-04, 22:44   #1 (permalink)
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Detailing Guide: How to Really Clean Your Car, Worth The Read

I noticed that people here often come asking about what products, methods, orders, tools and so on are best for taking care of your car. I figured I would make an FAQ for this forum, if a mod thinks its worth reading maybe they can make it a sticky or something. In any event let’s get started...


Few things about washing, the biggest thing is probably identifying what you are trying to accomplish with the wash. The most common answer is "clean" but clean is a relative term.

*If you are completely making over your car, use dawn soap. It will not harm your car and it will strip old wax. This is a great way to start out your cars make over.

*If your car is incredibly dirty and you are not in the mood to apply any waxes or polishes use a product like Meguiars Gold Class car wash or Meguiars 62. It will remove most/any dirt safely.

*If you car has all ready been waxed and you are simply maintaining that "just waxed" look then avoid using the two washes previously mentioned. Instead go out and buy Meguiars Hi-Tech Car Wash number 00 in the professional series. It will remove dirt and not touch the wax, really a great product.

*To avoid scratching your car during a wash make sure you have a CLEAN (meaning not left outside in pool of dirty wash water) 100% sheep skin wash mitt. Do not use anything other than sheep skin, it costs a little bit more but it is well worth it. This is one of the few things I go to Wal-Mart for.


People always ask about the best way to dry your car. Most people just use chamois but if you are an obsessed detailer you may not be satisfied with the job they do.

*After you have completely washed the car and rinsed all the suds away mist the car (if your hose has the capability) and then proceed to use a low pressure flow over the roof of the car. The water should "sheet" off and leave the car relatively dry.

*Water will be left behind, so clean up what remains with a micro fiber towel or the Absorber. The Absorber is a "super chamoi" that works pretty well. Just be careful not to get any dirt in it!

*If you are really anal you will go into the garage and pull out your old mans leaf blower and blow out every single nook and cranny on the car. This is what I do, you'd be surprised at how much water gets stuck in those. Especially on the Mustangs honey comb grill and scoops.

*Follow up the leaf blower with a micro fiber towel (can be purchased at Wal-Mart but they are cheap ones, for the highest quality go to

Scratch Removal

The first thing you need to do is identify the scratch. If it is a paint scratch and scratched all the way down the primer you are in trouble. If it is just a scratch in the clear it is fixable, but will take some effort and maybe the use of a power tool.

*As much as I love the Meguiars line, Scratch X is a hunk of junk, go buy the #9 in their professional series, it is a great product that can safety be applied by hand.

*If you are really anal like me, you will go to Sears and spend 50 bucks on a halogen lamp and work on the car at night. This allows you to see every little flaw in the paint, thus effectively eliminating them. I warn you now, though, if you try to remove them all at once you will go mad.

*If the scratch is deeper than the clear coat you may need to have a professional do it. This is way out of my league as it may require the use of a rotary buffer and/or a repaint. Best advice to avoid this is to park a safe distance away from the rest of the world and don't make any enemies or crazy girlfriend/boyfriends.

*Keep in mind it is very important that you use the LEAST abrasive product possible to get the job done. Don't use Meguiars #83 without trying the #9 first. The abrasives in such products can damage your paint, and even though it may not show up immediately it will show up later. Be careful and make sure you rub the products in until they are virtually gone.

Clay Bar

A lot of people ask what the purpose of using a clay bar is. Simply enough, it is just to remove any contaminents from the paint. Even washing with the most potent car wash will not get these little contaminents out of your paint. When you wax the car, you are just sealing them in and damaging your paint.

*Clay bar the car after you wash, it is made for surface prep, meaning you are getting the surface ready for polishes, scratch removal and waxes. Think of it as starting with a new coat of paint.

*Some people like to use soap and water for lubricant, others like to use the product the clay bar came with. I personally use Meguiars Overspray Clay with #34 for lubricant. It works very nicely.

*Popular brands of clay are Mothers, Meguiars and Clay Magic. All will work fine.

*Just be sure that you have washed the car before your clay, if you are doing a total make over, this is where the majority of your time will be spent so don't forget it.

*When you wipe off the residue left behind by the clay (use a micro fiber towel) your surface should feel smooth as glass.

*You know that you have gotten the surface ready by when there is very little lubricant on the paint and the clay bar is gliding rather easily across the surface. If you run into rough spots, keep rubbing them with it until smooth.

*Clay bars work great for bug and tar as well, just don't forget to cover up the spot with polish and wax, as clay bars remove wax as well.


Most people think that it is the wax that makes your car shine, well it isn't. The wax helps out, but the magic happens with the polishes.

*Zaino is a great polish or glaze if you want to call it that. Anybody considering ordering it should do so without seconding guessing.

*Meguiars #7 is also a great polish; it goes on easily and comes off nicely as well. It is safe to apply by hand or by a dual action polisher.

*When you apply polishes, you want to get a very even layer to achieve a matte and even look. If you are doing it by hand, buy the Meguiars yellow foam pads, and if you are doing it by hand buy a Porter Cable (will discuss PC later).


Everybody’s favorite step. Waxing is great because that means after you finish this, all you have to do is maintain your cars new look.

*There are many different waxes out there. In my experience you get what you pay for.

*Products like Turtle Wax and Zymol are not any good, at least the cleaner waxes aren't.

*Meguiars #26 works wonders, it is one of the easiest products to apply and remove. It really works well with the #7 as well. It also beads water like you would not believe.

*If you applied ANY polishes what so ever do not apply ANY cleaner waxes such as Zymol or Meguiars Gold Class. You will remove all the polish and you will want shoot yourself afterwards (trust me).


Maintaining is easy, but it can be tedious. Unless your car is a garage queen, products like the California car duster are useless.

*Buy a bottle of the following, Meguiars Quik Detailer, Meguiars Quik Wax and Meguiars #34 Final Inspection.

*Apply the detailer to areas that just have things like pollen on them and wipe clean with a micro fiber.

*Follow it with the quik wax to restore any shine that you may have lost, this product rocks.

*The #34 is for hardcore dirt and grime, if it gets too much for one spray and wipe to handle, WASH YOUR CAR. You will scratch it otherwise.

*Bird droppings, bugs & tar - I hate all three of these equally. If you get bird droppings on your car, remove it immediately. Spray it with #34 LIBERALLY and let it sit for a while. Then spray it off with the hose, follow up with a wash of the Meguiars 00. Be very careful with bird droppings, they are full of harmful acids and will eat your paint. They can also scratch your paint! For bugs and tar I like to use the Meguiars bug and tar remover wipes. A common misconception (partially their fault for calling them wipes) is that all you have to do is wipe it with the wipe and it will come right off. This is not true, you need to rub it in vigorously and then let it sit. After a minute or so try picking at it with your finger, it should come off. If not get out the quick detailer and try again. That should do it.

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Old 10-26-04, 22:45   #2 (permalink)
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"What is the best wax?" and "What is the best method to apply?" are commonly asked. Here I will discuss what products I like for various jobs.

*Washing - Dawn soap for a complete make over, Meguiars Gold Class for heavy dirt and grime, #00 for maintaining.

*Polishing - I prefer Meguiars #7 for my polish, I use #9 before it to remove any swirls and scratches, it works nicely. 3M also has nice products, so does Zaino. I'm not even going to get into exotics.

*Glass - Costco sells a product called Sprayway glass cleaner, it works very nicely even on those windows with spots that won't go away. It only takes about a year for your glass to look like *** so stay on top of it!

*Interior Dash & Trim - I love Meguiars Vinyl & Rubber protectant, spray it on a terry cloth and wipe it on the surface, it leaves it with a brilliant shine and a nice smell. Always vacuum your interior and avoid air fresheners, they are worthless!

*Carpet - Meguiars Heavy Duty Carpet Cleaner works amazing. I had a paint stain on my seats (I print t-shirts on the side, so I work with a lot of inks) and it came right off my seats and carpet.

*Tires - I like to wash my tires with dawn soap on a terry towel and spray them with Meguiars #40 Vinyl and Rubber cleaner and conditioner. I then follow it up with Meguiars Hot Shine tire spray to give it that wet look.

*Wheel Wells - I like Simple Green on the wheel wells, all though a pressure washer is clearly the best way to go about cleaning them! Avoid using too hard of a blast though. Don't want to rip them apart!

*Wheels - Meguiars has a product called Hot Rims Cool Care, it works very nicely. After I spray this on and wash it off (wait about 30 seconds) I like to take dawn soap and a terry towel and really get in there and clean the rest out by hand. Don't ask me about the best way to maintain polished aluminum or chrome, I have no idea sorry!

*Engine - Meguiars Extra is best for the engine. It is a degreaser and will not corrode your metal (Simple Green has a tendency to do this). Simply spray it on a COOL engine and rinse it off. Repeat as necessary, scrub any tough spots with a tooth brush.

*Exterior Trim - Mothers Back-To-Black has served me well, I like to use it on the weather stripping and what not. It is easier to use than Meguiars Trim Detailer and is much more forgiving if you don't remove it all.

*Head Lights & Tail Lights - Meguiars Plastx is a great plastic cleaner designed specifically for things like this. Very easy to use and really does make the plastic clear (only works on smudges and what not on the outside, obviously).

Products to Avoid

*Harms-It-All aka Armor All, this stuff is just full of silicones waiting to shine for a moment and then crack the hell out of your dash a year from now. If you are using it STOP. Stop using it on everything! You will regret it later.

*I have not had good luck with Eagle 1 products, some people have but I do not recommend them. Do not be fooled by the cool packaging or pictures on the cover, your car will not look like that.

*Zymol - The cleaner wax is junk, I don't know about the rest of the series, never tried it, never will.

*Turtle Wax - Has gone down the drain in the last few years, don't bother with them.


*I love my Porter Cable, I bought it at, it is listed as "The Ultimate Detailing Machine" and it really is just that. It is the best car care investment I've ever made. If you buy one make sure you get at least two yellow pads, an extra white pad or two and one black/grey pad. Don't get the cheaper one, the velcro plate that comes with the more expensive one is unsurpassed and makes using the product a breeze.

*Tooth brush and soft bristle paint brush are very handy for getting in tight places and getting products like Mothers Back-To-Black in tight places (like the honey comb grill or the scoops on our Mustangs).

*Meguiars Yellow Foam Applicators - For the person who has to do things by hand. These are the best pads, to clean them just wash them in the wash and ring them out and let them sit until dry.

*California Wiper Blade - Some people like this (I once heard someone say it is better than sex) well I think differently. I hate it, if you get a spec of dirt in-between the car and the blade kiss your hard work good bye. Trust me, I own one and hate it.


Remember, I am just one person with one FAQ. You do not have to take my word for it on anything. If you love your car enough anything is worth trying at least once. I am simply sharing my experiences and opinions in this FAQ.

Well I hope you guys have found this to be informative. If you guys want me to add more things (such as my own personal order and so on) I am more than willing to. Please keep in mind that you use all this stuff at your own risk and I will not be held responsible if something goes wrong. My methods are pretty fool proof (being an obsessed amateur detailer myself) and I have yet to harm my car (other than being a moron and dropping the hose on the fender, but that is a different story!).

I didnt write this, MichaelB21 wrote this from another board I think this is sticky worthy though


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Old 10-26-04, 22:49   #3 (permalink)
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i think thats the most complete car cleaning/detailing guide i have ever read. good work, would love to see your work. gotta be perfect

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Old 10-26-04, 22:54   #4 (permalink)
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i cant take credit for this, someone on another board i frequent wrote this, i just thought it would make a great read here on because a lot of people ask about cleaning their cars...could a mod make this a sticky?

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Old 10-26-04, 23:05   #5 (permalink)

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I just checked, and it looks all those products are available on the Meguiars website as well. Normally, I would be skeptical of any writeup that sticks solely to one brand, but in my experience, Meguiars is a great brand.

Excellent article. good find.

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Old 10-26-04, 23:11   #6 (permalink)
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Could make it part of the project section, Sk edit your link and remove the ,. NIce write up
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Old 10-28-04, 21:03   #7 (permalink)
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Damn good write up, this should be a sticky.


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Old 10-28-04, 23:08   #8 (permalink)
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That was pretty nice, but it is very VERY biased towards Meguiars products. I am not claiming to have used them all, but the Meguiars products I have used, I haven't been happy with.

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Old 10-31-04, 13:26   #9 (permalink)

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Meguires = teh rox!1

Good find. All i use is meguires products.
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Old 10-31-04, 17:46   #10 (permalink)
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awsome write up! i have swirls on my car that looks like it was from a buffer, but i never knew how to clean that up, ill give a complete clean a shot when i have a few hours to dedicate

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Old 12-30-04, 4:28   #11 (permalink)
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so any ideas about how to get rid of oxidation? ive been basially buffing it out with polish for quite a while now, btw this is on single stage paint, and it always reappears after a week or so.

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Old 2-1-05, 21:18   #12 (permalink)
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I would also like to add..

Cleaning Glass: Not sure what you guys would use but i personaly like any janitorial glass foam. I hate the spray glass cleaner, the foam works better and leaves less streaks. I used it the otherday and the first thing i noticed is everything was so clear! I even used it on my headlights and it took the yellow off it as well as made it brighter. The stuff i used was actually called "janitorial glass foam"
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Old 2-2-05, 8:23   #13 (permalink)
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Sounds interesting, I have always used plain old Windex and then use old newspapers to wipe it off, seems to get them pretty clean, and leave them nice and streak free.


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Old 3-13-05, 20:04   #14 (permalink)
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whats a good touch up paint brand?ans i wana repaint my back bumper anything i can use that will match the rest of my car?last owner sucked..


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Old 3-13-05, 20:06   #15 (permalink)

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If you are going to repaint the whole bumper use ppg or dupont.

Check at bodyshop. Shouldnt be more than 50 to spray a bumper....
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