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FAQ: How to Detail Your Car Like a Pro!
"Gregg's Guide to a Clean Ride!"

A Professional Guide by Gregg Couture

In way of thanks, here's a blatant "plug" for Gregg's
Stealth & 3000GT Identity Kits
[ Lots of us have them - they're GREAT! ]

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For those who don't know - I've been detailing cars part time for about 5 years now.   I've always been a "clean car enthusiast", and have always been interested in all the products, techniques, and tips and tricks involved with Car Detailing.  Over the years, I've become pretty good at it, and believe it or not - I actually enjoy it.  There's nothing like the satisfaction of bringing a car back to it's showroom condition once again, and handing the keys over to the very excited customer always feels great.  (Not to mention the $100 they give me for doing all the work!)

Anyway, here's a little guide I put together a couple of years ago.  It breaks down detailing into different sections of the car, product recommendations, and tips and tricks.  Everything you need to know on becoming a very good detailer is included right here in the guide.  So - check it out, have some fun with it.  Good luck!

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Detailing - An Introduction

Lesson #1 - Washing the Car

Lesson #2 - The Interior

Lesson #3 - Waxing and Polishing

Lesson #4 - Bumpers and Trim

Lesson #5 - Tires and Wheels

Lesson#6 - Windows

Tips, Tricks and Product Recommendations for Each Lesson

FAQ's of Detailing and Disclaimer

Additional Detailing Tips & Tricks

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The Truth About Automotive Detailing:

Have you ever taken your car to a "professional" automobile detailer before?

Chances are that you have, and you were probably pretty pleased with the results? Right? Your car probably looked just as great as it did the first time you drove your brand new car off the dealer's lot. Spotless, gleaming with a mirror-like shine, and who could forget that fresh, new-car smell?

Can you also remember how much you paid for your car to look like that once again? $100? $150? $200?!?!? What exactly were you paying for? The supplies and materials used to get your car that way again? Maybe you were paying for the time it took for the detailer to finish your car - after all, isn't detailing an entire car, an all day affair? The answer is "no"! Thousand’s of people are paying a substantial amount of money, every day, for something which is very easy, inexpensive, and can take less than 4 hours to do!

Car detailing, like any other business, involves two things that makes it special – knowledge and practice. Without it, most people wouldn't know the first thing about restoring and maintaining a car's shine and luster. When you pay a detailer hundreds of dollars... yes, you are paying for supplies, equipment and hourly wages. But you are also paying for the knowledge and the techniques the detailer has - knowledge which has taken years to achieve - knowledge which he feels is worth the money he asks for his services.

Most people don't know what a sealer/glaze is for. Or what kinds of soap is best on a car's finish. And what exactly is Carnauba wax? These are the types of things that professional detailers know all about, and know how to apply them to restore your car to look brand new once again, and things which you’ll soon know after reading this guide!

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Detailing Doesn't Have to be Hard!

Most people think of detailing a car as an all-day affair... They drop off their car early in the morning, and get it back at the end of the day. The truth is, it doesn't take more than 3-5 hours TOTAL to revive your car's finish. You can even do it in less time if you know the proper techniques!

Remember the old days? The Simonize, the Classic Car wax, the compounds, the hard buffing, and rubbing? That was hard work! That's when it took all day to do your car. Things are more modern now - much like your paint's finish. Sure those waxes give great protection, but there's not much use for them anymore. Today's clearcoats and softer paints require softer waxes and polishes to restore certain oils lost over time. - applying thick, hard waxes to your car's paint can sometimes prevent your paint from "breathing", which takes away much of the brilliant sheen inherent in these high-quality paints.

Here's a little walk-through of my car cleaning routine for you 'first-time' car detailers out there. Each "lesson" pertains to a certain part of detailing the car, and each should be applied in order to obtain the best results in a minimum amount of time.

Tips and Tricks, Product Recommendations and FAQs all follow this walk-through.

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Lesson #1: Washing the Car

The thing that can give the greatest benefit to your car's finish is to keep the paint and wheels clean! Whether it's an occasional spray with the hose, or an automated car wash - anything that can wash away all the road grime, salt, and residue your car collects will prolong your car's appearance for many years to come.

It's hard to believe, but the type of soap used on your car's finish can make quite a difference! If you're one of those people who does wash your car often, and uses dish washing soap - STOP! Dish washing detergents/soaps are meant for just that - DISH washing. They leave behind a residue which is harmful to your paint, the polish, and can even dull your car's potential luster. There are plenty of soaps on the market, made specifically for car washing, which can leave a better shine, as well as help clean and condition the polish/wax treatment you spent so much time and money to get! So here are the steps involved in properly washing your car:

  1)   Get a large bucket which holds at least four gallons of water, and pour in a couple of capfuls of car washing soap, and fill the bucket with luke warm water. The soap container will specify how much water and soap to add – I recommend Mother's® California Gold® car wash soap. It cleans and shines with ultra-sudsy action and has a wax-protecting pH-balanced formula. Some soaps out there can actually strip away wax previously applied due to their low pH.

  2)   If possible, park the car in the shade, and on an incline. This will minimize water spotting and streaking. Parking on an incline will help the water run off the car's paint and moldings more easily.

  3)   Spray the car with a little water - just enough to get the car wet. Try to avoid using a water temperature that's too cold or too hot. This can cause "thermoshock" which can create tiny hairline cracks in the finish.

  4)   Wet a sponge with soapy, lukewarm water, and begin to scrub the top of the car first. I usually start by scrubbing the roof, windows, and trunk first. Then, before the suds dry, spray off all the suds with the hose. Continue with each side from front to back, and then finish up with the hood last. The trick is to not let the suds dry - because you will then have very noticeable, unsightly water spots. End with the hood, because the water tends to settle on top of flat surfaces, rather than running off the sides of the doors or windows. If it settles on the hood for too long, waterspots will occur - and this will only make more work for you when trying to remove them.

  5)   Next, scrub the tires and rims/wheels. I recommend using some sort of spray on-wheel cleaner before starting. Armor-All's QuickSilver® is an excellent product. It loosens up all the brake dust, and road grime so you can just spray it away. Then proceed with scrubbing with the soap and give the car one final "hose-down". Try to use free-flowing water straight from the hose instead of spraying it with an adapter. This leaves fewer wet areas to dry.

  6)   The final step in washing the car is to dry it. Properly drying the car gets rid of those ugly water spots found on your car such as after it rains. Your car may be clean - but if a drop of water dries on your paint, you're reminded of it with a water spot - so either use a clean towel, or a 'clean' chamois. (The porous chamois can trap particles of dirt which may scratch your finish - so make sure it's CLEAN!). You can find natural or synthetic chamois' in automotive supply stores. They work great!*

*Note that if you intend to continue on to polishing the car…drying the car will not be necessary in my routine. This will save you time, as you may let the car "air-dry" while you do some work in the interior of the car.

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Lesson #2: The Interior

Now that you've properly washed the car, you can move onto the interior while you let the car "air-dry".

There isn't too much to learn about the interior. Usually, any household cleaner can remove stains off the inside of the doors or dash. But there are a few things which can really make your interior look like it's been professionally cleaned. Here they are, in order of application:

  1)   Vacuum, vacuum and vacuum! Removing any old dirt, salt, dust and gravel from the carpets can really make a difference. If you don't have a vacuum, any local car wash should have one. They only cost a few quarters.

  2)   For vinyl/leather dashboards - the traditional thing to use was Armor-All®. But people used to complain that it left their dashboards too shiny, and it can actually blind you in the right sun! Recently, Armor-All's products have been rumored to crack certain types of dashboards as well. I recommend using Lexol® leather conditioner on flat surfaces such as dashboards, and on leather door panels to avoid this. It still gives a great sheen, and also allows the leather to breathe, which will avoid cracking in the future.

  3)   For cloth upholstery, unless you own a steam cleaner, you really can't do much besides vacuum. One trick you can use is one of those roller-dust collectors. You know, the roll of tape on a stick you use for suits or dresses to remove all the lint? Roll one of these over your seats, and all the lint will disappear!

  4)   For leather seats, you want to clean these a little differently. After vacuuming, you want to first clean the leather with a cleaner specificly made for leather. This doesn't contain any harmful chemicals which can dull or harden your leather. After cleaning the leather, you always want to follow up by conditioning the leather. There are many leather conditioners on the market - just be sure to pick some sort of a brand name product. You can usually trust them to do a good job. Use a soft, damp cloth, and apply it to the seats. Then, if hazing occurs, buff lightly with a dry, clean towel. Your seats will look, and smell brand new!

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Lesson #3: Wax and Polish

As previously mentioned, wax or paste wax was something your father and grandfather used to use on the old 57 Chevy. It would take 1/2 a day to apply it, and 1/2 a day to take it off. Who wants to do that? And who has the time? Today, if you go into any automotive supply store, you will see nothing but a row of squeeze bottles labeled either "polish", "cleaner wax" or "Carnauba wax". These polishes and waxes contain a very very fine grit which make it easy to remove light scratches, swirl marks and particles which have settled onto the paint. Paste waxes are still around, and do give a nice glossy finish. But today's modern polishes do almost the same thing, with a longer protection, and are better for your car's finish.

Most polishes and waxes require application on a cool surface - out of the sun. Ideally, if a garage is available, use it! Once these waxes are applied, it doesn't take long for them to start to dry, or haze. If they start to haze in extreme sunlight, it can literally "bake" onto the paint, and will be very hard to take off. I have seen a number of cars with hazed finishes, which are very difficult to remove, so STAY OUT OF THE SUN!

Here are the basic steps involved in polishing your car:

  1)   Once your car is clean, you are ready to begin polishing your car – you want to be sure that the surface is cool and dry. This allows for better hazing of the wax.

  2)   When applying wax by hand, you want some sort of pad or cloth. You may want to moisten it a little - NOT dripping wet - just enough to allow the polish to flow a bit easier.

  3)   Make sure you apply a little polish from the bottle onto the pad – NOT the car's surface. Start with random circles, and apply a medium to firm pressure. You don't have to scrub very hard, just enough to loosen up the particles and dirt settled onto the paint. They will loosen up with just a little pressure. MAKE SURE YOU DON'T GET ANY POLISH ON ANY BLACK RUBBER, VINYL, OR TRIM! It is very hard to polish get off trim - once it stains, you're basically stuck with it.

Tip from a reader (untested):

You mention that once wax dries on rubber trim, you're outta luck and stuck with the stains. I've found that putting some brake fluid on a rag, wiping the rubber trim with the rag, letting it sit for ten seconds or so, then wiping the excess fluid off works wonders for making that rubber trim shiny and black again.

---Submitted by Jay Clark

  4)   Once the entire car is polished - you must now wait for the polish to dry or haze. Before taking it off - you must be sure it is completely dry. You can tell if it is because it will have a dull-white chalky appearance – and will be very easy to wipe off. You can use a shop towel - or any other CLEAN type of cloth to remove it.*

*Don't be afraid to use 2 or 3 towels when removing the wax. You can actually cause micro-scratches in the paint by buffing with a towel that's been used for a large amount of the car, due to the hard hazed wax still trapped in the towel. Shake often to avoid this.

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Lesson #4: Bumpers and Trim

People usually don't think of bumpers, trim, or any other type of moldings on the car as something to detail - but once they are, they really show your effort! A brilliant sheen on a black molding can really make the car stand out even more - and it's very easy to do! There are all kinds of bumper/molding dressings you can apply. Two of my favorites are called Black Chrome®, or Back to Black® by Mothers®. They go on very easily, and put a great gloss on any black trim (moldings, bumpers, plastic or rubber mirrors etc.). Here are the steps in applying this protectant:

  1)   These type of protectants usually require the surface to be clean first. If applying after washing the car - that should be adequate.

  2)   Dab a little on a cloth or paper towel, and gently rub onto any black molding.

  3)   Once dry, go over and buff lightly with a dry cloth towel. You're done! Wasn't that easy?

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Lesson #5: Tires and Wheels

Another thing people usually don't think of, but really stands out, is the tires and wheels. Remember that gloss the tires had when they were brand new? What happens to that gloss? How come when the tires are cleaned with soap and water, it doesn't come back? This is because once the tires are constantly exposed to wind, water, dust, and other environmental factors, they lose their protectants - and they must be treated and re-treated quite often. Once treated with special tire/vinyl protectants and conditioners, they will look even more brilliant then when they were new.

Then there are the wheels' rims or hubcaps. Some cars today have aluminum or mag wheels. These can really stand out when shined properly. The best thing to do for aluminum wheels is to polish them, much like you would to the car's paint. Any name brand mag wheel polish will do. You simply rub on, and buff off. Presto - brand new, shiny wheels. Chrome wheels require a different type of polish. Once again - brands like Eagle One® and Mother's® make polishes specifically for chromed wheels. These wheels require more frequent polishing, but are well worth the effort! These polishes also work great on chrome exhaust tips!

Hubcaps can sometimes be tough. They are usually coated or painted with an acrylic paint that can sometimes crack, and peel off..., revealing a yellowish tinge from the primer. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do with these caps, other than buy a new set. But if you clean them frequently, they should last for years.

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Lesson #6: Windows

Shiny, clean windows are something everybody wants - regardless of how their paint may look. However, glass is one of the toughest things to clean - because it is very easy to leave streaks upon the windows - without noticing them for days. One way to avoid streaks is to use a glass cleaner specifically for automotive glass. This type of glass cleaner is different than one you would use on your household glass or coffee tables. It contains no perfumes, dyes, or other chemicals to contaminate your windows. These chemicals often haze when dry, and leave an unsightly film on your window (you can usually see it in the direct sun, or when the windows are foggy).

Also, the type of towel used to apply glass cleaner can affect the glass as well. Some paper towels with designs on them also contain dyes and glues which can breakdown and settle on your windows. Lint-free towels are the best bet to apply glass cleaner, but if they are unavailable, just try to use a plain, white roll of paper towels.

Addendum:  "I'm currently taking a class in high school about auto paint and body.  I have a tip for you that my teacher showed us:  Instead of window cleaner sprays, try steel wool.  Sounds crazy, but it actually works.  You have to use the finest grade steel wool.  It's rated in four-digit numbers and the finest grade is 0000.  It removes every little speck of dirt, and the windows look like they just got replaced.  Try this - it's better than chemicals."
Contributed by ---Ben Proctor

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Lesson #7: Detailing can make the difference! that we have washed, waxed and properly cleaned the car inside and out, wasn't that detailing? No - detailing is just what the word specifies. Every last detail mustn't be overlooked - otherwise you could find yourself nit-picking about little things for months after polishing your car. You know – like when you park your car someplace, and notice a little wax left on your bumper, or in the crack between the molding and the door. These are the things that can make the difference, and are very easy to eliminate.

I recommend going over your entire car after you finish polishing it. Grab some toothpicks, cotton swabs, and if you want to..., you can buy sets of brushes made specifically for detailing. For paint, you want to use some sort of soft-haired bristle, like horse hair. For rims, you can go a little harder like a brass or a nylon bristle (nylon on chrome – please!). Cleaning every last crevice can certainly make a car look like it's straight from the showroom.

Places to look for unwanted leftover wax are the following:

   Between the hood and the fenders - lift up the hood, and run a towel along the edges. No more waxy buildup!

   Between the trunk and the sidewalls - same the trunk and examine the edges. You'll be surprised how wax can travel!

   Along door handles, side moldings, and doorjambs. Use a detailing brush or a cotton swab for these places!

   The two little sprayers for the windshield washing fluid are prime places for polish to hide! Use a toothpick to loosen it up, and then brush away with the detailing brush or cotton swab. Also, if the sprayers become too clogged and aren’t functional – you may soak them in vinegar overnight, and then thoroughly rinse them with water. This should do the trick.

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Tips, Tricks, and Product Recommendations:

There - after all that, doesn't the car look terrific? And wasn't it easy? And if you look at your watch - I bet it didn't even take that long! Well, what I just explained to you were the basic steps to detailing a car. Every detailer has their own routine - but the one I just showed you, if applied in order, is the one that works best for me.

There are also some additional tips I would like to share with you, which can make even a bigger difference. Whether they save you time, money, or just look better when applied - these are things I learned from experience - which I would like to share with you now.

Washing the Car:

   Some hardware stores sell special "High pressure" nozzles which seem like they would do a better job in cleaning the paint. I recommend that you avoid these. Too high pressure can actually cause the paint to crack and spider web. With the amount of pressure they produce, you may as well be throwing small stones at the paint! So just use a regular pressure nozzle, or none at all, and you'll be much better off!

   Using an ordinary sponge works well - but some other washing tools you may want to look into are a wash mit and a car wash brush. The wash mit allows your entire hand to be enclosed in a mit, so your watch or rings won't be exposed to accidentally scratch your paint. Car wash brushes are usually made out of either boar or horse hair. These are the safest ways to clean surface grime from your car's exterior. They are a bit more expensive – but for the car detailing enthusiast, they are a must!

   As mentioned before, a chamois works great to dry your car off after a washing. Natural chamois can sometimes get stiff after use, and require them to actually be cleaned themselves! Synthetic chamois always stay soft, and work just as well, if not better. I recommend these over a towel, because they are lint-free, and are much more absorbant.

   A car duster is a terrific investment for about $10-$15. Especially if you live in an area with a high pollen rate in the summertime. It is a giant brush which is usually treated with some sort of paraffin/wax solution which attracts and removes dust particles without scratching your car's finish. This saves your car from dust between washings!

Product Recommendations for Car Washing:

   Car wash products by Armor-All®, Mother's® and Eagle One® are great choices.

   This includes their wheel-cleaning solutions, such as QuickSilver®, or Castrol's All Wheel Cleaner®.

   For Tire Shining, make sure you use a non-water based product. Water based products tend to wash off easily, attract dirt, and prematurely "brown" a tire's appearance. Products such as Black Magic®, and my personal favorite, Stoner for Tires® last long, and look just as if the tire was recently rolled off the production line! Stoner for Tires® is only available my mail order. You can contact them at 1-888-STONER3. They also make a great interior shine spray which actually comes free with your order.

   Some synthetic chamois which I recommend are the Hydra-Wipe®, or The Absorber®. Both are long-lasting, and are machine-washable. They don't dry out and crack like natural chamois tend to do. Plus – they're very handy to just throw in the car for that unexpected trip to the car wash!

Polishing and Waxing the Car:

   When polishing the car, you may want to use masking tape to tape off any black rubber/vinyl moldings before actually applying the polish. As previously mentioned, wax and polishes can stain these moldings forever if left untreated.

   After removing all the wax from the car - take a look at the finish. Sometimes if too much wax was applied under humid conditions, deep swirl marks can appear and make certain parts of the car look like a different color (usually not seen in direct sunlight). Mist some distilled water over the wax, and buff out the paint again with a clean, dry cotton towel. Certain chemicals in waxes become soluble with water and are held in suspension. Once removed, the finish will look brighter, and the swirl marks will be gone.

   Make sure all belt buckles, rings, and watches are removed before polishing. You don't want to learn the hard way what a silver belt buckle can do to a hood's surface.

   To apply and remove wax/polish, you may want to think about purchasing an orbital buffer. For between $35 and $50, you can choose between a 9", 10", or an 11" pad which makes applying wax much easier. The buffer will usually come with a cotton pad for applying wax, and a terrycloth pad for removing it - both are washable and re-usable.

   Personally, I enjoy removing the wax better with towels. Fewer "holidays" will be left behind. Also – use speed, not force when buffing with a towel. Light, fast rotations with a towel will leave fewer micro-scratches in the paint than putting all your weight into it.

   Also, many don't know this, but you may even polish the windows as well for a streak-free shine! But beware, if polishing any window with a wiper blade, it can cause the blade to slip, and cause uneven wiping. However – for those who have trouble keeping the inside of their back hatch streak-free in the sunlight – this is your answer! Any polish works great. Apply the same way as you would to your paint.

   The new detailing mists out there are a godsend for enthusiasts who require a quick shine between waxings! However, they have to be applied to a relatively clean surface first, and definitely do not replace traditional polishes and waxes. They're great for a quick shine after a wash (shouldn't take more than 20 minutes to detail the entire car) because they'll condition the existing polish on the car for a shine that looks just as good as the day you polished it. They're also great for quickly removing stains such as bird droppings, or road tar – I usually keep a bottle in my car at all times. Never know when you'll come out to see a surprise from above sitting on your hood!

Product Recommendations for Waxing/Polishing:

   A random-orbital buffer by WENä or Black and Deckerä .

   Liquid Crystal® car polish, Mother's® entire line of waxes and polishes, Zymol® and Meguiar's® cleaner wax are all good choices for polishes. The closer you come to the colder weather, you may want to use something a little more protective. I usually give the car a good once over with Mothers® California Gold Carnauba paste wax before all that salt and road sand start to eat the car. Lighter polishes such as the Liquid Crystal are excellent for a quick polish job during a hot summer night. Easy on, easy off!

   Black Chrome® or Mother's Back to Black® are excellent for any vinyl, plastic or rubber trim and moldings.

   Quick Detailing mists such as Meguiars Quik Detailer® (they make one specifically for clearcoats too), Mothers California Gold Detailing Mist®, AutoMist®, Eagle One's Teflon®, or any other quality name-brand mist all work great. They only run between $5-$10 for a bottle.

The Interior of the Car:

   When cleaning any glass, make sure the surface is cool and out of the sunlight. This will prevent streaking. If it still hazes, buff with a soft, dry towel.

   When a floor mat or cloth upholstery is stained, there are certain foaming cleaners on the market today which can remove any dirt or salt very easily. Prestone® makes an excellent one. After applying, scrub area, and then scrub with a damp cloth. When dry - vacuum.

   I recommend purchasing a shop-vac of some kind for automotive use. These vacuums cost a little more, ranging from $40 all the way to $100. But a good 3-5HP shop-vac can really get deep into the carpets, and usually come with great attachments for those hard to reach places! A must for any detailer!

Product Recommendations for the Interior:

   Mother's®, and Lexol® make excellent products for leather and vinyl care.

   Armor-All® and their new Low-Gloss Armor-All®is still a great product for bringing back the sheen to black/gray plastics inside of the car (doors, glove compartments, instrument panels, etc.). Beware not to use on flat horizontal surfaces which can "bake" in the sunlight, however. Lexol® is safer for these applications.

   ClearView®, and 20/20 by Eagle One® are excellent auto-glass cleaners. They don't contain any dyes or ammonia, which leads to streaks.

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Tips, Tricks, and Product FAQs:

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1) What is Carnauba wax? Should I use products containing 100% Carnauba?

Carnauba wax is one of the hardest forms of wax on the market. Contrary to popular belief... you cannot get a product with 100% pure Carnauba, because 100% pure Carnauba is a very hard product, usually in flake or chip form. It needs petroleum distillates, mineral spirits, and other ingredients to make it manageable enough to apply onto your paint. Most products today contain Carnauba, and yes, I would recommend them! They give a great shine, and can protect the paint for months.

2) What are Polishing and Rubbing Compounds, and when should I use them?

Compounds are applied much like a polish, but they contain a higher number of grit in them. A polishing compound has a lighter grit than a rubbing compound. These are usually used in reducing paint thickness, such as to remove oxidation, scratches and swirlmarks. I would recommend for the beginner detailer to try and stay away from these types of compounds. If used incorrectly - you can expose the primer, and there is nothing you can do to fix that besides repainting! For minor swirl marks and scratches, a sealer/glaze can hide these very well before putting on a final coat of polish.

3) I finished polishing my car, but it still looks dull! What should I do?

When a paint gets dull, it is usually because of oxidation. Oxidized paint turns to a dull, light color, and ordinary polish usually won't take all of it away. Meguiar's® makes a terrific heavy oxidization pre-wax cleaner. It takes off most of the oxidation before polishing, and it eliminates the need to use a polishing compound. It works great and is safe for the paint. If after applying the cleaner and the polish, it still looks dull - give it one more coat of polish. That should take care of it. If all else fails – you may want to resort to a polishing compound of some sort - just be careful! Apply this by hand, not with a machine!

4.  How often should  I wax my car?

I’d recommend waxing at least twice a year, but if you have the time, definitely do it more than twice a year. The rule of thumb is: The cleaner the car is kept, the longer the wax will last, however, typically car waxes and polishes can't possible last for a year, and most likely, they won't even last more than 4-5 months. Apply a more protective wax to last throughout the winter months, no earlier than a month before the first snowfall.

5) What is the difference between an orbital buffer, and a rotary buffer?

Anytime you wish to use a machine to assist you in automotive detailing PLEASE use a random orbital buffer! These type of buffers simulate the motion of your hand, thereby giving a more even application of polish/wax. They work great to save time, and your arm! Rotary buffers go in one direction - Around - and really fast. These are highly dangerous for your car's finish because they can literally "burn" the paint when enough pressure is applied.

6) Can I use automotive polish on aluminum wheels or chrome?

Yes and no - if you have no other polishes specific for the wheels or chrome, you may. However - certain polishes DO have a fine grit in them, and can scratch certain chrome parts, such as the wheels or chrome exhaust tips. Be careful in choosing a polish for your chrome if you're not using one specifically for chrome.

7) Is hand washing really better than those automated car washes?

I usually try to avoid bringing my car to automated car washes- but that's just me. Automated car washes are generally OK, except most of them use recycled water, which is water that's been filtered, but can often still be filled with some dirt, grime, and other contaminants from previous cars that ran though. - but generally speaking, automated car washes are quick and easy for a decent wash.

8) Are car covers really worth the investment?

Car covers today are made with scratch-proof fabrics which do a lot more than cover your car from dirt and salty air. Obviously if you live in a woodsy, country like area, where pollen and birds are a problem, a car cover can save you time from washing your car, and can save you from having to remove all that bird residue that your car seems to be a target for. But car covers can also block out paint fading and oxidizing UV rays. This protects the shine and keeps it's brilliance longer. It's up to you whether a cover is worth the aggravation of putting it on and taking it off - but if you are going to invest in one, make sure it covers the car - not the back corner of the garage!

9) What's all this new "quick shine auto polish" in a spray bottle? Are they easier than polishing my car the traditional way?

Don't let these products fool you into believing that all you have to do is spray it on and wipe if off - and BOOM, your car's brand new again! If this was the case, I, and many others would be out of a job. These products ARE a quick and easy way of polishing your car, BUT, people forget your car must first be clean, and these spray waxes don't have nearly the same amount of cleaning action that a polish or wax has. These work great to condition your already existing polish every month or so, just to keep the shine up, as well as to remove a quick stain of road tar, or bird droppings. These sprays are essentially useless in removing swirl marks, scratches, and oxidation like a bottled polish or wax can do.

10) There's so much dust and dirt inside the vents of my car - how can I get rid of it?

Until recently - there wasn't much you could do. Available on the market today is a product mainly for computers. It is a can of compressed air, with a long narrow nozzle - perfect to insert into small places and BLAST out any dust. These work great on vents and air ducts in the interior of the car. These are a gift from heaven for people who suffer from dust allergies. You can pick them up at any computer store for just a few dollars.

11) Instead of buying all these fancy detailing brushes - can't I just use a toothbrush?

Depends on where you're going to use it. Toothbrushes generally are made of a hard nylon bristle - NOT recommended for your car's paint. As mentioned before - a soft boar or horse hair bristle is more adequate for the paint because it will not scratch. If you want to use a toothbrush on your wheels or other places where there isn't any paint - go right ahead - it will probably work great!

12) Oh oh! I got wax on the black vinyl bumper - what should I do?

Don't panic - I know I mentioned that it will stain, but that's only if it hazes. If the wax is still wet, and you notice it on the bumper or moldings, first clean it off with some auto glass cleaner - or any type of spray cleaner you have handy (Windex® for example). Next, if available, use a vinyl/rubber dressing such as the Back to Black® I previously mentioned. This should do the trick.

If you feel you aren't the artistic type, and are pretty messy with the polish - I highly recommend applying masking tape to any large areas of black trim. The tape won't leave any glue behind - and once the trim is treated with the vinyl/rubber dressing, it will look great!

13)  OUCH!  I have a paint chip!!!  What's the best way to take care of these?

Well, paint chips are a tricky area.  If you're not the LEAST bit artistic, I wouldn't even attempt them.  Repairing chips is an art form, and while not impossible, it does take a lot of patience and work.  I didn't write this "how to", but it is a very good one to follow.

Click here for the "How to fix a paint chip" guide!

14)  Now that I know how to detail my car, and what products to use - where can I get these products?

Mostly any auto parts store will carry a wide array of detailing products - many of which I have mentioned within this guide.  Here are some links and phone numbers to companies who I feel make the best detailing products around: 

Griots® Garage:  Great Products and Tools.
Call for a Free Catalog 800-345-5789

Stoner Solutions - Awesome Tire Shine and various automotive sprays.

Mothers® - Great line of Polishes, Waxes and Cleaners

Meguiars® Online - Another Great Product Line with your very own
"Care care Prescription"

Armor All® - 'Nuff Said

Zymöl® - Quality line of Waxes and Polishes


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Additional Detailing Tips & Tricks

3000GTs and Stealths, unlike most cars, have a few certain areas that need special attention in order to keep them looking their best.  These are just a few of the tricks that I have come across that will help you with those special areas.

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TIP #1:  The Base of the Hatch Window

The grey area towards the bottom of the hatch window is one of the hardest things I've come across in detailing to keep looking new.  It's a flat, laquered finish that is VERY sensitive to what is applied to it.  Anything too greasy, it will smear.  Anything too thick, it will streak.  The best thing I've found to use is any kind of furniture polish with a soft, cotton cloth.  Clean the area first while washing the car, and when it is completely dry, spray on some furniture polish such as Pledge, and buff it off with a soft cotton cloth.  Make sure you do this in the shade, or it will dry and haze too quickly, possibly staining the area permanently.  Try it - it works!!

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TIP #2:  The Hatch's Windshield Wiper Cover

Many people complain that the plastic piece covering the base of the hatch windshield wiper turns dull, and doesn't match the rest of the assembly.   This is notorious on pretty much everybody's 3000GT or Stealth.  One quick fix is to simply paint it!  Get yourself a can of flat black exterior paint, such as Rustoleum.  Take the piece off, and spray it a few coats, waiting for each coat to dry before applying the next.  It'll never fade again, and will look better than it did new!

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TIP #3:  Fake Plastic Triangles

The black plastic "fake" windows on the 91-98 3000GT's seem to give a lot of people a problem.  It's a tricky area because it's a high gloss plastic finish which can scratch, peel, and fade very easilly if not properly taken care of.  One trick i've learned in keeping it shining like new, as well as preventing any peeling or fading is to apply a straight Carnauba based wax to it (No cleaners - only a wax.  Mother's California Gold Paste Wax is a good choice).  Use only a 100% cotton cloth, with very light circular apply it, as well to buff it off.   Make sure you also do it in the shade in order for it to haze properly.  I do mine once every 3 months or so, and I have had no signs of peeling or fading.  In fact, I believe they shine better than new ones!

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TIP# 4:  Chrome Tips  (At least they used to be chrome)

Most 3000GT's and Stealths come equipped with chrome tips.   If you don't generally clean them, they'll have so much carbon build up, you'll hardly be able to tell they were ever chrome!  An easy fix is to polish them with any chrome polish found in any auto parts store.  If your having trouble removing the residue even with polishing, try using a wheel cleaner first such as Castrol's wheel cleaner.  It'll loosen up the residue enough so you'll be able to polish them back to brilliance.

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TIP# 5:  Foggy Windows

This is generally a problem with most import cars.  It's mainly caused by "out-gassing" of the compounds that make up the dashboard.   They seep out, and stick to the inside of your windshield in particular, causing streaks, fog, and an overall unsightly appearance.  By keeping the inside of the windshield clean with frequent washings using the techniques found on my detailing page, this should help a substantial amount.  Other things to keep in mind are the following:

    Greasy, thick protectants such as Armor All tend to make the windows worse.  If you're going to condition the dashboard, use something that won't evaporate in the sun, or clog the pores of the dash.  I recommend Lexol's Leather Conditioner or their Vinyl Conditioner.  They're more flexible, and will let the dash breath better.

    Don't use Fox Rain-X!!!  This stuff is the worst!  It'll work great for about 3 days, but once it starts to break down, it'll cause you more of a headache getting it off, than it did putting it on.   

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Well, that's it! By now, you should feel like a pro! Detailing isn't all that hard, and can actually be kind of fun! There's nothing like the feeling you get from looking at that brand-new again car which you've used up all your elbow grease on, and better yet, driving it is an even better feeling!

I hope this guide has answered all of your detailing questions, and is enough to get you started on detailing your own car like a pro. I also want to point out that the data in this guide has been obtained purely from my personal experiences and knowledge, and is by no means the only way to properly detail a car. This guide teaches just one method of thousands, I'm sure, but it seems to work in obtaining the fastest, most efficient and cost effective method of detailing your car like a pro.

I would also like to point out that all the products mentioned in this guide are only my personal favorites - and I receive no commission for mentioning their names. I feel by naming the products I use, you can eliminate much of the guess work when going to an auto parts store, and seeing that long row of car care products. Once again - these are only my personal choices, and may be no better, or worse than other products on the market. I'll leave you to decide, since soon you'll be a "professional" detailer too!

Good Luck!

You can download the latest version of this article
from Gregg's website (PDF file, 151k) HERE
Visit Gregg's Website

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