Car Detailing: Lesson 1-The Wash
Best Car Detailing Products For Washing Your Car: My Everyday Tools
Each lesson I am going to lay out the various tools needed for each aspect of the car detail. These tools listed below are what I use everyday and after testing multiple brands of products from cheap Autozone/Oreilly products to pro Meguiars products and more these are the tools I use everyday and consider to be the best car detailing products for washing your car.
***I am not an affiliate for any of these products, just passionate about the performance and consistency they offer***
Car Detailing Tools
- 2 Buckets (2-5 Gallon)
- 2 Wash Mits
- Foam Cannon
- PH Balanced Soap
- IronX Spray Decontamination
- Clay Bar
- Clay Bar Lubricant
- Wheels Brush
- Detail Brush
- Wheel Woolie
- Wheel Cleaner
- Tire Cleaner
- Tire Dressing
- Plastic Conditioner
- Glass Cleaner
- Pressure Washer
- Recommended you have a garden hose valve on the end of your hose for easy disconnect to fill buckets or rinse pads later during the correction process.
How To Properly Wash A Car: The Process!
Everyone knows how to clean their car until they hit wash number 3 or 4 and they begin to notice defects such as swirls and scratches on the paint and they want to know WHAT HAPPENED? You have been washing by hand there should not be any swirls or light scratches to the paint right? Unfortunately there is a lot that can be done wrong when performing a wash on a vehicle during the car detail. Good news! When you master this process people will pay you to keep their vehicle looking beautiful while preventing additional defects in the paint.
Step 1: Prep
First and foremost lets get your materials set up. You are going to need two wash buckets. Both should have a dirt filter at the base of the bucket to catch dirt and keep it separate from the clean water. The two bucket method is used by all professional car-detailers to help reduce dirt being carried from one panel to the next creating swirls and scratches.
Fill your bucket with some quality soap. We use a PH balanced soap from Shine Supply that helps to lift heavy dirt from the paint surface as well as oils and other contaminants. The soap has not additives in it that "shine" the paint. The goal of our wash soap is to simply remove as much build up on the paint during the wash process as possible. You will be most likely using a Ironx and Clay to remove bonded contaminants from the paint. No reason to waste money on a soap that adds shine just to take it off. In addition, when it comes to paint correction you want to see the paint exactly for what it is. A shiny residue from your local auto shops soap will mask those defects and will hinder your ability to see and remove them effectively during the paint correction process. Note here is to avoid any soap that says "wash and shine" on the label.
Step 2: Wash Process
Start at the top! Lets make this process as simple and effective as possible. Always start at the top and work your way down. The majority of the dirt will be along the runners of the vehicle and around the wheel wells. If you start low and work your way up you will effectively be taking that dirt and heavier build up from the lower rocker panels and moving it across the surface creating lots of awesome scratches and swirls across the body.
A. Rinse the entire vehicle-Use this opportunity before you add any foam to the car to remove heavier build up. Wash from the top down, heavier wash on the wheel wells and tires to knock loose dirt way, general wash of the undercarriage. If you are doing a more in-depth detail you can give the undercarriage a deeper clean but a quality soap and rinse will remove salt build up. If the vehicle is an off-road vehicle and has been used as such, make sure you price appropriately for the wash. I have spent 2-3 hours just power washing mud and dirt from a vehicle that has been out to a lease during hunting season etc.
B. Foam it up-Spray the entire vehicle with a thick coat of foam. You do not need to use the entire bottle if you can get around the car with a good coat of foam. Depending on temperature conditions you can generally let the foam sit for a few minutes to allow it to do its work and loosen up contaminants, if you are working in the direct sunlight or in hotter temperatures (anything above 75 degrees) you will want to start working the wash mits sooner to prevent the soap from drying on the surface creating more work.
C. 2 Bucket Mit Wash-Apply soap to mit, work the panel, rinse in clean water, re-dunk into soap bucket-Use the cross hatch pattern to prevent swirls. This pattern is used in multiple aspects of the detail. NO MR. MIYAGI Pattern.
Start at the top! Use one MIT to wash the vehicle starting at the top and rinsing and then re-dip your mit into the soap bucket after each panel, more if you have heavier build up. Do not apply heavy pressure. Let the MIT pick up the dirt and grime on the paint. You can go over the area twice if there is heavier build up. By applying pressure you will be pushing those dirt contaminants into the paint creating scratches and swirls. The mit is designed to grab dirt and pull it into the fibers away from the surface. Rinse as often as you feel necessary in your clean water, this keep the heavier dirt in a separate bucket and your clean soap water ready to work. The second wash-mit is for the rocker panels. Stop about a 1-ft away from the bottom of the door and body panels and use a separate mit to capture the heavier dirt. Do not go upward with this mit as you will drag that heavier dirt across the paint. Since you already did the entire upper area of the vehicle you should only have to focus on this lower panel area.
**If after you wash and rinse the vehicle and the paint feels rough when you run your fingers over it you have embedded contaminants that soap and a mit alone will not remove. Use your Iron X and spray the entire vehicle. The product will turn purple as it works on the bonded contaminants helping them release from the paint. After about 2 minutes foam cannon the vehicle again and lightly mit wash one more time then rinse and continue with the drying process.
**If after the IronX is used your paint still feels rough overall or in certain areas you will need to clay bar the vehicle after you dry the car. In optimal conditions (temperatures less then 75 degrees and in full shade) you can use a clay bar when you foam cannon the second time to remove the iron x, this allows the foam to act as your lubricating agent and also saves time.
**Use a Boars Hair Detail brush to get into crevices, around door handles, window seals, and more to remove dirt and get the car even cleaner.
Step 3: Drying The Vehicle
There are several methods you can use to dry the vehicle. The best method for drying a vehicle I have found is to use a smaller high quality microfiber towel and some shine mist or water-less wash. The method is quite simple. Fold your towel into a square so you have 8 usable sides. Again, start at the top of the vehicle. Lightly mist the body with your water less wash or shine mist to give your towel some slickness to move across the paint smoothly. Again, follow the Cross Hatch pattern to wipe down each panel. Ring out the towel as it becomes saturated. Flip to a clean side if your towel pulls off more dirt that is embedded in the paint while drying. After drying the entire car do a final wipe with a clean towel to remove and mild haze left by the product. Using either one of these products helps act as a drying aid to allow the water left on the paint to bead up and be removed faster and easier avoiding water spots, this is especially important in hotter temperatures.
Step 4: Wheels & Wells
You can choose to do the wheels before you clean the rest of the car, just ensure you use a separate bucket or empty and re-fill your bucket with clean soap before you start working on the body of the car.
Shine Supply has a great wheel cleaning kit to get you going. Wheels are fairly simple, keeping in mind they are not invincible to damage from heavy brushing we want to remove the dirt and brake dust without creating scratches on the aluminum, polished metal, or whatever type of coat is on the wheel. Rinse the wheel to give it some lubrication. Spray Cool Guy wheel cleaner over the entire wheel and let sit for 30 seconds to 2 minutes (again everything depends on the temperature, do not let this product dry). Using a wheel brush work the product on the wheel to help loosen more brake dust and rinse. Repeat as needed to fully clean the wheel. Spray the drums and use the wheel woolie to clean the backside of the wheel. This helps remove the heavier build up and prevents it from spreading to the outer aspect of the rim. If you are doing a wheels off detail, this will be even easier. Generally speaking for a mobile detail you will not be taking the wheels off the car (requires more tools and time). Thoroughly rinse the wheel and then use your water-less wash to complete a final wipe down of the wheel. If the tires need to be cleaned to remove excess tire dressing use Wise Guy and clean the tires first before moving to the wheels. Finish it off by dressing the wheels with some Decked out tire dressing (can be diluted for various levels of shine, recommended to apply with a microfiber pad).
You can use a larger detail brush to scrub the wheel wells, any heavy duty cleaner such as Purple or Shine Supplies Solution are great de-greasers that can be used for lots of purposes during the detail and are great for cleaning wheel wells and engine bays. You can top it off with some undercarriage dressing to add shine and protection, while preventing heavy dirt build up and making the next clean easier for your customer.
Step 5. Trim & Glass
Final step should be to wipe down all the plastic and vinyl trim and then add a protective dressing to it and clean the windows. No matter what window cleaner you choose to use always go back and wipe down the window with a clean dry towel to remove any haze. Haze is not always noticeable when it is bright and sunny outside but will be noticeable to the driver at night or in low-light conditions. If the windows have heavier build up we will talk later about window polish.
During this portion of the car detail you may encounter (typical if a paint has only been washed) heavy build up on the paint such as tar, salt, road grime, bird droppings, and other road fallout that requires a quality clay. You can complete the clay process before you dry the vehicle and dry as you clay each panel or if temperature conditions permit you can clay during the wash process as mentioned in the pro tips for this lesson.
I'll leave you with this great video from Wilson Auto Detailing. He does a fantastic job explaining the different types of clay levels (light, medium, and heavy) and how to use them on a cars paint.
In this lesson we went over how to thoroughly detail the vehicle. We will get into what I consider wash add-ons such as the engine bay and undercarriage in another lesson.
Remember that when it comes to the car detailing process your goal should always be to use the least aggressive method possible to produce the desired results. Ensuring that you are not using heavy pressure when using any products that come in contact with the paint will help ensure you do not create any additional damage creating more work for yourself. Keep this in mind as we move into other lessons, especially as we get into polishing paint to remove heavy defects.
I'll see you in the next lesson!
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