Our Top 10 DIY Car Detailing Tips

Some car owners just love their cars. Some of those same car lovers relish a job well done. And for those who fit that description, DIY detailing can be very gratifying. But if you’re going to do the job yourself, you might as well do it right—the way the pros do it. Here are ten tips to help you.

  1. Maintenance makes detailing easier

There are a lot of nooks and crannies in and on your car, so detailing is always going to be a big job. You can more quickly dive into the nitty-gritty of detailing IF you do not have to remove pounds of empty drink cups, crumpled napkins, seven complete changes of clothes, etc. from your car.

When you maintain a neat vehicle, detailing can go faster because it can start faster.

  1. Artist’s brush + vacuum = clean vents

Detailers worth their salt will certainly remove dust and debris residing between the slats of your cabin vents. One of the simplest and most effective ways to remove contaminants without pushing them back into the cabin air system is to use a long-bristled artist’s brush and a vacuum. The brush easily gets between the slats, and the vacuum pulls the “ick” out.

  1. Clean the entire window

Cleaning your windows should effectively remove all dirt and debris so that grit does not get caught in the interior door panel retainer guide pad (the felt between the glass and the weather stripping when you roll your window down). That means you need to clean every surface—including the top edge.

  1. Safely remove sticker gunk

If you’ve got old parking stickers or bumper stickers affixed to glass, you can remove them without getting sticker reside all over your fingers by soaking the sticker with Goo Gone (or comparable product) and then using a plastic putty knife to scrape it.

Plastic is key here. A metal putty knife can scratch the glass.

A note of caution: we do not recommend doing this if you have tinted windows or are trying to remove stickers from the body of your car.

  1. The Power of Two Buckets

One of the purposes of detailing your car’s exterior is to preserve and protect the color and flawless finish. But if you are using one bucket to suds-up and rinse, you’re just “washing” your car with the same grit you took off.

When you wash, you absolutely MUST have two buckets—one with soapy water for cleaning, one with clean water to rinse away the grit and grime clinging to the washcloth before going back into the suds bucket.

  1. Clay bar. Just, clay bar.

Washing your car removes the road grit and grime that stuck to your car’s clear coat, but it won’t remove the stuff that got stuck in your car’s clear coat. Only a clay bar will do that.

  1. Repurpose your power drill for polishing and waxing

You don’t want to give yourself a repetitive stress injury from polishing and waxing your car, but you can’t skip these steps either. Still, you don’t have to buy a new power tool. With the right attachments and microfiber applicators, you can use your power drill to buff your car’s coat to glossy shine.

Just make sure to use different applicator pads for polish and wax.

  1. Say good-bye to squeaky hinges

If you’re going to all the trouble to make your car look like new, then you might as well make it sound like new, too, as in, silent. Use WD-40 to quiet squeaky door hinges and gas tank covers.

  1. Replace What Needs Replacing

Detailing presents the perfect opportunity to replace consumable components, like your windshield wipers. We know no one really changes them every six months (especially in New Mexico where we don’t use them very often and ignore the fact that the sun bakes them into useless, brittle plastic flaps.)

  1. Rust-Free Chips Are Perfect for DIY Touch-Ups

During the detailing process, you are almost certainly going to come across some blemish in your paint. You can take care of it yourself—apply a color match and clear coat—IF no rust has formed around the dent or ding.

Auto parts stores have a variety of “master” colors intended to blend with a number of popular make and model paint shades. You may also browse for online tools to find the exact name and specs of your car’s paint to special-order the right match.

We’ve picked our 10 best DIY detailing tips, but we know this is really a short list. A full detailing job has hundreds of points to be cleaned and colored. If you decide you’re really not up to the task of a DIY job, contact us. We’ll reserve a spot in our garage to do it for you.