46 DIY Car Detailing Tips That Will Save You Money
Get your vehicle looking like new with these simple interior and exterior car detailing tips that you can do yourself.
Best Way to Clean a Car: Destink the Interior
Best Way to Clean a Car: Wash the Windows, Including the Top Edges
Best Way to Clean a Car: Clean the Leather
Lubricate Hood Hinges
Plastic and Vinyl Colorant
Best Way to Wash a Car: Rinse Before Washing
If you hit your dry paint with soapy water, you’ll just grind the surface dust and road grit into your paint finish. Professional detailers always start with a clear water rinse to remove as much dust and dirt as possible.
Best Way to Clean a Car: Polish the Finish
Best Way to Clean a Car: Brush Out the Air Vents
Best Way to Clean a Car: Deep-Clean Carpet and Upholstery
Replace the Carpet in Your Vehicle
Fix Tears in Leather Seats
Clean the Hood Latch
Best Way to Clean a Car: Scrape Off Those Annoying Stickers
Remove Minor Paint Scratches
Use the Right Soap
Dishwashing liquid is the go-to choice for most DIYers. But it shouldn’t be. Dishwashing detergent is simply too harsh for auto detailing. It sucks important oils out of your car’s finish and can actually shorten the life of your paint. Wondering if you might be using the wrong cleaning products inside your home? Check out our list of the best household cleaning supplies and products.
Best Way to Clean a Car: Get a Mirror Finish With Synthetic Wax
Eliminate squeaky doors
Remember to Clean Nooks and Crannies
Forget the Sponge, Use a Microfiber Mitt
Sponges capture and hold dirt and grit in their large pores. You can wring it out, but the grit will stay put when car cleaning. Once grit is embedded, you may as well wash your car with sandpaper. Detailers use a microfiber car wash mitt because the grit falls out when you rinse, it’ll make a do it yourself car wash that much better.
Wash Carpet and Velour
Best Way to Clean a Car: Slide Seats Forward and Clean Out the Junk
Brush and Vacuum Your Carpet
Automotive carpet doesn’t like to let go of dirt when you’re car cleaning. If you just vacuum it, you’ll leave plenty behind. To remove more dirt, detailers use a stiff brush and scrub the carpet as they vacuum. You’ll see the dirt particles bounce to the surface so you can suck them up with your shop vacuum as part of your auto detailing.
Carpet and Velour Colorant
Start at the Top
DIYers usually start by vacuuming the carpet when car cleaning. That just pushes dirt from the dash, seats and door panels back onto your freshly cleaned carpet. Professional detailers start at the top and work their way down to the carpet when detailing cars.
Best Way to Clean a Car: Suck Up the Dust As You Go
Add lumbar support
Apply a protective film
You can buy the film online and install it yourself in a few hours for about $120 (or less, depending on the size of the vehicle). It’s not complicated, but it does take practice. So purchase an extra set of film for your mirrors and try it with them first. Once you get the hang of wetting, stretching and squeegeeing the film around your mirror, you’ll find the hood much easier.
Repair Small Paint Chips
The fix we show here is for fresh chips that haven’t started to rust yet. If you see a rust spot, or have a dent along with your chip, you’ll need to do a more challenging fix than we show here. Keep in mind that this repair will be visible under close scrutiny, but if you buy the right touch-up color, it’ll be unnoticeable from a few feet away.
Best Way to Clean a Car: Pluck the Finish
Add Graphite to Door Locks
Forget the Chamois, Dry With a Microfiber Towel
Chamois soak up water, but they don’t pick up any grit that’s left after rinsing. Instead, they just grind those particles into your paint. A microfiber towel, on the other hand, collects the particles. Rinse the towel in clean water to remove the grit. Then wring and keep drying during your DIY car wash. Here’s why microfiber cleaning cloths work so well.
Wash Plastic and Vinyl
Best Way to Wash a Car: Wash With the Right Suds
Lubricate Trunk Hinges
Lubricate Window Tracks
Buy a Dual-Action Polisher
Detailers wouldn’t be caught dead without a dual-action polisher. Don’t confuse this incredible tool with a high-speed buffer! Buffers run at much higher speeds and can burn the paint right off your car if you stay in one place too long or press too hard when auto detailing. Polishers are different. They run at lower speeds and oscillate as they rotate. Any DIYer can get the hang of polishing in just a few minutes. Polishing before waxing makes a huge difference, so your investment really pays off.
One more polishing tip from professional detailers—apply the polish to the machine’s pad. Then wipe the pad across your paint. That’ll prevent all the polish from flinging off the pad as soon as you hit the trigger. Learn how to repair chipped paint yourself.
Lubricate Door Weatherstripping
Add a Bun Warmer
Replace Wiper Blades
Use a Non-Silicone Matte Finish Dash and Vinyl Protectant
Silicone dashboard protectant sprays leave a slick film on your dash that actually attracts more dust, so you’ll have to clean it more often. Plus, a shiny dash reflects into your windshield. That reflection and glare can reduce your vision, especially at night. That’s why professional detailers use non-silicone matte finish protectants when detailing cars. They still look great and they reduce glare. Here are 11 essential tips for keeping your car clean.
WD 40 Uses on Cars: Lubricate the Gas Tank Lid
Use Synthetic Wax
Old style paste waxes look great on antique cars. But they don’t produce the same “wet look” as modern synthetic wax, and they don’t last as long when detailing cars. When car dealers sell paint sealant, they’re really just applying a high-quality synthetic wax, which is something you can do yourself for a fraction of the price. Apply synthetic wax in small sections using a wax applicator sponge. Check out this unusual way to use car wax in the kitchen.
Replace seat covers
Aftermarket seat covers cost as little as $50 per seat for a universal-fit style or about $150 per seat for top-of-the- line custom-fit covers. The installation is similar across makes and models. The job takes about two hours for front and rear seats. The only tools you’ll need are a wire coat hanger and some tape to fish the straps under plastic trim pieces (if equipped). Everything else is included with the seat covers.
Finish With the Glass
If you cleaned the inside of your windows before you cleaned the dash and applied vinyl protectant, you’ll just have to clean them again. That’s why detailers save glass cleaning until the very end. Cleaning the windows at this point removes all cleaning and vinyl treatment overspray and leaves you with sparkling clean windows. When it’s time to clean the windows on your house, don’t forget these 10 window cleaning tips from a pro.
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