Best Car Detailing Techniques For Spring Cleaning!


Today I'm working on my wife's 2018 Subaru Outback. We've driven this thing all winter, and it's completely filthy. I'll show you my tips and tricks so you can perform a spring detail transformation in your driveway in just a couple hours.

Here are some tools you'll need to start: two buckets - one for the wheels and one for the paint, five to ten microfiber towels, two or three window towels, a scrubber, and a squeegee. You'll also need various wheel brushes and wheel woolies, a vacuum, interior brushes, and an aerator. 

For products, you'll need ones for the interior, exterior, engine, wheels, glass, and protection. For Weekend Warriors, a power washer, foam cannons, Quick Jack, or something similar, power tools, air diffusers, air compressors, steam machines, and steam vacuums can be helpful but not essential. 

Step one is to focus on the interior first by removing any garbage, then the rubber mats, and then the floor mats. One of the reasons I like to work on the interior first is to avoid working in water during the interior cleaning phase. The bottom of the mat's get wet if they're left on the ground after the wash, and the vacuum hose gets wet and then dirty, which can mark up the seats. Also, your shoes get wet, and you bring that moisture into the carpets. It's all just kind of a big pain in the butt that you can easily avoid. With all four doors and the trunk open, start at the driver's side and work your way around in a five-box pattern: one being the driver, two being the driver's side rear seat area, three being the trunk, four is the passenger side rear seat, and five is the passenger seat area. 

First, use compressed air, or if you don't have air, you can use a Master Blaster as well, to blow out everything from under the seats and in the spaces between the center console and the seat, cup holders, the center console seat cracks, or anything that can be easily blown out of the car or just vacuumed up later. 

Next, use Lather Interior Cleaner and an Interior Brush on the center console, the dash, the steering wheel, and seats if they're leather, then do the doors. If this is a seasonal cleanup and not a total disaster, you may not need to use steam. But because I have a child, I'm using steam to kill any germs that could be living on the door handles and everywhere else. Afterward, follow up with a vacuum first because one, I don't plan to put my feet back on the carpets again, plus it's right before the steam vacuum phase, which can get clogged with oversized rocks or junk that's on the floor. 

Since we have full cloth seats, I put Shag Fabric Cleaner in the aerator about 50/50 with water, then spray the foam for more even coverage. On the heavier stains, I'll use Shag Fabric Cleaner undiluted directly from the RTU bottle. Let the cleaner sit for about a minute or two, then gently scrub the fibers. As the detailer, you have to decide how much force and aggression is reasonable based on the condition of the fabric and the level of dirt present. With the dirt now lifted to the surface, I use the AMMO US Steam Vacuum to remove it from the fibers. The steam allows it to dry much faster. However, if your car requires super hot water because of the level of dirt and stains, etc., then use the hot water shampoo machine. But if you don't have any of these fancy tools, that's fine too. A bucket of warm water mixed with some Shag Fabric Cleaner and a soft bristle brush is going to work totally fine. You just need lots of towels to blot and air dry the material before you sit down.                                      

Next, fill your buckets with Brute Wheel Soap and various wheel woolies for the wheels. Different lengths and sizes of Two-tier Wheel Brushes, along with a blue towel, are essential tools for the task. The other bucket is designated as a paint bucket, containing five or six microfiber wash towels mixed with three or four squirts of Foam Paint Cleanser and three or four squirts of Boost Anti-Salt. With the wheel buckets and tools ready, the next step involves opening the engine and rinsing the area. This can be done using a hose, a power washer, or an aerator to create frothy water. If you don't have access to water, especially in apartments or drought areas, you can use the frothy water method. For those with older engines or concerns about using water, sticking with the aerator helps avoid excessive water usage. 

 After the initial rinse, the engine is coated with Titan 12 Degreaser and scrubbed using various wheel brushes. This is followed by another rinse. Modern engines are robust and can handle water without issues, but it's crucial to avoid areas like the alternator, battery, and fuse box. These sensitive parts should be dried with compressed air or a Master Blaster and a towel. After the drying phase, it's always a good practice to check and replace the air filter if needed. After cleaning the engine, the next step is a pre-wash on super dirty cars or post-winter cleanings. Titan 12 Degreaser is sprayed on the lower portions of the paint, such as the front bumper and behind the wheels. After letting it dwell for a few minutes, it's time to focus on the wheels. 

For wheel cleaning, I prefer using a lift, but a Quick Jack system or doing one wheel at a time works too. Removing the wheels allows access to the suspension and lets you inspect brake lines, pad depth, and tread wear. With the wheels off, the undercarriage is sprayed with Foam Paint Cleanser and Boost Anti-Salt, letting it soak while cleaning the wheels themselves. A garden hose attached to a wooden broomstick pole is a handy trick for getting under the car, especially if you're not removing the wheels. After cleaning the wheels with Plum Wheel Cleaner and Brute Wheel Soap, scrubbing the rubber with a stiff bristle brush helps remove old dressing that's accumulated over the winter months. Before starting the paint cleaning process, it's important to scrub the door jambs well to remove salt. This helps both the frame of the car and underneath the door frame.

When it comes to cleaning the paint, instead of using a wash mitt with two buckets, I use clean microfiber wash towels in one bucket. This method eliminates the worry of cross-contamination and potential scratches on the paint. During the wash process, it's advised to run your hand over the surface to check for any rough spots indicating contamination on the clear coat. If needed, claying the car during the wash phase can help remove such contaminants. After a healthy final rinse on both the paint and the jams, it's time to reapply protection to the paint with Reflex Pro Top Coat. This can be applied to a wet vehicle, with or without a pre-existing coating. Spray a few mists on the wet paint, including the door jambs, trunk, gas door, and hood jams. After allowing the top coat to dwell for about two minutes, lightly rinse it again to finish the process. Next, dry the paint as you normally would with Hydrate Paint Moisturizer, leaving behind another thin layer of coating. 

Squeeze the high viscosity lubricant onto a damp microfiber towel and dry it exactly the same way as you would. Wring it out as it becomes full and re-squeeze it onto the towel, repeating the process all the way around the car. It's super easy and makes a huge difference when you're done. For the tight spots, use compressed air or a Master Blaster to blow out the trapped water, but make sure that the rain gutters are clear to avoid clogs and water backing up into the car over time. Take a second to inspect the roof rails, around the windshields, and the gas door where there's usually a drainage hole. Sometimes these get plugged, and the gaskets can go bad over time, causing leaks into the car. Likewise, during the inspection phase, I like to use Spit Spray Wax to clean up the little trailers. Even though you hit them with compressed air, somehow water still comes out enough to drive you insane. Double-check your work as you walk around the car. 

Before putting the wheels back on the car, I'm quickly reinstalling another layer of Gelee Pro Wheel Coat because they're off the car, making it super convenient to do it now. You can also reach the inner barrels and calipers if applicable. If you're not into coatings, you can use Skin Defense Seal on the wheels instead. I also like to add a quick layer of Mud Tire Gel to the black plastic on the inside of the wheel wells. Not only does it look good and remain super black, but it also provides hydrophobic protection for the next few weeks, taking only 20 seconds to apply. However, if you're a super fanatic or have a show car, you can apply Frame Pro Trim Coat on the inside as well. 

Finally, clean the glass with Obey Glass Cleaner, scrubbing it first with a pad, then wiping it with a microfiber towel. Lightly mist obey one more time for lubrication and squeegee everything clean. For the final wipe on the glass, use a waffle weave tight-knit microfiber towel for a streak-free finish. Next, reinstall the dry mats and the rubber floor protector, but don't put any dressing on it. Even if you think buffing it off will make it okay, it's still not a good idea because the moisture from the bottom of your shoes will reactivate the oils, making it slippery when driving. Lastly, apply Mud tire Gel to the thirsty rubber sidewalls for UV protection. When I was done, the before and after on our daily driver was huge!

Well, there you have it. The car is clean, has no salt on it, and most importantly, I think my wife is going to be thrilled. I did this in about six hours because I went all out. You could probably do it in an hour or two. Just pick and choose which of the methods work best for you based on the condition of the car. Most importantly, I hope you had fun. Talk to you guys soon! 


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