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How to detail a car like a pro

So you want to detail your car like the pro's? Here are 15 step-by-step instructions from Legacy Automotive in Tuscaloosa, AL, revealing preferred products and methods.

Items needed:

  • Buckets

  • Car Wash (not detergent)

  • Pressure Washer

  • Buffer

Cleaning The Interior

Remove Floor Mats

Before you can vacuum properly, you must remove the floor mats as you will be washing and shampooing the mats in the following step. It helps to bang out the mats before vacuuming as a large amount of dirt and debris will come off with no vacuuming necessary.

Vacuum and Shampoo Floor Mats

Grab your pressure washer and place your floor mats on the ground. From a distance of about one foot, pressure wash the floor mats. While wet, shampoo floor mats with upholstery cleaner (Blue Coral). You can either pressure wash again or if you have a shampooing machine, finish in this way.

Attention To Detail

Decal Detail

Your best friends are now a toothbrush and Q-Tips. Use these tools as preliminary cleaning before you blast detailed parts with compressed air. If you don't have an air compressor, purchase a pack of compressed air canisters (expensive but really help with cupholders, radios and air vents).

Vacuum Interior

Vacuum Interior

At this point, it is safe to vacuum the entire interior as all the debris from the headliner, dash and console is now on the seats or floor. Be sure to fully retract seats in both directions to get these trouble areas. Don't forget to vacuum the console and gauge clusters. If necessary, use a can of compressed air or an air compressor to dislodge any remaining debris.

Shampoo Upholstery

We love Blue Coral's upholstery cleaner and now is the time to shampoo the entire interior.

The Proper Way To Clean Windows

We choose Blue Coral's glass cleaner but any old glass cleaner will do fine as the wiping of the cleaner is the most crucial point. TIP: Wad up newspaper and wipe windows in lieu of a rag and you will be rewarded with a streak-free shine.


Cleaning The ExterIor

The Engine Bay

Engine Cleaner

We will not use a pressure washer of any kind under the hood. We use Cleans All degreaser/cleaner (pink liquid) to degrease under the hood. For grimier engine parts we use a degreaser called Knockout. Merely spray it on and wipe it off. After you have degreased, vacuum any debris from the engine bay. Finish with dressing; we prefer Armor All but most others will do fine.

Tires, Wheels and Wheel Wells

There is a tire cleaner that works better than any we have ever used and it is a White Wall tire cleaner. Spray the white wall tire cleaner on all four tires, let it work for a minute or two, then scrub off with a heavy-duty brush. Now, wash and scrub the wheels (cleaner or just car wash)  and wheel wells with a long-bristle, heavy-duty brush. Rinse all tires, wheels, and wheel wells.

Wash Exterior

Wash the exterior of your vehicle with a proper car wash product- no detergents as it strips the clear coat. When you rinse, if you are using a hose, remove the nozzle and rinse top down with a cascade like sheet of water. If you are using a pressure washer, rinse top down.

Dress Wheel Wells

Some detailers use gloss black paint to finish wheel wells and it some cases this is necessary (if the black plastic is heavily scratched or degraded). If the plastic is in decent shape, finish with Armor All.

Dress Tires

Tire Cleaner

The white wall cleaner has done its job, now dress the tires by hand-rubbing in Armor All or your favorite tire shine. For less shine (in some cases this looks better), wipe off dressing with a clean rag after a few minutes.

Exterior Windows

Again, we choose Blue Coral's glass cleaner but any old glass cleaner will do fine as the wiping of the cleaner is the most crucial point. Wad up newspaper and wipe windows to reveal a streak-free shine. Try to avoid overspray on the paint.

Polish. Wax. Buff.

Truck Detail

Once your vehicle is completely dry, break out the Mother's car polish. Hand rub in the polish in a straight line and this product will remove blemishes and inconsistencies in the clear coat. Once all polish is hand-buffed out, you will need a McGuires wax to finish. Hand rub McGuires wax in a circular motion. I say hand rub unless you have experience running a buffer (wheel). It is a very difficult thing to run a wheel properly.


Finishing Touches


  • Chrome tailpipes

  • Any undercarriage that is visible from ground level

  • Decals and Model pieces

  • Polishing Headlights

  • Front Grill

  • Tar and bugs on front bumper

For more resources on the automotive industry, visit our Used Car Resources section.

Views: 99

Tags: a, car, detail, how, like, pro, to


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