Car Detailing Like a Pro: 20 Resources From the Country’s Best Shops

old car to new car

Your car is more than just what gets you from Point A to Point B. It’s a source of pride.

However, you might also be the first to admit that the current condition of your vehicle is less than stellar. If that’s the case, it might be time for a professional detail job — which is something you can do yourself.

We’ve rounded up some of the best tips from 20 professional detailers in Colorado and around the country so you can get your ride looking brand-new again.


How to Prepare Your Car for Detailing

3Dom Wraps, which specializes in car wraps, has a great blog series called #AttentionToDetail that’s all about detailing your car. Before applying a new coat of paint, car wraps, a car bra or any other details, you have to prepare efficiently, they write. Learn about which products you need and which steps to take in their guide.


How to Prolong the Life of Your Paint

“Keeping your paint looking great is essential to your vehicle’s exterior maintenance and helping your vehicle hold its value,” Freedom Honda in Colorado Springs reminds you. The team there suggests you get into a routine of washing, waxing and touching up your vehicle.


How to Get Those Headlights Looking Shiny and New

“Headlight restoration is going to remain an important task for anyone in the detailing industry,” Kevin George at Detailed Image, a detailer supply shop, says. “With most of the cars on the road today having plastic lenses, it is very common as they age to become hazy or to have a yellow look to them …When your lights begin to look like this, you are losing a majority of the lighting output, which is a safety concern.” Check out his step-by-step instructions (with pictures) on how to buff out your headlights.


How to Get Rid of Water Spots

Detail King and its blog calls itself “the Internet’s leading source for news and information about starting and growing an auto detailing business.” The company has produced its own line of products, including those that can erase any signs of water spots. Watch the DKtv video to see how it’s done.


How to Polish and Wax Properly

“…a light polish is going to remove embedded dirt and stains from your paint, but it’s not going to remove or correct any paint defects such as swirls, scratches, marring and etching. A full polish is going to remove a very small percentage of your paint and also remove any below surface defects (oxidations, swirls, scratches, etching, etc.) that were only as deep as the amount of paint removed,” Scott Race, owner of Maryland detailer Incredibly Detailed, explains. Delve deeper into what will work best for your own vehicle with his detailed blog post “What’s the Difference Between Wash & Wax, Light Polishing and Full Polishing?”

pontiac up close


How to Get Your Exterior and Interior Clean

Although every car detailer does it differently, The Detail King LLC in Littleton shares its useful exterior and interior processes. Follow along with these detailed and helpful steps for a car that shines both inside and out.


Consider Going Waterless

“The term waterless refers only to the process used to wash your car, not the product itself,” Celine Witherell at Behind the Detail says. “Almost all waterless wash products contain water in their makeup. They’re called waterless because they are designed to clean your car without you having to pre or post-rinse the vehicle.” Behind the Detail is a great resource for car care tutorials. If you want to try waterless products, check out Witherell’s post.


How to Clean Leather Back to Its New Lusciousness

“Car leather care and cleaning is much easier and simpler than most people realize due to the advances in car leather manufacturing,” Darren Priest notes in his post, “Cleaning Leather Car Seating Like a Pro” at Best Auto Detailing Tips. In his post, he explains the difference between older and newer leather and how to clean each.


How to Clean All That Pet Hair

“Hair differs from stains and crumbs because the hair itself can weave in-between the upholstery fabric, making it more stubborn to remove,” writes Bonnie at Virginia’s Capitol Shine. “In addition, the longer pet hair remains on the seats and carpet, the more embedded it becomes — not to mention the odor that may be associated with it.” She goes on to offer some DIY suggestions for keeping your car’s interior pet hair-free.


How to Clean Out Sand

When you’re making summer runs to the beach, Sharp Detail, another Virginia detailer, has useful advice for shaking sand out of interior items such as floor mats, vacuuming and air-drying. Read the tutorial, which includes pictures, on the blog.

bright green bmw


How to Get Cleaner Carpets

“It is better to keep your carpets as clean as possible at all times,” the team at Rancho Car Wash in California writes. “If you do see stains, there are some things that you can do to make sure that stains do not remain in your car carpet.” Check out their blog post for a six-step process to get any vehicle’s carpets clean.


Don’t Forget to Detail the Steering Wheel

“You might have observed that with the passage of time, the original color of the steering wheel turns brownish,” Steve Kingsley, writer for Calgary Car Detailing in Canada, explains. This part of the car is often overlooked when cleaning, but by following Kingsley’s instructions, you can change that.


How to Buff Out Scratches

“Nothing is more painful than seeing scratches on a brand new car or even a newly painted one,” writes Auto Deets, a tool review and how-to site. “Sometimes you wish there were some kind of invisible shield that you can put around the car to protect it from anything that can leave scratches. But then again that is the reality; a car is always vulnerable to these little scrapes and etches,” Take a look at the products recommended in Auto Deets’ post for removing scratches.


How to Keep Glass Coating Safe

“All vehicles, whether they are coated or not, face the impurities and qualities of the water being used to clean them,” writes SweetCars, a glass coating and car detailing company. “A coating will certainly resist damage from such impurities that would easily create havoc on the typical paint finish, but if the vehicle is left to dry on its own, those impurities will remain.” Read about the chemical reactions that take place between paint and glass finishes in this how-to.


How to Prevent Buildups of Bugs and Tar

“Tar, tree sap and bug residue all bond as if ‘Super-Glued’ to the surfaces of vehicles,” UK detailing site The Ultimate Finish writes. “There are cleaners specifically designed to tackle this type of contamination, typically called ‘bug and tar removers’ or ‘adhesive removers.’ Some of these products will turn non-painted plastic trim and window rubbers milky white and cause pitting on metals used on grills and badges.” Check out their post for a safer way to rid yourself of this nasty residue for good.

car and trees


How to Use Auto Detailing Clay

“Clay is an auto detailing tool that picks up protruding particles adhered onto paintwork by simply gliding it over the contaminated service,” detailing product manufacturer OSREN writes. “Now, why do we need to clay? Your car is constantly exposed to airborne pollutants, industrial fall outs, saps, bug splatters, dirt, dust, soil and grime. These contaminants will naturally cling on to your paintwork and cause the paintwork to feel gritty.” Prevent this by reading the site’s how-to for using clay, complete with pictures.


How to Your Microfiber Towels Clean

“Properly caring for microfiber towels is an important step to maintaining a scratch-free shine on any vehicle,” the Chemical Guys, a chemical and detailing company, introduce in their post “How to Wash Microfiber Towels.”

“Washing and drying microfiber towels properly ensures the towels last longer, stay softer, and produce better results when detailing,” the write. Their guide includes both a video and images to help you along every step of the way.


How to Scrub Tires for a Dirt-Free Shine

“You basically sit there scrubbing and drying each of the four tires separately, telling yourself that you’ll do this often to preserve their life,” the team at Bill’s Car Wash in Florida write. “However, you get bored fast the next time your tires need cleaning. Over time, after neglecting the wheels for so long, brake dust caused from strong heat and friction against the brake pads start to eat at the metal. This eventually destroys your tires and makes driving dangerous.” Try their tire-cleaning tips to prevent such a risky situation on the road.


How to Erase Scratches From Paint

“No wax in the world will improve the appearance of a paint surface as well as one level of polishing,” Ciro Papi of New York’s CP Car Detailing writes. “Polishing is a process where an extremely fine layer of clearcoat is removed using specific machines and polishes to flatten the surface of the paint to permanently remove those pesky fine swirls and scratches in your paint that appear when looking at your paint in direct sunlight or a halogen light source.” He goes on to explain when to polish and includes plenty of before and after shots to motivate you to get started.


How to Do Enhancement Detailing

Here’s the cherry on top.

The team at Detail Force in Golden explains enhancement detailing as being “designed for the enthusiast who keeps the car in relatively good condition inside and out. The bulk of the work in the enhancement detail is focused on the paintwork and exterior appearance to produce a deeper shine and gloss to the vehicle’s finish.” Read how to enhancement detail your car on the Detail Force site.


Images by:
Dietmar Becker, woodrow walden, adel ben, bady gb