How To Correctly Detail Your Auto

How to correctly detail your auto

How to detail the exterior properly and what to use.

I have had a couple of requests for a reference article that explains what the correct procedures are and products that we can use on our tundra. I have also had many people PM me about what is the “right wax to use” or other?’s like that. I am going to do a step by step list of the procedures and products that I use as a professional detailer to run my business as well as keep my own truck clean and new. If you don’t have the particular problem that I am explaining, then move on to the next section. If I refer to a product that you probably not heard let me know and I will tell you where to get it. It will most likely come from Just do a search for the product I mention on that site and you will find it. Other than that, I will be using over the counter products that can be found at your local Pep-boys or Napa, etc.

Step #1- Washing

To start out your detail on your tundra (or any car for that matter), you have to start with the right products for the job. Start out with the correct CAR wash soap, not dawn. I like Duragloss #901 CWC. It is really cheap, really slick, and easy on your paint. I also like the line of wash mitts from Mequiars; they are the best wash-mitts available at the public level. You may also want to use a bug remover, I like Duragloss #471, I have yet to find any bug or tar residue that this won’t remove.

Start out with pre-rinsing the truck, making sure to remove all loose dust/dirt/debris from the surface before washing. Mix up your car wash solution and dip the mitt into the bucket. Working from the top down, rinsing about every other section, wash the truck. Use long straight passes to remove the dirt, don’t use pressure, let the soap do the work. Do the lower parts and front bumper/windshield last as it has the most grime. Also you don’t want to be dragging dead bugs all over your hood.

When that step is finished, it is time to pay attention to the wheels, tires, wheel wells, and motor. I like Simple Green for all of these jobs. I use it full strength on tires and wheel wells (that includes any part of the frame that you can see), and about 7:1 on wheels and motor. Just spray a liberal amount of the cleaner on whatever you are working on, and give it a scrub. Simple as that. Not really much to cleaning these parts. Make sure everything is rinsed thoroughly as leaving this cleaner on the surface will cause stains. Also, make sure to use a separate mitt and brush for this purpose; don’t use your “good” wash mitt.

Step #2 – Clay (if needed)

Every car can benefit from claying. New trucks often sit on the lot and have embedded contaminants, and used trucks often have tar, sap, and general stuck on dirt that needs to be removed to create an optically bright finish. I like Clay Magic clay for this job. It comes with the clay, and supplied clay lube. You will use car wash soap, so save the clay lube for other things.

After washing, mix up another bucket of car wash soap and soap up a panel of the truck. Divide the clay into 3pieces as this will help if you happen to drop one of them on the ground. DON’T USE IT IF IT GETS DROPPED ON THE GROUND. Run the clay along the surface, adding more soap as needed. Listen and feel, when the clay gets easier to move, and you no longer hear a “grinding” noise, you are done with that panel and you can rinse and move to the next. Do this to each panel, making sure to knead the clay after each panel to reveal fresh clay. After you have finished with the paint portion of your truck, clay the glass and finally the wheels. This removes some of the water spotting on windows and removes stuck on brake dust.

After this is done, rinse the truck good, and dry. I like the Mequiars Water Magnet for drying. It picks up a lot more water than a chamois, and has less chance of scratching. DON’T USE OLD TOWELS or the like. They WILL scratch your paint.

Step #3- Paint compounding and defect removal

Paint defects are swirl marks, water spots, acid rain etching, and oxidation removal. All of these are problems to most autos’ paint, and fixing them now will not only greatly enhance the look of the truck, it will prolong paint life and increase the trucks value. I will explain as if your paint is worst case scenario. If you don’t have these problems, skip to step #4.

You will need a paint compound. Don’t get scared of the word “compound”. It is not like the days you used to use “turtle wax rubbing compound”. That stuff is like sand in a paste for. Today’s compounds are much more effective and safe. I like Meguiars #105 for paint defect removal by machine. If you are using a machine, I like the Porter Cable 7424 from Lowe’s. You will need a pad kit and a backing plate that can be picked up from autogeek. If you are trying this by hand, (may god help you J), I like Mequiars Scratch X. Polishing by hand will NOT remove all defects, but it will improve them.

(This should all be done in the shade)

By machine, apply the appropriate pad to the 7424’s backing plate. Apply a dime size bit of compound to the pad. (use the clay magic clay lube to “prime” the pad, this helps with lubricity). Break the truck into sections. I usually break the hood into 4. Place the machine on the paint and start on speed 4, spreading the compound on the surface using SLOW overlapping movements. When the compound is spread, crank the speed up to 5 (out of 6). Keep moving the machine in overlapping movements until the compound becomes clear and almost seems to disappear. Don’t slather on the compound and polish the section for 4seconds. This takes a little time. Repeat this step as many times as necessary for defect removal. Use a spotlight to see if all the swirls and water spots have been removed, if not, repeat until they have. Also, use only microfiber to remove compound residue. I like the VROOM line from target, cheap and quality.

Polishing by hand, using Scratch X, place a Dime size amount on your microfiber applicator, and simply rub the area. Try not to rub in a circle pattern, long strokes will do the job. Then when the polish has worked in, remove. Repeat as many times as your arm will let you.

Also, when done with the paint, make sure that you do the same thing to your glass. This helps remove water spots and created an optically clear surface for you to look through.

Step #4- Polishing

Polishing after compounding removes any compounding haze or micromarring left behind by the compound. It also dramatically increases the wetness and gloss of the paint. The “wet look shine” is created by polishing, not what kind of wax you use.

If your paint was in good shape to begin with, then you start here.

You will start out by needing a good paint polish or glaze. For a polish, I like Mezerna Final Polish II or Meguiars #205. These polishes are easy to work, creates great gloss, and you can use it as many times a year as you like. It only has very minor abrasives that remove “some” defects. For a glaze (you can put this over top of the polish for that extra depth and wetness, but it is not necessary), I like ClearKote’s Red Moose Glaze. It is really cheap, really easy to use.

Either of these can be used by hand or machine and these are similar to use. By either hand or machine, these products are applied in an easier manner than compounds. Place a dime size amount of polish (glaze after polish) to either the buffing machine or the hand applicator. Buff into the paint at speed 5 (or high when using your hand), and wait for the product to buff clear. Then remove with your VROOM microfiber. Your paint finish should be clear, wet, deep, and ready for your final paint step, your LSP (last step product or commonly called, wax)

Step #5 LSP (wax)

Polishing is what creates the gloss and depth; LSP is what seals it in. There are 2 kinds of LSP’s. Natural (carnauba) and synthetic. Carnauba waxes don’t last as long as synthetic and they don’t protect as good. They may provide a slightly deeper gloss, but I just prefer to use synthetic, so that is what I will recommend.

Most of you have heard of Zaino, and it is a great product, however, it is also very pricey. A product almost 100% similar in looks, gloss, durability, and protection is Duragloss #105 Total Performance Polish (it is an LSP, not a polish, don’t know why they put that in the name). The best part is that it only costs about $8 compared to over $15-20 with Zaino.

The #105 is applied by hand, but you can use a machine. Place a pea sized drop on the pad, no need to slather it on (this does not help durability contrary to what you have heard), and then simply apply it to the paint. As long as it touches the surface, the stuff is applied. No need for rubbing or anything like that. Let the product set for maybe 5min, and then rub off. Just make sure to apply it to all of the painted surfaces.

Don’t forget to apply the sealant to your windows. This seals the glass and acts like Rain-X. It also helps prevent those water spots that you just polished out.

Step #6- Wheels, tires, wheel wells, motor

When all the paint and glass is done, you have to make sure the wheels and tires are up to parr.

Polish the wheels using the correct polish for your surface. My deep six’s are clear coated and I use a paint polish on them. If your wheels are not cleared, use a metal polish. I like Eagle one Nano-Polish for metal. Polish the wheels like you would your paint. Seal them with the #105 sealant you used for your paint. This helps in brake dust reduction, and keeps them looking new.

As far as tires go, I like Mequiars Hot Shot Foam. It doesn’t sling and doesn’t give that “bling bling” shine, just a nice even look. Apply this using the instructions on the back of the bottle.

Wheel wells can be spruced up with a can of No-Touch Extremely Wet tire shine. This stuff turns the ugliest brownest frames black just like new. Simply spray on every part of wheel well and walk away. This step alone is one that I don’t see a lot of people doing and when I show them what clean wheel-wells can do for the look of the auto, they are amazed.

Engines can be finished up by spraying any rubber or black metal part with the No-Touch shine. Metal surfaces can be waxed using any cheap cleaner wax. This step alone will really impress your mechanic.

Step # 7 Finishing touches

Now that your paint is gleaming, your wheels and tires are blinging, and your motor gives your mechanic something to talk about, you have to spend some time on the finishing touches.

Trim, I like Mequiars Exterior Trim Spray found at Target. Just spray it on any exterior plastic, mud flaps, side mirrors, tailgate protectors, bumpers, running boards, etc. Then wipe the excess off with a Microfiber.

Chrome can be polished and sealed the same way as paint. Use the paint polish and the #105 sealant for this.

For a finishing touch on your paint and maintenance in-between waxing, I recommend Duragloss Aquawax. It is a spray wax type product that is applied like a quick detailer (but it has no cleaners so don’t use it as a quick detailer), and then wiped off. This adds that extra bit of pop to the paint. It is also a great window cleaner.

That’s it; you now have a nice looking truck that everyone will notice. Doing these steps at least once a year will keep your truck looking great for years to come. Maintain that shine you just put on your truck with some Quick Detailer (I like Eagle One), and your truck will stay cleaner longer.

I am not writing this to try to prove that my way is better than yours; I am just trying to introduce some modern detailing methods that save time, and are easier to do than you think. All of this can be done in about 4hrs. And then after that, only about 45min to wash and apply another coat of Aquawax to keep your paint looking great.

The products mentioned in this post are only recommendations. They are what work best for me and you may not think the same thing. I will say that you should generally stay away from products like Nu-Finish, Black Magic, Turtle Wax, etc. These products may be rated high by Consumer Reports, or they may be what you have been using for years with no ill-effects, but as the old saying goes, “you never know what is bad until you have seen better”, and this is very true with detailing.

Updated January 1, 0001