There have been lots of posts recently asking various questions regarding detailing.
I have decided to create a detailing guide that contains the basic 'how to' for most parts of a thorough detail. Others are more than welcome to add to this and chip in, but this is how I do it and I hope it will be of use.
Under recommended products - you don't need ALL the products listed, several do the same job.
Essential Tools (this whole stage is optional): Snow foam and lance
Helpful Tools: All Purpose Cleaner, Detailing brushes
Recommended Products: I4D snow foams and lances, Valet Pro snow foam, Megs APC
Prewashing needs to be divided into two - that for a full detail where old wax is to be stripped, and that for a top-up detail where you are maintaining your protection only.
I use two products in the foam lance for a full detail - separately, not at once. I don't agree with creating cocktails of products, the makers have worked on their recipes and I'm not enough of a chemist to mess around with them!
CITRUS SNOW FOAM - this is strong stuff, and will strip wax on it's own, but I prefer to reserve this for the bottom of the car, where the serious grime and grease collects. Spray on, dwell for 5 minutes, hose off. Remember that prewashing is not designed to remove dirt, but to loosen it for later stages.
MEGS ALL PURPOSE CLEANER - a great product that's great fun to apply in this way. You want a strong solution - this is going to strip your wax for you. I quarter fill my lance bottle with APC and top it up with warm water. This goes on to the whole car, including the arches and wheels. Let this dwell for around 15 minutes. I take that time to do the wheels and to get into the details (door sills and jams, filler cap, boot lid, badges, grills) with a soft detailing brush. I have APC made up in a bottle at 10:1 that I spray around as necessary to help with these smaller details.
TOP UP DETAIL:
For a top up detail I simply use a plain snow foam - such as I4D's own. It's a gentle product that will not strip wax. Again, make it up as per the instructions - topping of with warm water for the best suds. Cover the whole car and allow to dwell for 15 mins as for a full detail. Use this time to do the wheels and the details listed above.
WHEELS AND ARCHES
Essential Tools: Wheel brush
Helpful Tools: Megs Degreaser
Recommended Products: Bilberry wheel cleaner, Poorboys wheel sealant, Rim Wax
I clean my wheels as my snow foam/prewash is dwelling.
Bilberry wheel cleaner is excellent. It contains no acid, so it will not attack your wheel lacquer unlike, say, Clean Wheels. I have yet to encounter a stain on an alloy that I can't shift with it. I keep it made up at 5:1 dilution, but as weak as 10:1 also works. It can be used neat on very bad soiling.
Spray it on with a your spray head set to mist (it will attack a normal trigger sprayer, the Megs chemical resistant heads are excellent) and leave it for around 30 seconds. Then take your wheel brush (I use a swissvax style brush) and agitate all round the wheel. I also spray Megs degreaser into the arches and all over the tyres.
At times, I even take my wheels off so that I can get to the back of the rims.
Blast the product(s) off with a pressure washer (PW from here on).
I then roll the car back a very short distance so that a different part of the wheel is facing upwards - that way I can clean any parts that I have missed. The wheels can be sealed now with several coats of your preferred wheel sealant - or this can be left until you are waxing.
Essential Tools: 2 buckets, wash mitts
Helpful Tools: grit guards
Recommended products: Dodo Juice shampoos (Born to be Mild and Sour Power), nothing else from me anyway!
This is easy and self explanatory right? Wrong. It's the part that takes most discipline for me, especially when I first started 'proper' detailing and getting out of bad habits.
You may have heard of the two bucket wash - why do we do this? Simple. If you only use one bucket, then every time you recharge your mitt you could well collect the grit and dirt that you have just taken off the car. To solve this, we have one bucket with your shampoo solution, and one filled with plain water. I fill my buckets from the PW - it helps the shampoo to foam. Grit guards are extra insurance that you don't collect grit and dirt - they are grills that sit in the bottom of the bucket. The dirt sinks through, your mitt then can't reach the grit.
What's wrong with a sponge? If you think about it - it's obvious. A sponge is pretty solid. Any dirt or grime collected will sit on the surface - just in time for your to rub it back across your beautiful paint. A mitt has a pile - the dirt will sit in the pile, not at the surface and so has less chance of scratching anything.
I use a total of three wash mitts. I have a cheap one for the wheels, arches and under the car. Two Megs mitts are great for me for the painted areas. Charge your wash mitt, and wash with as little pressure as possible moving in straight lines. If you come across something that is hard to shift having been washed like this AND prewashed, then you're not going to shift it here without causing paint damage because it's probably bonded to the paint (tar for example). Wait until the clay stage to get rid of this and save your paint.
I divide the car into 9 - bonnet, roof, rear top half, right side top half, left side top half all get one mitt. Front bottom half, back bottom half, left bottom half and right bottom half get the other. One charge from the bucket should wash all of one section. When you need to recharge, first rinse the mitt in the rinse bucket and rub your mitt on the grit guard to make sure it's all out.
The product should then all the be PW'd off. A good shampoo will mean that the water runs of easily and makes the car easier to dry.
Essential Tools: Clay bar(s), clay lube
Recommended Products: Dodo Born to be Slippy Lube, Sonus green clay, Dodo Supernatural clay
At a major detail interval, I take the time to remove the bonded contaminants and those that you may not be able to see. The best way to do this is to use clay. The alternative is to use a fallout remover, but these are HARSH chemicals and not for me (you will need gloves).
There is no need to dry the car before claying in my opinion. Choose an area at a time - I start on the bonnet, as I find it is usually most contaminated. I cut a typical size clay bar into 4 pieces to make it go further. I then press the clay between my hands and fingers until it's thin and round. Spray the chosen area with lube (be liberal) and also spray the clay. Gently rub the clay over the surface in straight lines. If there is ANY drag, apply more lube. Inspect the clay - if it's clean then claying may be unnecessary. I haven't had to do the Mk7 yet.
The clay surface must be as clean as possible, so keep folding the clay over at regular intervals. Dropped clay goes straight in the bin, or get reserved for getting tar off the wheels. Clay may not remove tar deposits, so it may be necessary to remove them with tar remover (Tardis is excellent).
After claying I foam and bucket wash the car again.
Essential Tools: Drying towels
Recommended Products: Sonus, Dodo or I4D towels
Is very easy with good shampoo, as the water should just run off. I remove the pressure lance from the PW at this stage and use what's known as sheeting - using a gentle trickle of water to run it off evenly and leave as little water on the car as possible.
The reason to use a good towel rather than a chamois is the same reasoning as that for not using a sponge to wash - pile is good.
The bigger your towels, the better. I have three - one massive and two smaller. Lie the towel on the car and pat dry. Repeat all over the car. Don't rub, blot or anything else!
There are products (such as Dodo Time to Dry) to make the water run off even better - not necessary with good shampoo in the first place in my opinion.
Essential Tools: Foam applicators, Paint cleanser
Recommended Products: Dodo Lime Prime (or Lime Prime Lite) Autoglym Super Resin Polish
Another optional, but worthwhile stage...
You now have very clean bare paint. Wax is yet to come, but wax doesn't sit well on bare paint believe it or not. There are many wax bases on the market, but you can't do better than Dodo Lime Prime or Lime Prime Lite as far as I'm concerned. Lime Prime contains abrasives, Lime Prime Lite does not. The abrasives are intended for minor correction of the paint - by this we mean removing any swirling or scratching that (hopefully!) you haven't got. The only time I really need correction on the Mk7 is thanks to bird poo etching - however fast I am getting it off, it still does damage. Another good product is Autoglym Super Resin Polish - but this is more of a filler product than a cutting product. It fills up scratches and swirls rather than physically 'moving' the paint like an abrasive polish will with its cut.
Apply Lime Prime (or Lite if your paint is A1) using a foam applicator, allow to haze and then buff off. The finish it leaves feels amazing to the touch, and should remove any minor paint defects you have. It can also be applied by machine polisher, but that's not what this thread is about!
Simply put, waxes and sealants break down into the following groups:
Hard Wax - such as Autoglym High Definition, Dodo Juice Blue Velvet, Swissvax Best of Show
Soft Wax - such as Dodo Purple Haze
Liquid Wax - such as most Turtle Wax products
Spray Wax - Such as Duragloss Aquawax
Liquid Sealant - such as Autoglym Extra Gloss Protection
Paste Sealant - such as FK1000P
Spray Sealant - Such as Dodo Red Mist
Waxes are usually natural products, based on Carnauba wax, a very hard natural wax that costs a fortune! It's immensely hard stuff, and in it's raw form is no good to us. Wax makers blend it with other products to create their different recipes. Sealants tend to be synthetic, and are therefore also much cheaper.
Wax or Sealant?
There is no right answer to this - conventional wisdom seem to be wax for summer and sealant for winter. I wax all year round, mainly because I enjoy applying waxes more. Whatever you choose, the methods of application are similar.
What is colour charging?
You will see the Dodo name a lot on FOC. You'll also notice that there are LOTS of waxes made by them - all supposedly for different colours of paint. Remember that ANY DODO WAX CAN BE USED ON ANY CAR. The makers have simply tested their formulas on specific colours and like the effects. It's also partly a marketing thing - people (such as me) like to collect the pretty post!
Hard, soft or something else?
In my opinion - hard and soft. I like to layer some hard wax and then top it with soft. Current magic formula for me on my white Mk7 is Autoglym High Definition topped with Dodo Purple Haze. The hard wax is very durable, the soft gives the excellent shine and 'wetness'. Liquid wax - one word - no. The durability of most liquid waxes is dreadful - it'll be gone in a week. A hard/soft combo will last you three months, especially if topped up.
What is waxing topping?
I like to add a final coat of something on top of my soft wax - a sacrificial layer that will degrade before anything else. My personal product of choice is Duragloss Aquawax, but Red Mist is also great. Spray on, buff off, job done. It is this that is topped up every time I do a minor detail. Prewash, wash, spray wax is my top up routine every week or so.
Don't forget your tyres - finish off with some tyre dressing and seal your wheels if you didn't earlier.
You may also like to enhance your plastic trim with something like Autoglym bumper care. Believe it or not, peanut butter is also an excellent trim restorer.
I go over the inside with some APC and the hoover.
Glass should be cleaned with a good glass cleaner (I use Megs again) and then sealed if you wish. Rain X is good stuff, the water flies off with no need for wipers!
If you have metal on the car (that excludes chromed plastic like on the Mk7 Titanium and Zetec!) I polish this up with something like Dodo or Megs metal polish.
I'll add to this in time I hope, I've probably forgotten all sorts!