While washing a vehicle is a common practice, it is only one step in proper exterior detailing. A complete exterior detail job will not only make your vehicle look its best, it will help protect your vehicle for years to come. Best of all, a basic exterior detailing job only requires 3 to 4 steps, and can be done at home in a weekend.Wash and Dry
The goal of washing is to remove contaminants that lie on the surface of your paint without causing any scratching or damage to your paint in the process. For best results, a mitt made from sheep skin and a wash solution designed specifically for automotive finishes should be used, as household sponges tend to trap contaminants and cause scratching; and dish soaps will strip away wax and dry out rubber and plastic trim. Using two buckets, fill one with wash solution and the other, simply fill with water, as this will be used for rinsing. Wet the car using a hose and spray nozzle and wash one panel at a time, making sure to keep the vehicle wet to prevent water spots. Be sure to not apply any downward pressure, and work from the top down. Once finished, rinse the vehicle and dry using a waffle weave micro fiber towel.Clay Bars
If your finish is noticeably rough or bumpy, you may need to use a clay bar to remove contaminants trapped in the paint itself. A clay bar is a synthetic clay-like bar that when used with a proper lubricant, will glide along the surface and remove contaminants such as metal particles, tar and industrial fall out. Work on one panel at a time and move in a back and forth motion with generous lubricant while making sure to flip over the clay every few strokes until you can no longer feel contaminants being removed. As the clay becomes dirty, fold it together and re-flatten to ensure a clean surface is being used. It is generally a good idea to rinse the vehicle once you are finished, to remove any left over contaminants or detailer residue.
Sealing and Waxing
Once your paint is clean and free of contaminants, you will want to seal and wax your paint. A sealant offers long term protection and helps protect against damage and oxidation, while wax will help hide minor imperfections and leave your car with a deep rich shine. For best results, both should be used. Apply the sealant or wax to an applicator pad and apply thinly across the panel in a circular motion, allowing 4-5 minutes to dry. Once dry, wipe the area with a micro fiber towel until clean. If using both a sealant and wax, allow 12-24 hours for the sealant to cure before waxing.To maintain a clean, new appearance, quick detailer may be used to remove light dust and dirt between washes, while claying should be done after a full wash; once or twice a month. A typical sealant should last 3-5 months, while most waxes will have a life of about 1-2 months. Repeat within these intervals for best protection.