Auto Detailing – Why Bother

Some time ago an old buddy misjudged a high speed pass on a slippery road and rolled his sedan end over end.  It finally came to rest upside down with all windows broken and hardly a square foot of straight sheet metal. Miraculously the occupants walked away unscathed.

Insurance took one look and said the car was totalled.  Yet when it was sold, battered as it was, people were clamoring for it, and the vehicle fetched over four thousand dollars.

The reason?  Buddy may have been a lousy driver but he was a fanatic about car care.  He was meticulous about both its appearance and its mechanical condition, and everyone knew it.   Auto nuts around town lined up to get the car. The winning bidder, an auto body shop, actually repaired it, and the owner drove it for years.

You wouldn’t wish the above experience on anyone, but it is food for thought.  Looking after your car does make a big difference to its value.  In a mid to high end vehicle, it could be ten thousand dollars; in a few cases, much more.

Detailing is usually described as an extremely thorough cleaning, polishing and waxing of a vehicle.  That means inside, outside, engine compartment, trunk; and in many cases, the wheel wells and underbody.  The primary objective is to obtain a show quality appearance and to enhance the value, but many do it simply because they love their cars, and enjoy pampering them.

A thorough detailing job can be daunting, but it’s not so bad when you take it one step at a time.

Here we go:

1.  Remove the floor mats.  Vacuum the upholstery, dash, rear shelf, floor, trunk, and finally the floor mats.  You will find it easier to get the carpet under the seats if you slide them forward, vacuum, then re-vacuum after you slide them back.

2.  Clean carpet or upholstery stains.  Apply a foam cleanser and rub it in with a damp cloth or sponge.  Allow it to sit for a few minutes then blot dry with a towel.  If the stain doesn’t come out, repeat.  After your final cleaner application, wash the area with a damp sponge and do a final blotting.

3.  Wash the floor mats and apply a dressing like Armour All as appropriate.

4.  Wipe the dash and all other hard interior surfaces with a mild all-purpose cleaner.  Apply an Armor All or equivalent interior dressing.

5.  Use compressed air to blow out all dust from around crevices and knobs.  If air is not available, use a soft long bristled brush.

CLS 63 AMG (C218) 2010

6.  Clean air and heater vents with a brush, then lightly apply spray-on vinyl dressing to make them look brand new.

7.  Spray glass cleaner on windows and mirrors and wipe clean. If window cleaning has been neglected deposits may have built up.  Several remedies are suggested; all work to some degree.  You may need to try more than one.  They include baking soda, cleaner erasers, and scrubbing with a wet fabric softener sheet.

8.  Use leather/vinyl cleaner as directed on appropriate interior surfaces.

9.  Under the hood.  Cover electronic components with plastic. Spray degreaser over the whole engine compartment, then clean off with a pressure washer.  Use a vinyl protectant to dress non-metal areas.

 10.  Wash the exterior with car soap.  Don’t use dishwasher detergent, it can strip polymers and cause surface oxidation.  Avoid direct sunlight.  Work from the top down; wash and rinse one section at a time to avoid letting soap dry.  Use a chamois or micro fibre cloth to towel dry.
11.  Use glass cleaner on outside windows and mirrors.  See number 7 for tips on removing residues.
12.  Get the caked-on dirt and mud off the wheel wells with an all-purpose cleaner and high-pressure water spray. Add a vinyl dressing to the wells for a dazzling effect.
13.  Clean the wheels with a brush and degreaser.  If using specialty wheel cleaners, follow the directions carefully. Acid or alkali based cleaners can damage alloy wheels.  Chrome wheels are best cleaned with a metal or glass cleaner.
AEC Mercedes CLS63 AMG wheel
14.  Apply wax using an orbital buffing machine or by hand.  Rotary buffers may damage the finish.  Use a linear motion, a rotary motion may negate the benefit of the orbital action.  Let the wax dry to a haze then shine with the orbital buffer or by hand.  Door jambs and hinges can be done by hand.
That should do it.  Your car will be the envy of the neighborhood, and if you can keep it up, you will cash in on significantly increased value when it comes time to trade.
AEC 2012 Mercedes

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