There’s a big difference between washing your car and detailing it. A full detail not only makes it look its absolute best, but can help protect the paint, rubbers and chrome from the elements during a typically inclement UK show season. And let’s face it, after the past 12 months we’ll be looking for the slightest excuse to get back behind the wheel of our classics.
Here’s our seven-step guide to home-detailing
Start with the wheels. They get covered in road grime and brake dust and take an age to fully clean. Use a dedicated wheel cleaner and brushes. Don’t forget a fresh bucket and mitt so that you don’t contaminate other areas or pick up grime that can damage your paintwork.
There are plenty of cleaners designed to gently lift off stubborn contaminants, such as insects. Let them soak and then you’re ready for a snow foam treatment, which will loosen particles clinging with grim determination to the body. The more thorough you are at this stage, the more effective the next will be.
It’s important to use the infamous two-bucket method for your car’s deep clean: one filled with a car shampoo and the other with clean water. This will really help avoid creating fresh swirl marks in the paint and will make sure that you’re never reapplying dirty water to an unwashed area of the car – you wouldn’t wee in the bath, so don’t subject your pride and joy to the same deviancy.
Once you’ve completed step three then you’re ready to go to work on the stubborn, ground in bits of dirt such as iron filings, tar and general detritus. Using a product such as an iron dissolver will help with the crucial job of clay baring. For the uninitiated, this is a real eye-opener. Take a small piece of a clay bar and work it until malleable, then rub it over small areas of your bodywork keeping it well lubricated at all times using a detailing solution. Keep folding the piece over to keep the dirt that it picks up away from fresh areas of the bodywork.
Once you’ve finished, wash, rinse and get ready for the next stage.
Don’t underestimate the importance of a thorough dry. Start at the top and work down, making sure you leave each panel with a streak-free finish. You need to work quickly to avoid water spots, but we’ll be tackling those in the next stage.
5. Polish and wax
Polishing by hand is fine, but you’ll get an even better finish with a machine polisher. Unless, that is, you get over-zealous and burn through the paint. It’s worth practicing in a small area, on an unloved car or a spare panel, if you have one lying around from a previous restoration. You can move to waxing now, but a true detailer will apply a glaze at this point, which is designed to reduce the appearance of age-old swirl marks and really make the most of your paint finish.
Waxing is vital to protect all your hard work so far and provide a longer-lasting shine that seals out the elements for longer. It will also make future washes that much simpler.
6. Wheels, trims and glass
You’ve already cleaned your wheels, so now it’s time to protect them using a dedicated product. Going over the window seals, surrounds and bumper trims and chrome is also important at this stage. Don’t forget the glass, which makes all the difference to an otherwise spotlessly detailed classic.
You’re nearly ready to sit back and admire your hard work. The final finish is making sure you’ve not missed any bits, ridding the bodywork of any rogue water spots and marks using a detailing spray and making sure there aren’t any unsightly fingerprints anywhere.
Now roll her back into your shed and wait for it to stop raining.
Do you have any more tips for detailing your classic at home? Let us know in the comments below.