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The quality of your paint and how clean your car is can help its resale value, and it’s an important consideration for those in the car buying process. It can also save you money. Also, it’s a very nice thing to walk out to your car and see the reflection of its surroundings in the paint, free of scratches. Detailing can be a very cathartic activity that can help you save money and water over a conventional car wash. Moreover, it can be a great way to spend time with friends or family on a nice summer day.

You need buckets and clean cloth for detailing

A yellow microfiber, commonly used for detailing, sits on the window of a wet car
Use clean rags to dry your car | Frank Rumpenhorst via Getty Images

So, let’s start with the basics: getting your car detailing supplies. The nice thing about buying your own kit is, the only cost associated with detailing your car is now that of consumables like wax and water. First, you’ll need two buckets. One to dip your rag or mitt in, and another for rinsing it in. Make sure the mitt you have is microfiber and kept clean. Here, a plastic bag is helpful for keeping off dust while detailing.

Those little bits of dust and grime are what can really ruin your car’s paint. At a conventional automatic car wash, the parts that touch your car are rarely clean and will scratch the paint. This is especially true if you live somewhere with harsh winters. If you drive an SUV or a taller vehicle, there are plenty of microfiber scrubbers that come mounted to a pole, perfect for cleaning your roof.

Wax and clay bar your car

A red can of Mother's car wax
Quality polishing is everything | Photo by John Mutrux via Getty Images

Most know that keeping your car shiny involves waxing it. Pop culture is full of dads in old white tennis shoes shining their sports cars in the driveway. However, what the movies don’t show is arguably the most important part of keeping your paint clean: a clay bar. If you’ve just detailed your car, run your hand over the paint. It’ll likely feel almost rough to the touch. That’s because there’s still grime there.

The purpose of clay bars is to remove that from paint before the waxing process. Once again, it’ll help keep your paint free of the scratches common on other vehicles. The quality of a clay bar doesn’t matter terribly, so please don’t feel the need to go out and sell a kidney for one. Wax is another story. Quality wax will keep your freshly detailed car clean even after the wildest of rainstorms. Just don’t use too much and keep the applicator clean, using a plastic bag just like your wash mitt.

Clean your engine bay

The spotless engine bay of a BMW M3
A clean engine bay helps with cooling | Photo by Mark Elias via Getty Images

Finally, though it doesn’t keep your paint clean, it’s too important to leave out. Layers of dirt can coat your motor over time, making your life and your mechanic’s much harder. A dirty engine is a hot engine. It’ll also be hard to diagnose any leaks if your motor looks like the bottom of your shoe. Just make sure to cover any electronics, like your battery, as well as the air intake. With these tips in mind, it won’t be hard to keep your ride looking fresh, which can help its resale value. No one wants a dirty car, so keep yours clean.


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