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Keeping your car clean is an integral part of vehicle maintenance, and detailing is the way to go to truly clean the outside of your car. Detailing your car’s exterior means more than just taking it to a car wash. To properly detail your car, you must use the right tools and follow the correct procedure.

Why you should keep your car clean

Someone detailing the outside of a car.
Detailing the outside of a car | Getty Images

Detailing the outside of your car gives it a shine that can make it look newer even if it has years of road trips on its odometer. Looking nicer is only one reason to detail your car, though.

Regular washing can help prevent aesthetic damage to your car, as the dust and grime that build up can affect the car’s paint over time. A thorough washing can help keep your car’s paint in pristine condition. In the long run, this can help you keep the value of your car up. A vehicle with nicer paint, fewer scratches, and less rust will appeal more to potential buyers when it’s time to sell.

Clean cars are also safer cars. Every driver knows the importance of occasionally using a squeegee on the windshield while at the gas station, and it’s beneficial to consider cleaning the rest of the vehicle’s exterior as well. You will also clean off the windows and side view mirrors when detailing your car’s exterior. This will provide a clearer view of your surroundings.

Here are the materials needed to detail your car

For a complete detail job, you’ll need the right tools and supplies, and Erie Insurance outlines what you’ll need. To start, you’ll need two buckets filled with water, which will be used throughout the detailing process. It is better to have two rather than one so that one has clean water while the other can be used for soap. 

Next, you’ll need tools to scrub each part of your car’s exterior. Use a microfiber wash mitt when scrubbing most of your car’s body. This will prevent scratches to the paint. For wax, use a foam applicator pad. Microfiber towels can be used for drying and other tasks throughout the process. Lastly, you will want a clay bar, which you will use after cleaning the car but before waxing.

A thorough detailing requires several cleaning supplies. When selecting soap, be sure it is meant for washing cars. These soaps are gentle on paint and wax so they do not damage your vehicle’s appearance. You will need to buy separate wheel cleaner and glass cleaner for your wheels and glass.

How to clean your car’s exterior

First, rinse your car with water to clean off dirt, which helps prevent scratches. After doing this, you will want to move on to the car’s wheels. Unless your wheels are filthy, you can spray your wheel cleaner on and then rinse it when you are finished.

Once you have finished the wheels, it is time to wash the body, so use your soap and microfiber wash mitts to scrub the car from top to bottom. Be sure to rinse each section with clean water after washing. Finally, clean your windows with the window cleaner.

When the car has been thoroughly washed and rinsed, dry it with a microfiber towel. Thorough washing helps prevent water spots. 

You aren’t done yet, though, as waxing helps prevent scratches and keeps the car looking sharp. Before waxing, use your clay bar and a detailing solution to prepare the car for wax. Then, use your applicator pad to wax the outside of your car. 


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