What is Exterior Car Detailing?

Exterior Car Detailing is not just a quick washing of the outside of your car. It is an in-depth cleaning and treatment of the exterior of the vehicle. Everyday use, as well as weather and road conditions, can not only affect the appearance of your vehicle but can actually cause damage to your vehicle over time if left untreated. Road salt and even mud can cause corrosion of the paint and rust to occur to the undercarriage of a car or truck. Regular cleaning that addresses these particular issues is necessary to preserve the appearance and integrity of your car’s appearance.

Exterior car detailing includes, at a minimum:

  • thorough washing of the exterior of the vehicle
  • thorough washing of the undercarriage (if the car has been exposed to elements that can lead to corrosion)
  • thorough drying of the car’s body, windows, wheels, and tires
  • applying a sealant to the paint to shine, protect, and fill in scratches
  • cleaning the windows

Additional areas that can be addressed during an exterior car detail are:

  • detail car engine compartment
  • remove tar or paint obtained from wet roads
  • polish headlights, taillights, and chrome pieces

Do I need to hire a professional to detail the exterior of my car?

Not necessarily. Certain factors will determine if you should have a professional clean your car. Along with the time and desire to detail your car, having the appropriate detailing supplies and an adequate location to detail your car should be the first things to consider in deciding whether to hire a professional. Car detailing professionals generally offer a host of services and provide packages that vary in the level of detail provided. These packages are priced accordingly, so you can decide the price point that is right for you.

Where is the best place to detail the exterior of a car?

The best place to detail a car is in a cool, dry place. This can be indoors, such as a garage, but it doesn’t have to be. A carport, portable garage, or car canopy are also good options as they provide shade from the sun. Detailing outside without any kind of cover is also a perfectly acceptable option as long as the weather is conducive and the outside temperature is not too hot. Ideally, you want to wash and wax your car in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid having the product (soap and wax) dry on the vehicle.

What supplies do I need to detail the exterior of a car?

The supplies needed to detail the exterior of a car depend on the level of clean you want to achieve. At a minimum, exterior detailing should include washing, drying, and waxing the vehicle along with cleaning of the windows. To do this, the following products are recommended:

  • Car Wash Soap–Soaps specifically formulated for car exteriors will work best. These soaps, even eco-friendly ones, have the power to remove the dirt and road grime that accumulate on a vehicle.
  • Car Wash Mitt–Wash mitts that are either chenille or wool are going to hold the most soapy water. They’re also going to offer the most protection for your paint as they trap dirt particles, not allowing them to scratch the surface of your car while you wash.
  • Buckets with Dirt Trap–One of the most effective, and most popular, methods for safely washing a vehicle is to use the Scratch-free Wash Method. This method employs two buckets–one for soaping your mitt and one for cleaning the mitt before returning it to the soap bucket. A dirt trap within the rinse bucket is used to help agitate the dirt off of the mitt before loading it with soap and returning it to the vehicle for a scratch-free wash.
  • Hose with Adjustable Nozzle–There are many different types of hoses to detail with, but it all comes down to convenience. Can a garden hose be used? Yes. Are there better hoses that won’t kink or leak, that will stretch further, and have better flow? Yes. If you are a detailing enthusiast, investing in a commercial grade hose will provide a more enjoyable detailing experience.
  • Chamois or Microfiber Cloths for Drying–Great care needs to be taken when drying your vehicle. Many car detailing professionals use a chamois or microfiber cloths for the absorbency and ability to trap any left over debris.
  • Car Wax or Protectant–No exterior detail is complete without the addition of a protectant. These come in the form of waxes, sealants, and coatings. There are many products offered on the market for the home detailer. When using these products it is important to follow the manufacturers suggestions and apply when the car is completely cool.
  • Microfiber Cloths for Applying and Removing Protectant and Cleaning Windows–Microfiber towels are a great tool for applying and removing car wax and other protectants. They remove residue while leaving a lint-free, scratch-free surface with a mirror-shine. These cloths are also great at providing a streak-free shine on windows and chrome surfaces.
  • Window Cleaner–A good window cleaner removes any left over debris that exterior washing did not get and removes any streaks or water spots left during the drying of the vehicle. Commercial window cleaners, when paired with a clean towel, are highly effective at cleaning glass. Most contain ammonia, but some simple DIY formulas that utilize vinegar are just as effective.

Exterior car detailing, although not just a quick washing of the outside of your car, can be done with a few supplies and some know-how. The amount of time you have to dedicate to your vehicle will often dictate how thorough of a cleaning you can allow for. With regular cleaning of your car’s exterior, you can preserve that new-car look or even restore your vehicle to its original shine.