Welcome to our DIY Car Detailing FAQ.
As a car detailer, we frequently get asked questions about DIY car detailing from our customers, friends and family.
There are a variety of reasons why you would want to detail your own car at home and we appreciate that not everyone wants to use a local car detailer so we’re happy to share our experience and advice to help DIY car detailers get the best result when detailing your car.
Here are a selection of the most frequently asked questions about car detailing:
Q: Why should you use car care products, aren’t household cleaners just the same?
A: A quality car care product will clean by gently removing dirt and contaminants when you wash your car whereas household cleaners, such as dish washing liquid, detergents and glass cleaners, use harsh chemicals that might damage your car and remove any wax protection from your paint.
Q: What is the best way to clean my wash mitt, chamois, applicator pads and cloths?
A: The best way is to rinse your wash mitt and chamois under cold water after each use and then to spray them with a jet stream of water across the whole surface again before using to dislodge any dried dirt. If necessary, your wash mitts, chamois, applicator pads and cloths can be machine washed in cold water using laundry liquid and hung in a shaded place to dry but be sure never to use fabric softener. Make sure your applicator pads are completely dry before use since wax and water don’t mix.
Q: How should I store my car care products?
A: The DIY car care products you use at home should be stored in a cool, dry area that is out of direct sunlight. Make sure you always replace lids and close containers securely and ensure that all of your car care products are kept out of reach of children and pets. Avoid storing car care chemicals or products in your car unless the product packaging states that it is suitable to do so.
Q: What car care products should I use to wash my factory matte finish paint.
A: Always consult your vehicle owner’s manual for specific instructions. Our general recommendation is to use a pH neutral non wax car wash and for best results, use a lambswool wash mitt and dry using a quality chamois. Never apply any type of wax or polish product to a matte finish paint surface without the right advice from the manufacturer as it may cause the paint finish to become glossy.
Q: What is pH neutral car wash and why should I use it?
A: A pH neutral car wash is neither acidic nor alkaline and should have a pH level of 7.0, which is almost identical to that of pure water. pH neutral car care products have a gentle cleaning action and don’t use harsh chemicals that can remove your wax protection, cause damage and premature ageing of your car.
Q: Should I use hot or cold water to wash my car?
A: You should use cold to lukewarm water to wash your car and regular temperature tap water is normally good enough. Only use hot water to spot clean small areas or remove stubborn contaminants such as road tar and dried bird droppings.
Q: What is the best way to remove stains, spots and smears on my car?
A: The best way to remove stains, spots and smears from your car is to get rid of them as quickly as possible and before they have had a chance to bake into the paint in the hot sun. If you have stubborn stains, spots and smears then you will need to wash your car and use a surface preparation (like a clay bar) that will safely and deeply clean the surface to remove the contamination.
Q: What causes swirl marks on the paint surfaces of my car?
A: Swirl marks are actually microscopic scratches that appear in the paint finish and are often caused by the use of a buffer with the wrong type of wax, polish or polishing pad. Automatic car washes are a common culprit, especially on late model cars with clear coat paints. Hand application or removal of products using harsh materials, or pads and cloths containing micro abrasives from falling on the ground or improper storage, are also, often the cause of swirl marks on your car. To avoid swirl marks on your car, make sure you thoroughly wash all dirt particles from your car before applying polish or wax and make sure to always use a 100% terry cloth towel to draw out any contaminants on the surface, into the towel, instead of allowing them to scratch the sensitive paint.
Q: How do I remove the rough feeling from your paint?
A: There are many contaminants that can stubbornly adhere to your paint that even a high-quality car wash can’t remove them. In these cases, look at a variety of clay bar products that are specifically designed to remove many of these bonded surface contaminants.
Q: What is the difference between dual action or random orbital polishers vs rotary buffer polishers?
A: A random orbital polisher (also known as a dual action polisher), is specifically designed to fin in an eccentric circular motion. This random, but safe pattern doesn’t apply any torque to the surface and ensures the buffer never concentrates its energy in one spot. Unlike a rotary buffer, which only has a circular motion, where if you are not skilled in its use, you can easily apply too much pressure to the paintwork, burning right through it thus requiring a new paint job.
Q: What is the best way to hide fine scratches in the paintwork on my car?
A: You can improve the visible impact of fine scratches by using a liquid wax product, however we would recommend a surface preparation step, such as a clay bar, to remove the fine scratches from the surface first. If your paint is oxidised or faded, then there are also specialist products you can use to dramatically revive the colour whilst also removing fine scratches and swirls.
Q: What is the difference between washing your car and surface preparation?
A: Washing your car is simply the process of removing loose dirt and grime from your car’s paintwork. Surface prep is a separate process that is designed to safely remove dead and oxidised paint, as well as removing stubborn surface contamination that doesn’t come off during the washing process (e.g. acid rain, stains, tree sap or bird droppings).
Q: Do I need to prep my paint before waxing?
A: Evaluate the condition of your finish first, will allow you to determine the steps needed to prepare it for waxing. There are a variety of subtle surface defects that, if not corrected, can prevent you from restoring that perfect gloss to your paintwork and just because your paint has no major scratches or obvious signs of damage, doesn’t mean its surfaces are as flawlessly smooth as when they were new.
Q: What is the best way to apply polish and wax my car?
A: For the best results, apply wax & polish products to your car with a foam hand applicator pad. Apply small amounts of products on the foam applicator pad and spread a thin, even coat over the paint surface.
Q: Can I wax and polish my car if it has paint protection?
A: Regular DIY car care wax and polish products shouldn’t be used on cars that have paint protection applied. You should check the terms and condition of your manufacturer vehicle warranty before use as polish and wax polish used on cars that have paint protection applied may void the manufacturers warranty if used.
Q: Are there any times when I shouldn’t wax my car?
A: Yes! You shouldn’t wax your car if it has had new paint applied from a smash repair or respray. You should wait at least 8 weeks to allow for the pain to cure and harden before you apply a wax product to protect your paint and make sure you consult the warranty on the paintwork to make sure wax or polish won’t void the repairers warranty as well.
Q: How do I know if my paintwork is clear coated?
A: When using any surface prep products, if you find colour on the pad, then this is an indicator that the paint you’re working on is a single stage finish (acrylic or enamel). The colour that you see is the pigment transferring from the paint to your applicator pad.
Q: Exactly what is clear coat paint?
A: Over 90% of all factory finishes are clear coated these days. A clear coat finish is simply a multi-layer paint system that is comprised of a primer, a base coat (the pigment colour of your car), and a clear coat. Although the clear coat does protect the base coat, it is also very sensitive to scratches and swirl marks because of its non-pigmented, clear layer that allows light to reflect through it.
Q: How long should I let the wax dry on my car?
A: Under normal conditions, it normally takes around 15 to 20 minutes for the was to set on your car. However, if you wipe the finish and notice the product streaks or smears, then you need to allow a little more time for it to harden.
Q: What is the best way to wipe off wax or polish after applying it with an applicator pad?
A: One of the best ways to wipe off polish or wax after applying with an applicator pad is to use a microfibre towel that will allow you to produce the best shine with the least amount of effort and the fewest swirl marks.
Q: Does car polish need to dry?
A: No. Unlike wax, you don’t need to allow polish to dry. You should work it thoroughly into the surface one section at a time and then immediately remove the excess before beginning the next section.
Q: What are the benefits of waxing my car frequently?
A: All of the contaminants from environmental factors such as the catalytic emissions from the cars in front of you, deposit hydrochloric or sulphuric acid particles on the upper surfaces of your car and can take a toll on your car’s paint if the finish is not properly maintained.
Q: Is there any benefit in applying multiple layers of wax?
A: While environmental conditions do demand more frequent waxing these days, to prevent costly damage to the outer layers of paint on your car, we don’t recommend applying multiple layers of wax at any one time. While you might achieve some slight incremental protection with each application of wax, you’ll actually gain greater benefit by spreading the same number of applications over a longer period of time.
Q: How long does wax last on my car?
A: There are a variety of factors that determine the life of a wax finish on your car including the type and colour of paint, the condition of the paint, local environmental conditions, the number of hours your car is exposed to outside conditions as well as the quality of wax used and the method of applying wax to your car. Your best choice in all cases is to rely on the highest quality car care surface products that are available. To ensure you use the best products available, talk to a local car detailer to ensure you get advice on the best DIY car care products to suit your local environment.
Q: What is the difference between wax and polish?
A: A polish is more like a paint conditioner for your car that restores the valuable oils to the paint and eliminates fine scratches while creating an incredible high gloss that isn’t possible with wax. An application of polish should be followed by a wax to protect the shine and extend its life.
Q: How do I clean and maintain tyres on my car?
A: The best way to clean and maintain the tyres on your car is to use a soft bristle brush and scrub the tyres with a car wash solution or non-acid wheel cleaner, then rinse them off with a strong flow of water. After drying, there are a range of tyre shine products that will leave a rich shine and clean the tyre by lifting dirt and grime as it dissolves.
We hope you found these handy car detailing tips for DIY car detailers useful and if you have any questions you’re always welcome to contact us for a chat about the best way to maintain a showroom finish on your car.