Prep is KEY. The proper way to prep for a detail.
Prepping a vehicle for detailing and paint correction is different from you normal car wash. A car wash is a maintenance service to remove brake dust, dirt, mud, and salt from your vehicle’s surface. Overtime things like iron particles, tar, sap, and a number of other contaminants can build up and embed themselves on the surface of your vehicle, and a normal wash will not get rid of them. This is why proper preparation is important, you don’t want those contaminants on your vehicle when you are trying to perform paint correction.
The wheels and wheel wells are the ideal starting point for your prep. You can remove the wheels to have easier access to the wheel well and suspension, it is not necessary, but will make things much more accessible. For tools and products, we use the Meguiar’s Super Degreaser for the initial cleaning of the wheel well, suspension and brakes. We use and all purpose microfiber to scrub the surface area with the Super Degreaser, and then we go in with a small detail brush and wheel whoolies to get into and clean all the tight spaces. For areas with caked on grease we use Gtechniq w7 Tar Remover and rinse everything off with our pressure washer. You can use a regular garden hose, but a pressure washer will cut your time in half. Depending on how dirty your wheel wells are you repeat this process until a couple more times until your wheel well is super clean.
Once the wheel well is nice and clean we move onto the actual wheels and tires. The wheels will be getting ceramic coated, so we want to make sure they are cleaned well and are rid of any contaminants like brake dust which can build up over time. We start the initial cleaning by rinsing the wheel and then spraying down the wheels and tires with more of that Super Degreaser. We use another all purpose microfiber for the inner barrel and surface of the wheel, then a stiff bristle brush on the tire to clean all the road dirt and brake dust off. For the tough to access areas with a heavy amount of built up brake dust we use Meguiar’s Iron Decon to break down the brake dust and iron particles on the wheel. You spray the Iron Decon on the wheel and let it sit for a little bit then you agitate the dirt with a brush or microfiber mitt. Depending on the severity of the build up you may need to repeat this process several times to completely get rid of the brake dust. For removing tar and adhesive we use the w7 Tar Remover again combined with a plastic razor to help the removal. If the surface of the wheel is still rough, you can use an old clay bar and some soapy water and remove anything else that may be left over.
The next step is to just do a normal hand wash on the car to get rid of the standing dirt and dust. Ideally you will first rinse down the car and then perform a 2 bucket wash. Once the wash is done we move onto the door jams, and often overlooked area when cleaning a car. We use Meguiar’s Citrus Power Plus cleaner and a small one inch soft bristle brush. The process is pretty simple, you spray down the door jams then agitate the dirt with your brush. You can also use a microfiber or a dedicated wash mitt. Once you cover the entire area you just simply rinse it off. If you happen to get any chemicals or water on the interior, make sure to wipe it off right away, if the chemical sits and dries it can cause damage. Once the door jams are done, we move back to the exterior paint of the car. This is where the prep differs from a regular wash. To get rid of built up tar, sap, and other contaminants we mentioned earlier, we start with an iron decon chemical then move to a clay bar. Utilizing both methods ensure that the surface of the paint is clean and free of contaminants. When using an iron decon product, spray it on the car and let it sit for a little bit. When the chemical dissolves the particles it has a reaction and will actually turn purple. We then wash the iron decon in with a mitt, then rinse it off. There are some contaminants that will not be removed with an iron decon like sap and tar. A great option to remove those is with a glue and tar remover like Gtechniq w7. The next step is to use a clay bar, which can be an aggressive option. Depending on the paint using a clay bar can leave marring and swirls, so it’s always a good idea to at least polish your car after using a clay bar. You don’t need the entire clay bar, you can break off a fourth of it and knead it into a pancake shape. You always want to make sure that the surface you’re going to use the clay bar on, is lubricated. You can use soapy water or ONR, and just glide the kneaded clay bar across the lubricated surface, you don’t want to apply a lot of pressure. If you have a lot of contaminants you will feel how rough your paint is, but then it will gradually smoothen out as you use your clay bar. You can use it on any painted surface or glass, we just recommend you don’t use it on any porous plastic as you will end up leaving behind a lot of the clay bar in those grooves which can be difficult to remove. After using the clay bar, depending on how bad the surface of you paint is you will need to fold up your clay bar and knead it out again.
After that is done we do a quick rinse on the undercarriage of the car and then we use a leaf blower to get all the water out of the trim and side mirrors. We then use a microfiber waffle weave towel to dry the car down. The last and final step is what separates the good detailers from the great detailers, and that is double checking your work. You want to go back over every panel and make sure that you did not leave behind and contaminants. After double checking your work and fixing anything you may have left behind, you’re done!!... With the prep. When it comes to detailing it is important to be very meticulous, and we can not stress the importance of proper prep.
Below are links to the products mentioned. For more great products check out carguysupplies.com!
Meguiar's Super Degreaser
Meguiar's Iron Decon
AM Details Clay Bar
CarPro Iron X