Updated: May 27, 2015

Car Detailing - DIY:

At some point most of us have had to sell a used car and we wanted to get top dollar for the sale. A good car detailing is something that most experts would agree helps in getting your car to sell quickly. Nobody wants to buy a car that is dirty, neglected, scratched, and has filthy upholostery on the interior. Most places that detail cars are at least $100 and several that we looked into were upwards of $200 for a full service which general included a wash, wax, polish, interior cleaning of carpets and seats (leather or upholstered), and rims/wheels. There are dozens of car care kits available on sites like Amazon.com which allow the car owner to do the detailing themselves and eliminate the need for a professional detailing service. Many of the car cleaning kits cost about $20 to $50 and some that do a really good job on leather interiors will run you closer to $100. Keep in mind that you can detail your car many times over with these kits, so the cost per cleaning in terms of supplies is very minimal. It's your time that is the valuable part of the equation.


What do you need in order to detail your car at home? Firstly, you need a decent vacuum that has enough suction to get into small places on the inside of your vehicle. You'll need attachments that let you clean between seats, under the seats, in your trunk, and in all the small crevices that exist these days with cup holders, center dash consoles, and where removable 3rd row seating goes. You'd be surprised at how messy a cars interior can get when you have kids that eat and drink in the car. My kids treat our cars like a trash can half the time and it drives me crazy. I usually detail our 2 cars twice a year to keep them in pristine condition so their resale value remains high. Besides a good vacuum, you'll need a sponge or two, glass cleaner, micro fiber towel, a wash mitt, polish cream, car wax, leather cleaner, and car wash shampoo and conditioner. A tire protectant is another product that helps keep them lasting as long as possible. Expect to spend at least 1 1/2 hours cleaning your car from top to bottom and maybe more (depending on how well everything goes). Start with your interior and remove all floor mats so you can vacuum up the entire inside of the car. We found an excellent website that runs down all the car care cleaning supplies and "how to" cleaning steps HERE. Popular Mechanics also ran an article on "detailing cars" but that was in 1998. Although it is dated a bit, the article still supplies the basics in terms of what to do. Another great article was done by Consumer Reports and can be read online HERE. CR talks about cleaning the trim, fabric, glass, hard surfaces, and leather. If you generally wash your car at home and don't take it to the car wash and pay the $10 to $20 to get it cleaned, then consider one of the car care kits below. For the top rated car care kits go here.

Car Care Kits:

If you search around the Internet and in car supplies stores, you will find many car care products for sale. Which ones are really the best? Amazon lists the Meguiar's Complete Car Care Kit ($45) as one of the most popular car care kits on the market. You get things like car wash shampoo, conditioner foams, gold class wax, tire protectant, interior detailer, microfiber towel, wash mitt, clam shell for clay, foam applicator pad, and more. Meguiar has a solid name in this industry and several of their other products sell especially well on Amazon and other consumer auto product websites. Another product we saw listed on several car care websites is the Adam's Essential Kit which sells for almost $100 and is meant for a thorough renewing of any car but it seems that those with older, more classic cars recommend it. The Sparkle Auto Car Wash Kit ($26) is a good basic car care product with sponges, towels, wash mitt, car wash soap, and glass cleaner. The average car owner would do well with this kit since it covers all the necessities.


Cleaning the Exterior of your Car - Wax and Polish

After you wash your car with soap and water, then you need to wax and polish it to a nice shine that will last. The best car waxes on the market (Consumer Reports rated them) are Black Magic Wet Shine Liquid Wax BM48016, Turtle Wax Carnauba Wax T-6, Mothers California Gold Original Formula Carnauba Cleaner Wax, and 3M Perfect-it Show Car Liquid Wax 39026. A good car wax should provide excellent gloss, good durability, prevent scratching and hazing, and it should be compatible with plastic. You can read lots of reviews on Amazon and Epinions. For the best selling car wax go online here.



Interior cleaning of your automobile:

If you have leather on the interior of your car it's definitely easier to clean than upholstery is. My first car was a Saturn SL2 and the seats were all upholstered. Cleaning them has not been too difficult, but compared to the leather interiors of my Mercedes or Chevy Tahoe it was much harder. I use Armor All Leather Protectant for my cars interiors and it works really good. Sometimes the seats are a bit too slippery after using it, so I cut down on the amount of spray I use. With a cloth, it's easy to spray the seats and clean them up in minutes. There are "wipes" you can use as well that clean the interior also. I found they are good for some of the smaller crevices in between the seats where food and grime tend to build up. For those with upholstery on the interior of their cars, we say "good luck" with cleaning all the messes that could occur. We found a very informative site with cleaning tips and secrets for almost all spills and messes. Go HERE to read up on what to use to clean things like lipstick, ink, food, mold, mildew, and even pesky odors that are hard to get rid of.