Efficiently Detail Your Car

0. Car Detailing Tips
1. Recommended Car Detailing Products
2. Recommendations for time versus cost trade offs
3. How to wash a car
4. How to get an great shine
5. How to clean the interior of the car
6. How to maintain the shine

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I read in detail what it takes to get a great shine, and frankly it's an overwhelming amount of work to me. Most people estimate the time at 6-10 hours. Knowing me, it's probably longer with lower quality! Finally some of these products are best applied with a random orbital buffer, and that's a pretty scary idea to me. Let me summarize everything must be done for paint in good condition (but add step 4 for damaged paint):
    1. Use two buckets to properly and carefully wash the car,
    2. Dry with a waffle weave microfiber towel,
    3. Using plenty of lubricant and small 3" X 3" pieces of clay remove the contaminants that remain working a panel at a time. Remember to fold the clay frequently,
    4. For bad paint jobs, polish the oxidation, and remove scratches. I wont even consider going there!
    5. Apply the paint prep wax,
    6. Apply the wax,
    7. Apply the special shiny final wax.
So, for detailing the paint I decided to hire a professional car detailer. I'm opting to maintain the paint myself with a combination of waterless wash, a well regarded automatic car wash, and hand washing. I'll continue to apply the final coat of wax with each washing to maintain the shine. I estimate this maintenance to be around 20 minutes of work per week.

Remember this whole thing started when I ran the car though a car wash. So yes, just using a car wash misses a lot of potential niceness. I mean a lot.

Cleaning the interior of the car was far less scary. I don't have heavily stained carpets or I might consider having a professional clean those stains. Careful vacuuming, cleaning of surfaces with simple green, and dressing of vinyl and leather surfaces only took around one hour initially. Weekly or bi-weekly touch ups take around 20 minutes. That's definitely within my abilities and time budget.

I'm not very fussy about my tires, so those will get washed when I go through the car wash and I'll occasionally dress them with their own applicator using the vinyl conditioner.

Going forward, every 6-12 months I'll have the exterior detailed again including clay and various waxes. I hope to never need serious polishing since I'll be maintaining the car regularly.

The result should be under $100 in various chemicals and materials. Semi-annual to annual exterior detailing should cost around $160.

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