Recommended Car Detailing Products

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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There are countless product lines available for car detailing. There are a few that appear as leading brands suitable for the home user. I will describe a few of the more popular brands, while no doubt excluding some brands that others will argue deserve mention. As one professional told me, "It's like toothpaste. It doesn't matter particularly which brand you pick, just brush daily."

Car detailing has become a chemistry experiment with polymers applied a layer at a time. Consequently each layer applied to a surface interacts with the previously applied layer. For simplicity and minimal problems I recommend you pick a brand and stick with it for all your detailing needs on a particular surface. This is especially true for the polish, sealant, wax, and maintenance phases. So that means you will probably be ok mixing brands for the car wash, clay and clay lubrication phases.

For exterior detailing the brand I recommend most highly, is Jeff's Werkstatt. Many, but not all would agree, but few would consider it a poor product. Some people complain that Jeff's can be a difficult product to apply properly. Everyone mentions that a little bit goes a long way, so apply the amount specified in the instructions. With proper maintenance a Jeff's based paint detail may last as long as a year. I prefer it since with expert application it should last the longest with an excellent visual result. That said the other brands listed below are fine, and many people prefer them! The products I recommend from Jeffs are:

  • AutoBody Wash to clean the car
  • Prep Clay and Quick Wash for surface preparation
  • Prime for polishing and paint preparation
  • Acrylic Jett as a sealant
  • Carnauba Jett to add a wax layer and for regular maintenance.
  • Quick Wash for a waterless wash with a microfiber towel Jeff's Werkstatt is available on the web. Car wash and clay products can probably be a different brand with no problems.
For interior detailing, tires, and anything that Jeff's does not cover I prefer Chemical Guy's products. Again the other brands are just fine too! Everyone has a favorite, but on balance Chemical Guys seems to offer the widest assortment with the most vocally happy customers. Chemical Guys sells in larger quantities so they can be cheaper than Jeff's Werkstatt. You wont go wrong if you choose them. Some recommendations include:
  • Clay bar and lubricant combination
  • Extreme BodyWash and Synthetic Wax/Gloss Enhancer for a carwash
  • Extreme All In 1 polish and Shine Sealant
  • JET Seal109 or FS Pure Acrylic Crystaline High Gloss Sealant for a less expensive option.
  • Extreme VRP Dressing Super Shine for Tire dressing, and Vinyl
  • Pure Leather Conditioner Restore
  • CG Speed Wipe Spray for waterless washing
Meguiar's also provides a marvelous product line. Their NXTs Generation line is well thought of, and commonly available in stores. If you choose these products, the results will be very nice. Sure I favor Jeff's and Chemical Guys by a small margin, but the key is to use the product, and Meguiars is a fine choice with excellent availability. My recommendations for their products: I would be remiss if I didn't mention klasse all in one. This product has been around since the 1970's and is still very popular today. Many people find this a very easy product to put on and take off. It has nice polishing properties as well as sealing and waxing.

Other popular brands include Duragloss which is widely available in stores. Zaino is a very popular product line that many people swear by. Mothers is also loved by it's own following. Finally Klasse and Sonus are also popular. These are all good brands, and if for whatever reason you choose these, it will be fine.

For cleaning the interior use Simple Green cleaner (buy it at the grocery store) diluted 2:1. It works great. Avoid spraying on clear plastic though.

For car washing, if you use the recommended single bucket method you'll need to buy Quick and Easy Wash from Protect All.

Once you have an assortment of chemicals it's time to get applicators and items to dry the car. Everyone seems to agree that rubbing the car with any kind of fabric or material invites scratches and should be avoided. I don't want to do rub or dry since it sounds like time consuming work! Here's where that great surface starts to pay off. Well prepared paint will tend to repel water. So if you're washing by hand a gently running hose with no added pressure from the nozzle can cause the water to sheet off the newly cleaned surface. Just keep adding water to the water that is running off the car. Even using this trick there will still be some moisture on the car that must be mechanically dried. There is much debate in terms of brands and materials for removing that moisture. Some people swear by terry cloth, others microfiber. After much reading, I'm on the side of microfiber. Always move it in one direction since the dirt gets trapped on the back side of the little fibers and this protects your paint from scratches. Scratches reduce glossy great looks and proper technique costs no more time or money, just a little discipline.

So which microfiber to buy? It turns out they are not created equal by any measure. Target carries grey microfiber Vroom brand towels at a good price that most people find acceptable. The other colors at target have uneven quality. Premium brands with consistently happy customers include Viking, Cobra , Meguiar's , Chemical Guys, Jeff's, and Mothers. It is important to have several kinds of microfiber towels for different purposes. I suggest picking different colors for different purposes. I ordered the towel types according to the sensitivity of the cleaning job:
  • Paint drying -- Get Waffle weave microfiber for this job. It seems to work better.
  • Wiping of waxes etc from the paint
  • Waterless washing
  • Interior cleaning
  • Tire cleaning
  • Engine cleaning
To wash the microfiber towels wash them separately in your washing machine with a specialty soap such as Sonus Der Wunder Washe or Chemical Guys Microfiber Cleaning Detergent. Never mix the microfiber towel you use to wash your windows with the other microfiber towels. The polymers will adhere to the glass microfiber towel and then transfer to your window making a mess. Microfiber is a touchy material, so always follow the washing instructions or you'll loose the wonderful properties that make it so good for car care.

For washing the car you'll need three buckets and two lambs wool or microfiber wash mitts. Chemical Guys carries the microfiber type. If you use the alternative single bucket washing method you'll only need one bucket.

Many people now use mechanical means to apply waxes and polishes. The popular tool that most people should be able to use with a minimum of risk is the Porter Cable Random Orbital Buffer model 7336 or the Porter-Cable 7424 . People seem to prefer the 6" version, so stick with that. Remember you'll need a bunch of pads, so be sure to buy those at the same time. Never mix products on the same pad. The non-random buffer is not recommended for amateurs. It's way too easy to make a mistake. Frankly all these tools scare me, so I'm paying someone to use it.

You don't need to buy everything at once. I recommend slowly adding products as you find you're consistently keeping the car looking nice. For example I'm starting with these products for paint maintenance from Jeffs:
  • Prime for polishing and paint preparation
  • Acrylic Jett as a sealant
  • Carnauba Jett to add a wax layer and for regular maintenance.
  • Quick Wash for a waterless wash with a microfiber towel And for maintaining the interior and tires these products from Chemical Guys:
  • Extreme VRP Dressing Super Shine for Tire dressing, and Vinyl
  • Pure Leather Conditioner Restore
  • 3 foam pads for applying the products to the tires, vinyl, and leather.
For everything else, I'm hiring a professional to do the hard trickier work. They are applying my Jeff's products for me. For now I'm not detailing the engine. I intend to hire a professional every six months to a year for the time intensive detail work. I'll probably avoid the wash mitt, two bucket purchase either with a waterless wash or the reputable brushless car wash nearby. I'm considering trying the one bucket washing method that is said to take 20 minutes though. (See how to wash your car).

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