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Premium Member
11,360 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So you want to detail your car the proper way? Far to often I hear people offer "details" for $65. What you get is a job where a semi-experienced person spends 3 or so hours on your car using Armor All products and the door jambs arent even done. This guide is a list of products as well as a step by step method on how I personally get the job done.

First things first, SUPPLIES! If you want to detail like a pro, you will need all of the necessary products. I will also provide links to everything.


Wet/Dry Shop Vacuum [LINK] $80
Rigid makes a great wet/dry vac/blower. Perfect for beginners.

Pressure Washer [LINK] $160
Having a pressure washer not only does a much better job at cleaning but it uses less water and cuts rinsing time in half. Having a heated washer is also nice and help make a stained floor mat look brand new. (Unable to get a pressure washer? A garden hose will work)

Buffer [LINK] $200
At the end of the day if the car wasnt buffed, it wasnt detailed. Even a brand new car can sometimes have one of those pesky scratches that needs to be compounded out. Makita makes my favorite buffer. If you have never buffed before this is the best opportunity to learn as its far easier than you think. (Unable to get a buffer? You can still use compound / polish on a clean cotton rag by hand)

5 Gallon Wash Bucket with Grit Guard [LINK] $20
If you dont have a wash bucket with a grit guard you need to get one. The grit guard is a plastic piece that goes on the bottom of the bucket which allows dirt and debris to settle without getting stuck in the bristles of your brush. Protects against swirl marks. (No Grit Guard? Just be careful to not let the brush touch the bottom of the bucket)

Wash Wand / Mitt [LINK] $40
It is good to have both. If you are going to get a brush on a wand than make sure the bristles are very soft. Boars hair is a good option over polyester. Also, I linked my favorite hand mitt made with merino wool.

Alright, if you have the equipment necessary now its time to move on to the products section. These products are ones that I have used personally over the years. You might have a product that you swear by which is fine, but I suggest giving these ones I list a look. Also, I advice AGAINST Armor All products and ill explain why at the very bottom of the post.


Microfiber Cloths
There are many different and equally important types of Microfiber cloths and you need them all. It is best to always have an ample amount of each type and always make sure to keep them separated. Dedicate certain cloths for certain jobs.

Flat Pile [LINK]
Best suited for glass.

Short Pile [LINK]
Great general purpose cloths. Cheap and great for soiled areas like mufflers, wheels, door jams ect.

Medium Pile [LINK]
Safer on delicate surfaces. Better at catching and holding dust. Ideal for removing wax.

Long / Plush Pile [LINK]
The most delicate of them all. Better for drying cars, cleaning dust especially on delicate items.

Waffle Weave [LINK] Waffle weave is good for glass but ideal for drying. It has excellent water absorption.

Wax Applicator Pads [LINK]
Microfiber, Foam and Cotton pads all work well. Definitely have quite a few of these.

Brushes [LINK]
These are ideal for many reasons. Great for lifting hair and dirt from rugs that a vacuum otherwise couldnt get. Used also for removing stains from cloth/carpet.

General Purpose Cleaner (GP) [LINK]
This is the "Simple Green" you always wanted. I prefer butyl based products as it seems to be the best for cutting dirt/grime. I usually dilute this with half water and it works really well. Makes dirty tires look brand new. Spray directly onto stains and brush away.

Rubber / Vinyl Cleaner & Conditioner [LINK]
This is the replacement for your "Armor All Shine" that you want, except this product comes with a UV protectant, fortified with aloe which helps restore everything from dry rubber to old leather. Leaves an ideal shine and fresh scent.

Clay Bar [LINK]
There are 2 different "grits" of clay. For a beginner I suggest the most mild one. Clay bars are a must after a good wash and before a buffing / waxing. This removes all the particles a wash couldnt such as overspray, hard water and acid rain spots, industrial fallout, brake dust, ect. Industrial fallout are those little specs that stick into your finish and cause little rust spots.

Clay Bar Lubricant [LINK]
Please do not use soap and water. Get yourself a nice clay bar lubricant like the Meguiars M34.

Ph Balanced Car Wash [LINK]
Ph Balanced Wash will ensure the easiest wash for your finish. This particular product is great especially if you have to wash in the sun.

Wheel Acid [LINK]
This is an absolute must for wheels. Nothing will cut wheel grime and brake dust like this stuff. Be careful on cheap finishes. Always dilute and never let it sit on the wheels for longer than a few minutes. Do not used on polished aluminum. Use Gloves and do not wear prescription glasses while using this product as overspray will damage the lens. Works well on the tires with GP.

Tire Shine [LINK]
This is a tried and true product. Great shine, lasts long and does not sling off the tires.

Buffing Products:
Compound and Polish are a must. Ultrafine Polish is best suited for black vehicles.

Rubbing Compound [LINK]
Machine Polish [LINK]
Ultrafine Polish [LINK]

Paste waxes take a little longer to apply and dry but are tried and true. Synthetic waxes / sealants are usually applied after buffing but can be used as general waxes.

Paste Wax [LINK] [LINK 2]
Those are my two favorite paste waxes. Meguiars Gold Class is one of the best paste waxes for black vehicles that I have ever used. Very easy on and off. Caranauba can make wax removal more difficult. Turtle Wax Ice is one of the few paste waxes that you can also use on plastic and rubber. Its also one of my favorite paste waxes but its hard to find in stores in paste form.

Synthetic Wax / Sealant [LINK]
This is the best liquid wax/sealant I have ever used in terms of its ease of application and removal and the longevity of the product. There are many great synthetic waxes out but youd be hard pressed to find a much better product.


My personal Step by Step Guide:

GP Wash Door Jams
Remove Floor Mats
Vacuum Seats / Rugs
Vacuume Floor Mats outside of car
Treat Stains with GP (if any)
Damp Wipe All Panels / Dash
Brush and Remove Stains with soapy water
Extract Water (remember to clean out vacuum and remove filter)
GP Wash All Panels / Dash (and leather seats)
Condition and Shine All Panels, Dash (and leather seats)
-It is important when using products on your interior to spray the product onto the cloth you are using and not the panel-
Wipe Instrument Cluster and Center Console with a Clean Microfiber Cloth (Dash and Panels for matte look)
Fill Wash Bucket With Soap and Water
Spray Acid onto the wheels and tires
Spray GP onto tires and inside wheel wells
Rinse off wheels, tires and wheel wells
Rinse Entire Car Thoroughly
Spray GP directly onto areas of exterior panels with bugs and tar
Wash car starting from the top working towards the bottom
Rinse Entire Car Thorougly
Allow car to drip dry for a few minutes
Dry car off with plush micro fiber or waffle weave
Finish wipe jams
Inspect finish for scratches and / or contamination
Spray Lubricant and Clay Bar all contaminated areas on panels (work on small areas at a time, wiping dry immediately after)
Buff or Rub out any scratches with Rubbing Compound and Polish (use proper buffing pads if possible)
Wipe exterior thorougly with plush microfiber cloth
Apply your desired wax
Allow paste wax 20~ minutes or so to completely dry, Synthetic Waxes can be wiped off immediately
Wipe off wax panel by panel
Go over the car one more time with plush micro fiber towel
Make sure door jams have no dust from wax
Apply Tire Shine

Other Tips:

Spray GP Directly onto anything that looks too gross to touch
Wheels can be clay barred and waxed as well
Windows can be clay barred
Most Industrial Fallout will be on the bottom half and rear of the car and will appear like little specs of rust but are actually pieces of metal embedded into your paint. The clay bar safely and quickly removes this whereas washing or even GP will not.
Wetsand headlights with 1000 grit sandpaper and buff with compound and polish to restore them completely

Eventually I will be posting pictures of each step as well as how to detail and engine bay.
I hope this helps some people out there! Thanks for reading!

Premium Member
7,417 Posts
Nice Travis! Good to see some fresh content in here. I wanted to add a few neat detail tips myself that I use.

Over the course of a summer most of us will pick up tar deposits from fresh paved roads as well iron and other metal deposits. There are two great products you can use to decontaminate your wheels. Tar X and Iron X. You simply spray onto them onto your wheels (make sure no plastics/decals) then let them sit for 5-10 minutes and you'll see the products bleed off all the contaminants with a purple dye. Rinse it off and wipe the wheels down. Be sure to do this outside as the chemicals are extremely strong, also wear gloves as they are acidic/corrosive. However, they won't damage car paint/wheel paint etc. Just be careful around plastics.

After I use a product called Poorboys wheel sealant. It's basically a wax for your wheels that prevents brake dust from sticking to your wheels. So anyone with gold/white or any colour wheel this is nice to apply as the wheels stay fresh looking. When brake dust gets built up really bad it rinses with ease. It can be applied by hand or by a small buffer disc.

I've done this to a few sets of wheels that looked aged and afterwards they look as if they were brand new.

Premium Member
11,360 Posts
Discussion Starter #3

Okay so you are in the mood to give your cars paint a makeover and dont want to or have access to a buffer or even "professional" products? Just go to your local store that sells car cleaning supplies and follow these steps and your cars finish will thank you for it afterwards.

Things youll need:

6-8 clean medium pile microfiber towels
a soft clay bar
2 wax applicator pads
meguiars quick detail spray (as clay lubricant)
meguiars cleaner wax (liquid form if possible)
meguiars gold class carnauba paste wax

1. Wash your car as thoroughly as possible
2. Grab a microfiber towel and fold it in 4ths. Tear small piece of clay off of the bar and knead it into a half dollar sized circle
3. Working on small sections at a time spray a good amount of quick detailer on the panel and clay bar and rub on the panel lightly in a back and forth motion. Once clay bar surface gets soiled just continue to fold it into itself.
4. Once you are done each section wipe clean with the microfiber cloth and move onto the next section.
5. Once your car is clayed it will be noticeably smoother and at this point completely stripped and bare.
6. Apply Meguiars cleaner "wax" onto the entire car. The cleaner wax is a synthetic blend of polymers that will remove light swirls and scratches and create a strong seal that wax can not.
7. Wait 20 minutes or so and wipe the sealant off. Youll notice right away that a good amount of those swirls and scratches are gone. Wait 12 more hours for the sealant to create a complete bond.
8. Once the sealant is bonded properly it is time to wax. Carnauba is an actual wax rather than a man made sealant which will further enhance the color and hide swirls and scratches. Coat the entire car in gold class, wait one hour and remove.
9. After you remove the wax from the surface, go over the entire car one more time with a clean microfiber towel. This will help polish the wax on the surface.


The best products to use if you could order them online are Meguiars M21 Sealant and M26 Wax.

Sealants and Waxes bond completely differently and are usually made with totally different blends of chemicals, cleaning agents and wax. Sealants last longer as they have a stronger bond and a much higher temperature resistance. Because the bond is different it takes a bit of time for it to completely cure. A true wax, or carnauba wax has no abrasives or cleaning agents and thus less capability of actually removing swirl marks but helps in hiding them as well as better capabilities of bringing out the color. Combining the two ensures a complete seal to your finish and the best overall look. Do not apply the sealant on a waxed surface as it will not bond nearly as well.

447 Posts
Thanks for a comprehensive listing of products and how to methods when detailing. When polishing i use the Menzerna line as well as the sealant they sell as i now only use waxes for non- daily drivers, sealants are more durable and ease of use is great.
Wheels varies depending on condition and type of wheel. Sonax Full Effect albeit expensive does a great job also and safe.
Tires i started usuing the Turtle wax Endura Kit, they make the tires look with a slight sheen and you will get at least a solid month with no sling and dries to touch in a short period of time so no dusting sticking to the tire. Don't use a strong chemical to clean the tire for matinence,soap and water is fine.
After washing vehicle i use a leaf blower to get the water out from all the tight spaces.
Keep on detailing.
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