DIY Car Detailing

best auto detailing tips

Welcome to DIY car detailing where I reveal the essentials of cosmetic car care that is based on my operating method of maximum results, produced with minimal effort. Today we are not only buried with far too much information, but we are drowning in a dizzying array of car care products. Any trip down the car care aisle will make your head spin in anxiety as you are bombarded with an never ending display of flashy packaging and hyped-up slogans; all with great intent on separating you from your money. Experience has shown that many people find themselves frozen with doubt and anxiety as to what to do and how to do it. While my entire site is dedicated to the Do-it-yourself crowd regardless of level of skills, I am going to lay the ground work on this page towards basic understanding of cosmetic car care and auto detailing. Learning the basics is always recommended and a good way to enter without getting overwhelmed.

diy car detailing

  • I don't have much time; what is the bare minimum I can get away with Darren?
  • What techniques can save me a boat load of time and effort?
  • What products are worth a darn?

Car Paint Care Made Simple

Since most people seem to be most concerned with their cars paint, we will start here. I have compiled a list of the essentials over to the right in the third column; most of these products are from Meguiar's. They work, I use them, and I recommend them. I personally keep all these different versions contained in the right column for my personal and professional use. You can pick and choose based on your needs and what you are working on. By having all these items as part of your DIY car detailing efforts, you will have the essentials for 99% of you out there. You would be very surprised at the amazing efforts you were able to get just by following the basics of car paint care:

  • Wash car weekly.
  • Clay bar to remove pollution from paint.
  • Wax car with car wax or paint sealant every 2 months.
  • Use spray wax or spray detailer weekly after car washings as a wax extender and visual enhancer.

diy car detailing

The good news is, proper paint care can be had without too much grief on your part. By learning to get maximum results with minimal effort, you can spend more of your time enjoying a clean car, and less time getting there with the right DIY car detailing tips.

  • Waxing your paint is done for two reasons: protection and enhancement.
  • Stripping old wax before applying new wax is unnecessary; even when applying a paste wax over a polymer sealant.
  • Paste waxes offer the most "bang for your efforts" visually.
  • You can wax your car as often as you like for visual enhancement; over-waxing is a myth.
  • Meguiar's Ultimate Paste Wax is an exceptional product that will produce amazing results!
  • Spray waxes offer a great addition to paste waxes. This version from Meguiar's provides excellent results and is as easy as it gets! I use it weekly on black cars for the ultimate in visual enhancement and ease of use.
  • Use clay bar as needed for silky smooth paint; this will be needed every 2-6 months based on the air quality where you live.

Tips for the Interior

Cleaning and maintaining your car upholstery can be even more basic and straightforward. A few simple tools and one single product can accomplish 95% of the entire DIY car detailing process for your cars interior.

diy car detailing

Choosing an auto interior shampoo is not an area that needs over-thinking; they are by design, overly mild. They are built to be overly idiot proof, which makes them ineffective when it comes to heavy dirt. But they are sufficient when it comes to light duty cleaning and general maintenance. If you never let your cars interior get out of hand, any other product will never be necessary.

Detailer's Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Detailer's Carpet & Upholstery Cleaner

Natural Tampico Upholstery & Carpet Scrub Brush

Natural Tampico Upholstery & Carpet Scrub Brush

Clean Vent Kit

Clean Vent Kit

  • For general cleaning, simply spray terry cloth rag with cleaner and wipe down your cars upholstery with firm pressure; notice the amount of dirt lifting by just doing this.
  • For heavier duty cleaning, spray area first, scrub, and mop up with rag aggressively.
  • Use detailing brush for dusting of gauges and vents.

DIY Car Detailing Schedule

Keeping your car looking show room shape year after year is not brain surgery. Maintaining the right schedule, done in a consistent manner is all that is required.

  • Wash car weekly. I recommend outsourcing this chore to your local car wash.
  • By outsourcing the car washing duties, you now get to spend this extra time doing the fun stuff of actual detailing.
  • Clay bar the paint to remove embedded pollution and for a smooth finish.
  • Whenever your paint has any form of texture, use the clay bar prior to waxing.
  • Use a paste wax for visual enhancement as often as you have the energy; recommended every 2 months.
  • The older I get, the less energy I have, so I reach for a spray wax to enjoy the winning combination of benefits: ease of use, enhancement, and protection.
  • Spray waxes are engineered to be so user friendly, I find I want to use them every week after washing; this is also good practice for maintenance between car wax applications.
  • Vacuum interior every week.
  • Wipe down interior upholstery once a month.
  • Shampoo floor mats as needed.
  • Shampoo high traffic areas with shampoo and scrub brush.

Hopefully, you have come to the conclusion that DIY car detailing is much less confusing, and more basic than you had originally thought. Many enthusiasts want to race to more advanced auto detailing like machine polishing or hand polishing. If you first learn the basics you will have better understanding for the rest and you might just find like so many other people, that you don't have to go any further than this!

"It's a jungle out there; treat accordingly."

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Darren's Picks for Amazing Paint

Use any of the links below to shop for my personal recommendations. I have personally tested each of these products in the real world of my auto detailing business and these products promise you professional results. While there are many products available, I have simplified this process for you with my list below.


Meguiar's Professional Clay

Detailing clay is a critical and mandatory step in proper paint care. Use the Meguiar's Professional detailing clay to remove airborne pollutants that embed themselves into your cars paint. The professional way to prep your paint for a glass smooth finish to be used prior to waxing.

Meguiars Professional Detailing Clay

Meguiars Professional Detailing Clay


Meguiar's Ultimate Paste Wax

By combining synthetic polymers and formulating into a paste wax, you get the ultimate in beauty and protection. Perfect for dark colored cars for depth and glossing. Polymer technology creates a durable layer of protection guaranteed to outlast traditional carnauba paste waxes.

Meguiars Ultimate Paste Wax

Meguiars Ultimate Paste Wax


Meguiar's Polymer Sealant

For the ultimate in durability and protection, nothing lasts longer or holds up to the elements better than polymer technology. Perfect for use on boats, RV's, or light colored cars when protection is your first goal. With the ease of use in liquid form, wax less often with this advance polymer sealant.

Meguiars Mirror Glaze #20 Polymer Sealant

Meguiars Mirror Glaze #20 Polymer Sealant


Meguiar's Ultimate Quik Wax

Meguiar's Ultimate Quick Wax is a spray detailer and wax all in one. Use as a stand alone wax after using the clay bar, or to enhance and refresh any wax already on your paints finish. This product is so easy to use, and very light in consistency, I actually use this as a Quik Detailer; this way I am also getting added wax protection and enhancement each time. Recommended for any dark colored cars after washing for added depth and glossing. Ideal for hot climates, as can be used in direct sunlight on hot paint.

Meguiars Ultimate Quik Wax

Meguiars Ultimate Quik Wax


Griot's Garage Micro Fiber Cloths

If you are new to micro fiber, you are in for a big treat! These amazing wonders have completely replaced the ageless staple of baby diapers as the universally accepted tool for wax removal. So versatile, you will find many other uses for them also. I simply reserve a number of these cloths for wax removal only.

Griot's Garage Micro Fiber Wax Removal Cloths, 3 Pack

Griot's Garage Micro Fiber Wax Removal Cloths, 3 Pack


Water Sprite Chamois

The exact chamois I have used professionally for over twenty years; still the best! I like this over-sized version that I cut in half; one half is reserved for freshly washed cars, the other half for dirtier jobs like wiping door jambs. Simply hose out with pressure when they get dirty. All the benefits of natural chamois, with none of the drawbacks! An absolute must for every "Driveway Detailer".

Water Sprite Plus® Chamois  4 sq. Feet

Water Sprite Plus® Chamois 4 sq. Feet


California Car Duster

One of my personal favorites and an absolute must! Whether you are a die hard enthusiast, or someone looking to just keep their car looking great with minimal effort. Enhance the love affair with your car and extend the time between washings by using the proven California Car Duster.

California Duster Combo

California Duster Combo