What I’ve learned about car detailing in the last week. Maybe it will be useful to you.

I’ve been a complete ignoramus about car care. (Those tempted to send me a email saying, “Ty, don’t limit yourself to car care” should fight the urge.) My awareness of automotive maintenance has been more or less confined to knowing that oil needs changing every 5,000 miles. (Yes, that 5,000 not 3,000 as the Jiffy Lubes of the world would have you believe. Check the manufacturer’s recommendations if you don’t believe me. Changing every 3,000 is a waste of time and money.)

You know what I thought waxing a car was good for? Appearance. I had no idea that it actually protected the paint. Sure, it makes sense if you think about it. I just never did. I was surprised to find that waxes and sealants did more than make cars shiny. I thought that appearance was all waxing and such was good for. What did I care about such trivialities like how the car looked? Yeah, you know what’s coming: I care a heckuva lot more now.

I’ve been skulking around the Inside & Out Detailing Forum of the Lexus Owner’s Club, trying to figure out what I need to do to care for the ES 300. I’ve learned an awful lot. I’m not quite finished assembling the chemicals or equipment I need to pull this off, but I thought I would list the stuff that’s been recommended because it should be applicable to any car that one wants to maintain.

Note first, however, that I’m talking about really spiffing things up. Your car should look awesome at the end of the process. Now this is a bit of work and a bit of an expense (roughly $50, I think), but you should only have to do it once every six months or so and the $50 you spend the first time will probably get you enough stuff to last you through a couple years.

Here’s the materials list: sheep skin mitt, Dawn dish washing liquid, Clay Magic bar, Meguiars Scratch X, microfiber towels, terry cloth towels, PoorBoys EX Sealant, P21s Concours-look Carnuba Wax, Invisible Glass by Stoner, Novus Plastics Cleaner #1, and Meguiars Endurance Gel.

Here are the steps. Using:

  1. Water, a sheep skin mitt, and Dawn dish washing liquid wash the car to remove any old wax.
  2. Clay Magic bar and using the car wash as a lube, soap a panel, clay it, and rinse until all the ground in dirt is removed and surface glass smooth.
  3. Meguiars Scratch X spot remove any large scratches.
  4. Some type of car polish. Klasse is recommended, but there are others which may be equally good. P21s makes a fine one from what I read.
  5. PoorBoys EX Sealant to lock in all the work you’ve done. You can use the sealants on the rims as well from what I’ve read.
  6. P21s Concours-look Carnuba Wax, wax the car and buff it using a microfiber towel. Do this about 24 hours after the sealant.
  7. Invisible Glass by Stoner, clean all the windows.
  8. Novus Plastics Cleaner #1 clean any exterior plastics (like headlights and tail lights). Highly effective if the plastic has developed a “haze.” You can use #2 or even #3 if necessary, but they get increasingly more abrasive so you’ve got to use them with care.
  9. Meguiars Endurance Gel wipe the tires.

For what it’s worth, the products I’ve listed are those I’ve compiled from the Lexus Owners Club. If you go to Autopia.org you find detailing guys with any number of other recommendations. (Note, however, the consensus that Armor All and Turtle Wax suck.) Interior care comes next. I’m working on it.