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Keep Your Classic Clean and Shiny

Mothers.comPlan ahead for your detailing efforts to get an accurate idea of what can be accomplished. First, evaluate the condition of your vehicle: tires, wheels paint, trim and interior (headliner, carpet, upholstery, and gauges). From there, you can determine what you’ll need for materials, tools and time expended.

You’ll also need to pick a good location to do your detailing—preferably in open shade. In addition to the obvious needs for water and power you’ll want to make sure you have room to work and no distractions or interference (chrome cleaner does wonders for your bumpers, but you don’t want to get it on the rose bushes).

After assessing your vehicle’s needs you may feel a bit overwhelmed if there’s a lot of work to do. To make things easier break down the job into smaller tasks to be done in a set order. Generally speaking it’s better to work from the inside out and from the top down (with one exception—take care of the wheels and tires first; see the Cleaning & Detailing Planner and step-by-step list below). You should also do any scratch repair or spot removal before polishing and waxing.

How often you’re able to wash and/or detail your ride is another important factor to consider. Whether you’ve got free time or not will often determine if detailing can be a weekly or monthly affair. Following the recommended Cleaning & Detailing planner, you may have to parlay the weekly event into a monthly one when time doesn’t allow more frequent attention.

Cleaning & Detailing Planner





Glass: Clean


Interior: Vacuum




Intensive Detailing: Jambs, under-hood, emblems, etc.


Apply correct preservative, protectant, clean cracks




Full dress, scrub bead to tread


Polish, clean along seals


Clean stains, vacuum trunk, etc.


Leather: Condition


Bead to hub, polish wheel & lugs

Every 2-3 Months

Thoroughly clean leather surface and recondition

Every 2-3 Months

Paint: Sealer/glaze

Every 2-3 Months

Paint: Wax

Every 2-3 Months

Paint: Pre-wax cleaner/polish


Breaking the detail process down into specific steps, we recommend doing them in the following order.

1. Brush, vacuum and clean the interior
2. Clean wheels and tires with chemicals
3. Wash exterior of car
4. Apply tire dressing
5. Polish the wheels
6. Clean and treat exterior trim
7. Polish and then wax paint finish

You’ll probably find that by following these steps in this order it saves time and having to redo any areas of your vehicle.

Now We're Cookin'
(Submitted by Andy Krug - Sherman, IL)

I never use household dish detergent (soap) to wash my vehicles. Household dish soap has additives that cut most automotive waxes, which leave no protection to your vehicle's finish. Besides that, when you attempt to dry off your vehicle, with no top coat of wax, chances are you'll leave mirofine scratches and a rather dull appearance to your classic.

First, always use a specially formulated car wash soap that will cut the dust, dirt and grime, without stripping away the wax. Also, add a tablespoon of common cooking oil (mix 1 tablespoon per 1-2 gallons of water along with car wash soap). The cooking oil will help "float" away grime and dirt, without scratching your car's clear coat surface. When washing your vehicle, try to do so in a somewhat shaded area to keep water spots from forming before you can get your vehicle dried.

Finally, never use a chamois or squeegee to dry your vehicle; they can damage your finish. A clean, cotton towel will do the best job.

Preventing Winter's Corrosion - A Little Dab Will Do Ya
(Submitted by Andy Krug - Sherman, IL)

I learned this tip from my friends in Michigan. After thoroughly cleaning your vehicle in preparation for Winter driving with salted, corrosive roadways, take the time to add a thin coat of household petroleum jelly to the chrome finish around your vehicle and along the inside of your vehicle door, hood and trunk jambs. The thin coating will protect the finish, especially along door skin welds and porous chrome, preventing water, corrosives and dirt from gaining access to those tiny crevices where major rust can begin. Remember to thoroughly remove this film come Spring cleaning and wax the areas. Also, a little WD-40 sprayed into door hinges and along door latches will help disperse moisture.