To truly get the best resale value out of your car before a sale requires some specific detailing tasks. Your vehicle’s esthetics (eye appeal) will be the first impression it makes upon a potential customer. Unlike a simple wash and wax, detailing goes a bit further with attention to smaller details that cover every area of the car. It requires some time and patience, but the ultimate reward is a vehicle that has reached its maximum potential as far as looks, touch and smell.
Start on the interior first. This keeps dust and dirt from landing on clean body panels. Brush out heavy dirt, debris and hair with a stiff whisk broom. Remove the rubber mats and thoroughly vacuum the front, sides and rear carpet. Use a nozzle to reach under the seat. For embedded carpet stains, use some carpet cleaner in a bucket of warm water and a stiff brush. Brush the carpet in a cross-hatch motion and let the solution sit for five minutes. Vacuum all moisture out with a wet-dry vacuum cleaner. Use a mild dish washing soap, warm water and a terrycloth rag to clean the door side panels, console, rear window deck and dashboard. Towel dry and coat the surfaces with either a vinyl protectant or leather conditioner, depending upon the material. If the seats are cloth, use some stain remover to remove dirt, grease, oil and sweat stains, then wet-vacuum the material. Place a few scent appliances under the seat to enhance the interior smell.
Use car wash soap and a washing mitt to clean the exterior of the vehicle, including the wheels, bumpers and inside the fender wells. Rinse and buff it dry. Apply a good liquid or paste wax in circular motions to the body panels, concentrating on one panel at a time. Allow the wax to dry and then vigorously buff it off with a terrycloth towel. If you have sun fade or paint stains, use a medium-grit polishing compound on the affected area, rubbing it out with circular motions. Then apply the regular wax over it and buff it out. For a deeper paint luster, use a mechanical buffing machine. Clean soft tops with soap and water, then rinse and let air dry.
Use spray-on window cleaner to scrub both the inside and outside of all the windows one at a time. Use cotton or a microfiber cloth to dry them. A window scraper will remove tree sap and bird residue as well as tar and over-spray paint.
Determine if your wheel material is painted steel, chrome or magnesium. Use a stiff cleaning brush and detergent soap to wash the outside surface and tire area of each wheel. Make sure you reach inside crevices, seams and between spokes. Rinse and pat dry. Apply mag polish for magnesium wheels, using a small polishing pad to scrub the surface is circular motions. Rub until all stains and oxidation disappear, then buff away the residue with a cotton cloth. Use a small polishing pad and chrome cleaner for chrome wheels, using the same strokes and buffing technique. For a painted wheel, clean with ordinary soap and water, then use some light or medium-grit polishing compound, if applicable.
Bumpers and Trim
Several products are available to enhance the bumper and plastic or vinyl trim areas on your car. Armor All is one such treatment, and there are plastic bumper protectants and bumper guard oils. Plastic and rubber bumpers are subject to sun fading and oxidation, so you’ll need to use an abrasive-cleaner polisher to cut through the haze. Use circular scrubbing with a small polishing mitt, and then rub out the residue with a cloth towel. Apply a medium coat of sealer-protectant on the bumper and trim, using a small square of cloth. When applying the sealer-protectant, run a steady straight coating over the area—avoid rubbing back and forth.