Informational Guide

DIY Car Detailing (How To Guide)

Detailing a car goes beyond the everyday wash. This guide shows you how to detail a car the right way.

Detailing a car goes beyond the everyday wash and gets into every nook and cranny. It’s what car enthusiasts do to show love to their vehicle and bring it back to showroom quality. In our guide, we will show you how to detail a car the right way.

Many people use the words car detailing and car washing as the same terminology, but these jobs are quite different. Auto detailing goes much further than simply cleaning out the vehicle and giving it a quick wash.

If you want to know how to detail a car interior like a pro, you start with car washing and vacuuming. Then, specialized tools are used to go deeper. When you learn how to detail a car at home, you realize you also need specialized tools.

car cleaning

The Main Benefits of Car Detailing

Once you realize how long to detail a car, you might question why you are doing it in the first place. There are five main benefits to detailing your car that you should be aware of.

  • Removes stains and helps disguise any damage.
  • Disinfects the car’s surface while reducing germs. This also helps prevent allergies during the Spring and Summer months.
  • Increases vehicle resale value
  • Protects the car interior from normal wear and tear.
  • Might increase performance and fuel economy if the air intake or wheels are caked in mud.

Should I Do Car Detailing Myself at Home?

How much does it cost to detail a car? If you take it to a professional, the average car detailing cost can reach $150 or more. While these professionals can get the job done quickly, you might not want to spend this kind of money.

How much is it to detail a car at home? You will only need to spend the price of the items necessary for detailing. Plus, focusing on cleaning your own car ensures you are happy with the job. You can pay special attention to the areas that matter the most to you, plus you will be pleased with your job well-done.

How to Detail A Car Like A Pro (A Step-by-Step Guide)

We will examine how to detail a car interior step by step. Let’s start with the list of supplies you need.

What You Need

Please use caution whenever you use chemicals or harsh products, not only for your vehicle but also when it makes contact with you. Take all necessary safety precautions.

Interior Car Detailing

If you want to know how to detail a car step by step, you should start with the car interior.

  1. 1
    Pick up all the trash. Before you can clean the vehicle, you need to remove anything that doesn’t belong. You also want to take loose change and other small items in the house before cleaning.
  2. 2
    Clean the floor mats. Use a stiff brush with your car wash detergent or upholstery cleaner. Hang the mats until they are dry.
  3. 3
    Use your dry microfiber duster to clean all surfaces. Pay attention to the center console, instrument cluster, door panels, and more.
  4. 4
    Use a cleaner to deep clean the vinyl console and dash.
  5. 5
    You can also apply a protectant to the hard interior surfaces.
  6. 6
    Use an odor remover to make the car smell better.
  7. 7
    Upholstery cleaner can be used on the headliners, panels, and porous surfaces. You will want to let it soak for a short time before using a stiff brush to loosen the dirt.
  8. 8
    Upholstery cleaner is also helpful on cloth seats. Pretreat it and scrub out any stains.
  9. 9
    Leather seats require specialized cleaning agents.
  10. 10
    Use a vacuum to completely clean the dirt and dust out of the carpet. Move the seats around to get in every crevice.
  11. 11
    Use the glass cleaner and microfiber cloth on all auto glass. You can also use it for the glass on the instrument cluster.

How much does it cost to detail a car interior? Not as much if you do it yourself.

Exterior Car Detailing

If you want to know how to professionally detail a car, look at these steps to deal with the exterior.

  1. 1
    You must thoroughly rinse your car with your hose or pressure washer. Wash from top to bottom. Don't use your pressure washer too high, or you could damage the paint.
  2. 2
    Clean your wheels and tires with a special cleaner. Use a brush to scrub off any road debris and brake dust.
  3. 3
    Rinse out the engine bay and underneath of the hood. If it is especially greasy, you could use a specialized degreaser.
  4. 4
    Wash the car with your two buckets and a microfiber wash mitt. Make sure you get the top of the vehicle and work your way down.
  5. 5
    Rinse your car from the top to bottom.
  6. 6
    Don't allow the car to air-dry, or it will end up with water spots. Instead, use clean microfiber cloths to completely dry the car.
  7. 7
    Use the detailing clay to finish working on the car. Use it on small sections and take your time. You can also use it on chrome, glass, and wheels, just not on polycarbonate, plastic, or rubber.
  8. 8
    You can polish the car gently to deal with any minor scratches.
  9. 9
    It’s often wise to add a protectant to your car when you are finished.
  10. 10
    Finally, clean the exterior of the auto glass. Stand back and admire the work you did on your own.

Now that you know how to detail a car exterior, let’s look at when you should perform these steps.

When Does My Car Need Detailing? Clear Signs Discussed

With how much to detail a car, you won’t want to do it often. However, there are some signs that show you can’t wait any longer. Watch for these signs that your car is ready to be detailed.

  • Interior odors that don’t go away
  • Foggy or hazy windshield
  • Paint scratches, blemishes and dings
  • Dull or foggy headlights
  • Fading window tint
  • Dirty wheels or tires
  • Stained interior upholstery
  • Water stains on the exterior of your vehicle
  • Dusty surfaces inside the vehicle

Common Mistakes When Detailing a Car (Thing To Avoid)

Now that you’ve looked at how much to detail a car interior and the steps to take, here are a few tips of what you should avoid.

  • Never use household cleaning agents on the vehicle. These products are not made to work with your paint.
  • Avoid washing your car in direct sunlight because the soap will dry to the paint.
  • Carefully handle the chemicals and don’t cross-contaminate.
  • Clean the wheels before you do any detail work.
  • Always use a separate bucket for soap and rinsing.
  • Don’t use any cloth that's not meant for automotive, or you could scratch the paint.

Car Detailing vs. Using an Automatic Car Wash

How long does it take to detail a car? It takes more time than simply running through the automatic car wash. However, automatic washes can damage your paint. The brushes are not cleaned, so if a vehicle before you just came home from the beach, that sand and dirt can rub against your car. Plus, workers often use the same towel to dry multiple vehicles. Detailing a vehicle is the safest way to get it clean and shiny.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

How long should a full car detail take?

If you follow all of our car detailing steps, it should take you at least two hours. To be safe, set aside an afternoon to get the entire detailing job completed.

Where do you start when detailing a car?

It’s best to start inside the car and complete the interior before moving to the exterior. Even if you had to separate the two jobs into different days, you could do the interior first and the exterior the next day.

Can polishing remove scratches on my car?

Buffing the car with polish can remove minor blemishes, such as scratches, but it will also remove any wax that is on the vehicle. You will want to reapply when you are finished.

How often should I detail my car?

On average, you want to detail your vehicle two to three times a year. However, you might need to do this more often if you regularly travel in dingy conditions or spend a lot of time in the cabin.

Should I clean my car before getting it detailed?

You should remove all dirt and gear you don’t need before detailing the interior of a vehicle. Otherwise, you are going to be moving junk around just to clean.

How do you maintain a car after detailing?

Park in a garage to maintain the exterior cleanliness. As far as the interior is concerned, you should avoid eating and drinking in the vehicle, plus you want to remove any trash as it occurs.


How much is it to get a car detailed? We’ve shown you how to save money by doing the car detailing yourself. Follow our steps to restore your vehicle’s beauty once again.