Love a Clean Car But Don’t Want to Spend a Fortune? Car Detailing Made Easy!

You don't have to spend a fortune for a spotless ride; a few good car detailing products and tips from the pros at Meguiars will have your ride spiffy in no time.

Green Haired Woman Wipes A Car With A Yellow Cloth.
Fold your microfiber cloth into a doubled square so you have 8 clean sides to use when one side gets dirty. Photo: Patrick Anderson

We Went to the Experts, Meguiars, and learned How Detail a Car Like a Pro.

There is nothing quite like car detailing for a clean car. Walking up to your sparkling ride first thing in the morning, looking back when you walk away because it looks so good. Or even just pulling up to the parking valet at the fanciest restaurant knowing that your car looks just as put together as you do feels incredible.

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We spend so much time cocooned in our little home on wheels that it should feel just as clean and organized as our house. Some of us are lucky enough to have other people to clean them for us. But a professional detailing service can cost a good chunk of change (even though your beloved ride will be beaming for it).

Many people, though, take pride in doing the work themselves. And it’s not as hard as you think; you can gather an arsenal of tools and tackle the task yourself for a fraction of the price. With all the tools tucked away in your garage or trunk, you can give your ride a quick touch up to keep it looking fresh all the time.

But even for those who want to do the job themselves, it can be overwhelming. There are countless products, techniques and advice. So we went straight to the pros to sleuth out all the best tips and tricks for keeping both the exterior and the interior of a car in the best condition.

A Green Haired Woman Stands In Front Of A Blue Mustang Mach-E As A Man Talks To Her

Meguiars HQ is a brand, spanking new car detailing facility. Photo: Patrick Anderson

Want a Youthful Glow? Treat Car Car Like you Treat Skin Care

To get the best picture, and to learn a few techniques to help me detail the exterior and interior of my car, I went to Meguiars HQ in Irvine, CA for a lesson in car care. Meguiars has been in car care since 1901, so they know a thing or two.

There, I met Mike Pennington, director of global training and no doubt, an expert in car care. What he told me first stunned me–and hit home: Car care is like skin care. Done with care and the right products, your car’s finish will last longer and look great. 

“Do you just slap on sunblock in the morning without washing your face?” Mike asked.

“Uh, no!” I squinched my face at the thought.

“Right!” he exclaimed. He explained that you need to thoroughly remove dirt and grime before applying a protective layer on your car’s surface (or, sunscreen to your face). 

It makes total sense. You can’t start slapping products onto a dirty face, you need the right products for your skin, and sometimes you might want to use something more aggressive like an exfoliator or peel, but you don’t want to do that every time. Every once in a while, you may want a nice spa day to feel absolutely pampered – and you might feel pampered by taking your car to a detailer.

Green Haired Woman Wipes A Car With A Yellow Cloth.

Fold your microfiber cloth into a doubled square so you have 8 clean sides to use when one side gets dirty. Photo: Patrick Anderson

One Easy Thing to do For a Sparkling Chariot? 

If you want to do the bare minimum to take care of your car, all you need to do is wash it when it’s dirty…and that’s pretty much it.

If you don’t have the space or inclination to wash at home, you can go to a brushless car wash, a hand wash, or even a self-serve wash station. If you do choose to wash at home, Meguiars Wash and Wax gives you both wash and finish in one step.

If you live in a place where water restrictions are common, or you just don’t love the messiness of washing your car in your driveway, a waterless wash is an option; Meguiars Waterless Wash & Wax is a good option, though keep in mind, this is better for cars that are not very dirty.

*Pro Tip: Wash your car at the coolest time of the day and work in the shade if possible. If the surface of your car is too hot to touch then it might be too hot to wash. A hot surface can make water and products evaporate too quickly and leave behind mineral or material deposits, making the whole process more challenging for you.

Get it: Meguiars Waterless Wash and Wax

A 3-In-1 Product Can Make Things Much Easier. Photo: Liv Leigh

A 3-in-1 product can make things much easier. Photo: Liv Leigh

Multi-Step Care Shortens the Process and Gives Better Protection

Like a shampoo and conditioner combo, if you want more protection for your paint but still want to keep it simple, you can add a multi-step 3-in-1 product, which is kind of like 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner. The process looks like this:

  • Wash
  • Clean    \
  • Polish   3 IN 1 PRODUCT
  • Protect  /
  • Maintain

A 3-in-1 product to clean, polish, and protect is perfect if your car is in pretty good condition or if you’re maintaining a more intensive or professional detail. If that’s the case then you’re done.

But, if the exterior paint of your vehicle is looking a bit rough, then you might want to break that 3 in 1 out into 3 separate, dedicated products to tackle this more involved first detailing. (Or maybe you want to pamper your ride like this every time!).

Get It: Meguiars 3-in-1 Wax

And Now For the Clay Bar. The Whaaaatttt?

Ever wash your car and feel annoyed that those bits of road tar or bits of sand just won’t disappear? That’s what a clay bar is for. It will pull any impurities out of the clear top coat of your car’s paint. After you’ve washed away the major dirt and grime, use a clay bar to remove any remaining particles and fine contaminants that the wash left behind. This ensures that the surface is perfectly clean and ready for the next step. 

Using a clay bar is really simple:

  • Warm your clay bar up in your hands before you start. It’s like a firm putty.
  • Spray your car with whatever lubricant recommended on the package
  • Gently rub the bar over the surface, making sure not to buff it or move in circular motions since the goal is to stick debris to the bar and not scratch that debris into the paint.
  • If the surface feels smooth to the touch, then you’re done.
  • If there are any minor imperfections, swirls, or light scratches, then you’ll want to follow up with a compound. This is a mild abrasive and you can do this step at home or have the pros do it with specialized power tools.

Get It: Meguiars Clay Bar

Wear Pants With A Pocket For Easy Access To Your Sprayer While Working. Photo: Liv Leigh

Wear pants with a pocket for easy access to your sprayer while working. Photo: Liv Leigh

Once Your Paint is in Perfect Condition, Polish it Up!

This is the fun part, at least in my opinion. The polish! It’s REALLY gratifying to see your car shine. 

To polish your vehicle:

  • Use a clean, soft foam applicator pad
  • Apply your product to 2’ x 2’ sections and make overlapping circles with medium pressure.
  • Wipe it off immediately with a clean microfiber cloth before the polish dries
  • If you want to go the extra mile, clean your wheels and pop on some tire shine. This extra step can leave your tires looking slick and wet or have a clean sheen, both of which make a great finishing touch

Once you’ve put in all this effort and your car is fully polished and looking absolutely gorgeous, you’re probably going to want to keep it that way. That’s where the final protective stage comes in. Your options are to go in with either a wax or a ceramic, or even a hybrid of both. Take some time to research them to find out which suits you best. My personal preference is ceramic. It’s a bit more particular to apply –you need a perfectly clean space protected from wind, dust, and debris, and using a UV light can be really helpful but, when you’re done, it offers a super durable finish that protects the sheen and can even make washing easier due to its hydrophobic nature. 

Finally it’s time to turn your attention to the interior. Cleaning the interior of your car is very much like cleaning your home.

Get It: Meguiars Polish

This Is The Perfect On-The-Go Car Cleaning Kit. Photo: Liv Leigh

This is the perfect On-The-Go Car Cleaning Kit. Photo: Liv Leigh

The Easy Part: Cleaning Your Car’s Interior

  • Declutter
  • Remove mats and wash them at the same time as washing your car
  • Vacuum
  • Use an interior detailing spray that is compatible with the materials inside your vehicle. Meguiar’s Quik Interior Detail, for example, can be used on multiple textiles. Spritz your cleaning spray onto a clean microfiber cloth then apply that onto your various surfaces. Just like with the 3 in 1, if you want to be more elaborate, you can find specialized products for each specific textile.
  • To cap everything off, give your glass a good wipe.

*Pro Tip: When you’re wiping your windows, make your final wipes on the outside and the inside in different directions so that, if there is a streak, you can easily tell whether it’s on the inside or outside. Like on the outside always finish wiping horizontal and go vertical to finish the inside.

Get it: Meguiars Quick Interior Detail

An On-the-Go Car Cleaning Kit Van Help You Maintain With Ease

Now that your car is spic and span, having the right tools can help you maintain this level of clean with ease. If you did your detailing at home, then you have everything you need already, but a good car kit can help. I don’t know about you, but I find that a lot of the time I end up cleaning my car while I’m out and about. 

The Perfect Portable Car Cleaning Kit includes:

An Air-Refresher Can Be A Great, Easy Way To Freshen Up A Stinky Interior. Photo: Liv Leigh

An Air-Refresher can be a great, easy way to freshen up a stinky interior. Photo: Liv Leigh

You are now totally prepared to have an enviably clean car but, before we go, here are some bonus tips!

A Few More Car Care Tips

  • If you ever worry about getting hair product on your headrest or sweat or sunblock on your seat, but you don’t want to get seat covers, get a car seat towel for quick, temporary protection.
  • Microfiber towels are a car cleaning staple. You can pick them up in bulk or order them from Amazon
  • Make sure to use separate towels for cleaning glass, paint, tires, and interiors. Getting different colors will help you identify which towel is for which job
  • Never wash microfiber towels with cotton. The cotton will pill on the microfiber
  • After a long road trip, or if something stinky has left its mark inside your car, snag an Air Re-Fresher to neutralize odors and leave the scent of your choosing in its place.

Ready to get cleaning? Let us help! We have partnered with Meguiars to give away a full detail kit to one lucky winner. You can enter below, and be sure to share with a friend who might delight in having a clean car, too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Contest ends May 28,2023. See contest for giveaway rules. Have a thought or comment? Share it with us on social media! You can find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And be sure to sign up for our email newsletter!

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An enthusiastic supporter of everything she’s passionate about, Liv got her first Electric Car and immediately made a YouTube... More about Liv Leigh