6 Do-it-Yourself Car Detailing Tips

With professional detailing services costing hundreds of dollars, keeping your car looking showroom-ready can put a dent in your wallet. But you don’t need to shell out big bucks to make your ride look like new.

Keep reading for six of the best DIY auto detailing tips to help get that showroom shine. Nothing beats the satisfaction of a clean car, inside and out, and knowing you did it yourself.

DIY car detailing tips

Related: How to Detail Your Car Exterior (Comprehensive Guide)

Top 6 DIY Auto Detailing Tips

Below are 6 tips that you could follow to do your own car detailing job without going to a professional auto detailers and paying at least a couple hundred dollars for a decent job.

#1 – Clean Interior First

clean car interior

If you plan on spending the day cleaning all parts of your car or truck, you’ll want to start with the inside of the car first so that it has time to dry as you’re cleaning the exterior.

You probably have some areas on your carpet or carpeted floor mats that need some shampoo and water to get looking new again or rubber floor mats that need a good scrubbing and rinse outside.

And don’t forget to clean your steering wheel! Nobody likes driving with a sticky, dirty wheel.

Also, when remove the floor mats and wash them outside, you’ll avoid the issue of dirt or water getting on a clean vehicle exterior. Nothing is worse than having to do the job twice.

Not only does a clean interior look great, it prevents critters such as ants from having a purpose to get inside.

#2 – Chamois or Microfiber

microfiber towel for drying car

The best way to dry your car is to use a Chamois or microfiber towel to get the water drops off our car’s paint rather than a standard cotton towel or letting the paint air dry. Chamois or Microfiber towels simply absorb water better and will ensure that no swirls or streaks are left behind after you wipe.

This is great not only for drying your paint, but for drying the glass of your windows as well. Be careful to not rub too hard on interior windows which have window tint. Otherwise, you may catch the edge of the film with the towel and find yourself needing to later remove window tint which has started to peel off.

Related: How to (Properly) Clean the Inside of a Windshield

#3 – Avoid Automatic Car Washes

automatic car wash

Automatic car washes may seem like an easy way to wash dirt and debris off the finish of your car, but it could also have the opposite effect. Those flappy rubber or vinyl strips that knock against the finish of your car tend to have their own built up dirt on them.

So, when the flap rubs against the surface of your car, it may actually cause minor scratches to the surface, especially at low quality car washes like at some gas stations.

See Also:  Best DIY Windshield Repair Kits

Even worse are do-it-yourself car washes that use high pressure water through a long wand. Most of them also have a nice brush that people use to clean the vehicles exterior. The problem is that people also use these brushes to clean their engine sometimes or scrub the mud off their truck’s exterior after a day of off-roading.

What do you think happens to that dirt or grease that’s still in the brush head when you’re using the brush on your car’s paint? You’ll likely damage your paint!

Related: 6 Ways to Remove Windshield Scratches

#4 – Clean the Engine Bay

clean engine bay

Probably the most overlooked area of a car (except those who attend car shows), your vehicle’s engine bay can be one of the dirtiest areas on the car. It’s quite possible (yet sad) that some car owners who never service or maintain their car have even seen what’s under the hood of their car.

While you can use some clean rags and a spray cleaner, it’s much easier to get yourself a container of wipes for your car and be done with it. These 12″ x 6″ wet wipes are dual textured, durable, and probably the easiest way to quickly clean your engine bay, wheels, tools, and even your hands when done.

You’ll want the ones for cars but the company also sells other variations (found here) for around the house.

#5 – Wheel Well Cleaning

dirty wheel well

Aside from cleaning your wheels and tire sidewalls, you should clean the wheel wells as well. All you need to do is use a hose to spray the interior of the wells and then use a brush to scrub this area.

Just make sure to use a clean brush that was not used to clean any other location on your car. This area is often overlooked and dirt gradually builds up over time and is harder to remove the longer you leave it.

See Also: How Long Does Plasti Dip Last?

#6 – Waxing Last

waxing car

When you have removed every bit of dirt from the finish of your vehicle, you can then add a layer of protection with a little bit of wax.

You can use one of the quick car wax spray bottles that that you just spray on and wife off or you can use a traditional Carnuba wax to wipe on, let sit, and then rub off. Or even better, use a quality car buffer for better coverage and faster results.

Solid Carnuba wax offers better paint protection than spray-on wax but both will make your vehicle sparkle and protect against water spots.

Just prior to waxing, you may also want to polish your vehicle or even use a clay bar to remove any tough residue or imperfections in the paint. It takes more work, but the results will speak for themselves.

Related: How to Remove Bird Poop From Your Paint (the Right Way)


Remember that car detailing does not just involve the outside of the car but also the inside and even the engine. It’s done to make an old vehicle look like new and make a newer vehicle look like the day it came off the dealer lot. You can also think of it as an excellent time investment as you’ll likely sell your vehicle one day.

If you are in an area that’s prone to severe weather (hail, snow, hard rain), we highly recommend investing in a good car cover if parking in a garage isn’t always possible. No amount of detailing will be able to fix damage from hail or if a fallen tree limb scratches up your hood.

Nothing says more about the condition of a vehicle than how it looks. Chances are, the owner also takes good care of it mechanically.

Read Also: How to Remove Car Emblems

Mark Stevens


  1. I appreciate the time you gave in writing this post, I’m going too share this with my teen. years back I worked at an auto body shop. ALSO my dad had a classic hot rod 34 plymouth coupe and I had a corvettes convertible that we took to car shows. Need I say we used q-tips, baby tooth brushes, and a variety of paint brushes in our detailing? I believe it’s important to take care of a car. I cringe seeing anyone leaning on a car, and touching it all over. I think I must have been taught as an infant no touching no eating no trash left in car stomp your feet before getting in. And another biggie no wet clothes or bathing suits. I’m sadly stunned that I see so many children today not being taught this, I find it disrespectful. I guess you tell I like a well kept car! Knowing that a brand new car depreciates immediately once driven off car lot, it is sensible & wise to put effort towards preventing further loss. Seriously who ” likes” losses? Teach others to think for every action creates a reaction, nonetheless, it’s better late than never. However, the sooner the better is simply best! The reason is when taught very young this practice simply becomes 2nd nature and no thought is given, it’s just done! A clean ride shows you have pride in your style which in turn you will give as you recieve many smiles miles after miles. Life is filled with bumps and even the dreadful pothole! Though I have yet had ran into a dead end or left scared and stranded… EVERYTHING takes time and effort so my suggestion is to take the time and turn onto this road, the effort is worthy of the gain and benefits! Smiles and laughter of the genuine kind are self preserving. Self made fountain of youth! Peace

    1. Yes, I’ve taught my toddler not to touch cars since our first car show (especially the paint). I even remind him on our daily driver so it’s easier for him to remember when we’re walking next to six figure vehicles at Cars and Coffee.

  2. Using a clay bar is vital for me, and I am thankful that the writer shared these steps here. I will use these steps to complete one of my new projects. It involves a clay bar.

  3. I like that you mentioned that it is a good idea to clean the inside of your car first so that the inside can dry out while you work on the exterior. I would like to clean my car, but I recently noticed that the fabric on the driver’s seat upholstery is starting to tear apart and the stuffing is coming out. It would probably be a good idea for me to get that upholstery repaired before I do anything else with the vehicle.

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