The Minimalist Guide To Car Detailing: Leave the Pros Out of It

Chances are if you’re reading this, then saving money appeals to you. Whether you pinch pennies or just watch the bottom dollar, car maintenance is bound to be one of those things you loathe. Regular detailing and deep-cleaning of a car can help it hold its value better for resale later. If you’re not planning to resell your car, keeping it in top-notch condition is still worth the effort. Think about it, who really wants to drive in a car that holds a strong resemblance to a dumpster?

Fortunately, there are ways to clean your car and take pride in it without busting the old wallet.

All that said, it is important to know when to seek the help of a more, ahem, qualified set of hands. If you’ve got a nasty-looking scratch or issue with your paint that could lead to rust, take the car in and have the paint touched-up. It’s much less expensive to do this now than to wait and end up fixing a rusted-out spot later.

Secrets of a Car Detailer

In an interview with Popular Mechanics, Mike Schultz, the head of new products at Turtle Wax advises you to “think of the surface of your car as you would your face. It needs to be properly taken care of in order to have a healthy glow.” Give your car that healthy glow and keep yours by not stepping on the toes of your own financial plans.

Air compressors are all the rage in car cleaning. Use the pressurized air like you would a stream of water. Move all the loose muck and grime in carpets and upholstery to where it can easily be vacuumed out. Use a stiff scrub brush to help get the dirt moving. The carpets and upholstery can hold a lot of not-so-awesome smells and getting the dirt out of them will help clean out your car so that when you put an air freshener in, it doesn’t mask bad smells, but puts good smells into an otherwise neutral zone. For leather seats, use a vacuum to get any loose dirt out of the nooks and crannies, and then wipe them down with a conditioning cleaner that has aloe in it.

Don’t put the air compressor away yet, once you’re done with the carpets and upholstery, use the compressor to clean out the air ducts and vents. That stinky, musty smell you get sometimes when you turn on the air can often be eradicated by pointing the nozzle of your air compressor at the walls of the ducts (just inside the vent) and getting rid of stuck-on dirt and grime. If you haven’t done so in a while, you might consider removing the air filters and cleaning them out with your trusty air compressor.

See, this is the deep-clean you would normally pay through the nose for, but you’re taking care of things at home so you can take the money you saved and head off in your fancy-schmancy clean car for something fun.

Next step is taking care of the wheels. Clean them with a non-acid-based cleaner. While pros use acid-based cleaners, this might not be best at home since you don’t really want to be paranoid about splashing acid on your car and corroding the paint away. Stick to a cleaner that won’t threaten to undo all your hard work. Once the wheels are nice and clean, wash the car by hand. Spend the extra $5 to buy a car-specific soap. You want to make sure the soap you use on your car won’t eliminate the necessary protective coatings and such that your paint needs. Get a 2-in-1 wash and wax formula that will help keep your car in great shape.

Once you’re done, consider squeegeeing the water off. There are car squeegees and chamois that will do the trick. Don’t just take her out on the road and air-dry her. As fun as that may be, there’s still going to be dirt stuck on your car just from washing it, so taking the time to remove as much as possible will make it more difficult for new dirt to find a place to stick.

Warning: This May Be Habit-Forming

If you take the time and effort to clean your car out all the way, chances are, you’ll be a bit more vigilant at keeping it clean. The next time you’re tempted to leave a Starbucks cup in the cup-holder, or ignore a piece of trash on the floor, you’re likely to think twice. It’s possible you’ll begin to find yourself in the driveway spending quality time with your baby, um, I mean car, more often. While you might appreciate the cleanliness of a paid-for job, it’s a whole new feeling when you do it yourself. Not to mention, there’s the added bonus of the money you saved.

What do you do to keep your car clean while saving a few dollars?

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Dominique Brown

Dominique Brown is a financial planner, landord, personal finance blogger and video blogger. He is the owner of where he talks about everything from being a new father to his worst financial mistakes. He has been featured on The Huffington Post and H&R Block. You can find him either on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram.


  1. says

    The cash value of your old car will change if you remove tires and Catalytic Converter. Vechicles without tires are a little difficult to tow therefore the price we pay is a little cheaper then the cars with tires.


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