7-Step Exterior Details
7-steps? Yup, you read that right.
But don't you just wash, rinse, and dry? What else could there be?
So this 7-step process really came from all the issues I was seeing in car exteriors consistently over the years. This was the same thing with car interiors.
Almost all had the same issues, needing the same procedures to return the vehicles to as close to new as possible.
This 7-step process in the detailing world is known as a "decon wash." As a detailer, I'm trying to decontaminate the paint surface, completely removing any foreign particles that don't belong on the paint.
1 - Wash
First step is to just wash the vehicle. As I go around the vehicle washing, it'll start to reveal any and all contamination on the paint, tar, iron (which is a little hard to see on darker colors), bug guts, and so on.
This is where asking if your car has been professionally detailed before and how long ago can help. It'll tell me if the next steps have been done to your car before or should I prepare for the worst.
Now, the next couple of steps can vary in order sometimes depending on how bad your car is.
2 - Tar Removal
Tar removal is usually pretty easy. Whether it's just little spots here and there or big areas covering the lower half of a door, I have two products that handle it with ease.
Removing tar is something you need to be gentle about. As it breaks down and your towel picks it up, tiny little pieces end up in the towel. If you're pushing hard while rubbing an area, you can scratch your paint.
The same thing can happen when you're removing tree sap.
3 - Iron Removal
This is the cool step and a very revealing one too!
Again, this step involves chemicals, specifically an iron remover.
The iron remover is sprayed on the car, in most cases the whole car, and allowed to dwell for a few minutes. As the iron remover sits, it reacts to the iron deposits on your paint and begins to change colors, usually to a purple color.
What is happening is the chemical in the iron remover is speeding up the oxidation process of the iron and dissolving it.
This is where you'll see that you may have iron all over your car.
Not just on the sides kicked up from the tires but on the hood, roof, and trunk area too!
Since its not a good idea to let the iron remover sit for very long,
it just gets rinsed off and I repeat if necessary.
This can be done on your wheels too as the major source of iron is coming from your brakes and rotors.
Certain precautions need to be taken if your wheels are bare aluminum or painted with no clear coat.
4 - Clay bar
This one can really surprise you!
Even if your car was brand new off the dealer lot, most I see benefit from this step alone.
There are a variety of types of this product. There's the traditional clay bar, the clay towel, or a clay pad. All do the same thing, some are better suited for certain areas on a vehicle though.
Think of this step as a way of exfoliating your car's paint.
I've done videos on this before, my YouTube clay bar video, so watch that if you want to see this process in action. It'll also show you have to check if you should have this done.
I like to use the clay bar the most so this process starts with just needing the clay bar into a flat patty.
Then spray the area you're going to work in with something that'll lubricate the surface.
As you move the clay bar across the area, you should feel some resistance. That's the bonded contaminants in your paint. As you move the clay bar around, it'll get easier as the clay is pulling out those contaminants.
I also do this on the windows, windshield especially, and the headlights.
5 - Wash, Again?
The reason for washing again is simple. I'm trying to remove any of the chemicals from the tar and iron removal process.
These last two steps are to remove and chemicals from the surface that could interfere with the last step, the wax or sealant step.
6 - Precoat
Again, like step 5, this one was added in as a precaution and one last chance to get any chemicals, grease, or oil residue left behind from the previous steps.
IGL Precoat is a wonderful cleaning product that's actually used as the last step before applying a ceramic coating.
There are a few products out there that are just like Precoat but again, being an installer for IGL, it's a no-brainer for me.
7 - Wax/sealant
The last step and the reason we went through the first six.
So, the reason I wash a second time and use Precoat is I want whatever wax/sealant that goes on your vehicle to be sticking to the paint and not some particle of dirt or chemical residue.
Nine times out of ten, I'm applying IGL Enhancer or Premier and both were designed to adhere to the car's paint, not dirt and debris.
Having something on the paint that is going to interfere with the sealant is going to hurt its durability and longevity. I want you to get all the benefits out of any wax or sealant.
At the end of the day, it's all about the results!