Car Detailing and Cleaning without Cleaning Out the Bank Account

by Guest Contributor · 5 comments

Have you looked at the price of car detailing and cleaning lately? Even a simple wash can set you back $15 or more. If you have money like that to spend, chances are you won’t need to read this article, but if you are like me and watch every penny, here are some tips to help you keep a clean car and a wallet full of cash.

Do It Yourself

This is an obvious suggestion. Time is the critical issue here, though. It can take several hours to do the job right. If you have the time, it is worth the effort. Here’s how.

Clean the Outside First

Don’t work on a particularly hot day or in direct sun. Products will dry on the car and mar the finish. Start by washing the car with a soap made for cars. Dry it with soft towels – old diapers work great.

Clean out the wheel wells. A brush can help remove the crud that accumulates in the hub caps and other visible areas.

Now inspect your paint. Minor scratches and nicks can be dealt with using a good wax. If you want to buff your car with a sander, use one with orbital movement. Deep scratches will need to be dealt with professionally.

Use a damp Q-Tip or toothbrush to clean off any wax that remains in crevices or on rubber areas. Those areas can be cleaned with an area specific cleaner.

Finally, treat the wheels with a wheel cleaner.

Dealing with the Inside

The interior requires some time and attention to details. Gather soft clothes, a multipurpose cleaner, Q-Tips, cleaners that are appropriate to your vehicle, and your vacuum. You might also want a can of compressed air and leather conditioner if you have a leather interior.

Start by dusting off all the easily reached surfaces. Pull out the floor mats and remove any items that are removable – extra console pieces, for example. Vacuum the floors, seats, dash, and rear parcel shelf thoroughly.

Use a carpet or upholstery cleaner in the spots where needed, but don’t over-saturate, or you will potentially get mildew.

Dilute your cleaner 10:1 and use it to clean all surfaces with a damp cloth. If your seats are vinyl, use a vinyl cleaner, if they are leather, use a leather conditioner. Avoid products that leave a slippery or shiny finish. If you have cloth seats, treat them as you did the carpets.

Now apply yourself to the dash. This is where you will use those Q-Tips. To get into every nook and cranny, you will need their fine tip. Consider removing any knobs you can pull off gently to get underneath. You can also use compressed air – the kind sold for cleaning computer keyboards – to get into grills and behind areas you can’t reach otherwise.

Use the diluted multipurpose cleaner to clean areas of plastic, such as the plastic lens the covers your speedometer and other gauges. Finish off by washing the windows.

Detailing your car will take you the better part of a morning, but the results are a worth the effort. Not only will your car retain its value better but it will also look better, and who doesn’t like to drive around in a snazzy ride?

This is a piece taken from the How to Save Money on Everything ebook, where you will find step by step instructions, tips and more on saving money. Get your free copy by subscribing to the free frugal email newsletter.

Money Saving Tip: An incredibly effective way to save more is to reduce your monthly Internet and TV costs. Click here for the current Verizon FiOS promotion codes and promos to see if you can save more money every month from now on.

{ read the comments below or add one }

  • DD says:

    there is a hand car wash by my house that overs a early bird special between 7:00 and 10:00 monday – thursday. If my car needs to be done when I drive by and there is no line I go the early bird costs me $4.00 and I leave a $2.oo tip it takes about 20 minutes for them to do the inside and out. I go about every 6 weeks

  • KM says:

    I always wash my car myself and don’t let it stay dirty for too long. I don’t do the extensive cleaning very often, though I wish I had the time to do so. I just read up on the clay bar and want to try it out – my car could use more extensive TLC.

  • Kody says:

    I never understood why people would pay so much to detail their car. It just doesn’t make sense (unless you have the money to do so).

    I enjoy detailing my car myself for several reasons.
    -It gets done the way I know it should.
    -gives me something to do.
    -I enjoy doing it. I like to be outside and enjoying the sunshine!!

  • indio says:

    Keeping my car spotlessly clean is not high on my priority list. Yes, I like it when the interior and exterior are clean, but not to the point where I’m going to clean it weekly. My ex boyfriend was obsessed with keeping his car spotless, even to the point of making sure that everyone who got into the car wore booties over their shoes to protect the mats. I’m sure he would know what a clay bar is and how to use it, while I had to google it. Every week he spent a full day cleaning the car. It looked great, but I would rather spend my time other ways. To me a car is just a way to get from point a to point b. I don’t like to drive and I don’t spend a lot of time in the car so detailing it once a year, to protect my investment, is enough for me

  • Eric says:

    I am a car detailing freak, have my own Porter Cable polisher and other tools. But for people who aren’t into it as much as me, I have one word of advice. Wash your car and then use a Clay Bar. You will be amazed at the results.

Leave a Comment