Essential Car Detailing Checklist

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Last Updated on 1 year by Ollie Barker

Essential Car Detailing Checklist

Tired of washed-out paint, rusting bumpers, and dull headlights? Wish you could feel as good about your car’s appearance as you do about driving it? Well, we think auto detailing is a great way to make your vehicle the envy of the road. But if you’ve never had it done before or are not sure what steps to take, this article offers an extensive car detailing checklist.

You don’t have to detail your car just for that “just detailed” look. If you want your car to stand out, you’ll need a great paint job. But before detailing your vehicle for the show, make sure that the bodywork has been repaired and cleaned of all brake dust, road tar, and other debris. This is an ideal time to replace weatherstripping around doors and windows and apply any rustproofing or undercoating.

Car Detailing Checklist (Exterior)

Here is the list of the exterior parts that need to detail. Car detailing checklist for the outside:

  • All glasses & windows
  • Tires
  • Car’s underparts
  • Surfaces
  • Wheels
  • Others

Read more: Detailing tips for your black cars!

  1. Wash your car with a good car wash soap and a soft sponge. Use only soaps specifically made for automobile exteriors, because these will leave a wax-like coating (called “lotions”) on the surface of the paint. Be sure to rinse off all the soap well, either by hand or in a hose. Then dry with an absorbent towel or chamois.
  2. Check the condition of all exterior parts in general and wash if necessary. Check that the windshield and windows are clear, as well as the rearview mirror.
  3. Look at the tires, including their sidewalls, treads, and valve stems for excessive wear (a white “borderline” line around a tire is not good).
  4. Inspect under your car for damage or leaking fluids. Be sure to check underneath spare tires and any possible leaks from sealants or undercoating.
  5. Clean and dress up all rustproofing and undercoating as necessary to keep the paintwork clean and protected.
  6. Detailing: apply a coat of wax or paint sealant in all nooks and crannies where dirt can hide. Coat the wheel wells, sill plates, engine bay, trunk floor, and other areas where dirt can hide.
  7. Wax or paint sealant: when you have your car clean and waxed, apply one thin coat of wax or paint sealant on all exterior surfaces
  8. Clearcoat: once you have your car finished, apply a thin coat of clear finish to protect the most exposed areas.
  9. Remove all wax or paint sealant from the wheel wells and trunk floor during storage.

Car Detailing Checklist for Wheels

A wheel that is not properly cleaned can rust. Check your wheels for excessive pitting, nicks, and scratches. Arrange a time and place to have your wheels refinished. The paint on most wheels fades with exposure to the elements; it’s especially important to replace the paint on your wheels every three years or so. If you’re worried about the appearance of your wheels, pay a professional detailer to buff them.

Car Detailing Checklist for Inside

It’s time to take care of the car interior:

  • Upholstery and carpets
  • Leather
  • Plastic parts
  • Inside glasses & windows
  • Others

Check out: How to remove front car seats for repair or cleaning!

  1. Wash the interior with a strong cleaner and then vacuum thoroughly.
  2. Dress up any rustproofing, undercoating, or bodywork to keep the paintwork clean and protected.
  3. Carefully clean all leather surfaces: seats, upholstery, headliners, and carpets. If you use a cleaner that contains oils or sealants for leather, be sure to remove them completely with a quality leather conditioner before applying any other dressings.
  4. Wipe plastic surfaces with a damp sponge to remove dust and grime.
  5. Dress up any rustproofing, undercoating, or bodywork to keep the paintwork clean and protected.
  6. Touchup paint: apply a small amount of touchup paint to any spots that are chipped or scratched. Touchups should be done in body shops (not at home) by people with the expertise and equipment to do it properly. Otherwise, you can make the chips worse or create new ones.
  7. Apply dressings to all rubber trim parts, including bumpers, fenders, and door glass seals.

Car Detailing Materials

Although there’s a huge array of car detailing materials you can use, not all of them are safe to use. For instance, petroleum distillates will leave a sticky residue on the paint. Greases are also not recommended, as they attract dust and dirt to the surface of the paintwork.

The best car detailing material is something that is safe to use on your paintwork, but also cleans and protects it at the same time. You’ll also notice a difference in how your car looks. Some of the best options for detailing car paint are:

Many people think that using spray wax on their car paint will make them be able to wash their car more frequently, thus saving money on wax. In order for this theory to work, the owner must purchase a good quality wax.
It’s best to only apply two coats of wax as it can create a residue that spots the paint if not buffed out. After you’ve applied the wax, use either a soft cloth or microfiber towels to buff it out.

Some people think that using a waterless car wash will clean their car faster and easier than using any other method, but this is not true. A waterless car wash is a great way to clean your car when you don’t have access to water. It can be used at home, in the garage or at special locations that offer this type of service. However, if your car has any heavy dirt or mud on it, we recommend cleaning the car with a traditional method.

In order for a detailer to provide you with the best possible job, it’s important that they have access to all parts of your vehicle.

Frequently Asked Questions

#1 How Long Does It Take to Detail a Car?

The average time to detail a car is about 3 hours. However, this number varies depending on the type and size of the vehicle. A large SUV will take a bit longer than a small sedan, for example.

#2 DIY or Hire a Professional?

If you decide to detail your car yourself, you can save some money by buying the products shown above from an auto parts store, doing all of the work yourself, and then letting your friends show off your “new” car to their friends. You know how men are…

#3 How Much Does Car Detailing Cost?

Well, car detailing can cost anywhere from $50 to upwards of $500. The most expensive detail a car has ever been given was at the Jaguar Land Rover America headquarters in Auburn Hills, Michigan where it was washed, waxed, polished, and redecorated.

Along with the professional process of detailing your vehicle’s paintwork and interiors comes something else: safety. Most professional detailers carry liability insurance, so they can take care of any problems with your car while you are out of town.


To conclude, to protect your car from scratches and damage, you should take it to the car detailers on a regular basis and have them restore your car’s paint, interiors, chrome, tires, and wheels.
To do a good job detailing your car you will need to invest in the right products. Most of these products are made by professional detailing companies that produce cleaning agents, waxes, glass cleaners, air fresheners made specifically for vehicles.