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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
This is a big read, and must be read carefully. I have spent a lot of time putting this together and I am open for advice and pointers and whatever else can be done to improve.

So, cleaning your pride and joy. If you are willing to spend a good few hours you can get your car looking sublime.

The method I use to clean my car can take between 2.5 hours (Tidy up) to 5 hours (A spring clean). The methods others have adopted for cleaning their car may differ but the results will be near enough the same. So here goes. I am not a pro, I just enjoy cleaning and ensuring my bella looks prime.

If this is your first novice detail then I suggest using a pressure washer to get those tough droppings and fall out washed off the paint work. The key for a great shine and a long lasting result is the prep work. It is great having brilliant products at hand but it will be pointless if you have no idea how to use them correctly so I shall do my best in illustrating what to use, how and when etc. Once you have done the below then you can continue using a hose instead of the pressure washer which you will see why later, however this remains preferential.

OK here goes.

The Car - Alfa Romeo 156 2005 Lipari Grey

Get all the doors open and remove all the car mats (if you have them) and put them to one side, then remove any rubbish, old receipts etc into a carrier bag. Anything you wish to keep in the car i.e. sunglasses etc just place them to once side.. Simple enough.

So now begin to hoover your car, not sure why but I always start from the front passenger side and work anti clockwise. Work from the top of the dashboard and downwards. Have a clean paint brush at hand, use it with the hoover to remove dust from small gaps and the air vents etc, or if you have a hoover extension with a good brush end then use that. Whilst you have the brush at hand or the extension attached, be sure to clean the center console and hoover the seats to remove dirt between the gaps. Cleaning the carpet is easy and self explanatory, I tend to go over the foot well two or three time just to completely remove any stones, dry grass, twigs foreign objects, I have found that working the nozzle in a circular motion helps to remove stubborn bits tangled into the carpet.

Once your interior has been hoovered and looking much better it is now time to take a microfiber cloth dampened with some sort of interior shampoo. I use AutoGlym Interior shampoo as I find it lifts dirt well and revives the natural matte look of the dashboard, kick plates, door cards etc. There are a few methods but the best I find is to have half a bucket of warm water and spray 5 or 6 amounts of AG interior shampoo into the bucket and soak the microfiber cloth, wring till it is slightly moist. Wipe the dash board down to the center console and keep the wipes uniform and add pressure accordingly if you come across stubborn marks (foundation, spills). Once you have completed the dash board, center console it is now time to wash the door cards. As above soak the cloth and wring till only moist. Start at the top of the door card and work down, when wiping the the leather section keep the strokes uniform so when dry you are not left with streaks but have a clean “showroom” finish. Once all the door cards are done you can begin the “dirtier” task of cleaning the kick plates, pedals and foot rest.... Do not worry, cleaning the pedals with the shampoo will not leave a slimy feel left by most valeting companies using dash shine on everything. After this you can discard the dirty water and wash the bucket.

At this point your interior is looking clean, fresh, brand new and prime again.

The next phase are the seats, this part applies to leather. I use AutoGlym Leather Cleaner and a shoe brush. Dip the shoe brush in warm water and shake the water off, it only needs to carry a small amount of moisture to aid the working and coverage of the leather cleaner, dip the brush for each seat or when coverage becomes difficult. Spray four points on the base of the seat (left, right, edge, rear) and four points on the back (left, right, top, bottom) and begin to scrub the cleaner into the leather using your brush. The cleaner will begin to foam which is fine, as this is now beginning to work and remove micro particles of built up dirt. The shine you see on leather is worked in dirt that has now been buffed to a sheen. Once you have completed the front seats follow the same application for the rear, working in straight lines and circles to really work the cleaner and bring those seats back to prime.

Once the seats have dried. Get another micro cloth (possibly two) and soak in the bucket of warm water, wring but keep it slightly damp. Begin to wash the leather cleaner off, you may see the cleaner foam again but that is fine, a little elbow grease at this stage will assist (more so on the bolsters). Once you have removed the shampoo and rinsed the cloth ensure that the strokes are uniform as it will prevent staining and poor looking workmanship.

OK so your leather seats will be damp but not to worry they will dry naturally with all the car doors open (ventilation is important). What you should be left with is..... Matt finish dashboard and plastics that are so clean you could eat a meal from them, leather seats that have a sublime original matte finish with no sheen at all. On some leather the bolsters will keep a small sheen, this I have come to accept as natural (ware and tear). You can adopt the leather cleaning for the steering wheel too... BUT only using a small amount of leather cleaner. If your still puzzled about the brush, I use it so the bristles can work deep and drive out any particles that are living between the stitches and creases, very effective.

After you have done the above, then begin to hoover your car mats, it does help to knock the dirt out prior to hoovering (bang the back of the mat to throw stones or dry grass off the surface). This is self explanatory.

Glass cleaning, this is fun.... NOT... I hate cleaning the windscreen, it is very annoying and awkward. Using another microfiber cloth spray 3 or 4 light dusts of window cleaner (not house hold as the ammonia levels are too high). I use Autoglym Fast glass, it does the job for now but I will be looking at other brands such as Dodo juice etc etc. Apply to the window and keep the application as uniform as possible (up down, left right), get into all the gaps and ensure coverage is consistent as missed sections will show up like coffee on a white shirt. Whilst the window is slightly damp grab another MF cloth and use this to buff to a streak free, contaminant free, high shine finish. This method may take some getting used too but very effective. Assuming nobody ever touches your windows again, you should not have to follow this process for some time, they will remain spotless inside.

Right, time for a cup of tea. The interior can take 1 to 2 hours, for me it does anyway but I have OCD so it has too look sublime.

Look over the interior, make sure everything is done, under the seats are hoovered, foot wells, mats are done, dash is spotless, lenses, glass etc are all streak free and fit for a wedding.

The out side of the car now.................. The long bit....

Ensure all doors are shut and widows are up, yes I left a rear window slightly down once and with a pressure washer the interior was soaked and the white cloth roof was stained.. Do not worry it was an older car and not the Alfa.

Begin to wash the car down with the pressure washer starting from the roof, always work top down as the water falling off will drag off particles. Get the car soaked, ensure the wheel arches are blasted, wheels are soaked and some of the brake dust has been removed and lower door panels, sills, bumpers are soaked......REMEMBER do not expect the pressure washer to do all the work, your input is much more rewarding and much more effective than the machine.

So now your car is drowning in water. Get your selected suds, I use Dodo Juice Supernatural shampoo, however you can buy Zymol shampoo, works just as well and has a stunning smell of bananas. The great thing about those two and such products is that they do not remove your hard work of prior waxing and last a long time too, not a lot is required.

Fill your sud bucket with luke warm water and fill your other with just water.... Yes that is right TWO BUCKETS... WHY???? well if you wash your car "conventionally", dip and dip and dip into dirtier and dirtier water you will drag stone particles, fall out etc back over your paintwork, by adopting the second bucket to rinse your wash mitt you will remove the particles and when you dip back into suds you will have a nice clean mitt do it with.

So start from the roof of your car and keeping the wash uniform (back n forth) do not be tempted to wash in a circular motion, this will encourage swirl marks and they are ugly. Wash each panel with a fresh mitt full of suds (two bucket). Once you have done the whole car, rinse the car down (top to bottom), pay particular attention to suds behind the mirror glass, try and get that out as much as possible and any other jiggly places.

Keep the car wet.... Get your wheel cleaner, I use Bilberry wheel cleaner as it smells great and is acid free but very very very very very good, get around all 4 wheels and leave for 2 or 3 minutes. Grab your wheel cleaning brush, mine being an EZ Detail brush that is very good indeed for small gaps and effective removal of dust. After scrubbing each wheel, hose down to remove the cleaner and MF cloth to bring out the shine, You will be blown away.

Back to the car, keep the pressure washer at hand, if you can remove the lance for high pressure and just soak with a stream of water that would be great.

Here comes the magic of preparation..... CLAY BAR. I use a Bilt Hamber medium clay bar as this is cheaper than most but probably better too. Addition lube is not required either, which is what makes this product so great. So get your clay and cut off a piece. lay it lengthways and cut to a width of about 2cm, kneed the clay flat so it fits into your fingers tips nicely and just put to the paint work, use it like you were keying the surface with sandpaper, keep the movements uniform and you will first feel the surface as being rough, keep the clay lubed with water and you will feel it getting smoother and smoother, once you have completed the wing (where I start) have a look at the bar....... and prepare to fall over...

BE VERY VERY CAREFUL NOT TO DROP THE CLAY. I cannot say how far one side will go as every car will have different levels of paint contamination but what I can tell you is when I did my first clay session, I used about half of the 200g bar. You can use both sides of the clay and then Kneed again but remember you are removing contaminants and it will carry on to the clay.

So you have done the whole car, dropped the clay, shouted in anger, broken your spine. You can now wash the car down to remove any clay residue. Once you have washed the car down, get your MF drying towel and well.... Dry the car. You can buff again to ensure all surfaces are dry but not essential. Now run your worn to the bone fingers along the body work.......... Now isn't that smooth mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Now your body work may appear to be sublime, however we can improve on that.

Next phase is applying a glaze, if you have a dark car then use Poorboys Black Hole, very good, cheap, loads to go around but most of all, regarded by 1000s of home detailers as being a “great product with wonderful results”, which I have to agree with. This glaze comes in two forms, one for dark cars and one for light, simple. You can apply by hand or using a Dual Action Buffer machine, application by hand is tough work because you do need to seal the glaze by waxing which means hard hand work again so I strongly suggest trying to get hold a DA buffer. Not only for ease of application but the final results are brilliant. It is very difficult to see the glaze so you will need your best set of eyes to see the outlines of the glaze being applied and curing.

When applying the glaze you do not need a lot, about 4 pea sized drops will be fine on a 6" DA pad at speed setting 2 too 3, however that is user preferential. So you have begun applying, is there a method...... maybe?? but that is what the DA is all about, ham fisted people like myself. Just be sure to apply it equally and keep the machine moving, covering all corners of all panels. Once the Glaze has cured after about 15 minutes just get another MF cloth and buff off, it comes off very easily and the results are fairly instant.... The hard work pays off believe me.

Here is the final bit you have been waiting for..... WAXING... Yay finally... I’m starving I hear you say.

There are so many waxes out there, Hard wax, soft wax blah blah blah..... I shall keep it simple, get Autoglym HD WAX, it comes with two brilliant application pads, and a buffing MF cloth and do not purchase from a store, get it from Amazon for about £32, better than being ripped off by halfrauds at £45....... Disgusting.

AG HD Wax is very very good indeed, the beading is outstanding and it brings out the best of any paint work, easy to apply, easy to remove.... It is a good wax.

So apply in a circular motion, say a 3inch X 3inch block, start from one edge of the bonnet down and back up the other side of the waxed section. Once you have completed one panel, complete the wings, once you have done the wings, buff the bonnet, done the bonnet then wax the roof, once you have done the whole roof, buff the wings.... Reason you wax one, leave one, buff one, wax one etc etc etc is so the wax can cure onto the paint work.

Once you have waxed and buffed, get a thick MF cloth and buff again. You have waxed and can see shadow lines!!!??? then a good little tip is to moisten a cloth or use your moist drying cloth and wipe the waxed area and then buff with a buffing MF cloth with slight application of pressure.

Once the above has all been done, have a quick walk around, dry the door edges and apply tyre gloss and admire all your hard work.

I will advise that you let the wax cure for a few hours and apply a second and if you really want, add a third layer. The wax will seal in the glaze and the protection will last about 4 to 8 months (8 if your uber lucky).

Now 3 weeks pass, the car is buzzing, all you need is a hose, no pressure, soak the car, two bucket method, dry, buff, clean the wheels etc and that is it!!!! DONE, much easier now you have done all the tough work before, and now the wax has matured the shine will improve.

I hope this will help and get you going, you may feel that the methods need to be changed to suit you but this is purely a guide that suits me.

MF Cloths – they are better at drying and cleaning as they lift out particles and leave a uniform finish.

Lambswool Mitt – The natural fibers will capture small particles and trap them till you wash out in your bucket of water. Also it holds in suds very well so coverage will be brilliant. Soft fibers will not effect the paint either.

Clay bar – Will remove contaminants from the paint work that you never thought were there. Clay barring ensures a soft, smooth finish to the paint work and providing a great bonding surface for the glaze and wax... Remember PREPARATION IS KEY!!!!!!!!

Glaze – They have a filling effect, and will cover up light swirl marks and other light marks, it will not get rid of them permanently but will give the overall finish a more admiring finish. It also provides a wet look which on any dark paint looks sublime, more so on black, dark blue or deep deep colours (reds).

Wax – will seal in your glaze and prevent it simply washing away. Will also protect your paint work from acid in bird dropping, fall out and all other ugly particles in today's atmosphere. Also makes life 100000X easier when it comes to cleaning, water and dirt falls off, enjoy the beading.

Here are some links:

EZ Professional **MINI** Car / Motorbike Alloy Wheel and Engine Detail Cleaning Brush: Car & Motorbike

Meguiars Luxurious Lambs Wool Wash Mitt: Car & Motorbike

Chemical Guys Ultra Plush Towel - Miracle Dryer - Clean Your Car

Zymol Auto Wash Shampoo 500ml **COMES COMPLETE WITH WASH SPONGE**: Car & Motorbike

Autoglym 500ml Fast Glass: Car & Motorbike

Autoglym 500ml Leather Cleaner: Car & Motorbike

L.G Harris 16195 No Loss Brush (Pack of 5): DIY & Tools

3x Monza Superwax Buffer Microfibre Polishing Towels: Car & Motorbike

248 Posts
Wow....brilliant write up. I use some different products but similar process (always the two buckets though)
Thanks for all the effort...nice pics too!

291 Posts
Some very interesting points in there. And good product recomendations.

740 Posts
paint those rusty nuts Dan :mad: lol
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