Step 2: The Evaluation

Not done...just starting

The “real” fun starts after the wash with the important evaluation phase. Take some time and examine your paint and other aspects of your vehicle to decide what else is needed. If your car is relatively new and well taken care of, you may be done for the day. Or perhaps a coat of wax is all that’s required.

But perhaps when you rinsed, the water didn’t bead indicating it might be time for a coat of wax. Maybe your paint looks a little dull or dirty. Your finish may look ok, but you might feel little bumps on the surface. Maybe you see some grime in the cracks where the trim meets the body. Or maybe you see a few small scratches you’d like to remove. It is during this phase that you’ll come up with your plan.

This is also a time that many people get boggled. But don't. If you don't have a lot of time you can still achieve a high quality detailing job without spending an entire weekend by breaking down the list into manageable chunks that can be done over time. I suggest making a list (being honest) of everything that needs to be done. And if you don't want to do it all at once, try doing a little extra after every wash.

Click the picture to the left for more info.


Take a slow walk around your vehicle looking closely at the condition of the paint. Did the water bead up and roll off? Does the finish look a little dull or discolored? Does it feel smooth as glass? Do you see any spots? Remember that even if you don't actually see dirt, if you have never used a paint cleaner, I'd be willing to bet that it would make a difference.

Then look at the parts that, well, you may never even look at, like the wheels and tires, rocker panels, bumpers, etc. Look at the condition of the trim, whether you can see dirt in the rain channels on the roof, or in the emblems. Take a close look inside, not only at the carpets, but the dash vents, buttons, glass, etc. (Click the picture above for some examples.)

Also keep in mind that many areas, like plastic, vinyl and leather, need occasional treatment to protect them from deterioration.

This is where you are really looking at the "details" part of "detailing". It's the time to determine what else should be done, and, more importantly, what you are willing to do.

But don’t get boggled!

You don’t need to do everything at once. Break down your list into manageable components. For example, you could choose to concentrate on the interior this week, and the trim at another time. Since many of the processes don't need to be performed every time you wash, you could in fact fully detail a car over a period of weeks, or even months. An extra hour or two spent after every regular wash will quickly add up and make a huge difference.

This brings us to Paul’s third theory of car care…

If you think all this work is going to be a pain, it will be.

If all this doesn’t sound like fun, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. My suggestion...start of slowly and keep your final goal in mind: a vehicle that will look better than it has in years, or, if it is relatively new, a way to keep it looking like that!