Step 6: Cleaning Other Areas


As mentioned before, much of real "detailing" is in the details. (That makes sense, eh?) Below are some often-overlooked areas of your vehicle. Once again, these are all areas that can be addressed one at a time after each cleaning.

Wheels and Tires


Once in a while I use a spray cleaner designed for wheels. These products promise a "hands-off" way to clean wheels. While they do seem to loosen some of the dirt, I haven't found one that is truly "hands-free." If you do want to try a wheel cleaner, make sure that you select a cleaner designed for your wheels. If you have magnesium or aluminum wheels, you'll want to use a cleaner made for them. If in doubt, use a product designed for "all wheels". And make sure you follow the instructions.

About as often as I dress the tires, I also wax my wheels. “Wax your wheels?” you may ask. Sure. On many vehicles, wheels are painted and/or clear-coated – just like the paint on the car. Even some polished wheels have a clear coat. So by keeping them waxed, just like the finish on your car, they not only look shinier, but clean up much easier.

For the purpose of waxing wheels, I use an old applicator pad, an old can of wax and an old t-shirt to make sure there's never a chance of transferring road grime or brake dust to the wax I use for the paint.


Once every few washes, I “dress” the tires with a tire coating. I’ll first use a rubber cleaner to make sure they are very clean. (And, of course, I use sponges and towels dedicated to tires. Won't you?)

As with the interior coating above, I prefer not to have a high shine that most tire dressings create. So after I coat the tire, I wipe it thoroughly with a separate towel or rag. (Here’s a good place to use those old t-shirts - use them a couple of times, and toss them.)

Attention to the details

Black trim

Hidden Body Parts

While I'm drying the car, I open all the doors, trunk and even hood to clean the jams and channels. If you've never done this, they could be very dirty. However if you just wipe them dry with a towel every time you wash, it will stay relatively clean in there. And once in a while, during a full scale detail, I'll go even further. (Click the picture to the left for more information.)


A very important part of the detail process is often overlooked – and that’s cleaning all the exterior trim. In the “old” days, it was easy – all trim and bumpers were chrome. But today, you probably have rubber and plastic parts all over the vehicles – some is painted the same color as the body, some is painted black, and some might just be black plastic. It’s important to select the right product.

Some people choose to clean the trim before they wax. Their thinking is that trim-cleaning products will get on the paint. I prefer the reverse so that if I get wax on the trim, I will be cleaning it off anyway. To be honest, I don’t think it matters.

Another important aspect of any trim is the build-up of dirt around it. You may not want to, but take a close look at the area where the trim and emblems meet the paint. Do you see dirt? If all you've done is wash, and even wax your vehicle, you probably will. It's a bit time-consuming to really clean trim, and you don't have to do it every time you wash, but making sure there is not dark line of dirt around trim and rain channels is something that will make a difference in the overall results.

For black rubber, I use something called “Black Chrome*” by Turtle Wax. For painted trim, I just use whatever cleaner and wax that I use for the paint. Pay attention to the gap or seam where the trim meets the body. You want to make sure any dirt and wax residue is removed from these areas. A build up here will be much more obvious if the trim is the same color as the body.

*Note: In September, 2009, I was contacted by reader Ken who was having a difficult time finding Black Chrome. It appears that it is no longer sold by Turtle Wax - at least not in the United States.

I sent an inquiry to Turtle Wax through their web site but never received a response.

It appears that it may still available in the UK ( ).

If you have any information about Black Chrome, drop us a note. In the meantime, there are several Meguiar's products available designed for use with black trim.


I generally clean all the glass last so I can clean up any overspray from the cleaners/conditioners I’ve used, as well as the residue from waxing. Once again, use a cleaner designed for auto glass, not a household windows.

One little trick I do is to lower all the windows about a half inch and clean one side. While doing so, I clean both sides of the tops of the glass – that little part that rests in the channel. After it’s clean, I raise the windows and clean the other side.

Don’t forget the interior and exterior mirrors…even the ones that hide in the sun visors.

Protecting the rubber

303 Fabric Guard

Touch up those nicks!

Got chrome?

Rubber Weather-stripping

If you look around your car, you’ll see quite a bit of rubber weather stripping around the insides of the doors, trunk, hood, sunroof, etc. During my annual detail, I like to treat all this rubber with a product called “Black Magic”. It’s a bit on the gooey side, so I usually do it after the wash, before the cleaning/waxing cycle. I use an old t-shirt. Don't try to wash it afterwards.

Convertible Tops

There are a number of cleaners specifically formulated to clean convertible tops. Once again, don't use household products because they could negatively affect your paint.

One secret to keeping your convertible top looking good is to waterproof it. Once a year, I use a product called 303 on my convertible top. (There's also one called RaggTopp that I haven't tried.) The 303 I use is for canvas. (There is one formulated for vinyl tops, but I've never used it.) Since you spray it on, it's a bit messy, so use some towels to "mask" the paint and windows. But it's worth it. Water beads on the canvas like a newly waxed car!


Touch Up Paint

If you notice chips or small deep scratches, it's time to get some touch up paint. Filling those little craters takes some practice, and I'll be the first to admit I'm not an expert. But even a less than perfect job will look better from a few feet away than primer or metal. And if you live in damp or salty areas, those small chips can quickly become rust points.



Considering that many cars at one time seems to be made out of chrome, times sure have changed. The only chrome I can find on my vehicles are on one tailpipe and a couple of license plate frames. Unless you have a motorcycle, you probably don't have much.

But if you do have chrome, keep it polished to protect it from those little rusty spots.