I am not a detailing hobbyist or enthusiast, but I thought i will share what little knowledge I have here.
While many people are happy with giving the car to their GDW (gaadi Dhone Waala - term courtesy to my friend Guderian in another forum) for daily wash, there are some people who are not happy with the disdain these people having in handling our cars shining paint surface. If you are one of those and want to do some DIY to keep yuor car shining like new, read on.
What is car detailing?
It is not just washing your car with any available substance and pat srying it, but a rigors process of cleaning your car, washing the car with good care, cleaning the surface aberrations, polishing the paint to restore the finish, waxing the paint to form a protective barrier so that the paint is not affected and using quick detailers\spray waxes to keep the car shining like new.
Washing your car
Now, what is the big deal in washing? Let us take a hose, shower the car with water, soap the car with some shampoo and hose down the leather and pat dry the car. We are done - right? Wrong.
Few things always we need to keep in mind for a good wash:
Wash the car is shade. Never wash the car under hot sun.
Wash the wheels first. Wheels are dirt accumulating magnet and clean them first.
What matters is not the form, but the quality of the car was shampoo
Say no to scrubbers\local sponges
Use 2 bucket technique or use a bucket with a grit guard
Different cloths for different purpose - there is no One size fits for all.
Do not let the car dry in sun.
Sheet of water lets the water run off easily from car.
Use soft cotton or much preferably - micro fiber for drying the car
Let us go a bit deep into washing process.
The common tools we need is a good shady area, good length of hose to water wash the car, 2 buckets, a brush to clean tyre, a good car wash concentrate, wash clothes (preferably wash mitts) and a good quality soft cloths for drying the car.
After parking the car under a shade, apply water liberally on the tyres. After that, use a good cleaning agent of your choice - I prefer car shampoo - and use a mild brush to brush down the tyre to clean all the mud deposited. If you are really particular, you can even jack up and clean the stones which have got lodged in the grooves.
Brush down vigorously and follow it up by again water washing the tyres - use plenty of water and make sure that there is no soapy residue left.
When you are done with tyres, start clean your alloys\wheel caps. Dip a rag in the foam and wipe down the alloys\wheel caps throughly and then wash them thoroughly with water.
After thoroughly cleaning with water, wipe down the tyres with cotton waste. If you are particular about tyre shine or want to keep the tyres looking like new, you can apply tyre cleaners.
You can use alloy wheel cleaners \ break dust repellents or as a lesser effective substitute, you can use good wax on the alloys.
Once you are done with tyre and alloys, start hosing down the car with plenty of water. If the water you use is hard water, you can use some softening agents (like ONR in preferred dilution). Use plenty of water to loosen the dirt, but do not use a cloth to drag the dirt - dirt particles may get lodged in teh cloth \ sponge and may introduce micro scars. While hosing the car with water, do not use much pressure - this can make the grit drag over the surface which in turn will results in micro scratches.
After this, take some water in one bucket and add a good car shampoo to it. Car shampoos are usually pH controlled, and are based on detergents - not on soaps. Soap based cleaners may contain trace elements which can damage the paint. Use a wash mitt or a microfiber cloth or a good soft cotton cloth to apply the form on the car surface. general purpose Sponges are less preferred since they have cavities which can entrap dirt particles which can streak the surface.
Use small motions instead of long sweeping motion and make sure that every time the cloth\mitt picks up dirt, rinse it in the water in the other bucket. This technique of using two buckets - one to dip and wash and other to rise clean the cloth - is called two bucket technique. An alternative is to use a bucket with grit guard.
A grit guard is a plastic guard which sits inside the bucket which traps the grit to the bottom of the water.
make sure that you rinse the cloth frequently so that the cloth remains dirt free every time you use it on the car to apply foam. Foam the car thoroughly - it is advised to have different cloths to foam the lower side of the car and upper side of the car. Dirt accumulation are more on the lower half usually.
When choosing a good car wash liquid \ shampoo, do not choose one which contains trace elements of wax -wax is a sealant and when you wash, you want the paint to open up - not seal close.
Once you are done with applying foam and loosening all the dirt, apply water again. Use plenty of water and make sure that you hose down all the foam from the surface.
When apply the foam and water down your car, please make sure that the car never dries under natural heat.
Apply water in sheet like instead of sprinkling it since sheet will remove most water from the surface.
When the car have been properly cleaned using water, use soft cotton towel or micro fiber to pat dry the car. There are special high capacity towels available which can absorb lot of water - one substitute you can look at is a really soft pet towel with lot of water absorption capacity.
Never apply much pressure, and while pat drying, if you come across any dirt particles, do not try to force them off.
Once you finish pat drying your car, evaluate the paint surface. If the car have been waxed recently and you used a wash\shampoo which will not affect the wax, and if the paint is in generally good shape, you can follow up the wash with a quick wax or even with spray wax.
On the other hand, if your paint needs rejuvenating or you stripped all the previous wax layers and you have surface contamination you need to go for surface preparation \ pre-wax cleaning