It’s hard to believe we know, but not everyone out there is a hardcore detailing enthusiast. But, don’t think of that as a travesty, not only does it mean that your perfectly-buffed pride and joy will stand out from the crowd more effectively – it also keeps many a professional detailer in business.
The real point is that not all cars are regularly cleaned at all, let alone detailed to the sort of standard we in the know expect. There are those out there that are regarded by their owners as mere tools, simply to get from A to B… in many cases completing that particular journey as quickly as possible. So, while some may be a thing of beauty for sure, appearances can often come secondary to performance or practicality. And, none more so than when it comes to many a hard-driven fast road car, especially those which have been tickled at more than a couple of track days in their time.
These are the kind of vehicles that, at the very most, owners may choose to wash as quickly and effectively as possible. Spending any more time on polishing or waxing may not be particularly high up on their priority list between track sessions or B-road blasts. Just like many other enthusiast-owned cars, these lend themselves well to Caramics protection. After all, providing a hardcore coating which grime doesn’t stick to, is exactly the type of easy-to-maintain offering that many are looking for.
But of course, before any coating can be applied the car has to be cleaned and prepped, and in extreme cases you may have to go a little further. This then, is the art of the deep clean…
Why deep clean your car?
It all comes down to three things – vehicle age, detailing knowledge and neglect. Whether it’s a car that’s been solely used for performance purposes, an older model you’ve just picked up, or even a reasonably well-kept car that just hasn’t been deep cleaned for a while, it’s perhaps the most effective process in restoring a car to its former glory. Besides, if you’re not the fastest thing on the road or track, you may as well be the prettiest, right? And, while you don’t have to deep clean a car to utilise our Caramics range, going that extra mile will always pay dividends to your over all detail.
What is deep cleaning?
Where deep cleaning, differs to a maintenance, or even decontamination detail, has as much to do with the extra stages involved as it does the condition of car it’s going to be performed on. At a very basic level it can be summised as simply as ‘taking bits off’, chiefly to clean the areas that you may not see. But then again, just because it’s not obvious doesn’t mean that these hidden parts aren’t important. Common dirt traps - like behind lights and under trim - can be notorious for allowing ingrained contamination to cause rot and friction damage to seals. In many cases, paintwork can also give way to rust in the areas that are hardly ever cleaned effectively. So, put simply, you may need to go a little further into the job by removing the odd part, if of course it makes sense to do so.
The truth is that many a car that appears to be perfectly detailed can throw up plenty of hidden surprises, but with the correct tools for the job, deep cleaning is a relatively simple process. And, the best news of all is that it can be done without any expensive industrial products or equipment, or scary hardcore processes that require years of training. Just a little elbow grease and a few products you can buy off-the-shelf here at Auto Finesse is all you need. So, here’s how it’s done…
Do it the Auto Finesse Way…
For this job we’d need an example that has seen plenty of abuse and not a great deal of detailing… in other words, we had to get a ringer in.
Mark’s heavily modified FD RX-7 was the perfect candidate because not only has it seen more than its fair share of track time over the years, but this fast road weapon had also been laid up outside over winter while awaiting an engine rebuild. Due to most of the 2020 season being something of a write off, and Mark being away shooting cars for Top Gear and Speedhunters, we thought we’d get it in for a thorough over hall.
Of course, this may be a thoroughbred bedroom wall poster car - especially for hardcore tuner fans - but the same detailing principles apply to any example as they do transforming this pedigree Japanese modern classic.
The Wash Stage
Step1: Wheels and Tyres
As with any deep clean, preparation is everything. It also helps to work to a methodical system. We always start with the wheels, just like we would with any wash, because the grimmest and most neglected areas should always be the first to be tackled.
The first job is to jack the car up and remove the wheels. You don’t have to do all four at once, what’s most important here is safety, so make sure you use your common sense, and a beefy axle stand or two. We tend to start on the front, because these tend to be the most contaminated, and then move on to the rear.
Removing the wheels not only means you can deep clean the barrels, but it also gives you access to the chassis and arch liners, where you’ll usually find the heaviest soiling. A long methodical rinse with a pressure washer is the first process, this will help lift away any caked-on mud. Don’t be afraid to remove arch liners if you have to, and pay particular attention to the very top of the wheel wells where dirt tends to dry and clog. The car being jacked up also gives the perfect opportunity to blast away dirt and debris from the whole underside.
Once you have pre rinsed using a combination Dynamite Traffic Film Remover and Eradicate Engine Degreaser liberally on all areas will help cut through the remainder of the grime. These can be agitated into all areas using a detailing brush or a Scrubi spot pad.
Once rinsed, it’s also crucial to remember is metal decontamination. This is because, apart from the wheels, the under arches see the heaviest concentration of hot brake dust. These metal particles can be chemically dissolved using Iron Out, so a good dousing on these areas (including suspension and brake components) helps to prevent any further corrosion caused by these harsh ferrous contaminants.
On to the actual wheels. The cleaning process here is the same as you’d find four any full decontamination wash, just with better access to the rear of the spokes and the barrels. This is important for use, because these hidden areas will be fully coated using our Caramics Wheel Protection Kit later. Don’t forget that the unseen parts of your wheels suffer from just as much brake dust contamination as the faces, in most cases even more.
First, you’ll need to protect the faces and lips from damage when you position them ‘face down’, then we find it best use a triple threat of products, starting with Iron Out and moving on to Imperial Wheel Cleaner, brushed in using Revolution Wheel Soap. This ensures that all traces of metal particles and grime are washed away.
To finish off we use Verso All Purpose cleaner and a Scrubi spot pad to cleanse the tyres, removing grime and any old dressings. Only then can we flip the wheel over and carry out the same process on the face. Once again, it’s a case of ‘grimmest areas first’ so always start with the barrels otherwise you may have to clean the faces twice.
In our case we needed to move the vehicle later, so we had to refit the wheel. But, if your car is staying static, there’s no reason why you can’t take them elsewhere and begin coating.
One other thing to note is that that different wheel types (from lacquered wheels like here, through to more specialist finishes, like polished wheels) require different levels of cleaning. So, for more information on products and methods, you can check out our Definitive Wheel Cleaning Guide here.
Step 2: Engine Bay
It goes without saying that the engine bay is usually one of the grimiest areas on the car. In fact, even a recently rebuilt engine won’t usually be detailed, so we tend to continue our deep cleaning regime here.
The first thing to note is to know exactly what you’re dealing with. Most modern cars have acres of protective plastics, but more retro examples - especially those of the modified variety - may have exposed wiring and open cone filters to watch out for. Before you go straight in with a pressure washer, ensure you’re careful about exactly where you’re spraying. Use protection where you can, and always avoid spraying directly onto any electronics and alternators.
In our case we had to remove the open filter, and protect some wiring before thoroughly pre-rinsing. Then a liberal application of Eradicate could be brushed into any awkward areas, before being rinsed away. The underside of the fibreglass bonnet wasn’t quite as heavily soiled so a 1:5 solution of Verso was perfect to remove the last of the grime. The engine bay would still need a little work of course, but we’d get back to that in the finishing stages.
Step 3: Exterior Pre-wash
Whether it’s maintenance, decon or deep cleaning, pre-washing your car is always a given. This is to ensure that any heavy soiling isn’t ground into the paintwork when you make contact with your wash mitt. The very first step in a proper, swirl-free wash.
In deep cleaning terms the process doesn’t differ massively, apart from being absolutely certain you haven’t missed any areas in the pre-rinse (being sure to blast out any grime trapped around trim, under spoilers) and using a little more Citrus Bug and Grime Remover and Dynamite over the whole car.
The same can be said for snow foaming. Using Avalanche is a pre-wash essential for lifting away other potentially abrasive grime… but you already knew that, right?
Step 4: Contact Wash
The contact washing process is the same one we all know and love, all we can really say here is to use two buckets and be a thorough as possible. Be sure to take your time brushing in window rubbers and around grilles, and don’t forget to wash and rinse inside the door shuts and jambs.
Step 5: Paint Decontamination
The last part of the wash stage is always decontamination, and where it differs on a car like this is simply how much contamination you’re likely to find. Performance vehicles, particularly those used on track are particularly susceptible to metal contamination form excess brake dust caused by heavy braking (including the braking from other cars in the vicinity), they also tend to get peppered with an abundance of sticky rubber and tar. These cars go faster, and get used harder, so they come into contact with more of the bad stuff, it makes sense, right?
Iron Out sprayed all over the vehicle can be worked in with a microfibre pad and will effectively remove the metal contaminants. But (after rinsing this off), you’ll need to pay particular attention to decontaminating the bottom half, especially around the wheels. This is where you’ll find the hardiest, stuck-on contaminates that will need to be removed with ObliTARate Tar and Glue Remover. A few spritzes of this should see the stickiest of contaminants bleed away from painted surfaces, allowing them to be wiped away with a clean microfibre. Always make sure you re-wash and rinse these areas afterwards to neutralise any left-over chemicals.
Step 6: Decontamination with Clay
We dried and rolled the RX-7 inside to complete the decontamination process, but you may not wish to move your car, and you might even choose to carry out this stage before drying. What’s most important here is that clay is lubricated with our Glide Clay Lube and used to pull out the last of the ingrained contamination.
Utilising Detailing Clay, or our Handi Clay Pads is an important part of preparing the car for the later stages, and what’s more you can actually feel the difference. The surface will get slicker and more slippery as you glide the clay across it.
There are no particular areas to take note of here, just clay the whole vehicle, including the lights. And, don’t worry, it doesn’t take half as long as most people think.
The Paint Cleaning and Correction Stage
This is the part where the deep cleaning process really comes into its own. It’s also the bit where you have to be extremely careful… especially if you’re helping out on someone else’s car. Preparation for cleaning is all about gaining access to the most awkward dirt traps and this means that parts that are easily removable - lights, pieces of trim and spoilers for example – can be taken out to clean separately.
Note, we say 'easily removabl', because these are the items most likely to suffer from dirt and dust passing through fitting gaps and seals. You don’t need to go crazy and strip the car down to a bear shell, because it’s unlikely you’ll find a substantial number of unprotected surfaces that actually need deep cleaning. This also raises the risk of parts getting lost or damaged.
Remember that things like seals, rubbers and even windows are there for a reason, they’re rarely easy to remove, and these can all be masked for paint correction and then cleaned effectively in situ.
We also like to have the wheels off during this part of the process, this makes it easier to further clean, finish and dress parts like arch liners and even brake discs.
Step 2: Deep Cleaning
With these parts removed you’ll find an abundance of hidden grime you never knew was there. In most cases this will be built up over years of exposure… although it’s not at all difficult to clean away. A great example of this is behind lights and under spoilers, not only will there be plenty of grime in the recesses, but you can guarantee that the part you’ve removed will be smothered on the back, too. A 1:5 solution of Verso is your friend here, agitated with a brush it makes short work of the harshest soiling, you can then simply wipe away any grime with a Microfibre Work Cloth.
Parts that have been removed can also be finished separate from the car. Rear lights for example can usually benefit greatly from machine polishing, and any plastic trim can be brought straight back to life with Revive Trim Dressing.
Step 3: Paint Correction
While many track, and indeed road cars, will be vinyl wrapped nowadays, what’s important to consider about coatings is that they work by bonding to the surface creating a layer of super-hard ceramic protection. In other words, they cure to form an SiO2 barrier that locks out grime, but crucially, this will lock in any defects, too.
Of course, this isn’t usually a problem for a wrap, or a car covered in decals, but it can certainly highlight defects in badly damaged paintwork. For this very reason, paint correction prior to coating is always highly recommended… but luckily there’s no easier, or more cost-effective, way than with our Revitalise Kit and DPX Dual Action Polisher.
Designed to make life simple, this colour-coded set of pads and three different grades of compound work together to cover every stage from cutting to refining, leaving behind the perfect surface for adhesion of your Caramics Paint Protection Kit.
Working through all the stages of Revitalise is as easy as 1, 2, 3, just be slow and methodical making sure you tackle each part of the car, panel by panel.
Once you’re finished transforming your paintwork with your Revitalise Kit, technically at least you’re ready to begin coating… although it makes far more sense to deep clean your interior first.
Interior Deep Cleaning
Step 1: Preparation
Just like the exterior, many interior parts are easy to remove to gain better access during your deep clean. The same rules apply here, too, it’s all about taking out the easy and bulky parts, rather than wasting time stripping out more complicated items like dashboards or whole carpets.
In our case removal of the front seats and mats was enough, everything else could be worked around effectively.
Step 2: Cleaning
Once again, the key here is to be methodical. Basically, after vacuuming away the majority of the dirt and debris, you’ll want to cover every inch with Total Interior Cleaner.
For interior plastics, agitation with a detailing brush is a must for making sure the Total works into surfaces, cleansing and lifting away grime along the way. Extra attention should always be given to brushing around switches, air vents and steering wheel trim - all the places where dust and dead skin tends to settle.
Using Wipe Out Interior Disinfectant in and around air vents, along with items that see the most physical contact (like the shifter and steering wheel) is also a must, as it’s especially effective at killing germs and harmful bacteria.
To clean carpets, matts and soft fabrics, simply utilise more Total. There’s a reason it’s called Total after all, it does the lot! An Upholstery Brush is the perfect partner for agitating the cleaner deep into the fibres on seats and carpets, these are also particularly handy for agitating Hide Leather Cleaner on leather seats and door cards.
Using both of these top interior cleaning products, is a simple spray on, agitate and wipe affair. Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to leave your fabrics to dry thoroughly.
Step 3: Interior Finishing and Dressing
Of course, in the world of detailing, finishing your interior effectively is as important as the cleaning and sanitising. Feeding leather seats with Hide Leather Conditioner, ensuring your interior glass is smear-free with Crystal Glass Cleaner and restoring a subtle factory finish to dashboards and trim with Spritz Interior Detailer are all quick and simple jobs that will help push your deep clean to a professional level.
It’s also about this time you can look at other small-but-important detailing jobs - those little extras that will make a big difference. Here, for example, we used Tripple All In One Polish to clean and polish the inner doors and seals, along with Dressle All Purpose Trim Dressing on plastic trims and kick plates. We even found time for a spot of polishing with Mercury Metal Polish on the boot-mounted alloy battery box. Why? Because details matter, that’s why
Step 4: Interior Protection
Only when your seats and carpets are completely dry can you begin coating with our Caramics Interior Protection Kit. Using the Fabric Coating couldn’t be simpler, you just apply a fine mist to the surface, leave to dry, and it cures to form a hydrophobic layer to keep spills and dirt from ingraining themselves into in the fabric.
It’s best to give each surface two coats with 3-4 hours drying time in between, so here we chose to spray the first application onto the seats and mats while they were removed from the car. That way we could treat the carpets and the leather rear bench (using the supplied leather coating), and then refit the seats before the final application.
The Exterior Coating and Finishing Stages
Step 1: Reassembly
Our Caramics Paint Protection Kit is specifically designed to make ceramic coating easy to apply for the home user. Our innovative use of simple Ceramic Resin Wipes means that it’s seriously quick to apply, which make ideal for when the car is in one piece. Our Ceramic Wipes are also safe for use on lights (the only thing to avoid is plastic trim) so the next step for us was to get the car back together, reinstalling all the parts that have been removed, cleaned and polished.
The only parts to leave off now are the wheels, as we’ll coat those separately, inside and out.
Step 2: Pre-finishing
There’s no real official name for this process, so we’ll just call it pre-finishing. What we’re referring to here are the small finishing tasks that may interfere with the curing of - or risk contact with - the coating. Particularly those where there’s a chance of over spraying or inflicting dust or dry residues. In our case it’s processes like using Verso on window rubbers, Dressle on the arch liners and engine bay, Tripple and Mercury for a few other under-bonnet areas, and refitting a few parts we’d touched up… oh, and not forgetting a brand-new HKS air filter.
It’s worth noting that this stage is only needed if you intend on carrying on detailing during the 6-hours before the resin is initially cured. If for instance, you’ll be leaving the car overnight in between, these processes can carried out at the end as you would during a more traditional detail.
Step 3: Exterior Coating
Now the paint coating can begin, but not before giving the whole car a wipe down with the supplied Caramics Prep Spray. This, as the name suggests, fully prepares the surface to give the perfect characteristics for ceramic bonding. After this simple preparation stage you can coat your car, panel by panel using the Ceramic Resin Wipes, before buffing of any residue, and leaving to cure. Yes, it really is that easy.
There’s no particular order that Caramics Resin Wipes have to be applied in, but we like to start with the roof, bonnet and tailgate, followed by the sides, and finish with the bumpers and lights. This is to help avoid accidental contact with coated parts caused by leaning over panels to coat others.
Step 4: Wheel Coating
There’s a slightly different process involved when coating wheels with the Caramics system. Once again you use a prep spray first to offer the best surface for adhesion, but the actual Wheel Coating is a simple spray that you spritz directly onto the surface, before spreading with an applicator cloth, and buffing off any residue.
Our Caramics Wheel Protection Kit can of course be used with the wheels fitted to the car, but this doesn’t always grant the best access to the barrels. With the wheels off of the car, we find it best to complete the process on the barrels first, followed by the faces. This will reduce the risk of leaving behind any residue or overspray in the most obvious areas.
Step 5: Glass Coating
Last in the Caramics line up, is our Glass Protection Kit. Like the process used for the paint, this involves using our special Glass Wipes to quickly and easily apply the coating to the surface.
The preparation and finishing stages here is slightly different however. It utilises our Caramics Glass Polish to help the coating bond to the surface, along with a residue remover to wipe away any excess product after you’ve successfully coated your glass.
Step 6: Final Finishing
With the exterior fully coated and cured, the detail is nearly at an end, all that’s left are those final finishing touches that push the stages of mere cleaning or valeting, into the world of proper detailing.
The processes - and selection of favourite Auto Finesse products - you use at the end will always depend on your car, and what you can do to enhance your detailing. For us (after bolting the wheels back on), a simple application of Satin Tyre Dressing on all the chunky tyres, and a spot of trim restoration with Revive was all that was needed to achieve the intended results.
And with that complete, here's how it turned out…
It’s always prudent after any job, to stand back and admire the results. We can’t wait to see this RX-7 back out getting used and abused as it should, on the road and on the track. Thanks to the protection offered by the Caramics range, we’re looking forward to seeing how easy it will be for Mark to maintain between sessions, too.