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In The Detail - Honda Civic Shuttle EE -
49 min read Thursday 09 February 2023

In The Detail - Honda Civic Shuttle EE

Follow the epic detailing video with our step-by-step guide on this huge Honda Civic Shuttle correction...

What follows is arguably the biggest detailing challenge we've ever faced here at Auto Finesse. At least for a while. On the outside this early "90s Honda Civic Shuttle looks rotten to the core, and it has to be said that the inside isn't much better, either. But we think a challenge like this is no match for the power of detailing, and from the start we were certain we could utilise a few products to bring it back to life. After all, dirt is just dirt, right? But, then again, what about mould, moss and mildew? And, what is the paintwork going to be like under that little lot?

That's the real story, you see. Why are we contemplating detailing a 30-odd-year old Honda? Because we think we can. For the past 5-years or so, this little Civic Shuttle has been sitting around unloved, out in the open, under a tree. It's not what you'd call the prized possession that we normally get to work on here, and that's the whole point. In fact, this car wasn't even driven to The Detailing Academy under its own steam. On no, we had to go and drag it out of its resting place, fire it up and load it onto our recovery lorry! And all that's before we could even start with the cleaning.

The real question here then, is can this little modern classic be saved with nothing more than a spot of detailing? And that's what we're here to find out. So, first check out the video below, and then we'll give you the full rundown on every aspect of, what's turned out to be, one of the toughest detailing jobs ever…

So, there's one rather epic video… but, what's even better is that now you get to take a much closer look with our in-depth guide to every product used, how we use them, and why…

We start every detail with the wheels, chiefly because they're typically the most contaminated part of every vehicle… although, this time at least, that may not be the case.

Wheels and tyres come in to direct, prolonged contact with some of the harshest contamination on the roads, including salt, heavy gritty grime and brake dust - all corrosive contamination that must be removed to avoid damage to the wheel finish, and eventually the metal underneath. As the insides are just as susceptible to corrosion as the outside, if not more so, for a deep-clean like this we'll remove the wheels. This isn't just to more thoroughly clean the wheels themselves, with better access to the inner barrels and behind the centres, but to give us the best access to the inner arches, plastic liners and chassis components.

As you can see, the Civic Shuttle comes with powdercoated steel wheels, and these ones in particular aren't in the best condition. The truth is there's nothing in terms of the finish that detailing can do for wheels that have corroded to this level, you just can't polish out rust. In these rare cases a full referb is the only way to bring back the factory finish, and we'll send these off later when the car is safely on the ramp in the polishing bay. In the meantime though, we can still deep-clean the surfaces and pull the grime out of the tyres.

While safe cleaning - and by that we mean removal of the contamination without inflicting swirl marks - isn't the greatest priority here, we'll still use wheel cleaning products that are designed to lift and encapsulate the potentially harmful particles, allowing them to be safely rinsed away.

Our main cleaning agent here is Reactive Wheel Cleaner which not only contains degreasers and surfactants designed to break down and lift bonded grime, but also a special metal fallout remover which reacts with brake dust. This reaction chemically dissolves the metal particles into a rinsible solute - the only way of safely removing ferrous metal particles that have embedded themselves into the top layer of paint, powdercoat or lacquer.

For added cleaning power, and as an extra lubricant to help grime and heavy soil to slip safely over surfaces, we also brush-in the Reactive using Revolution Wheel Shampoo. Because this product is essentially a wheel cleaning shampoo that creates plenty of deep-cleansing suds in your wheel bucket, it makes it ideal for use when agitating other heavy hitting spray-on cleaners. Revolution can also be used as a stand-alone cleanser for the safest cleaning on the most sensitive finishes, such as polished, bare metal and chrome - although that's not what you call an issue here is, it?

To prepare our Revolution solution, we add a few capfuls to our wheel bucket, and give it a quick froth up with our pressure washer.

Working on one wheel at a time, first we rinse the whole wheel and tyre inside and out. This is an important step before applying any cleaning agents as it will remove any loose grit and grime, allowing your detailing products to get to work where they're most needed (and, you'll agree that they are extremely needed on the wheels), instead on being wasted on contamination that can be removed by water pressure alone.

The next step is to apply our Reactive liberally inside an out. For wheels with this level of contamination, we'll make sure we'll get plenty on there, and we can see it start to react with the metal particles almost immediately, turning the solution a blood red colour. This indicates that the metal is being dissolved into the solution.

Now for the agitation, and the key difference here to more usual deep cleaning of wheels, is that we're only using one brush to agitate our solution. We've chosen a Hog Hair Detailing Brush, which has slightly stiffer bristles than we'd normally use on more sensitive wheels. While the soft, natural l bristles will not scratch anyway, they're just the thing to really work our solutions into every crevice when we're using plenty of pressure.

In most cases the agitation process on wheels is extremely light and designed not to physically scrub surfaces. We also use wash media such as a Wonder Wool Wheel Brush or Ultra Plush Wheel Mitt - products designed to lift and hold on to heavy particles keeping them safely away from sensitive finishes. For us here the priority is the heavy grime removal, so there's a bit more emphasis on the mechanical cleaning side, and to make sure the solution makes contact with every part of the surface. As with all agitation processes it's also a way of getting the most out of your cleaning agents. By nature, you're moving your solution around, shifting away spent product (cleaning agent that's already reacted or encapsulating the maximum amount of contamination) and replacing it with fresh solution to work on any remaining grime.

We work in our solutions thoroughly here, making sure we give extra attention to awkward recesses, baked on grime and any crevices that may have acted as dirt traps. We'll also reapplying more Reactive as we go, just to make sure there's plenty of fresh solution to give the maximum contact with the most ground-in dirt.

Before we rinse away the grit, grime and metal particles safely trapped in our wheel cleaning solutions, we can tackle those filthy tyres.

As with any detail, you're not going to harm your sidewalls and treads by giving them a good scrub. In fact, it's actually beneficial to use a stiff brush - such as our Rubber Scrubber Tyre Brush - here to help your cleaning agent draw the ground-in dirt out of the rubber. This will remove the embedded grime as well as oily residues, road films and old tyre dressings, leaving behind a surface that will promote a firm bond with the tyre dressing you choose at the end of your detail.

What's even more important is to use a heavy hitting cleaner capable of breaking down and encapsulating the harshest contamination, but without damaging the tyre underneath. Many all-purpose cleaners can dry out rubber, so we use Tread Tyre Cleaner, a powerful rubber-safe alternative.

A quick application of Tread all around the tyre, followed by a good scrub with our Rubber Scrubber and we're ready to rinse down the wheel and tyre together.

Inner Arches and Chassis

Whether you tackle each wheel and then the inner arch one by one, or all four wheels and then all four arches will likely depend on how many jacks or axle stands you have… but it isn't important. What is however, is getting the grime out of those arches and chassis components. While you may not always see the whole of these parts of the car you'll see some, so it really does have an impact on the rest of the detail. Cleaning will always help to prevent the onset of chassis corrosion from the harsh contamination you'll find here, too. Besides, you don't want any grime falling out and interfering with the job later, do you?

Cleaning these parts is quick and simple, and unlike the exterior surfaces which are relatively sensitive, there's no risk of damaging the metal and plastic components by giving them a good scrub. First though, a thorough rinse down working around the arches and finishing on the brakes and other components is needed before any cleaning agents are applied. We'll be extra careful to ensure we've to flushed out any mud and loose grime or brake dust that's accumulated in the hard-to-reach spots. Again, this pre-rinse will help your cleaning agents do their job where they're most needed and cut down on wastage.

First, we'll clean up the brake calipers. The chief contaminant here will be baked-on metal contamination derived from brake dust - a job that requires chemical reaction to dissolve for effective removal, rather than a more traditional cleaner and degreaser. Here we utilise a little more Reactive for a spot of targeted spraying and work into the surfaces using a Hog Hair Brush.

Agitation is vital here, specifically to get the product into all the awkward nooks you'll find around these complicated parts. Powering through the contamination is no problem for Reactive, the key is to ensure that you get plenty on there and agitate into where it needs to be. Once we've worked the product in, we can rinse away the contamination dissolved into the solution.

Next, we move onto the inner arches, plastic arch liners and suspension components, all extremely grubby parts we can tackle with a 1:5 dilution of Verso All-Purpose Cleaner. Verso is a powerful, dilute-to-suit surfactant based cleaner and degreaser designed to break the bonds of the engrained grime and oily residues, lifting them away from surfaces and safely holding them in the solution, allowing them to be rinsed away. In most situations a 1:10 dilution will be enough to lift away grime but, as is the beauty of a diluteable concentrate, you can mix up a more potent solution for the really mucky stuff. 

Again, the safe aspect of the cleaning isn't as important here as it would be on the more noticeable and sensitive exterior surfaces, but the ability of Verso to break away the grime from the surface is vital. To make agitation easy on these large areas we use an Arch Blaster Arch Brush, along with a Hog Hair Brush on any areas where access is a little more tight.

The best advice we can give in this situation is to get plenty of cleaner on there and scrub it in well, making sure the solution is contacting every area, and reapplying your Verso when needed. We're powering through multiple layers of grime here, so refreshing the product as much as possible is the best way to maximise the effectiveness of your cleaner. Once we've agitated our Verso into all surfaces, we can rinse away the residue and inspect the area for any other contamination that requires extra attention

One last step in this case, is using ObliTARate Tar & Glue Remover to remove the sticky residues and tar spotting we found plastered all over the plastic arch liners. This isn't always a necessary step on every single detail but, when this type of contamination is present, the only course for safe removal is using a strong solvent to chemically dissolve the sticky oily-based contaminants, breaking them down enough for them to be wiped away with a microfibre cloth. In other words, this powerful solvent solution is designed for targeted use, only when needed. And, while we don't usually recommend using solvents, especially extremely powerful ones like ObliTARate on plastics - parts like your exterior trim and headlights - it'll do far more good than harm in this situation.

For the most targeted application ObliTARate can used with a Microfibre Applicator, but because of the concentration of contamination we need to remove here, we opted for a larger dose, spraying on the solvent directly, we then agitate and wipe away the broken down residues with our Microfibre Work Cloth.


One of - if not THE - most important steps in safe in car detailing is the pre-wash stage where we remove the most harmful particles from the most sensitive surfaces without making physical contact. The idea here is to avoid dragging the most dangerous grit and grime - the types of contamination that will scratch and inflict swirl marks - across the most easily-damaged surfaces such as paintwork and gloss plastics. The elimination of risk is the name of the game here, and that's why we always pre-wash, no matter the type of detail. The first stage is a pre-rinse from the top of the car down, this is to remove any loose material and other contamination that can be eradicated through water pressure alone. As you'll already know by now, this allows your cleaners to get to work where they're most needed - and it's safe to say that they'll be even more essential than during most details on the heavy, bonded organic contamination all over this Civic Shuttle. We'll always start with the door jambs, fuel filler caps and boot/bonnet shuts for our pre-rinse, and be sure to flush out any panel gaps, grilles and vents to remove any loose grime that may be hidden. Loose grime can be a real problem during the later stages of any big detail like this. As you can imagine, large gritty particles working their way out later and running over paintwork on your Machine Polishing Pads can do plenty of damage. Cleaning these areas out now is another way of eliminating risk later on.

In this case the pre-rinse also needs to remove the organic waste - leaves and moss - trapped under the bonnet on the scuttle and around the window rubbers, extra attention is taken to make sure we remove as much as possible before getting to work with our detailing products.

Now we start on deep-cleaning the door jambs, shuts and inner doors. Because these areas often pose as dirt traps and typically suffer from plenty of built-up grime (and also the fact that they're all-too-often neglected during routine car washes) we always use a cleaning agent here and lightly agitate. Of course, we don't recommend agitating any pre-cleaners on exterior paintwork - that would go against the whole concept of a safe pre-wash - but in these sort of areas it will help to spread and refresh our cleaning agent for maximum effectiveness, helping the product lift away the ingrained grime which can then be easily rinsed away.

More specifically, on this Civic Shuttle in particular, because of the more severe build-up of heavy contamination we opted to use a 1:5 dilution of Verso All Purpose Cleaner, agitated with a Hog Hair Brush to really get in there and break the bond the grime has with the surfaces. Once agitated we can quickly rinse and move on to the next area that needs attention.

During most maintenance details, and on lighter contamination, we'll typically limit the risk of inflicting defects by utilising a little wax, sealant and coating-safe Citrus Power Bug & Grime Remover agitated with a soft Detailing Brush or super-soft FeatherTip Brush. As with all details, the level of grime that needs to be removed dictates the products you'll need to use along the way.

It almost goes without saying that our most heavy-hitting pre-cleaner was needed for the exterior here. Over the years of neglect the mould and moss had really taken hold. So, unlike most winter details, there wasn't just the potentially corrosive heavy soiling to contend with, but also the organic matter. This type of contamination can not only hold onto and eat into the top paintwork layer, but it will inevitably grow into the recesses around lights, rubbers, trim and roof rails, making it more difficult to remove safely, especially without agitation.

The pre-cleaner we opted for was Dynamite Traffic Film Remover, an ultra-concentrated, heavy-duty citrus-based cleaner that can be diluted to suit any task. On most types of soiling Dynamite can be used in a dilution of up to 1:10 - here we mixed up an extra-strong solution of 1:2, so that should tell you how heavily bonded the contamination we're dealing with was.

The idea is the same as any normal pre-wash though, the powerful surfactants and degreasers in the TFR solution will easily break down the organic matter, along with the heaviest road grime and bugs, encapsulating the harmful particles to allow them to be rinsed away safely. Again, the cleaning power is our biggest priority in this case, although it's essential that our cleaning agent works safely, too. It's counterproductive to risk inflicting any more defects, after all, that just means more polishing later… and there's already going to be plenty of that with this car!

Dynamite is also gentle on previously-applied protection layers, not that it's an issue here but it can make it a powerful tool in your arsenal for routine maintenance, especially over winter where the concentration of contamination on the roads is significantly higher.

In most cases we'll apply Dynamite only to the most heavily soiled areas where it's most needed, typically the lower halves and bumpers. Here though the "heavily soiled area' is the whole car, so we gave the entire exterior a liberal helping of Dynamite, and then let the solution soak in for 10-minutes or so to get to work on breaking down the mass of moss and mould.

With the Dynamite Solution successfully breaking down the contamination, and lifting it clear of the surfaces, it's just a case of rinsing thoroughly from the top of the car downwards to get the heavy particles and residue onto the floor. That's the worst contamination off of the vehicle without physically touching, the perfect pre-wash!

Snow Foam

After the pre-cleaning stage the second pre-wash process is designed to remove smaller bonded particles and any other gritty, scratchable soiling using Avalanche Snow Foam. The difference with a snow foam over spray-on liquid cleaning agents is that this type of product is designed to whip up into a thick foam that lingers on surfaces for as long as possible.

Again, Avalanche is a citrus-based product that uses surfactants and water molecules to physically pull particles from surfaces on a molecular level, surrounding them safely in the solution, and allowing them to be rinsed away without dragging on the surface. Technically speaking, like Dynamite and Verso, this is what's known as an aqueous cleaning agent. What's important in practice though, is that the longer you let it linger, the more time it has to effectively break down and remove contamination that may otherwise inflict swirl marks during your contact wash. This gives a much deeper cleanse of the paintwork by ridding the surface of even more embedded grime, and isn't just a process for extremely soiled vehicles like on this particular detail - it should be used to make every single wash a whole lot safer. Using Avalanche also has the advantage that it will naturally work its way into panel gaps and shuts, cleaning those more thoroughly, too.

The most effective way to apply your Avalanche is by using a professional Snow Foam Lance. This absolute detailing essential is designed to mix the concentrate and, most importantly, push it through a special metal gauze. This action both activates the cleaning agents and degreasers, and whips the solution up into the thick, lingering foam.

We add around an inch of Avalanche concentrate to our Foam Lance bottle and top up with water. Then the snow foam is applied to vehicle from the top down to avoid spreading any contamination upwards. The lower down the vehicle, the more soiling you'll typically find, and the worst thing you can do at this stage is start moving all this up to any cleaner areas.

Once we've applied our Avalanche over the whole of the exterior, we'll allow it to linger for as long as possible, but without letting it dry. In most cases we'll also agitate our foam into the more stubborn dirt traps, to make sure it penetrates every little recess, and so that the solution is refreshed when needed. While we wouldn't agitate on whole panels (defeating the purpose of a non-contact pre-wash), assuming that you've used your pre-cleaner earlier, the largest most harmful particles will have already been removed. So, a little agitation in this instance - on areas like along the window rubbers, grilles, the inner fuel flap and around any badges - won't do any harm. It's quite the opposite in fact, this action doesn't physically scrub away the grime, it simply makes your snow foam even more effective. It's also one of the key reasons why we never skip the pre-cleaning stage and move straight on to snow foam. That and you want your foam working where you most need it… yep, we're saying it again!

Here we're agitating with a fresh Hog Hair Brush, which won't scratch any paintwork or other sensitive areas. And, as soon as our Avalanche starts to dry out - keep an eye on the windows, that's where it usually dries first - we rinse thoroughly from the top down, being sure to flush out the panel gaps, grilles and shuts as we go.

Safe Contact Wash

Now it's safe to move onto the contact wash because the vast majority of harmful particles will have already been removed. But with that said, we'll still take a few essential safety precautions during this stage, both with regards to the products we use and the cleaning process itself. Again, it's all about minimising the risk of inflicting surface defects.

The first precaution is using two buckets for our wash, one containing our shampoo solution, and the other with plain water to rinse out our wash mitt in between passes. This is the most effective way of avoiding cross contamination with harmful grit and metal particles. By rinsing out your mitt after making contact with the car, you're essentially making sure the grit and grime you've picked up isn't being washed out in your fresh shampoo solution and then being transferred back to the paintwork.

With that in mind, there's another couple of good safely precautions involving your buckets. First we never - for much the same reason of avoiding cross contamination - use the same bucket we've used to wash our wheels - we dedicate that one to wheels, arches and other mucky jobs. Second, we always recommend utilising professional Detailing Buckets as these not only contain grit guards to help avoid sunken particulates getting back onto your wash media, but the large 20-litre capacities also mean that there's less chance of any harmful particles being recirculated back to your mitt over smaller standard buckets.

Picking the correct wash media is important here, too. A professional Wash Mitt is specifically designed for non-scrubbing application and agitation of your shampoo. We're not looking to mechanically clean paintwork and other surfaces here, merely to apply and move our shampoo solution around, helping it to do its job of breaking down and lifting the last of the grime. A good wash mitt will pick up the grime that your shampoo breaks down, but without dragging it across the surface. It does this by simply locking any dirt deep within the fibres until it's washed out in your rinse bucket. Our selection of professional mitts are constructed from non-scratch materials, such as microfibre and lambswool, which are particularly ideal for this task. Here we're using a Plush Wash Mitt, the ideal mitt for absorbing plenty of shampoo, and gliding freely across paintwork.

Finally, there's your choice of cleaning agent and, as with the vast majority of details, we're using Lather Car Shampoo. There's a couple of good reasons for this choice. Not only is this another powerful aqueous cleaning agent containing advanced surfactants. But it's also classed as a lubricant, which enables any grit particles to slip and slide over the paintwork without scratching. The simple way to the ultimate swirl-free wash.

One other reason we've chosen Lather here is that it's classed as a "pure' cleaner - and by that we mean that it cleans and nothing else. Although Lather is kind to all types of previously-applied protection (in other words, it won't strip away your waxes, sealants or coatings) there are no waxes, shining agents, coatings or fillers contained within the shampoo itself. So when you use it, nothing is left behind that may interfere with the rest of the detail. While other types of advanced shampoo - such as our Wash 'n' Gloss or Caramics Enhancing Shampoo - can be infinitely useful for maintenance washes when you want to prolong the life of protection or even install the protection itself, we don't require these extra features this time around. Chiefly because we'll be polishing and adding protection after.

Lather is also an economical dilute-to-suit cleaner - you can add a bit more for heavier grime, and a little less for light cleaning. In our case a couple of capfuls in our wash bucket is plenty to create all the suds we need to cleanse the rest of the Civic exterior.

Now we can move onto the actual process and, when performing any contact wash, we always tackle the cleaner parts of the vehicle first. Again, this is to limit the spread of contamination from dirtier to cleaner areas, and further mitigate the risk of inflicting swirl marks.

Washing in straight lines - as opposed to circular motions which may actually promote swirls - we begin with the roof, the windows and upper-sides, and then move on to the bonnet, front bumper, lower sides and finish up on the rear. Only after every surface has been contacted, do we rinse away any left-over shampoo residue.


A full paintwork decontamination - what's known as a decon wash - is a 3-step process utilising specialist Decontamination Products designed to remove the kind of engrained contamination that washing alone won't be able to shift. It's not something that's carried out during routine maintenance, rather a stage we use to periodically deep-clean surfaces, and one that's essential prior to any polishing or other paint correction process. The idea is to free sensitive surfaces of the bonded contamination through chemical reaction, or simply pulling them out of the surface, to avoid them (at best) flawing the final finish or (at worst) causing damage during the polishing stage. Many of these contaminants are sharp or sticky particles that shouldn't be left on surfaces as they will always interfere with getting the best results from your detail.

The first step is using Iron Out Contaminant Remover to chemically dissolve ferrous metal contamination. Just like with the wheels we cleaned earlier, these heavy iron particles are chiefly derived from the hot brake dust created by the vehicle, and all the brake dust flying around on the roads. Instead of using more Reactive to dissolve them - a product which contains special surfactants and degreasers intended for wheels, that aren't needed here - our Iron Out is essentially a concentrated version of the chemical agent (the fallout remover) you'll find in Reactive, but one that's safe for use on all paintwork, glass and trim.

We spray our Iron Out directly onto all paintwork and glass surfaces, where it reacts to turn blood red when it comes into contact with metal. In many cases you won't see the particles before spraying on the Iron Out so that's why it's important to make sure that every inch of paintwork is contacted. Again, any blood red solution indicates that a solute of metal atoms and the solution has been formed and is ready to be rinsed away. To help spread and refresh the solution - giving it a little more bite along the way - we also use a microfibre Polish Pad to lightly agitate our Iron Out across the panels before rinsing thoroughly to rid the vehicle of the contamination.

The second decontamination stage is typically a little more targeted, and it's the removal of any tar and sticky residues that are present using ObliTARate Tar & Glue Remover.

These types of contaminants will be usually found around the bumpers and lower sides, and the strong solvent is designed to quickly dissolve them, freeing them from the surface and allowing them to be wiped away. We only use this type of product as and when we need it, and here we're targeting the huge concentration of tar and glue residues on our Civic by spraying on our ObliTARate directly. But, for even more targeted application, you can also use a Microfibre Applicator to apply the solvent. Because of the sheer amount of contamination, we're dealing with here, we also lightly spread and agitate the ObliTARate using a polish pad. Making sure that we reach every affected area.

One final - but no less essential - part of this stage is a quick wash of the treated areas using our Lather shampoo solution and a final rinse. What his does is neutralise the solvent so it can't interfere with the next step. Strong solvents and clay bars don't mix - they only make a mess.

Finally, the last decontamination step - where we use a detailier's Clay Bar, along with Glide Clay Lube to pull mineral and protein deposits, and any other bonded contamination, out of the paintwork.

These deposits come from all sorts of sources, including tree-sap, bug splatter, bird droppings and rainwater, but they can removed easily simply by running your clay over the surface with very light pressure. All we're doing here is physically pulling the contamination out of the top layer, while using a little lube to stop the clay itself from sticking and potentially marring the surface. Get plenty of Glide on there, run the clay back and forth and you'll actually feel the difference in resistance as the clay picks up the contamination. What you should be left with is a glass-like surface that's free of any foreign particles. 

Just remember to fold your clay to a fresh piece as soon as it gets dirty, and to give the whole lot another wash down with Lather when you're finished (to remove all traces of the lube). That really is all there is to it.


Drying is a stage that's all-too-often missed, especially during routine maintenance. But, it's actually crucial after every wash because it can not only have a huge impact on the final finish, but not drying effectively can actually damage your paintwork. The reason for this is that tap water - the stuff you're using to clean your car - contains all sorts of impurities that, if left to dry naturally, will be deposited all over the most sensitive surfaces. This happens when the water evaporates off and leaves the deposits behind as water sports - and the bad news is that in many cases these need to be polished away to be removed. The even worse news of course, is that they can also cause scratching and swirl marks. So, you can see why it's far better to get rid of them in the first place, and the quickest and easiest way of avoiding the risk by absorbing the impurities while they're still dissolved in the water. The only way to do this effectively is by using a dedicated microfibre Drying Towel.

The good news is that it's a quick and easy process. Here we're using our twist loop microfibre Silk Drying Towel for the fastest possible water removal - all we have to do is pass it over the surface, soaking up all the moisture as we go.

On the smaller, tighter areas - such as wheels, mirrors and shuts - a smaller towel is often a little easier to handle, this helps avoid dragging our drying towel across the gritty floor. In these areas we tend to opt for an Ultra Plush Microfibre which is also extremely absorbent, while being soft and gentle to all types of surfaces. It's important to tackle these smaller areas thoroughly, not just to remove the surface water but to help mop up any drips that may come out when we move the car later.

Polishing Prep

Before we can start the in-depth process of paint restoration and correction, we'll get the car in the bay and prepare it for machine polishing. The first step here is to tape up any potentially venerable parts that run the risk of coming into contact with our pad while we work. Plastic trim, rubbers and whether strips all fly extremely close to the paint we need to polish, and they're also notorious for picking up compound stains, which can be a bona fide headache to remove. A little Masking Tape here can make all the difference.

We also mask sensitive or sharp areas such as bag badges and door handles. This not only protects the parts themselves, but our polishing pads, too. With those bits and pieces safeguarded, we can more on to a full paint inspection.

Visual Inspection

Inspecting the paintwork on any car is as much about finding what can be done as it is what needs to be done to get the desired result. With all polishing processes we're looking to restore the top layer of paint or lacquer as much as we can by cutting away defects, but also to preserve what's there as much as possible.

There's a number of challenges we face with the Civic here. First, it's an old Japanese car, and these have notoriously thin paint to begin with, in many cases this will limit our ability to carry out heavier restoration processes and we'll have to avoid any wet sanding. Second, aside from swirl marks and scratches, the paintwork is extremely damaged from years of etching and heavy oxidation, especially on the roof and bonnet - we don't even need to turn the lights off and use the concentrated beam from our Swirl Spotter Detailing Light to see that. And third, we don't know the history - it may look like factory paintwork, but in the last 33-years this car could have been polished literally hundreds of times, there may not be much left to polish. The odd rust spot on the rear arches will need to be avoided and there's no denying that it could have had the odd paint repair, too.

These are all the things we aim to find out with our inspection so first we run around the entire vehicle mapping out the areas that can be polished and looking out for different defects such as scratches, swirl marks and orange peel. We'll also look for other areas, aside from the paintwork, that can benefit from correction. In this case the plastic rear lights are suffering from heavy swirling - and that's something we can fix relatively easily.

Checking Paint Depth

As well as a visual inspection we use a paint depth gauge to get an indication of how much paint there is on the vehicle, taking multiple readings over all panels. This can also indicate if there's been any paint repairs where the layers are a little thicker than on the rest of the car.

One of the key things to remember about repairs is that in many cases the painter will blend-in the new paint so, to the naked eye at least, there are no obvious hard edges. If we polish away any of this blending we risk revealing the edges, so we look for repairs so we know where to avoid heavy polishing.

Over the majority of this car there's (just) enough paintwork to polish. On the worst areas such as the bonnet and roof the readings are a little low, but high enough that we can use coarse compounds for restoration. A few low readings on the rear where we'd be inclined to be as gentle as possible, and plenty of paint on the sides. This car doesn't appear to have had any repairs so there's not many areas we'll need to avoid with our machine polisher.

Machine Polishing

Now we can turn our attention to what combo - or combination of compound and pad - can be used to cut through the defects. The testing process is always to find the finest possible combo that will remove the defects and nothing more. In other words, we don't want to be too aggressive, we need to preserve as much of the paint as we can along the way.

On most correction details we'll test using a slightly lighter compound than we think we'll need and if that doesn't cut out the defects, we'll move up to a coarser compound until we find the correct one for the job. Then we can work back through finer and finer compounds to finish down the paint to flawless. We always test because the hardness of the paint comes into play, too. Softer paint is easier to cut, so will generally require slightly finer compounds to remove defects. For a full explanation of how paint correction products work, see our article The Basic Guide To Machine Polishing.

Once we know what combo cuts out the defects and what finishes down to a nice glossy-looking surface, (assuming all panels are suffering from the same level of defects) we use that over the whole vehicle, only switching compounds as and when we need to. That however, isn't quite the case here.

You see, because some areas are more intense restoration jobs, and the level of defects varies so much around the whole car, we'd have to complete the polishing stage piece by piece, testing on each panel and completing the restoration before moving onto the next. In detailing you have to be adaptable and tailor your processes to the job in hand. We started with the panel most in need of heavy restoration - in this case, the bonnet.

Now, you'll see that a lot of combinations were tested here to try and remove every blemish, although from the start we knew - just through experience - this would be a big ask. Even so, we started off with Revitalise No:2 Polishing Compound and a medium density Revitalise No:2 Polishing Pad on our DPX Dual Action Polisher, but this combo wasn't coarse enough to cut out the defects. So, next we moved up to using our course Revitalise No:1 Restoring Compound with a firm Revitalise No:1 Restoring Pad and, although there was a significant improvement, it wasn't quite enough to cut away the heavy defects. Finally, we switched out the foam pad for a microfibre polishing pad, to give the compound even more bite but, although that improved the surface a little more, it still wasn't able to bring the bonnet completely back to life.

As you can see in the video, we also tried out a few other compounds, pads and even polishers - switching to a rotary machine and selection of different pads, and trying out One Step All-in-One Compound - just in case we'd find a combination that would magically cut through the defects, but this was to no avail.

The lesson here is that there's only so much that can be done with detailing alone. If was our car we'd now be inclined to repaint the bonnet, with not enough paint left on there to wet sand and polish again, in terms of correction there's nothing more that can be done here. Thankfully we'd have better luck on the rest of the car…

Moving onto the front wings and sides of the car, after a little testing we found that Revitalise No:1 Restoring Compound along with a Revitalise No:1 Spot Pad was just the right combo to cut through the major swirling. Because these areas are reasonably tight, we swapped out our 5-inch polisher for a more compact MPX Dual Action Polisher fitted with a 3-inch backing plate.

Once the cutting stage of the correction was complete, we then reverted to Revitalise No:2 Polishing Compound (and a Revitalise No:2 Spot Pad) to further refine the paint, leaving a near flawless finish with a high level of gloss. A great result for such a badly damaged area.

Again, just like the bonnet, the roof was pretty badly damaged and in need of major restoration. This time however Revitalise No:1 Restoring Compound with the extra bite of a microfibre polishing pad was just the thing to get through the majority of defects and even add a load of gloss.

It's certainly been brought back to life here, and while not 100% perfect in terms of refinement, considering where we started, we'll call that a win. Don't worry, we're a little surprised ourselves, too.

After a few smaller details, such as the A-pillars and around the sunroof, the last bit of paintwork to complete was on the rear end. Again, a little testing was in order to find the correct combo to cut through the swirls, but the one that worked best for the cutting stage was the same as on the sides of the car - Revitalise No:1 Restoring Compound on a firm Revitalise No:1 Spot Pad. To finish down the paint, once again, a second stage was performed straight after the first, using Revitalise No:2 Polishing Compound on a Revitalise No:2 Spot Pad. Another great result.

So, that was the paintwork complete and, in summary, we may not have saved the bonnet but we did manage to restore 85% of paintwork on this car, just through detailing… we're pretty happy with that.

Restoring Rear Light Clusters

Aside from the paintwork, there was one other thing we've already mentioned that needed correction - those severely swirled rear lights.

Now, the swirl marks here can be tackled using the same correction products as the paintwork - in this case a Revitalise No:1 combo for cutting followed by a Revitalise No:2 combo for refinement - but you still have to remember that working on plastics is a slightly different process because they don't dissipate heat as effectively as paint over metal. In other words, plastics hold onto heat for longer and that runs the risk of causing damage, effectively burning or melting the surface, so it pays to be a little more cautious with your machine polisher.

Here we carry out slightly quicker passes on a slower speed to limit the heat build-up under the pad. With the MPX a medium speed (around number 4) is plenty to cut through the swirls and lock in a glossy finish.

Interior Cleaning

As you can see in the video, while we were completing the interior cleaning, the wheels were off at Whoops Wheel Fix It in Enfield for a much-needed referb. They had a bit more time than usual to complete the job though, chiefly because the inside of this car was extremely mucky.

It's pretty rare to have an interior quite as bad as this one. For starters, where the Civic has been sitting around outside for years, the moisture has set in and allowed plenty of mould to take hold. There was also a significant amount of ground-in dirt that needed to be drawn out of fabrics, along with all the other general grime you'd expect in any interior. Oh yeah, and then there's the damp, wet odour. We'd have to sort that out, too.

There are a few types of interior detail and, for the most part, a spot of regular maintenance is all you need to keep you cabin tip top. But here a thorough deep-clean was clearly in order, not just to clean, but to sanitise surfaces by removing any biological nasties that may be hazardous to health. As always, the level and type of contamination, along with the materials used inside by the car manufacturer, dictates the products we need to get the best results. 

We're keeping it simple here by making the most of the sheer power of Verso All Purpose Cleaner for the heaviest jobs, along with Total Interior Cleaner, which is safe for regular use on more sensitive surfaces and materials. But, that's not to say that other interior cleaning and finishing products aren't available for more specialists tasks - check out our Ultimate Interior Cleaning Guide for a full rundown of all products, and how they're used. In our case though, we'll be getting stuck in with a deep clean, and that means we need our most powerful surfactant-based cleaning products to safely draw out, lift and encapsulate the grime, so we can wipe it away without any fuss.

We start in the boot area by thoroughly vacuuming the carpet to remove pet hair and loose debris. Then, we remove the boot carpet to gain access to the spare wheel well - an important area that's often forgotten - and gave that a good vacuum, too. Because of the amount of mould and moisture in this vehicle, it's important that we use a powerful cleaning agent to make contact with every surface. Here we're using a 1:10 dilution of Verso and agitating with a Detailing Brush before wiping away the grime.

Next, we can move onto the boot plastics, again we're using the same method of applying Verso an agitating to draw out the dirt, but due to the grime build-up over a long time we're also adding in a steam cleaner to open the pores of the plastic and physically push the dirt out of recesses, allowing a deeper clean. Again, even though there's a high level of grime here, the agitation with our brush is less about physical scrubbing and more about getting the solution to penetrate every awkward nook. It's also the only way to keep refreshing the solution to power through the caked-on contamination.
Before we're finished in the boot area we also have the rubber seals and edge of the headlining to contend with. Over time these have built up a layer of mould and oily residues. The good news is that areas like this are easy to tackle by applying 1:10 Verso, and agitating with a soft Detailing Brush. The surfactants and degreasers in the solution will break down these types of contamination allowing them to be wiped away with a microfibre cloth. It's always surprising just how much grime is drawn out using this method, even to us. 

Now we can replace the boot carpet and move onto to deep cleaning that, along the back of the rear seats. As you can see by now, we're working systematically from the back of the car forward, a great way of making sure no areas are overlooked.

First, we'll cover the entire area with a liberal application of Total, letting it soak into the fabric and start breaking down the grime and odours. Total is safe for regular use here, so it won't harm the fabric (or any other surfaces), you can get plenty on there without fear. Another thing that doesn't hurt is that this lime-scented product smells great, too.

Next, we'll use our steam cleaner to fully sanitise these areas, essentially agitating the solution under the surface where we can't get to with a brush. We then follow up with a wet vac to draw the spent Total solution (and the grime it encapsulates) back out of the fabrics. We can then pop the seats back in place and leave those areas to air out and fully dry.

Moving to the inside of the cabin, next up is the rear seats, doorcards and carpets, which seem to be some of the most heavily contaminated surfaces in the whole car. The same cleaning method is employed here. Total, brush agitation (on the hard plastic parts), steaming and then a good, deep wet vac.

One thing to be sure not to miss on a car like this is under the rear bench and the underside of the seat the itself. These areas can be cleaned with the same method for the seat, and any hard surfaces such as the floor and around seatbelt clips using a little Total, agitated with a soft Detailing Brush.

The front of the cabin is the next part of the puzzle, but instead of vacuuming seats and carpets first, as we would during routine maintenance, in this case we'll get on with the major task of grime and mould removal, which will inevitably cause the spread of a little debris elsewhere. After all, we don't want to have to clean our seats twice, do we?

Once again, for the best results we need to make sure our cleaning agents make contact with every surface, either spraying our Total on directly and agitating or, for more targeted use, applying with our brush.

The key to cleaning a really dirty interior like this one is to ensure you get plenty of cleaner onto the surfaces and to keep agitating to refresh the solution. This way your Total will break down and draw out the hardiest contamination, allowing you to wipe it away with your cloth. Keep folding your microfibre and repeating the process until there's no more dirt to wipe away, the cleaner your cloth on the last pass, the less dirt there will be in your interior.

We worked from the top down, completing the headlining, sun visors, steering wheel, dashboard and finally the rest of the plastic trim. Total leaves behind nothing but a subtle, clean factory finish, perfect for this particular modern classic.

The last part of this rather epic interior deep-clean was to take care of the front seats, carpets, floor mats and fabric door card portions. These are cleaned in the same way as the rear. First, we vacuum away any loose grime, then liberally spritz on Total before steaming and running over with a wet vac. A process we're sure you've all got down by now.

What is important not to miss here though, is the often-overlooked task of cleaning the seatbelts. These tend to lock in nasty odours more than any other interior part, and they also tend to suffer from the ingress of body oils, so we'll swap to our Verso to make sure that these are broken down and released from the fabric.

First, we pull the belts out all the way, spritz with Verso and then agitate using our steam cleaner (if you haven't got one of those, an Upholstery Brush will do the job of drawing out the grime), before wiping clean with a fresh microfibre. You can then plug them in and leave them to dry out. Easy.

Restoring Matte Plastics

With the interior complete we can start getting on with the final finishing stages. Now, all cars are different, and again this will dictate the products you need use for your final touches. Effective finishing is all about bringing the rest of the car up to the same standard as the parts you've already detailed and, most of all, letting nothing detract, or draw the eye, from the rest.

In this case, as with many cars from the same era, we have acres of matte plastic trim that's faded and weathered over time. The easiest way to bring these (along with the plastic inner arch liners while we have the wheels off) back to life is by using Revive Trim Dressing.

This silicone-based trim restorer is designed to bring back the original deep black colour, but also has the added advantage of keeping them looking better for longer. This water-resistant product is easy to apply using a Foam Applicator, and will even offer a little protection from the elements and UV fading.

For severely faded plastics like we have here, we tend to cake on a generous amount, letting it absorb into the plastic. After 10-minutes or so it'll be cured enough to buff away any excess. Revive can be used on all exterior plastic and rubber trim, offering a quick an easy solution to an age-old problem.

Paint Protection

Before we add our final finishing touches, it's time for that all-important paintwork protection. The goal here is not only to protect the paint by offering a barrier to the elements, but to safeguard all the work we've put in during the correction stages. This step has the added bonus of helping to level the optical finish of the paintwork, installing even more depth and gloss.

For this car in particular we've chosen Soul Car Wax, a 33% carnauba blend that's ideal for light colours and offers up to 3-months of protection. There's many waxes, ceramic coatings and sealants we could have utilised here, of course. But, on this type of car, and just for sheer aesthetics we think you just can't beat the natural warm glow of a carnauba-based wax.

But, before we can apply our Soul, we'll give the car one last wipe down using Finale Quick Detailer. This is an important step because it's almost inevitable that the surfaces will have picked up a little dust and a few fingerprints while we've been busy correcting paint and cleaning the interior. To ensure that nothing is left on the surface to interfere with the finish of our wax, or prevent it bonding effectively, we'll lightly mist our Finale over each panel, and follow it up with a quick spread and buff with a super-soft Ultra Plush Microfibre.

Now we're ready to apply our wax. In a controlled environment like this we can apply to the whole car and then buff off any excess after 10 to 15 minutes. If you're working outside however, we recommend applying your wax and buffing panel by panel.

What's most important here is that, for the very best results, we'll apply our wax in small overlapping circles, and to try and spread the wax as thinly and evenly as possible. You only need a very thin layer to bond to the surface, any more than that will be removed when you buff, so you'll simply be wasting your wax. To make life easier we're using a Waxmate XL, a soft foam applicator that fits right in the tin. Just a quarter turn of the Waxmate will load up enough wax to complete one or two large panels. As with all wax protection we also recommend adding a second coat, but not before 3-4 hours has passed enabling the first layer to cure.

For the residue removal here, we're using a Micro Tweed Microfibre. This specially designed buffing cloth has been developed for the safest possible removal of wax residues. It works by collecting them in the special pockets in the material to help prevent clogging on the surface of the cloth, or even worse, your paintwork. This helps you get the best possible finish when using any hard wax.

Finishing Touches

We'll say it again, obviously the final touches you make will always depend on the car. You may be looking to top up ceramic protection Caramics Gloss Enhancer or Caramics Glass Cleaner, or polishing tailpipes with Mercury Metal Polish. Again, the specific job always dictates what's involved in finishing your detail.

In our case we've already restored our plastics so there's just two all-important touches needed to finish off, steps we carry out on every single detail. These are dressing the tyres and cleaning the glass.

First up, the tyres. And, as we've got our wheels back and bolted them on, what better to finish them than with Satin Tyre Crème? This water-based dressing is ideal here because it leaves a subtle, new-look satin sheen, perfect for a bone-stock modern classic like this. However, if you do hanker after more of a wet-look gloss, you can simply add another layer or two. With Satin you get to choose your own finish.

Here we added single application of Satin on each tyre using a specially-contoured Tyre and Trim Applicator. This particular dressing will also nourish the tyres from within, conditioning the sidewalls and installing UV inhibitors to help prevent fading and cracking in the future. One of the all-time great, not to mention quick and easy, finishing touches.

Finally, we'll clean the glass, inside and out, using Crystal Glass Cleaner. The reason we do this right at the very end of every detail is because it's highly likely that there will be a little dust build up, and maybe the odd fingerprint on your glass by now. And you don't want these, or any other streaky, smeary surfaces detracting from the rest of your detail.

Crystal is a powerful blend of fast-flashing solvents that make short work of oily stains, dirt and sticky residues. All it takes is a quick spritz or two over each window or mirror, followed by a spread and buff with your cloth. Crystal lifts away the dirt and dust, allowing it to be wiped away without smearing. And, what's more, it only takes a matter of seconds to get all your glass sparkling.

When it comes to the buffing part, again we've got a premium microfibre specifically designed to do the job safely. The Superior Waffle here has a special weave, giving this super-absorbent microfibre towel a huge effective surface area, along with special pockets in the material for picking up grime, residues and debris, keeping them away from the surface and helping to elliminate the chance of smearing.

The Results

So, that's the in-depth, step-by-step explanation of our Honda Civic Shuttle detail, we hope you found it useful, and we hope it helps you push you next detail to new heights. With that, there's just one thing left to do, and that's show you the final results…

For more big details, along with a whole load of guides covering every aspect of detailing, check out the Guides Section Of Our Blog.


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