How To: Detail Your Truck
Tips for deep cleaning when it’s long overdue.
While we've made it past Memorial Day and spring technically is still a few weeks away from being officially over, we are now in a space where weather patterns—for the most part—are stable and void of the precipitation that is common during the winter season. And, as it is for many homes across the U.S. "spring cleaning" is a concept that applies to vehicles (especially trucks) that are used regularly between November and May.
Inclement weather (in Southern California, it's typically rain and the ash fallout from wildfires) can wreak havoc on a truck's exterior finish (paint) and interior (carpet, seats, etc. ), especially when those areas aren't cleaned regularly during the winter. We, along with many other folks in SoCal, are guilty of such negligence. Why, you ask? The main reason stems from an economic catch-22: the cost (in dollars and/or time) of cleaning versus the frequency of bad weather.
Too often we see our rigs sparkling brilliantly one day and wrecked (cosmetically) 24 hours later, after sitting or being driven in torrents of rainfall. For us, it's cheaper either way to just let the dirt sit. However, to be clear, neglecting such maintenance is not the best practice, and it definitely can be unnerving if your personality is even the slightest bit OCD/type-A.
Our 2016 Chevrolet Colorado LT is the perfect subject for this report. Having gone unwashed, not vacuumed, etc., for approximately six months, only because doing so would be a wasted investment, our white truck with black/gray interior looks horrible. And, while the exterior finish is far from "popping" visually, its texture has gone from smooth to the grainy/gritty feel of sandpaper.
With April showers and May monsoons behind us, we're taking "Rocky" to Chinto Auto Detailing in Northridge, California, for some long-overdue pampering, and following Avi as he goes through the process of restoring the truck's luster and sanitizing its cabin.
While the story includes photos, it's better told through the video that accompanies the images.
Basic Bath, Cut Deep Dirt With Clay, Polish, and Wax
Avi of Chinto Auto Detailing uses a tried-and-true process for exterior detailing vehicles, which starts with cleaning the wheels and then moves on to giving the body a good bath using hot water, a car (truck)-specific washing solution, and a wool mitt (or rag). For DIY detailers, get the right stuff for this task, as dish soap and bathroom towels are abrasive and actually can cause damage to clearcoat and paint.
After initial cleaning, Avi uses cutting clay and spray wax (as moisturizer). In this process, the deep dirt particles that remain after washing (which cause the gritty feeling) are literally lifted out of the vehicle's body panels, and the result is a slick and very clean exterior.
The clay cut is followed up by polishing (also called "compounding"), which should never be confused with waxing. Polishing is done to remove small scratches and swirls. Using a polishing machine and applicator pad, Avi works an abrasive compound onto the finish, which leaves it super smooth. Adding wax or "waxing"—by hand—follows polishing. The wax restores brilliance and helps protect the truck's body against contaminants such as ash, dirt, hard water (sprinklers), etc. Avi uses Malco Imperial Paste Wax, which is made with carnauba.
Internal and External Affairs
The first measure for detailing a truck's interior includes wiping dust from the dash, seats, center console, door panels, etc. Vacuuming the seats, carpet, and floor mats follows, and then Avi goes about shampooing the carpet and all cloth material (the rear seat is a high-concentration area in Rocky). Finally, glass cleaning rounds out the cabin-cleaning process. When those tasks are complete, the surfaces are restored using an all-purpose cleaner/restorer and microfiber cloths. Cleaning the glass, dressing tires, and touching up paint (optional) are the final exterior-detailing tasks.
Tools of the Trade
While Avi uses chemicals and heavy-duty machines (buffers, etc.) that are specific to professional detailing, he suggests using Meguiar's car-care products if you're going about detailing a truck yourself. Here is a rundown of materials that are necessary for getting the job done:
- Water (cold/rinse and hot for washing)
- Water hose with nozzle
- Wheel brush
- Wool mitt
- Car/truck-specific soap
- Clay bar
- Polish (rubbing compound)
- Polisher and application pads
- Carnauba wax
- Wax-application pads
- Interior shampoo
- Glass cleaner
- All-purpose cleaner
- Microfiber cloths
- Tire dressing
- Tire-dressing application pad