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Detailing DIY Articles

Wash & Dry
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Clean with Clay
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Quick Detailing
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Tar, Sap & Bugs
Detailing Accessories
Sonic Blast
Are you Over Polishing?
Carnauba Wax a Dinosaur?
Orbital Polisher Use


"...the effects of dirty glass can ruin the appearance of your perfectly polished and waxed automobile."

Have you ever noticed how much better your car looks when the windows are perfectly clean?  Yet many of us ignore the windows when we wash, because it adds a few precious minutes.  Forget the time involved in keeping your glass clean for a moment; have you ever thought about how hazy, dirty windows can be a safety hazard?  Driving your car with dirty, hazy windows on a rainy night or in heavy traffic, straining to see, is a driving impairment.  You should consider this a true danger.

Cleaning your windows is one of the most tedious tasks you will face, but it is definitely worth doing.  In addition to being a hazard, the effect of dirty glass can quickly ruin the appearance of your perfectly polished and waxed automobile.  After you have completed all other detailing tasks, put the perfect touch on your car by detailing your car's glass. 

The impact of this freshly polished and waxed paint would be ruined by dirty windows.  After waxing, I use a slightly damp microfiber towel to buff the glass.  If I run into stubborn spots or a heavy film, I spray a few shots of glass cleaner and buff dry with a microfiber towel.

Just as in the selection of car shampoo and wax, no two car enthusiasts can agree on the ultimate glass cleaner.  Some people like ammonia cleaners.  Others swear by TSP, while the purists will use nothing but clear water.  Whatever you use, the principles are the same: clean, dry and polish.

I highly discourage the use of ammonia-based glass cleaners on your car.  While ammonia is a great glass cleaner for the home, ammonia is harmful to many car surfaces, including vinyl, rubber and leather.  More importantly, the use of ammonia inside your car is harmful to your health.  Use an automotive glass cleaner that specifically states it's safe to use on window-tint film.  A glass cleaner that's safe for window-tint film will not harm the plastic and vinyl surfaces on your car.

Glass cleaners in a spray bottle work fine.  The only problem is overspray on the dash and upholstery, as it's difficult to direct the spray of glass cleaners.  You will have the best luck spraying one side of a clean towel, wiping the glass, and then drying with the other side of the towel.

Many professional detailers use plain water for wiping and cleaning the windows, and dry the glass with newspaper.  Unlike paper towels and most cotton towels, newspaper does not leave behind lint, and the ink acts as a glass polish.  The only drawback to this method is the newsprint ink on your hands when you're done.  Be sure to wash your hands before touching your upholstery.

Start your window cleaning with the driver's door and front passenger's door.  If your door has a window frame, lower the window approximately 1 inch to allow access to the top part of the glass.  This part should be cleaned and dried first.  Spray with glass cleaner and buff dry.  Now roll the window back up, and clean the remainder of the window.  Pay attention to the corners of the windows, as this is where you will get most smears and streaks.  Don't forget your driver's side and passenger's side mirrors.

While you
're sitting down in the passenger's seat, clean the inside of the windshield.  It is easier to clean from the passenger's side, as your access is not obstructed by the steering wheel.  Take your time around the rearview mirror, as it is only glued to your windshield.  If you bump into the rearview mirror hard enough or at the right angle, you can break it loose from the glass.

The inside of the rear window is the most difficult to reach and should be done last.  The best technique for cleaning your rear window is to use the back side of your hand to guide your towel down into the corners.  Trying to use the palm of your hand will force you to be a contortionist and draw strange looks from your neighbors. 

Not long ago I recommended a specific glass-detailing towel.  While the microfiber glass towels worked great, I was going crazy trying to keep the different towels and their purposes straight.  I had dark blue, light blue, green, orange and pink towels.  It was nuts!  I finally came to the conclusion that the waffle weave detailing towels are the best general-purpose towels, so I got rid of everything else. 

If you're looking for a specific microfiber towel for glass, my experience is that the towels with a deep, plush nap do not work well on glass.  The best microfiber towels for glass have a low pile and a tight weave.  The tight weave gives them a little more scrubbing power.

Be cautious of inexpensive microfiber towels.  There's a good chance that any microfiber towel you purchase in bulk through a retail chain will leave lint on your glass.  Fiber shedding is a significant problem with bulk towels, because most of these products are created for janitorial services.

When using microfiber on glass, it's best to use two towels.  One should be damp with water or your favorite glass cleaner.  The second towel should be dry for buffing.

I suspect that the windshield is the most overlooked surface on most cars.  At best, you wash it when you wash the car and spray it with a few shots of glass cleaner when you can no longer see through the haze.  Did you ever think of polishing your glass?

Normal driving will coat your windshield with a variety of contaminants that normal glass cleaners cannot remove.  Plus, your windshield has the greatest vertical forward exposure, which means it gets pelted with road stones and other debris.  It's a wonder that windshields hold up as well as they do.

Automotive glass polishes that remove minor water spots and road contamination have been around for quite a while (although they are not always easy to find).  I highly recommend using a glass-polishing product to keep glass clean and free of water spots.  It's simple to do.  Just rub the polish in thoroughly with a terry cloth applicator, and buff dry with a terry cloth or microfiber towel.

Of all the products I've tried, I like Autoglym Glass Polish the best.  After using three or four other products, I found that Autoglym was the easiest to use and took care of just about all of the glass-cleaning problems I came across.  It has a strong chemical smell, but that goes away fast.

If you have severe water spotting, you can use Autoglym Glass Polish with #000 or #0000 synthetic steel wool (use on exterior only!).  The ultrafine synthetic steel wool provides a bit more cutting power for the really tough jobs.

Please be aware that a glass polish cannot fix glass damage from road stones and severe water spot etching.  If your glass is badly pitted or etched, it may need to be replaced.

Windshield wipers are essential for cleaning your windshield and rear window in rain or snow, or when your windows become bug-ridden or dirty from long road trips.  Wipers perform best when the rubber is in good shape and the glass is fairly clean.  You should make it a habit to clean your front and rear wiper blades at the same time you clean your glass.  After cleaning your glass, use a damp cloth to wipe the rubber blades, removing bug residue, wax and other dirt buildup.

Although rubber dressing helps preserve, protect and beautify the rubber and vinyl parts on your car, you should not use dressings on your wiper blades.  Rubber dressing on your blades will cause streaking and smearing, impairing your vision.  The best overall maintenance of your blades is keeping them clean.  If you want to protect your blades, use a product like 303 Wiper Treatment.  If you have expensive after-market blades, 303 Wiper Treatment will make them last twice as long.

A good wash fluid is just as important as your wiper blades.  Pick a wash fluid with enough power to cut the grime, but don't use something so harsh that it stains your car.  I was using a popular orange wash booster, but it created these horrible white stains around my windshield.  I finally switched to 303 Instant Windshield Washer Tablets, which performs flawlessly for me in all conditions.

Tinted window film is often applied to the inside of windows to shade passengers or provide privacy.  Tinted window film is a thin sheet of Mylar plastic.  Mylar scratches easily and will be destroyed by ammonia.  To clean tinted windows, use water or a mild cleaner such as Autoglym Fast Glass or  Sonus Vision.

Tinted window film that has been scratched can be polished with cleaners designed for the vinyl windows often found on convertible tops.  The product I recommend for polishing and regular maintenance of tinted window film is Plexus.  Plexus comes in an aerosol spray can and is safe for use on plastic, Plexiglas and tinted window film.  In addition to polishing your tinted window film, Plexus works great on your taillight and headlight covers.

Maintaining clear plastics and window tinting is tricky.  These materials will easily scratch and lose their original clarity.  I highly recommend the use of Plexus on plastic.  Use Plexus on window tinting, convertible rear windows, headlight lenses, instrument panel lenses, and other clear plastic surfaces.  To use Plexus, simply spray and wipe.  That's it!  There's no buffing, no mess, and no waste.

The headlight lenses on most new cars are plastic.  If you don't polish the lenses every few month they will yellow and get hazy.  Plexus is a great product to use for regular cleaning and polishing. 

I don't know anyone who likes doing windows.  If you find the right tools and cleaners, this chore will be much easier.  I hate doing the interior windows so much that I rotate which windows I clean each time I wash.  For example, one week I might do the windshield and the next week the side windows.  With the advent of microfiber towels, window cleaning has become much easier.