PLEASE NOTE: Everything discussed here is one way of caring for your car. It is the way Mike prefers to care for a vehicle but is in no way meant to be the only way. It is the way he teaches at Detailing Clinics with car clubs or groups and the steps that he has been discussing on the “You Auto Know” radio broadcasts with Dave Serio.The products discussed are the products that we use in our shop and recommend but are not the only products out there. You MUST read and follow ALL DIRECTIONS on the individual products used to achieve the desired results - neither The Shine Shop nor the product manufacturers are responsible for the outcome you achieve.

FIVE STEPS TO CARE FOR YOUR VEHICLES - Washing, Cleaning, Polishing, Protecting and Maintaining

STEP 1: WASHING ensures all loose dirt, road grime, abrasives and chemical fallout are removed, lets you evaluate the painted surfaces, maintains detailed paint without damaging the finish.

Best Method: Two bucket system, both buckets with grit guards, one for soapy water, one for clean water, microfiber or lambswool mitt - best to have two handy in case one is dropped.

QUICK TIPS: Use only soap that is designed for automotive finishes, they contain silicones that will float loose grit off of the surfaces to help prevent scratching and are pH balanced not to remove synthetic waxes - if Dawn will take grease off of your plates, it will also remove the wax from your car! If you do drop your mitt - replace it with a fresh one so that you do not scratch your painted surfaces with the grit that will be picked up from the ground. If your vehicle is coated use the appropriate wash for your coating.

Wash in a shaded area or indoors when the surface is cool. Wash from the top down, rinsing each section as you go. Dip your wash mitt in the soapy water filled bucket, wash a small section (roof, hood, right side, left side etc), rinse the area just washed, rinse mitt in the clean water bucket before getting more soap for the next section - do not contaminate your soapy water with the grime from the last section that you washed.

QUICK TIPS: If you wash your vehicle often you may want to invest in a ‘foam gun’ nozzle for your hose - it creates a blanket of foam over the entire surface to safely ‘float’ loose particles off before you start washing. Wash in straight lines - front to back - the way the wind would move over your car - NOT IN A CIRCULAR MOTION. It is inevitable that you will create fine scratches in the surface - it can’t be avoided - but your eye will not pick up a straight line as easily as it will a circular shape.

Repeat this process over the whole car, then give the entire car a final rinse with the hose nozzle removed - let water cascade from the roof on down, pulling itself from the surfaces.

QUICK TIP: If you have an electric leaf blower (must be electric, gas models spray expended oil and fuel particles) or a compressed air machine you can use it to blow water out of nooks and crannies such as around mirrors and emblem areas.

Dry remaining water with a clean, soft, high quality microfiber towel. At this point you may also want to use a quick spray detailer that is appropriate for the finish on your car.

QUICK TIPS: Apply spray detailer on the towel NOT the surface of the car and wipe, this will alleviate smears on the paint. Wash all of your towels in an allergy free detergent (or you can buy detergents specifically made for microfiber towels) and DO NOT USE fabric softener - the chemicals left on your towels that create that great softness and nice smell will also create smears on your painted surfaces and glass.

NOTE: Wheels and tires should be done completely separately either before or after washing the main body of the car using a separate bucket, as well as designated wheel cleaning mitts and tools, such as a ‘Wheel Woolie’ to prevent contaminating your painted surfaces with the road grime and brake dust that these tools will pick up from your wheels.

You have now given your vehicle a complete maintenance wash, information on caring for the interior of your vehicle is at the end of this page.

If Mike has applied a coating on your vehicle this wash procedure and cleaning the interior is all you will need to do for the life of the coating. If your vehicle is finished with synthetic wax sealant you can maintain it the same way with the knowledge that the finish will need to be replaced every 6 to 8 months to ensure continued protection for your painted surfaces.


STEP 2: CLEANING decontaminates the surface in preparation for polishing.

Chemical decontamination - fallout removers such as Gyeon's ‘Iron and Tar’ remove iron particulates which are actually brake dust picked up from the road and cars ahead of you in traffic and shows up, especially on light cars, as little reddish specks. The product is sprayed on a wet surface and reacts with the iron particles to dissolve them so that they can be rinsed safely off without harming or scratching your paint. Follow product instructions.

Clay bar - Detailing clay is used with a spray lubricant to safely ‘pull’ embedded particles from your painted surfaces that are still remaining after washing and decontamination. This is an easy but important step in preparing a perfectly clean surface that will allow better bonding of your final finish and will not only make it look great, but last longer. A clay bar can be used on painted surfaces, glass, metal trim and rims. Both Meguiar’s and Mothers offer complete kits - clay and lubricant - follow product directions.

QUICK TIP: How do I know if I need to clay my car? Put a plastic sandwich bag over your hand and slide your hand gently over the car - the bag increases the sensitivity of your fingers - if it is not smooth it’s time to use the clay bar.

STEP 3: POLISHING removes defects and creates shine.Polishing may be done by hand or using an electric polisher.

Polishing by hand is difficult on modern painted surfaces but can be done with time and effort - use a polish and applicator designed to be used by hand, work in a small, inconspicuous area until you feel confident with using the product and satisfied with the results, remember to follow all product directions.

We highly recommend using a dual action polisher which will mimic the action of hand polishing by rotating and oscillating. DO NOT use a rotary buffer - these machines are best used in body shops for extremely aggressive removal of filler, smoothing paint surfaces etc. - a “DA” or dual action polisher eliminates the risk of swirls or ‘burning through’ the clear coat on your painted surfaces.

If your vehicle currently has a ceramic coating it will take much more effort to polish off and remove it, plan on spending a great bit of time. It is also important to remember that not all defects can be completely removed or corrected without seeking the help of a professional - some deep scratches may require more aggressive methods such as wet sanding, which is best left to a professional, or even repainting.

Unfortunately there is no real way to teach polishing - it is an acquired skill that requires a lot of actual hands on effort and practice, but there are many videos, books and forums on the internet that are most helpful. We highly recommend a book written by Mike Phillips called “A Complete Guide To A Show Car Shine”.

There may also be classes in your area - for example Meguiars holds classes several times a year in different areas of the country, we had one here at our shop about 10 years ago with participants from all along the mid Atlantic coast.

QUICK TIP: Practice polishing, either by hand or with a DA, on a cookie sheet to get the ‘feel’ of it and acquire a little more confidence.

STEP 4: PROTECTING -once prepped you need to protect your painted surfaces from the abuses of daily exposure to the environment.

There are several different ways to finish a car - choose one that you feel will be able to stand up to the wear and tear you give it, and will be the easiest for you to apply and maintain.

Wax- waxes are natural plant based products that create a high shine. On the plus side they are generally easy to apply as well as remove. On the negative side they are a natural product and do not offer durability beyond a few months or even less if washed often. Heavy rain, or washing will remove them and they also will dissipate into the air even when kept inside long term.

Synthetic wax sealants - man made products that may even contain some natural wax or mimic the effects of wax, but due to the other chemicals compounded into them provide much more durability than a natural wax. Most ‘waxes’ on the local auto store shelf today, unless otherwise stated, are synthetic blends. They are generally about the same as far as application, the main plus being they will provide adequate protection for six to eight months, depending on maintenance.

Both wax and sealants will protect the painted surfaces of your vehicle by ‘mechanically bonding’ to the paint - meaning they are attached to the surface and will eventually wear or wash off. Complete decontamination and reapplication is necessary on a regular basis two or more times per year to ensure uninterrupted protection.

Paint Coatings- the latest technology in paint protection with durability measured in years not months. 

Coatings chemically bond with the paint - as opposed to attaching to the surface like wax and sealants they become part of the surface. On the plus side they are extremely durable and cannot be washed off - they must be mechanically removed once they start to show any effects of wear - which if properly maintained could take several years. They are extremely hydrophobic, scratch and stain resistant and will not show dirt as soon as traditional finishes will as they have no oils or texture for dirt to adhere to. On the negative side coatings are considered semi permanent and should only be applied when the surfaces are properly prepped and when you are sure of your ability to apply them - if you don’t like the results of your application you will have to spend a great deal of time and effort to polish them off. They will magnify any defects in the paint as they have no corrective qualities, and generally must be used with specific products designed to prepare the surfaces for application. They are more expensive and take much more time to apply than synthetic waxes. While some of the shorter lasting coatings are readily available in your local auto store and online you really should have a good grasp of what is necessary to correctly prepare for and properly apply these finishes. Coatings are much more resistant to scratching and staining than a synthetic wax and do not wear off with normal maintenance. IT IS IMPERATIVE TO FOLLOW ALL DIRECTIONS ON THE PRODUCT TO THE LETTER.

STEP 5: MAINTAINING your finish is caring for it between complete details and not only includes regular washing but also the quick clean ups that can be done with the correct products when you don’t have the time or facility to actually wash your car, or when it is just a little dusty - not actually grimy dirty. When drying your car after washing, or wiping it down at a show location, always use a spray detailer to add lubrication and prevent scratching. DO NOT ‘DUST’ YOUR VEHICLE - all this does is drag all the dirt and fallout across your painted surfaces creating those super fine ‘cobwebs’ that show up in the bright sunlight. When a hose hook up is not available, or your vehicle is not all that dirty, use waterless wash products such as Meguiar’s ‘Wash and Wax Anywhere’ for vehicles with synthetic wax sealant which only requires a bucket of water to ‘wash’ your car, then follow with your favorite spray detailer. For coated vehicles use the appropriate spray detailer or just water in a spray bottle. These products will lift the dirt off of the surface, not drag it across. Always use quality microfiber towels properly laundered and follow product directions.


 Use good housekeeping practices - always remove trash immediately, vacuum frequently, if your dog travels with you invest in an inexpensive moving blanket - they are thick enough to protect your upholstery even from nails and easy to throw in the washer and dryer to keep fresh and clean, blot up spills as soon as possible by laying a damp towel on the spill and let the towel 'wick' up liquids, don't push it into the fabric.

For glass use a glass cleaner designed for vehicles - household cleaners are not designed to remove the film that is emitted from interior materials. Wash from right to left on the outside, up and down on the inside so you can tell which side a streak is on if you have one. Using a micro fiber towel, not paper towels that leave lint and have glue in them will decrease streaks. DO NOT clean data screens with window cleaner - treat them exactly as you would your computer or phone with the appropriate products.

Wipe down all surfaces with a damp micro fiber towel. There are many interior 'quick detailers' on the market for this purpose.

We recommend using the correct quality product made specifically for your leather upholstery - there is a great difference between the leather used in vintage and even older modern vehicles and the manufacturing processes used in the leather and "pleather' products used in new vehicles. Consult your Owners Manual for specifics pertaining to your vehicle as many newer vehicles will recommend only a damp wipe down - no chemicals should be used.

If you have any questions regarding a specific stain or problem, please do not hesitate to contact us.