Plan ahead for your detailing efforts to get an accurate idea of what can be accomplished. First, evaluate the condition of your vehicle: tires, wheels, paint, trim and interior (headliner, carpet, upholstery, and gauges). From there, you can determine what you’ll need for materials, tools and time expended.
You’ll also need to pick a good location to do your detailing—preferably in open shade. In addition to the obvious need for water, and power (for a buffer, vacuum, etc.), you’ll want to make sure you have room to work and no distractions or interference (chrome cleaner does wonders for your bumpers, but you don’t want to get it on the rose bushes).
After assessing your vehicle’s needs you may feel a bit overwhelmed if there’s a lot of work to do. To make things easier break down the job into smaller tasks to be done in a set order. Generally speaking it’s better to work from the inside out and from the top down (with one exception—take care of the wheels and tires first; see the Cleaning & Detailing Planner and step-by-step list below). You should also do any scratch repair or spot removal before polishing and waxing.
How often you’re able to wash and/or detail your ride is another important factor to consider. Whether you’ve got free time or not will often determine if detailing can be a weekly or monthly affair. Following the recommended Cleaning & Detailing planner, you may have to parlay the weekly event into a monthly one when time doesn’t allow more frequent attention.