Cleaning and detailing your car is a bit like grilling burgers; everyone has a method they stick to and claim to know better than everyone else. While there are several ‘correct’ ways to both grill a mean burger and achieve a quality detail on your car, there are quite a few ways to mess them up, too. It’s fairly common to find that no two people who take cleanliness with their vehicles seriously have exactly the same methods, but what’s even more hotly contested are which products are best to use. Well, today we’re going to find out together what you can do at home with your vehicle and what products, practices, and tips will help you do it properly. This edition of Tuned In Weekly is focused entirely on bringing a near professional-level clean and detail to your daily driver, show build, or track car with Griot’s Garage to keep everything nice and tidy without a huge time and cost investment.
The car in question is a 2001 Porsche 996 C4. My 996, to be precise. Since I purchased it in February, this car has received a ton of work mechanically, but hasn’t been detailed. I’ve washed it a few times, sure, but I haven’t properly given the leather, plastics, wheels, and paint the attention they all sorely deserve. It isn’t a high mileage car, but it’s not brand new, either. Twenty years of age have certainly begun to show themselves. There are swirl marks in the paint, the plastics are faded even inside the frunk, and the leather in the front seats, dash, steering wheel, and gearshift boot are all dangerously close to being beyond saving with simple rejuvenators and conditioners. With that, we decided it’s the perfect candidate to see if we can take a ‘clean’ car by most peoples’ standards and turn it into a showroom-fresh example of a vintage Porsche.
Look, we won’t sugar coat this; whatever effort you put into your wash and detail will be directly reflected in your finished results. If you take your time, work patiently, do your research on how to approach different materials, use plenty of clean towels, applicator pads, high-ply wash mitts, and a bunch of super expensive equipment, you’ll be able to get the exact same results that a professional detailer will charge thousands of dollars for. However, buying all that equipment, the tools, and the products is just more than most people want to do. So we’re going to help out the folks who want to have a result that makes them more than happy without needing anything fancy. For that, we turned to Griot’s Garage products.
Here’s what we used: Griot’s Super Concentrated Car Wash, Wheel Cleaner, Tire Cleaner, Tire and Trim Shine, Leather 3-In-1 cleaner and conditioner, Leather Rejuvenator, Interior Cleaner, Ceramic 3-In-1 Spray Wax, and Dual-Weave Interior Towels. All that will last well more than a season based on this one detail, if not longer, and won’t set you back more than $100. To spend less than a Benjamin on enough product to achieve surprisingly incredible results over and over through an entire season is more than reasonable, and likely about what most people spend on their cleaning products as-is. But what makes these special?
Truthfully, it’s not so much about the products, which are exceptional based on my experience with them, but also with the clear, concise, easy to follow instructions printed right on the bottles. With other product I’ve used on my cars, I’ve found some of the instructions to be incredibly tough to follow or stress-inducing by making me think I’m doing something wrong. That is, if they even have instructions. Many times, I’ve found myself looking up tips and tricks on the internet or watching professional detailer videos to better understand how to use a particular product that was somewhat unclear in their instructions. What’s nice about Griot’s is you have those simple instructions aimed at a DIYer right there on the product, and they’re clearly written by folks who care about our cars just as much as we do.
Now, for the actual wash. Everything hinges on your prep-work. That means using the two-bucket (or three-bucket for super anal detailers) method for washing. One bucket for your wash product and water, another bucket for rinsing so your mitt doesn’t keep dirt and grime in it that will cause swirl marks. The third bucket, if you choose to use one, should be exclusively for rinsing your wheel brush/mitt/sponge so as not to contaminate your wash bucket. However, personally, I just save the wheels for last so it doesn’t matter, hence, the two-bucket method is my preference.
It’s also important that you don’t skip the pre-rinse of your car. I don’t know too many folks who do, but I’ve definitely seen people go straight for the soapy water and their sponge and get right in there. That’s a sure-fire way to rub all that road grime, dirt, pollen, or whatever else is on your paint into your paint. Start from the highest point of your car and rinse downward, ideally with a high-pressure water source. If you don’t have a pressure washer, a garden hose on high is perfectly fine. I’m actually not a huge fan of pressure washers, as the only way to ensure you aren’t going to damage paint is to run it on such a low setting that your garden hose wouldn’t be any different. However, if you do want a pressure washer, the Griot’s Foam Cannon is a pretty handy quick-wash method that doesn’t require you to even touch your paint with a mitt or sponge.
With the car rinsed and most of the surface grit dripping onto the ground, you can fill your wash and rinse buckets. Add one ounce of concentrated wash per gallon of water for a perfect, sudsy, foamy mixture. It’s also worth noting that a mitt like this glove that has deep, soft, thick ‘fingers’ of material is the safest thing to touch your paint with. It will pick up anything that’s in the paint and bury it deep within the mitt so you aren’t just swirling that stuff around on your paint doing more harm than good.
Just like the rinse, wash from the highest point downward. It’s a good idea to go section-by-section and take your time. You should rinse your mitt out as frequently as possible to make sure you’re removing all the dirt you’ve picked up, so take your time and prevent any nasty swirl marks with that tip.
The last areas of the car you should do are the rocker panels, front valance, rear valance, and exhaust tips if you choose to polish those a bit. These areas are the dirtiest part of the car and may have collected even more of the grime from the rest of the car as gravity has let the water and soap drip and gather there. With the dirtiest parts washed off, you can put away your main mitt and grab the wheel and tire cleaning products.
As I mentioned earlier, saving your wheels for last prevents your wash bucket from being contaminated early with brake dust and the grimiest of grime found on your wheels. I also don’t like to use my main mitt for my wheels, as they can get fairly dirty rather quickly. Whenever I ‘retire’ a mitt I use on my paint, that becomes my wheel cleaning sponge, but Griot’s does have a handy-dandy wheel brush that makes particularly short work of any multispoke or mesh wheels that are otherwise headache-inducing to clean.
With the Wheel Cleaner bottle in hand and fancy spray nozzle they provide attached, coat all four of your wheels and let it stand for about twenty seconds to do its work and activate with the brake dust. Once it’s had a chance to do its chemical thing, go over every inch of the wheel surface with your cleaning mitt or brush and rinse it after each wheel. As soon as you’ve finished, give the wheels and the whole car another rinse, starting from the top down after you’ve removed all the cleaner from your wheels.
After you’ve sprayed the car down again, you’re ready to dry. Drying is an important part of the wash as it will prevent any water spots in your paint and will ensure that any soap left on the surface is wiped off so no scum builds up and leaves residue. It also will allow us to do that wax afterward, which requires your paint be both cool and dry to work properly.
Again, start from the top down and use your favorite soft microfiber, shammie, water blade, or Griot’s edgeless drying towel to gently push the water from the top of the vehicle downward. Let gravity help you here. You aren’t trying to soak up the water, you’re trying to lightly push it across the surface and off the car. A common mistake is trying to press into the surface of your car to soak up the water, but all you need to do is work the water down to the ground. Lastly, dry the wheels and tires.
Once the tires have been dried, along with all the trim and surface of your car, you can apply the tire cleaner followed by the tire and trim shine. Spray on the tire cleaner in an even pattern about eight inches from your tires and let it sit for about twenty seconds per tire before wiping off with a microfiber. Do the same with the tire shine and another clean microfiber.
For black plastic trim, like the windshield cowl, wiper arms, or bumper trim, you can also use that tire shine for a brand-new look. Sun tends to fade those plastics quickly, but you don’t need to replace them. This stuff will bring it back to that fresh new look you didn’t even realize was missing. As a tip, I like to use towels to ‘mask’ off the areas around the trim where I’ll be spraying, especially on dark-colored cars. This trim shine tends to leave a greasy film on any paint or glass that is annoying to clean off, so it’s best to keep something handy that will act as a masking barrier while you apply it.
The process with the trim spray is the same as with the tires, simply spray it on the faded trim evenly, let it sit for about twenty seconds, and then wipe it down with a fresh microfiber. Make sure to reach every inch. Even if you weren’t able to spray every corner of the trim, evenly wiping it down with the towel will work that trim shine over every surface and leave you with an even, deep, brand-new black trim look.
Lastly, for the exterior, the spray wax is a quick way to achieve a full, rich, shine and offer some water protection for the next few weeks. While it isn’t going to compare to a full ceramic coat or last as long, this is almost as good for a fraction of the cost and effort. The best thing to do is work in small areas, mist them lightly, and then wipe the whole area down with one side of a microfiber before removing and drying it with the other side. As your towel becomes saturated, switch to a clean dry towel and continue. You’ll find that using the same towel to apply wax over the whole vehicle will start out amazing, but as it saturates, you won’t be able to remove all the excess product, which is how you end up with streaks. You also should do this inside your garage or under shade, as sunlight will dry it out too quickly and leave streaks and residue on your car. Other than that, it’s incredibly simple. Now, you can move to the interior.
Since my carpet didn’t require any stain remover or deep cleaning, all we did was start with a vacuum to grab all the loose dirt, rocks, grass, or whatever else was on the bottom of my shoes before we went right to detailing. However, if your carpet is looking worse for wear, a quick way to return it to dealership-clean is with a simple carpet shampoo and diligent vacuuming. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference that just a cleaning and vacuuming makes in terms of comfort in the cabin, even if you don’t have a super fancy extractor. A clean carpet makes the cabin an inviting and calming place to be.
Next, the interior detailer is for any surface that isn’t leather. While it should be safe to use with leather, I knew we’d be using a specific leather cleaner in the next step, so I just focused on the fake walnut trim and anything plastic, like the buttons, door sills, dash cluster, and seat control knobs. For this, don’t spray directly on the surface you’re cleaning. A few spritzes into a dual-weave interior detailer towel is all you need. Then, wipe with the dampened towel and clean to your heart’s content. The longer you take and more thoroughly you get in all the little cracks and crevices will yield the best results, but for most folks, all you need is to wipe the surfaces down evenly.
With everything that isn’t leather cleaned, you should be in good shape to go ahead and pop open the leather cleaner and conditioner 3-In-1. I like to use a sponge or highly absorbent cloth to make sure that I’m working the product into the leather, not just wiping it along the surface. The idea is that you’re both cleaning and conditioning, so you need to use enough to let it soak into the leather, but don’t over-use the product. About a thumbprint-sized dollop on your applicator is all you need. Work section by section and re-apply to your sponge/towel as needed. Wipe off the surfaces with a clean and dry dual-weave towel when you’ve completely covered every inch of the leather.
Once the leather has been cleaned and conditioned, if your leather is soft and healthy, you’re finished! Just make sure you let it dry for a while in a cool place before you take it out for a drive. Additionally, Griot’s pro-tip on their exterior wax bottle suggests that you let the wax dry overnight and then re-apply it the next day for the most long-term results.
However, if your leather is like mine and has been hardened by time in the sun, this rejuvenator is the most magical of all the products we used. While none of the stuff we’ve done is ‘professional level,’ that isn’t the goal here. The point is for a novice at-home DIYer to achieve the best result for the least investments of time and money possible. Despite that less-than lofty goal, this leather rejuvenator is some miracle cream and I don’t think I’ll ever use anything else. It brought softness back to the crusty, hardened, and cracking shift boot I thought was already beyond repair and completely softened up my dash, seats, and center console leather. It feels like well-loved leather, not well-worn leather now.
To begin, liberally apply the rejuvenator to an applicator sponge or pad and work it into your leather one section at a time, re-applying to your pad as needed. I used about three thumbprint-sized dollops per seat and two for my whole dash/center console. Once applied, let it sit and soak in for about an hour in a cool dry place. After that, come back and check to see how much is absorbed. If you see that the seats look dry, or mostly dry, go for another application exactly like the first. Repeat this step until no more product will soak into the leather. Once you find there is wet product just sitting on top of the material after an hour, you can wipe everything down and clean off the leather with a fresh dual-weave towel.
With that, your interior and exterior should be nearly perfect. We’d like to reiterate, this isn’t about matching what a pricey professional detailer can do, it’s about getting as close to that level of results as possible at a fraction of the cost or time investment. There is absolutely no substitute for what a professional who has all the equipment, range of products, and experience can do, but that doesn’t mean you’re never going to get pretty dang close in way less time. With Griot’s Garage products, you can easily achieve an incredible finished detail in an hour or two for under $100 bucks a season. If you wash your car this way weekly, which you’d have more than enough product to do so, you’re spending about $5 per wash to have near professional-level results. That’s pretty freakin’ stellar if you ask me. Now, go out and have some fun in your garage this week and make sure you keep your cars pristine and clean with the help of Griot’s Garage. As always, be sure to tag us on social media with your wash routine or send in your results to firstname.lastname@example.org. You may find yourself in a future edition of Tuned In Weekly.