The entire article...Inside & Underhood
You know what they say about the “best laid plans.” Readers who were with us last month say Meguiar’s Mike Pennington demonstrate show-car-level detailing tips on Joe Salvo’s national-award-winning ’70 Chevelle SS396. Our original idea was to walk you through a stem-to-stern, inside-and-out detailing job on the Chevelle in one story. But Pennington was so thorough with the Chevy’s exterior that we ran out of time (and magazine pages) to fit it all in at once.
Luckily for us, Pennington cleared his calendar for another day, and Salvo graciously returned his Chevelle to Meguiar’s SoCal headquarters so we could attend to the car’s engine bay, trunk, and interior. This also gave us time to chat more with Salvo about how he preps his car for shows, as well as the opportunity to photograph the car for our cover story.
Though the surfaces can be varied, the overlying concepts behind interior detailing are similar to the processes used for the car’s exterior. Evaluate your surface to determine what it needs, choose the right product based on the surface’s condition, and then use the proper technique to apply the product. The big difference between detailing inside and detailing outside is the variety of surfaces you’ll find when you open the hood, trunk lid, and doors.Under the Hood
Nowhere is that diversity more apparent than a car’s engine bay. Not only are you dealing with metal surfaces that are painted, plated and anodized—each requiring its own, distinct care—but the detailing technique changes again for rubber (hoses, fuel lines, spark-plug wires, and the like), fabric (hood insulation, paper air filters), maybe even chalk (if yours is a correct-chalk-mark type of restoration).
Where do you start? That depends on the condition of your engine bay. In Salvo’s case, his Chevelle never gets very dirty, even after driving it to a show, so he’s able to chase down dust and road grime with some Quick Detailer sprayed on a microfiber towel. Those of us who don’t own show cars are probably in for a little more work.
Make sure you’re starting with a cool engine. We’re not talking “wow” factor; we’re talking temperature. You don’t want to burn yourself on the radiator, exhaust manifolds, or other hot components. If you’re detailing your car after driving it to a show, open the hood and let it cool off while you wipe down the rest of the car.
Cleaning is always the first step to a proper detail job, and this can be a messy task you’ll want to do prior to bringing your car to a show. Pennington recommends an all-purpose cleaner/degreaser, such as Simple Green or Purple Power, to clean just about everything under the hood. “Just be sure you know your degreaser and the products it’s compatible with. Also make sure you’ve diluted it properly for the surface you’re cleaning,” he added. “Certain areas can stand a stronger concentration of cleaner than other areas. If you don’t dilute the cleaner properly, you can stain or discolor certain surfaces, such as polished mental.”
Pennington did not recommend steam cleaning under the hood. “You’re not really cleaning with the steam cloud, you’re just shooting very hot water on the engine,” he said. Controlling the steam wand, or even a high-pressure washer at the local car wash, can be difficult. Spray the wrong area and you’ve shredded delicate underhood insulation, or damaged the paper air filter. You’ll have better control if you stick with the pressure that comes from a household garden hose.
However, what comes out of that hose can make a huge difference in this job’s difficulty. Salvo added. He always rinses his car with de-ionized water, which has been filtered to remove minerals that create spots when the water evaporates. That way he doesn’t have to worry about water spots in hard-to-reach areas. Granted, the CR Spotless de-ionizer he uses (www.crspotless.com
) retails for about $500, not including the resin needed to recharge the filters, but Salvo swears by the system. Pennington also recommends de-ionized water for show vehicles, but adds this tip: Wash with regular water, rinse with the de-ionized stuff and you’ll save yourself a few bucks.
Before spraying any sort of water under the hood, cover any exposed components-the distributor, plug wires, carburetor-that could be damaged or cause electrical problems if they get soaked. Pennington has seen car owners use a number of materials for this, from aluminum foil to plastic bags. He also recommends protecting painted exterior surfaces, such as fenders, with plastic sheets, masking paper, even a wet layer of car-wash solution, as degreaser can mar those surfaces.
Once your engine is clean, make note of any mechanical problems--particularly oil and other fluid leaks—that may be contributing to the engine bay’s condition. Fixing those leaks means you won’t have to continually chase them with the degreaser every time you clean underhood. This is a good time to check your hoses to see if any have aged to the point of needing replacement. Also check your battery for corrosion around the terminals, and neutralize that corrosion (the old baking soda trick) before it damages the battery, the wires, or the battery tray beneath it.
Once the underhood surfaces are clean, it’s time to condition and protect them. Meguiar’s Quik Detailer is a good choice for painted surfaces, said Pennington. Spray the detailer onto a good-quality terrycloth towel to wipe down flat-black and other non-shiny surfaces, like the hood’s underside or fenderwells. (Terrycloth also works for wrinkle-painted surfaces, though Pennington recommends blotting, not wiping, for best results.) For painted underhood areas with more shine—like radiator supports, for example—he recommends stepping up to microfiber towel, as it’s less likely to scratch the glossy paint.
Chrome-plated surfaces—air cleaner lids, valve covers—can be treated with a chrome polish. But Pennington does not recommend using that type of polish on anodized or cadmium-plated surfaces. Cleaning with the properly diluted degreaser should be all that those parts need. Rubber parts—hoses, lines, plug wires—can be treated with vinyl and rubber conditioner, though Pennington advises using a product that delivers a “natural” shine so the hoses don’t get too glossy. Do not put a rubber conditioner on belts, as that could cause the belts to slip.In the Trunk
Trunk detailing combines many of the procedures used to detail a car’s interior and exterior, since the surfaces in the trunk run the gamut from painted metal to fabric to tire rubber. As with everything else, cleaning is the first step. The inner trunk lid can be treated like any other painted, glossy surface—clean with a suitable was solution and treat with polish and/or wax.
The trunk floor is a little different. After removing everything from the trunk, including the spare and its tools, vacuum the floor, paying particular attention to nooks and crannies that are hard to reach. A god-quality automotive vacuum, with a wide assortment of attachments, can be invaluable here. Salvo recommends the automotive Vac ‘N’ Blo from Metropolitan Vacuum Cleaner (www.metrovacworld.com
). It’s compact (about the size and shape of a dachshund, Pennington pointed out), and its powerful, 4hp motor works as a vacuum and blower. Plus it comes with four specialty detailing nozzles designed to reach small spaces.
If the trunk has a mat, pull it out to give you access to the painted trunk floor. Treating the floor depends on the type of paint used. In the case of Salvo’s Chevelle, the speckled floor paint may need just a good vacuuming. If it’s really dirty, use the same all-purpose degreaser you used underhood (diluted properly), and then blot the floor dry.
Once the floor is clean, replace the mat, the tire tools, and then the spare tire. You’ll want to dress the spare as you would the other tires, with a tire conditioner that leaves a natural shine. That same rubber conditioner can be used on the trunk weather stripping. (A tip from Salvo: Whenever he garages the Chevelle, he leaves the trunk lid, doors, and hood open just a crack, so that the weather stripping stays plump and full. Because the car is covered, no dirt gets into the interior areas.)
Most of Pennington’s interior detailing steps were pretty commonsensical: Remove all your junk befor you start cleaning (and also take out the floor mats, so you can get to the carpet or floor underneath them); clean the vinyl surfaces with a properly diluted all-purpose cleaner on a terrycloth towel; and treat painted surfaces as you would the rest of the car’s painted metal.
Here are some tips you may not have thought of: Going over the carpet (and the floor mats) with a nylon-bristle carpet brush prior to vacuuming will get the carpet’s nap to stand up, making it easier for the vacuum to pick up dirt buried in the nap. Be sure you slide your seats all the way back while brushing and vacuuming to get at pockets of debris that accumulate around the seat posts. In the same vein, fold you seatbacks forward and vacuum the area where the seat back and cushion meet—another placethat traps dirt and dust.
Stubborn stains in the carpet mats (and on seat fabric) can be treated with a new Meguiar’s product called Quik Out. Developed with vacuum manufacturer Bissell, Quik Out is a spray-soak-blot carpet stain remover that’s been designed specifically for automotive uses.
Getting at dirt and dust in small areas, like A/C vents and around dashboard knobs, can be tricky. A set of brushes with soft, natural-fiber bristles can be used on gauge faces and around heater controls. For even smaller crevices, Salvo invested in a cool detailing kit form Slick Stixxx (www.slickstixxx.com
). It contains vinyl-wrapped aluminum rods and various sized and shaped plastic rod ends that’ll fit in those hard-to-reach areas.
Once your seats, door panels, and other vinyl surfaces are clean, it’s important to condition them with a vinyl protectant, Pennington said. Not only will the protectant keep the vinyl pliable, it also contains UV screening chemicals to block harmful sun damage.Maintenance
As Pennington told us last month, the final step in any detailing regimen is regular maintenance. “Frequent car care is easy car care,” is the mantra around Meguiar’s. If you don’t let your car get dirty between shows, a wipe with Quik Detailer on a microfiber cloth may be all you need to clean off the little dust or dirt that will accumulate on metal surfaces over time. For vinyl interior surfaces, Meguiar’s makes a Quik Interior Detailer that will replenish the protective UV screeners on the material. That bottle, and his Quik Detailer, are the ones Joe uses most when he rolls on to the show grounds.