A Simple Guide To Detailing Your Classic Car

Attention, physical universe. Without you, we would not exist, as would not the classic cars we admire. Unfortunately, the elements take a toll on the fine and common alike, and while all cars need detailing, the age and materials of classic cars dictate that they receive special care. Detailing, the thorough care of your car’s surfaces and materials, is a time-consuming process that can be taxing even if all you have to steward is a Pontiac Fiero. When you add in all the special requirements of a classic car, you realize that you will need more time than a commercial break during Yankee Workshop.

You would be surprised, however, how merrily the time can pass when you have your materials ready and a good understanding of what you’re about to do. Whether you’re preparing for a competition or just sprucing up for dignity’s sake, we have compiled a short list of recommended techniques, methods, and items for your service. Do let us know your experience.


1) Begin from the bottom (chassis, wheels, exhaust) before fun stuff like the body and interior. Do not use a pressure or steam washer because foreign contaminants can be driven into all sorts of places you’ll never find them, like an English Muffin gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Borrow your cousin’s overalls, grab a wire brush and prepare to look like a chimney-sweep. Move onto the engine bay when you’re finished with the underside, and cover any intakes to prevent dislodged gunk from finding a new home.

2) Tack cloth is a hugely important item for removing dirt from the body. The cloth is excellent at snatching up dirt particles, which makes this a great precursor to polishing or painting. You shouldn’t overuse your cloths, however, so buy a lot and be prepared to toss sections that become grimy.

3) If polishing, use painter’s tape to cover emblems, molding and body gaps. The only place the polish should land is the body itself. If it’s adjacent to the body, tape it. Polish can be applied with a clean piece of tack cloth, but remember to address scratches and bumps before reaching for the polish.

4) Chrome can be cleaned by a variety of chemical agents (watch out for double agents though), but resist the temptation to touch the clean, shiny surface after all is finished. Oils from our skin eat through chrome like LeBron James at a Thanksgiving dinner.

5) Once inside, use an air compressor to loosen dirt from the carpeting, then vacuum. Baby powder will take care of grease stains on upholstery, Q-Tips are excellent for Q-shaped crevices, and glass surfaces come at the very end. Use a microfiber cloth and you’ll be right as non-streaking rain.


And that’s it! We hope you’ll share any tips you have by leaving a comment below, and that you’ll compare our techniques to your own. Happy cleaning.

A Simple Guide To Detailing Your Classic Car was last modified: February 4th, 2015 by Raleigh Classic Car Auctions

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