How to detail a BMW

How to detail a BMW

Writer - John Linden

What's the one thing everyone does when their car is dirty? Wash it of course! Washing your car typically entails cleaning off your vehicle until it looks clean. You might even vacuum the interior and give your window some extra love with some cheap window cleaner you bought at the 99 cents store.

But that's usually it. No more, no less. That's fine if you want your vehicle to look presentable as you go about your day to day activities. However, as the adage goes, the devil is in the details. The keyword here being detail.

BMWs are luxurious vehicles. They deserve more than a simple washing. They need to be detailed meticulously with various cleaning agents and waxes that will provide long-term protection.

There are several stages involved when you're washing and detailing a BMW. If you're ready to go, so are we! Let's jump into the specifics.

Clean the exterior of the car

The first step involves giving your BMW an old-fashioned bath. Here's what you'll need to get the job done properly:

Washing your BMW

Washing your BMW

When you're ready, begin rubbing the car down with the wash pads; starting from the top and working your way down. Starting from the top allows you to avoid spreading around dirt from the bottom half of the vehicle which tends to be the dirtiest half because of its proximity to the ground.

As you tackle the wheels, we recommend spraying them down with a wheel cleaner to break down those hard to remove contaminants. If your car is especially dirty, you'll have to break out the brushes and really get to work.

Tip: Use dedicated brushes for this process. If you're scrubbing down your tires with a specific brush, switch to a new brushif you need to scrub another area of your BMW. Otherwise you'll just be transferring around dirt and grime.

Drying your BMW

When your BMW looks shiny and clean, move on to drying phase. However, don't just use any towel to get the job done. Light scratches often occur because uninformedcar owners have no clue what towel to use when they're drying their vehicle and end up scratching the paint due to the abrasive material of their drying towel.Basically, the surface you're drying should determine the towel you use. 

For example, if you're drying a vinyl surface, you should use a soft terry/pearl microfiber towel. If you're drying a large, glossy surface microfiber waffle weave towels are the way to go. Once again, we advise using dedicated towels when you're tackling areas such as tires and other greasy surfaces.

Perform an inspection

BMWs are beautiful vehicles to behold, so don't be shy when it comes to giving your luxury car an inspection once you've finished the washing and drying process. The point of an inspection is to determine the kind of detail you'll perform.

So, what will you be looking for exactly? You're looking at the vinyl for chips and stains. You're also looking at the paint to root out scratches, stains and other imperfections.

One handy trick during the inspection process is to perform the plastic bag test. Simply take a plastic bag and stick your hand inside. Then run your hand over different areas of the car. If the various panels on your BMW feel bumpy and textured, contaminants have embedded themselves into the paint job. If it feels smooth, then you can give your BMW a clean bill of health -- at least for the inspection phase. Be mindful there's still much to do as you detail your vehicle.

Polishing the paint

If your BMW reveals contaminants, your next step is to polish the paint. Here's what you'll need:

Before getting into the nitty-gritty, you must first prep the surface for polishing. Removing the contaminants from the paint is very important because the polishing machine will end up grinding the little bits and pieces that have embedded themselves into your paint andcreate circular scratches called "swirls."

You can remove contaminants by claying the vehicle. The severity of the contamination will determine the grade of clay you use. The higher the contamination, the higher the grade. Use your clay bar and a lubricant to give your BMW a good once over. Use a microfiber towel to dry the vehicle and move on to the next step.

Now, use painter's tape to section off all areas on your BMW you have no desire to polish. We recommend taping off glass, plastic or rubber trim and emblems

Now it's time to start polishing your vehicle. Keep in mind each surface type requires a different type of polish. For example, using a good carbon glaze will really make those carbon fiber panels shine. When it comes to polishing painted surfaces you simply need to find a polish that works well with paint. We recommend using a correcting polish designed to cut deep into the clear coat and rid your BMW of those annoying swirls and light scratches.

After you've finished your initial round of polishing, you can switch to a finer polish to smooth out your work and make the paint of your BMW pop to life.

It's vital to inspect your work as you're polishing. Don't be afraid to use an LED light to inspect your vehicle for scratches as you go.Be warned. Polishing can be rough on your paint job. That doesn'tnecessarily  mean you'll damage the paint on your vehicle. It just means you should be careful while you're polishing. Look into polishing best practices. Otherwise, you really might end up damaging your beautiful coat of paint.

Cleaning Vinyl

It isn't difficult to clean vinyl. Simply give your vinyl a good wipe down using a matte specific surface cleanser, and you'll be good to go. When you wipe the cleanser into the vinyl, it will break down contaminants such as water spots, sap, overspray and more. Allowing the cleanser to break down contaminants is the best option because you won't have to rub the vinyl as hard thus avoiding unintentional damage.

Coating the paint

Adding an extra layer of coating to the paint of your BMW should only take place after you've finished the above steps. Coating will bond to the paint most effectively when the surface has been prepped properly. This means eliminating swirls and other blemishes from the paint so the coating will have a smooth, clean surface to bond to.

We recommend using a combination of coating and Carnauba Wax. The coating will bond to the paint and protect your BMW from UV damage, staining, and etching. Thus, the coating should be put on first as the base layer. Next, add a layer of Carnauba wax to truly make your BMW shine. Carnauba wax is an all natural wax that many car enthusiasts swear by because it adds a more vibrant glow to the paint.

The next step involves protecting the matte vinyl wrap on your vehicle with Matte Paint Sealant. Simply spray your vinyl down with a fine mist of water (a spray bottle will suffice) and wipe the sealant onto the surface. Once the sealant has settled, it will create a protective yet invisible bond that will add an extra layer of protection for the vinyl of your BMW.

Cleaning the windows

When we mention cleaning windows, we're not just talking about wiping the glass down with Windex. Remember, we're detailing your BMW, not just cleaning it. You should treat your windows with a hydrophobic coating. This will increase your visibility during rain, sleet and snow conditions. Water will bead off the glass and keep the driver's visibility clear as they navigate through hard to see conditions.

Wheels and tires

At this point, the wheels and tires should be nice and clean. Your wheel rim, the metal base on which the tire sits, should be coated with a sealant. This will protect the wheels of your BMW from salt, grime, dust and much more.

When it comes to the tires, you'll need a special tire conditioner that will adequately moisturize the rubber. Tire conditioner seeps into the tire, adding protection from the inside out. This will increase the overall health of your tires and protect them from cracking, browning, fading and drying. 

Cleaning the interior

Let's face it. When most of us clean our interiors, we simply vacuum, do a bit of light dusting and wipe down the dashboard with some good old-fashioned all-purpose cleaner. That's a good approach for cleaning your BMW but not for detailing.

Begin with dusting and vacuuming out the car from front to back. Use a small brush to get into your vents to clean out hard to reach dust. A toothbrush should perform this job perfectly. Now use a towel to wipe down the larger surfaces of your interior.

Naturally, the next step would be to start applying chemical cleaners. However, you must first identify the types of surfaces you have in your vehicle. Every "type" of surface has different properties. As a result, you'll need the right type of cleaning agent that will properly interact with that surface. Sure, you could always use an all-purpose cleaner, but if you take that route you won't get the best possible appearance out of your BMW's interior.

Consider surfaces such as plastic, carpet, rubber, and leather. There are great cleaners for each surface type. Do your homework to see what you need to purchase and follow the instructions on the box or bottle to determine the amount you should use. For example, organic cleaners are typically fine for most rubber and plastic surfaces.

Adding protection to the interior

Consider what type of damage each part of your interior may be susceptible to. For example, your dashboard is susceptible to UV damage. If you have leather in your interior, there's a possibility it may dry out and crack over the course of time.

To protect the plastic in your interior, apply ample layers of plastic conditioner. If you have leather in your interior, use leather cream to add moisture. Just like the outside of your BMW, you'll want to protect the interior as best you can. It's vital you protect every surface of your interior with the proper chemical agents.

Keeping your BMW clean for the long-term

Now you're finished -- for now anyway. Detailing your BMW isn't just a one-off experience. Most experts recommend a new detail every four to six months. That's around two to three times a year, but that, of course, depends on a variety of factors that include how frequently you drive the car and whether or not it's a show car or your daily driver.

The best way to keep your BMW looking fresh is to wash your vehicle regularly and upkeep the interior. Overall, there are some skills required to detail your BMW, especially when it comes to removing scratches,  but there's no real excuse not to give it a try. Take it slow, and if you're unsure about a specific step seek the advice of a friend or a professional who knows what they're doing. The result will be a gleaming ride you'll be proud to drive.

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