How to detail your car: pro tips for a flawless finish

Professional car cleaner Richard Tipper owns Perfection Valet and also works for Porsche. Here are his top tips for detailing your car

A perfect valet

A perfect valet © Porsche

Stuck at home during lockdown? Why not deep-clean and detail your car ready for the summer? Richard Tipper – known on social media as @perfectionvalet – has an obsessive attitude to cleaning cars and works on everything from daily drivers to concours winners. He’s also a Porsche enthusiast with a 987 Cayman R in his garage. Read on for his easy-to-follow tips to make your car gleam like new.

The safest way to wash a car

The safest way to wash a car – tip 1 © Porsche

Park your car – in this case, a new ‘992’ 911 Carrera – in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Richard recommends using a snow foam or pre-rinse agent to start with. A pressure washer will make things easier, but some products can be used with a hosepipe. Give the whole car a thorough soak.

The safest way to wash a car

The safest way to wash a car – tip 2 © Porsche

Look closely at your car’s paintwork and you’ll spot faint scratches and swirls. These actually come from cleaning, so it’s important to buy a good wash mitt (“either synthetic lambswool or microfibre, and as soft as possible”) along with a grit guard. The latter is “like a drain cover that allows the dirt to fall to the bottom of the bucket, preventing your wash mitt getting dunked in the muck,” explains Richard.

The safest way to wash a car

The safest way to wash a car – tip 3 © Porsche

Use two buckets, one full of soapy water and the other with plain water to rinse. Start with the roof and work your way down, then dry the car using a microfibre towel: “Don’t bother with a leather,” says Richard, “I haven’t for over 20 years as microfibre towels are much better at leaving a streak-free finish”. Another Tipper tip: avoid squeegees for drying, as they leave very fine marks. Not ideal on your Carrera GT…

How to clean your car’s engine

How to clean your car’s engine – tip 1 © Porsche

Engines aren’t designed to be blasted with high-pressure water; they need cleaning with care. “Detergents can be very effective,” notes Richard, “especially in something like a Porsche 911. With the engine being out at the back, it can get very dusty.”

How to clean your car’s engine

How to clean your car’s engine – tip 2 © Porsche

Making sure the engine is cold, use microfibre cloths and brushes, concentrating on one section at a time. Choose a multi-purpose cleaner with a lower solvent content; it’s less likely to perish any rubber hoses or seals.

How to clean your car’s engine

How to clean your car’s engine – tip 3 © Porsche

It’s worth giving the engine a quick maintenance check while you’re there. “Even if you’re not mechanically-minded, you can always refer to the handbook then check the tension on the belts, or make sure that bearings are lubricated.” If you own a Porsche with an electric rear spoiler, Richard suggests oiling that as well.

Cleaning wheels like an expert

Cleaning wheels like an expert – tip 1 © Porsche

Split-rim alloys identify this particular car as something special. Shame its wheels are filthy, but Richard has a remedy for that. “It’s best to do the wheels before you wash the rest of the car, as they are often the dirtiest part. Use a different bucket for this bit,” he says.

Cleaning wheels like an expert

Cleaning wheels like an expert – tip 2 © Porsche

Invest in a deionising decon gel. These usually ‘bleed’ purple when they react with iron in the brake dust, so you can tell they are working. Try to avoid spraying gel onto the discs or pads; ideally, you should remove the wheel from the car. Richard says: “I never use acidic wheel cleaners, especially on Porsches with carbon ceramic (PCCB) brakes, as the disc hub is anodised and the acid will damage the surface.”

Cleaning wheels like an expert

Cleaning wheels like an expert – tip 3 © Porsche

Now you need some soft wheel brushes. Choose a set made from microfibre, preferably with plastic handles as metal can scratch. Brush the decon gel around the wheel, allowing it some “dwelling time” to loosen stubborn dirt.

Cleaning wheels like an expert

Cleaning wheels like an expert – tip 4 © Porsche

“Don’t forget the inside of the wheel to make a really thorough job of it,” says Richard. You can then apply tyre shine as a final flourish. The results should be transformative, whether you own a 911 GT3 RS or a Ford Fiesta.

The secrets of car polishing

The secrets of car polishing – tip 1 © Porsche

Now is your time to shine. “Before you start any polishing, make sure the car is completely clean,” Richard advises. “If you have a smooth surface, the polish will adhere to the paint for longer.” Polish should protect your car’s bodywork for at least six more washes.

The secrets of car polishing

The secrets of car polishing – tip 2 © Porsche

Before polishing, Richard uses a claybar to get rid of any contaminants that have bonded to the paint. “Spray the claybar lubricant onto a small area of the car and then gently rub the claybar in straight lines over the same area. Let the tool do the work – only apply a light pressure.” A claybar should last three or four treatments before you need a new one.

The secrets of car polishing

The secrets of car polishing – tip 3 © Porsche

Now for the polish itself. Richard uses an applicator pad (a sponge wrapped in microfibre cloth) with four pea-sized drops of polish. Work in straight lines, then allow the polish to dry before removing it with a second cloth. “Don’t do any plastics, glass, rubber seals and matt carbon fibre, as the polish will turn them white.” Consider a hard wax as an alternative to polish; they’re more expensive, but last longer.

Make an Alcantara steering wheel look like new

Make an Alcantara steering wheel look like new – tip 1 © Porsche

Surprisingly, Richard says: “This is the question I get asked more than any other”. For those who don’t drive a track-focused Porsche or a 1980s Lancia, Alcantara is a kind of man-made suede made from tiny fibres. “Over time, it looks like the fabric’s been worn away, but in fact it’s just congealed grease, lovely thought though that is… What we need to do is remove that grease and fluff the pile back up.”

Make an Alcantara steering wheel look like new

Make an Alcantara steering wheel look like new – tip 2 © Porsche

Use a car fabric cleaner and spray it onto the wheel, working on a quarter at a time. “Don’t spray too much – if you soak the wheel, it’ll make the Alcantara brittle when it dries out.” Wrap a warm, damp microfibre cloth around the wheel and work it gently: imagine you’re twisting a motorbike grip. Then absorb as much of the moisture as possible with a dry cloth. Let the wheel air-dry for a couple of hours, then use a toothbrush to really bring the fluffiness back.

Share your efforts on social media

Share your efforts on social media © Porsche

Proud of your cleaning prowess? If you’re on Twitter or Instagram, take a photo of your car and share it with Richard (@perfectionvalet). Use the hashtag #GetCreativeWithPorsche and the Porsche Newsroom will see your efforts, too.

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