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So Cal Eco-Detail – White Toyota Tercel

January 13th, 2017 Leave a comment Go to comments

This morning I performed a wash and wax on my neighbor's white Toyota Tercel. The car is her daily driver and she usually has it washed, waxed and the interior vacuumed at a local detailers for $25. At some stage the exterior had been badly repainted with an uneven finish and white brush marks all over the rubber trim. The black bumpers had also been repainted.

I did not have access to the interior so I did a pre-wash walk-around and inspected the exterior of the car and took some photographs. After which I washed the wheels and performed an eco-friendly rinseless wash on the exterior, dressed the wheels and tires and give the entire car a coat of wax and treated the bumpers. The interior will be addressed another day. This was an opportunity to refine my cleaning techniques on a small sedan, and to identify those areas where more efficiencies can be made. I noted the times for different components of the process:

8:15am Initial inspection and photographs.
8:20am Began work on the wheels.
8:40am Wheels washed. Began wash and wax of exterior.
9:30am Finished wash and wax. Dressed tires.
9:40am Final wipe down completed with photographs.

The entire process including wheels and wax took about an hour and a half. To charge only $25 the client's regular detailer has to be cleaning the exterior and the interior in under 30 minutes and they must be doing a very basic job with minimal attention to detail. My goal is to complete the exterior of a vehicle like this in under one hour without compromising the quality of the work – but to do it for $25, which includes the interior, is unrealistic.


I started by hosing off the wheels to remove any loose dirt and brake dust. I made up a wash bucket with about two gallons of water and a small amount of auto detergent into which I put my wheel brushes. I stated by liberally spraying the tires and wheels with ShineSupply's All Purpose Cleaner diluted 1 part APC to 10 parts water. After letting the APC sit for several seconds the tires and wheels were brushed until clean with a soft brush. I used a boars hair brush to clean the wheels and the lug nuts. A wheel woolie was used to clean the holes in the rims and to reach through to clean the barrels of the wheels. Excess liquid was wiped off using a black microfiber towel. Remaining dirty residue was spritzed with water from the hose and dried off with a MF towel. The tires were dressed with ShineSupply's Decked Out mixed with 2 parts of water for a look like-new satin finish. Finally the wheels were hit with Meguiar's X-Press Spray Wax and buffed with a clean towel.

Before – Passenger Front Wheel

After – Passenger Front Wheel

Before – Driver Front Wheel

After – Passenger Rear Wheel



I used an eco-friendly rinseless wash and the two-bucket method to clean the Tercel's exterior. I put a grit guard in the bottom of a clean rinse bucket followed by about three gallons of water. I made up a wash bucket with two gallons of water and two capfuls (1 ounce), of Optimum No Rinse Wash & Shine (ONR) and put a few blue microfiber towels to soak in the solution. The car had sat through a couple of recent rain storms and was relatively clean so a pre-wash was not required. Starting at the top I gently wiped down one section at a time with a folded in-four microfiber towel soaked in the ONR solution, switching to a clean section of the towel as it became soiled. After each panel was washed with ONR I sprayed Meguiar's X-Press Spray Wax onto the still-wet clean panel and buffed it dry with a plush MF towel to simultaneously remove any remaining liquid and to lay down a coating of protective wax. This wash and wax procedure was repeated for every section of the car. The MF cleaning towels were cleaned in the rinse bucket to remove as much grit as possible before being reintroduced to the wash bucket. Where appropriate a detailing brush was used to clean around trim, emblems, handles, etc. Because they had grease marks and heavier soiling the underside of the wheel arches, side rocker panels and the rear and front bumpers were left until last to avoid risk of marring the paintwork. The grease and heavier soiling was hit with 1:10 APC before being wiped with ONR. Once the dirt and grit had been removed it was safe to use APC and more vigorous rubbing with the MF towel to remove grease marks.

The wash phase went smoothly enough. The resprayed paint had not been sealed well and in some sections white residue was visible on the blue washing towel. Similarly the black paint on the bumpers wiped off very easily. I dressed the bumpers with 303 Aerospace Protectant buffed with a yellow 12 x 12 MF towel which made them look blacker, less chalky and more uniform. The windscreen was a little streaky and had scratch marks etched into it from the wiper blades which were filthy, requiring 4 or 5 wipes to get all the dirt off. I cleaned the windscreen with isopropyl alcohol applied with a green 12 x 12 MF towel, followed by a pass with Meguiar's X-Press Spray Wax to take advantage of its excellent hydrophobic property.

The car came out looking pretty good given its age and the poor quality of its paintwork. The owner thanked me for her new car! Here are some photographs of the exterior:

Before – Driver-Side Rear

After – Driver-Side Rear

Before – Passenger Front Wing

After – Passenger Front Wing

After – Passenger Front Wing


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