Corvette: How to Detail Your Car

Corvettes are high-performance vehicles. They are meant to go fast, but also look beautiful while doing it. Keeping your Corvette polished is a key part to maintaining its retail value and that new car look for years to come.

By Nick Mason - February 10, 2015

This article applies to the C5, C6 and C7 Corvette (1997-current).

When it comes to Corvettes, performance and looks go hand in hand. Detailing your own vehicle can be a rewarding task, and with so many user-friendly products and DIY guides, it can be done by almost any weekend warrior. Although most detailing tasks and light polishing can be done by beginners, some aspects of the job (like heavy compounding or polishing) should be left to the professionals. If the vehicle's paint is neglected, swirled or scratched, it may require intensive paint correction that can take several days to complete and a high level of skill.

Materials Needed

  • Microfiber towels
  • Wash mitt
  • Car soap
  • Clay bar
  • Clay lubricant
  • Wheel/tire cleaner
  • Wheel cleaning brush
  • Tire dressing
  • Glass cleaner
  • Wax or sealant
  • Applicator pad
  • Polish (optional)
  • Dual-action polisher or hand polish applicator pad

Step 1 – Clean the wheels and tires

It may seem a bit unusual, but we recommend starting with the wheels and tires. It is quite common to accidentally brush up against a dirty wheel and tire and bring that filth with you into the paintwork. If possible, remove the wheel and clean the faces of the spokes as well as the barrels of the wheel. If you elect to skip that step, use the wheel/tire cleaner to brush and clean the wheels and tires. Do not apply tire shine or any dressing products until the rest of the car is finished, as you may accidentally snag some of it on one of your microfiber towels and ruin your hard work on the paint.

Figure 1. Wheel and tire cleaning.

Pro Tip

The wheels and tires should always be cleaned first because they are usually the dirtiest part of the car, and if any dirt or grime splashes up on the body, it will be cleaned in the next step.

Step 2 – Wash and dry the exterior

Thoroughly wet the car with water. Use car wash soap and the wash mitt to clean the exterior of the car from top to bottom. Work each part of the vehicle panel by panel, rinsing the wash mitt in between each section. A bucket "grit guard" is invaluable here, as it will collect contaminants at the bottom of the bucket and prevent them from re-entering your sponge. Once the wash is complete, rinse off the soap and dry the vehicle with microfiber towels, preferably in a shady area as the sun will often dry your car before you're ready to do so, and cause hard water spotting.

Figure 2. Exterior wash.

Step 3 – Clay bar the paint

Determine if the vehicle needs to be clay barred. To do this, run your knuckles, or the backside of your hand over the paintwork. If you feel rough, gritty areas, the vehicle needs to be clay barred.

Using clay bar is actually quite simple:

  • Work panel by panel.
  • Use clay bar lube, or quick detailer to lubricate the paint. You must keep the paint wet/lubricated.
  • Lightly run the clay bar over the paint in straight, back-and-forth motions.
  • Work the paint by sections, starting from top to bottom.
  • Periodically check your clay, as it picks up contaminants it becomes unsuitable for further use. Once that piece of clay is spotted, or has patches of black in it, trash it and move on to a fresh piece of clay.
Figure 3. Clay bar the panels.

Pro Tip

Between panels, knead the clay to ensure that a clean section of clay is being used on each panel.

Step 4 – Polish the paint

Before applying any polish or waxing product, take a few minutes and uses painters tape on any porous, unpainted black plastics or trim pieces. Waxs, sealants and polishes will stain any type of unpainted, or textured plastics permanently.

Inspect the paint in the sun so all imperfections and swirls can be isolated.If imperfections are found, apply the polish by hand or by machine to polish each section of the vehicle. Work the polish into the paint in a circular motion and crosshatch pattern. After each section is polished, wipe away the residue with a microfiber towel and inspect your work to ensure that the imperfections have been removed.

Leave your masking tape in place for the next step as well.

Figure 4. Polishing the paint.

Pro Tip

A dual-action polisher is recommended to achieve the best results.

Step 5 – Wax or seal the paint and shine the tires

Use a wax or sealant to protect your freshly polished paint. Apply in a circular motion with minor overlap to ensure adequate coverage using an applicator pad or polisher, but be sure to follow the manufacturers directions for the best results. To protect and maintain the tires, apply a tire dressing of your choice.

Figure 5. Waxing the door panel.

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