How to Wash, Wax and Detail Your Corvette

Products and Techniques for a Shiny Car

1957 Chevrolet Corvette Interior
Make your Corvette gleam inside and out. Car Culture, Inc. / Getty Images

When you get your Corvette ready for car show season or just to look great on the club tour or meet-up, you want to meticulously clean and shine it up to its best possible presentation.

The reasons for doing a thorough detail job on your 'Vette are many, but one of the best is simply that detailing your car gets you right up close to every piece of your pride and joy, and helps you discover problems before they get out of hand.

Buying a Detail Kit

The first step is to get a good, complete first aid kit. That will come in handy if you collapse and hit your head when you find out how much a good, complete detail kit will cost you. Suddenly dish soap and an old dog towel doesn't look like such a bad idea. But resist the impulse to cheap out — you really do need a good detail kit.

You can get quality detail products at your auto parts store or even at your local discount store. Your best choices in a retail store are Meguiar's and Eagle One products. These are professional-quality detailing products at a reasonable price, and you can build your supply according to your budget.

If you prefer to shop online, check out Griot's Garage and Adam's Polishes. Both of these companies offer top-quality products and will cheerfully ship them straight to your door. Consider investing in a full detailing kit, and don't bother with the little sample-size kits. You want all the good stuff and you need it in quantity, so you might as well just go ahead and get it.

Wash Your Corvette Properly

You need a big clean bucket to wash your car. You also need some fancy car wash mix, a couple of car wash mitts, and some good towels to dry the car. Old terry cloth towels that have been retired from bathroom use are perfect.

Here are a couple of non-obvious washing tips:

  • Never use dishwashing detergent on your car. Dish soap is designed to remove grease and wax! Use a quality car wash mix.
  • Use separate wash mitts for painted and polished surfaces and gritty places like wheel wells. You don't want to drag sand and small rocks up to scratch your paint! No matter how thoroughly you wash a mitt, once it's been to the underside of the 'Vette it should never touch paint again.

Using the Clay Bar

About once a year, you should use a clay bar to remove tough buildup on your paint. A clay bar is just what it sounds like — a piece of modeling clay. Wash the car normally, but before you wax it, you use your detail spray as a lubricant and rub the clay bar on your paint. The clay picks up baked-on grunge and leaves your paint completely shiny. Adam's Polishes has a great DVD on how to use their clay bar to best effect.

Read on to the next page for information about waxing, detail spray, and interior cleaning.

Wax Well

Traditional paste wax is no longer a good choice now that there are a variety of liquid waxes you can choose from, and these go on and come off much more nicely. One of the best waxes you can use is Zymol liquid, but it's sold online, not through the usual retail outlets. For retail products, try Ice by Turtle Wax. You can use Ice on chrome and brightwork as well as paint.

Some tips on waxing:

  • Use a liquid wax and put it on by hand with a soft cloth used only for wax application. Some products provide an applicator sponge for this purpose.
  • Follow the directions on the product you're using.
  • Use a clean microfiber towel to wipe off the wax.

Pay Attention to Details

Chrome trim, wheels, tires, glass, and rubber seals all require their own cleaning products. Use a good non-streaking glass cleaner, a non-abrasive chrome polish, and a high-shine tire spray or gel. Rubber parts and all brightwork can use modern protectants like Turtle Wax Ice.

When it comes to your wheels, you need a cleaner that will cut the accumulation of brake dust, but which is safe for the paint, chrome, or other finish on your wheels. Eagle One products do a good job in this area. Try to keep the wheel cleaner spray off your tires, as it can discolor them.

If you have whitewall tires, you can use whitewall cleaner from Coker Tire or Westley's Bleche-White, but they won't take out every stain. About the best thing you can do for a severely discolored or damaged whitewall is to use liquid white shoe polish to touch up the blemish.

Let Us Spray

The last step for the outside of your car is detail spray and a clean microfiber cloth. Detail spray gives your car that wet, shiny look that knocks 'em dead at car shows. Be sure to choose a detail spray that is not made with silicone, as silicone products don't last and can wash your other protectants off the car.

When you've detail sprayed your painted surfaces, things are looking good, but you're not done yet. You need to take a supply of old toothbrushes and your detail spray and scrub the inside of your tailpipe and in the nooks and crannies around your car's surface badges. Clean and polish up absolutely everything until it's perfect.

The Inside Job

When the exterior is finished, you're ready to do the same level of detail work on the engine compartment, trunk, and finally the interior. Having your engine bay professionally steam cleaned every year will help you find leaks and keep your Corvette looking like new.

For your interior and trunk, start with a good vacuuming. Then get in there with your leather cleaner and mild cleansers for your headliner and trim. If you really want to go over the top, you can buy a little brush to get your carpet fibers all pointing in the same direction.

Most people will read over these steps and think that it sounds like a lot of work compared to running the car through the Wash-N-Go, and it is. The key is not to think of detailing as a chore, but as a process that delivers its own rewards in pride and joy.