Microfiber towels-waffle weaves for conventional washing, plush microfibers with Optimum No Rinse.
Personally, I don't use wheel cleaners. I prefer to use either ONR or when washing conventionally, car wash soap. If you keep your wheels clean there should be no reason to have to use a wheel cleaner. Improper use (as in not following directions and apply to a hot wheel) or using the wrong wheel cleaner on your rims can damage them and require refinishing to correct.
Most of the clay bars now available are made by Clay Magic since they hold the original patent and sued the crap out of anyone who copied their clay-so really, the brand doesn't matter much.
Clay bars removing imbedding grit, contamination, tree sap, paint overspray, etc from your paint. If you run your hand over your just washed paint and it has a gritty feel at all, you need to clay. This will pull all that gunk out of your paint leaving it glass smooth.
Spray a quick detail product (usually clay kits include the spray) onto your paint (about a 2' x 2' section) and rub the clay bar using moderate pressure over the paint. When it glides effortlessly and quietly over your paint, wipe off the clay lube and move on to the next area.
Polishes and compounds
My favorite polishes and compounds are:
Optimum Polish, Compound and Hyper Compound
Meguiars #83 Dual Action Cleaner/Polish and #80 Speed Glaze
Clearkote Compound and Blue Moose Cutting Creme
Poorboy's SSR line (3, 2.5, 2, 1)
Menzerna Intensive Polish and Final Polish
Use by hand:
Use a terry cloth towel, folded into 1/8ths size to form a thick pad and so you can apply even pressure. Use moderate pressure, enough to build up some warmth on the towel and work the product into the paint until it looks nearly clear and dry, then wipe off immediately. Refold the towel and move on to the next section.
By Porter Cable polisher
Using a polishing pad, apply a circle of product about 1" from the edge of the pad and for the first couple of areas, before turning on the PC, spread the product over a 1' x 1' area to prevent dry buffing. With the pad pressed lightly against the paint, turn on the PC and set it to '5' and spread the product over a 2' x 2' area using moderate pressure. Kick the speed up to 6 and slow down your passes to about 1/2-1" per second with 50% overlapping passes, up/down, across, diagonally. Use enough pressure to lightly bog the PC and then back off just enough to pick the speed back up. Work the polish until it begins to clear or dry. Wipe off excess product, inspect your work, one or more additional applications may be needed with heavy defects.
Always start with a medium grade polish and a polishing pad and step up the aggressiveness of the polish before moving up to a cutting pad.
Final Polishes and Glazes
You will use these to further refine your finish or if the paint is in good condition and you just want to add more depth and pop to the finish prior to waxing.
Optimum Polish with a finishing pad can be used as a final polish
Clearkote's Vanilla Moose and Red Moose Machine Glaze
Menzerna FPII or PO106FF (at $50 a quart!)
Poorboy's Professional Polish or Polish with Carnauba
Jeff's Werkstatt's Prime, Prime Carnauba or Prime Strong
Klasse All in One
Just a suggestion-You can mix in about 30% of Clearkote's Red Moose Machine Glaze into either Menzerna polish to cut down on dusting and add more depth to the super clear wet shine of Menzerna.
As a rule, waxes have a deeper, more liquid look than sealants, protect a little better against bird bombs but need to be reapplied more often than sealants.
Clearkote Carnauba Moose
Optimum Car Wax
Poorboy's Natty's and Natty's Blue Paste
Meguiars #16 (discontinued, you may be able to find a few vendors who still have it, still sold in the UK though), #26 in liquid or paste
Collinite 845 Insulator Wax
P21S or S100 Paste Wax-the S100 is essentially the same as P21S but widely available at Harley Davidson dealers and costs less too!
Pinnacle Souveran-yeah it is $70 but amazing on black and red paint, good for 50+ applications
Jeff's Werkstatt Carnauba Jett-spray carnauba
Jeff's Werkstatt Acrylic Jett and Acrylic Jett Trigger (Trigger is in spray for, extremely easy to use).
Poorboy's EX-P and EX w/carnauba
Menzerna Full Molecular Jacket
4 Star Ultimate Paint Protection
Zaino Z2 Pro and Z5
Klasse Sealant Glaze
Meguiars #20 Polymer Sealant, NXT High Tech Wax, or #21 Sealant
Quick Detail Sprays
You can use these after washing to give you the 'just waxed' look.
Poorboy's Spray and Gloss
Jeff's Werkstatt Acrylic Glos-meant to be used with the Werkstatt system, but should be fine over any sealant
Meguiars #34 Final Inspection
Zaino Z-6 or Z-8
Wax Shop's Slick Stuff
Interior Cleaning Products
I use an 8:1 mixture of water and Woolite (the laundry soap version) in a spray bottle as my interior cleaner (8 parts water, 1 part Woolite). You can use it on leather, vinyl, carpet, fabric, etc. Spray, scrub with a small brush with nylon bristles as needed, wipe up and wet vac as needed.
Meguiars and several other manufacturers have great all purpose cleaners that are safe for most interior surfaces but read the label first! I'd only recommened the water/Woolite mixture for leather though.
Vinyl, rubber and weather stripping-
Optimum Protectant Plus
Meguiars #40, Meguiars Interior Quick Detailer, Natural Shine Vinyl & Rubber Protectant
Poorboy's Natural Look Dressing
Armor All Original Shine
Meguiars Gold Class Leather Conditioner
Turtle Wax's Leather Cleaner and Conditioner
Leather Master's Leather Vital (it ain't cheap!)
Meguiars NXT Glass Cleaner
Eagle 20/20 Class Cleaner
Stoners Invisible Glass
Armor All Original Shine
Poorboy's Bold N Bright Tire Dressing
Optimum Tire Shine
Meguiars Hyper Dressing (can be cut with water up to 4:1)
Meguiars #38 Tire and Trim Gel
Poorboy's Trim Restorer
Mothers Back to Black
1. Make sure engine is warm, but not hot. Cold engines are harder to remove grease and oil from.
** Check the directions on the engine cleaner/degreaser you are using, though. Some specifically say to clean the engine when cold only. **
2. Cover your distributor (if you do not know what or where it is, get a manual for your car), alternator and fuse box. Most electronics under your hood are adequately sealed for rain water splashing up on them, but high pressure water is another story.
3. Spray Greased Lightning's Orange Blast (my preferred engine degreaser) liberally all over your engine and engine bay. Let it sit for about 5 minutes. If your engine is really dirty, then after the 5 minutes, spray it down again and wait an additional 5 minutes.
4. Spray the engine and engine bay with high pressure rinse water - but even though your distributor may be covered, still use lower pressure around it to be on the safe side.
5. Any remaining grime, spray again with Orange Blast, and use a stiff brush if needed. Rinse again.
6. Remove the plastic coverings and start the engine. Let it run until it is dry. You will have to dry the painted surfaces in the engine bay and the underside of the hood with a towel.
7. Dress any hoses, etc. you want with rubber/vinyl dressing.
In addition, there is a detailing specific forum called Autopia- http://autopia.org