Wayne Estrada's Vehicle Interior Detailing Procedure

This section covers interior detailing on the XJ-S, although it's applicable to every Jag. Originally a post to the XJ-S Lovers list, Wayne has graciously allowed JAGBITS to post it here for everyone's benefit.

This is part three of a series on detailing the XJ-S. Like the previous posts, this is long and detailed, and you have to be very dedicated or fanatical to read it through to the end. Please delete NOW if you don't want to endure this much nauseating detail.

This post is about detailing the interior of a car. While it is generic to most automobiles, it is written with the XJ-S owner in mind.

Like the body, the interior of the XJ-S is an impressive and comfortable place to be. Cars after model year 1982 share the similar wood enhanced themes as their sedan counterparts, but regardless of the year, the British way of doing cockpits is still unsurpassed in the automotive world. This article describes detailed ways to preserve, protect, and enhance the interior of our beloved XJ-S. My apologies in advance if some of these things seem trivial or obvious, but to enjoy a superior result, an eye for endless detail is important.

Step 1--Basic Cleaning: The interior of any car can get dirty just through normal use. Old receipts, coins, remnants of fast food drive-ins, toll receipts, loose change, and normal dirt, mud and dust will make any interior look bad. Before doing anything, pick-up as many things as you can by hand and get them out of the interior. On a dirty car, this can take quite a few minutes. While you are at it, purge all that junk in your glove box, and the storage bins in the doors and in the center armrest. How many maps do you really need? I never like that tape anyway... Are your registration and insurance papers readily at hand? Is there stuff under the seats? On the XJ-S, they are accessible from behind. You might be surprised at what you find!

Your ashtrays will need to be cleaned too. Take them out of the car and empty thoroughly. If they are used, you'll want to wash them out with dishwashing soap. If you smoke, you might want to use some metal polish to shine up the insides.

Step 2--Carpets and Mats: Remove the floor mats, the front carpets, and the foam pads under the carpets. On the convertibles, these foam pads can get wet due to leaks in the top, and they can take on a musty odor that smells like, well, an old British Car. Whether coupe or convertible, a good airing out in the sun for an afternoon (on both sides) will make them smell better. A little baking soda sprinkled on and vacuumed off will help to soak up bad odors. These foam mats are like odor-eaters in your shoes. They can get smelly, so take some time with them. If they are really deteriorating rotted, or falling apart, order new ones. A home supply store or carpet shop may have suitable foam replacement, but it should be of the same quality, thickness and density of the original. Don't forget to wipe down the paint on the floor boards too.

If you have mats over your carpets, hopefully your carpets are in good shape. Start by thoroughly vacuuming them. Use a household upright vacuum cleaner, not the nozzle type like at the car wash. Lay the carpeting on a flat clean surface and go over it for several minutes with the vacuum. Wait, you're still not done! Pick the carpets up and beat them against a chain link fence (preferable) or a brick wall or other flat object. There is a lot of embedded dirt in these carpets! Keep beating until you don't see copious amounts of dirt and dust flying out of them--then vacuum again. Hang them up on a clothes-line to air out in the sunshine. If they smell, a little baking powder sprinkled generously on them will also soak up most of the odors. Of course, vacuum the powder off before putting back in the car.

Floor mats come in many varieties. My XJ-S had a Jaguar coco mat, but they could be carpet, rubber, or soft pile. All of these respond well to the beat-against-a-chain-link-fence method, and all except the rubber mats benefit from the same vacuuming treatment. You can wash and hose down rubber mats.

Both the mats and carpets may have stains on them. If you want to really clean these well, then rent a professional steam cleaning system. I have found these to be safe to the carpet color and texture, and they do a good job of pulling out even more unbelievable amounts of grey-gunky stuff. You'll need to let these air for at least one day in the sun to dry them thoroughly. Don't put non-dry carpets or mats back into the car. Plan "B" is to use a spray-on carpet cleaner. I have had excellent results with a product in the USA called "Woolite (brand) Spray Carpet Cleaner". It's mild enough not to bleach color out of the carpet/mats, but strong enough to most surface stains. Always follow the directions on whatever you buy to a "t". Try it on an inconspicuous piece, so if it messes it up, you can hide it.

Step 3- Seats, Dashboard and Interior Panels: If your home vacuum cleaner has one of those round soft bristle attachments, run it over the surfaces of the seats (especially in those crevices!) Also run it along the door panels, rear deck window ledge, along the top of the dashboard, around the instrument cluster, the steering wheel yoke, and especially into the dashboard ventilation nozzles. Don't forget the interior side panels and the storage bins in the doors. This is an important step to pick up the big surface dust before we start using any cleaners on the interior surfaces. If you leave out this step, you'll actually wash the dirt more into these surfaces. Not good!

Step 4--Cleaning the Leather: A while back, one of our fellow listers indicated that he was an expert in leather care and restoration. I am NOT, so there's my disclaimer. What follows is what has worked for me. Keep in mind, I have had experience mostly with leather that was in fairly good shape. If yours is badly cracked, dried, frayed, or torn, all bets are off. Consult an expert like this gentleman. This discussion assumes that your interior is in fairly decent shape and just needs a good cleaning and spiffying up.

First, you have to clean the leather. There are commercial leather cleaning products on the market, and generally, they are all pretty good. However, I like to start with a clean bucket of warm water with just a little mild soap. Don't use Dawn or other dish detergents, they are too harsh on leather. Murphy's (brand) Soap or similar is good, or even a diluted liquid soap. Take a small light colored sponge, rinse in the solution and wring until slightly damp, and wipe down the surfaces of the seats and inside panels. Do a little portion at a time, and keep repeating until you do not see any more "black" on the sponge. DO NOT SCRUB OR RUB HARD. Just gentle little wipes in a sweeping (not circular) motion. Think of "picking off" the dirt rather than rubbing it off. When the water starts to get dirty, change water, grasshopper. Using dirty water just spreads the dirt around. Immediately wipe the surface with a soft terry cloth towel. Do not let water or moisture stand on the surface for more than a few seconds--it will dry out the leather. This alone may take over an hour in the XJ-S.

Don't forget the steering wheelthis is probably the dirtiest of all, and since it's black, it hides dirt really well. Be especially careful in the "don't rub" department here. Often the surface of the steering wheel is so coated with dirt, grease, and body oils, that it can self-destruct when cleaned too earnestly. Take your time. You might have to polish (see below) first to moisturize before removing any more dirt, otherwise you might rub off the top treated leather surface.

Next, there are a lot of commercial leather "cleaners" on the market. I can't begin to mention all of them, but the stuff in the green bottle available from your local discount Jaguar dealer was formulated by Connolly in Britain. I like it. Kiwi (brand) Saddle soap isn't too bad either, and actually makes the leather softer. In any product you choose, follow the directions. Yes, I know you are cleaning these surfaces *twice*, but that's the whole idea! You can't restore the beauty of the leather until ALL of the dirt is off of it.

Step 5--Polishing the Leather (seats, side panels, and dashboard top): We are now ready to put some life back in this leather. Actually, this is a two step process. If you have ever seriously shined shoes (like I did in the Navy many moons ago) you know the importance of preparing your surface. The leather needs to be moisturized and treated, then shined. Putting a shine on under nourished leather is a quick fix, and the effect will fade fast. You need to feed the leather first, then polish.

The dealer sells the Jaguar "Hide Food" (which is identical to the Connolly Hide Food). Buy it at whatever source is cheapest--same stuff. This deep moisturizes and protects the leather. Put it on liberally. If you use half to three-quarters of a container on the inside of your XJ-S, you're doing well. Good it on with a wash rag towel, and rub into the leather in light, circular motions. Let it sit for 1-2 minutes, then wipe off with a clean terry cloth towel. Don't use dirty or wet towels. You'll need the about a half a dozen hand towels sized towels.

Use hide food on everything! Rear parcel shelf, seats, center armrest, side panels, and especially the top of the dashboard. You can rub it in a lot harder here. This puts a wonderful sheen on your dashboard top without a lot of shiny glare back onto your windscreen, and deep moisturizes it from cracking. Don't forget the steering wheel, and also the surfaces on the sides of the transmission tunnel.

Hey, we're not done yet! You must follow all of this TLC up with Gliptone Leather Cleaner, available form British Auto USA, or see their ad in Jaguar World. I've read that some of you have not had good results with this on the list, but it has worked a small miracle on my leather. I had some cracked leather in my VDP, and just like the ad said, it was restored to normal. I think the secret with both Gliptone and Hide Food is don't be stingy. You have to use copious amounts of the product and let it sink in. Besides, Gliptone is what a Rolls Royce owner friend of mine says that RR recommends for its cars. The smell alone in worth the $10 USD a bottle for it. Same application treatment as before. Use a terry wash cloth, and clean terry towels to wipe off. Let it sit for 2-4 minutes before removing. Your leather may still be "thirsty" after the first application. If it absorbs it really fast, wipe it off, buff the surface with the towel, and re-apply. If you have ever spit shined shoes, you'll know what I mean. Also use this on ALL surfaces. It is money well spent.

What about Armour-all? Forget it. It offers no protection, doesn't moisturize or protect the leather, leaves a slippery greasy surface, and actually gathers dust! I like STP Tire, Leather, and Vinyl care instead, but only as a "shot' to put a quickie shine after the interior is cleaned well (e.g. for a little extra "umph" before showing the car). Don't use these products as the first line of defense or maintenance. They are about as lasting as a Hollywood romance.

Step 6--Wood Veneer: On the 1982+ models, we have that glorious Jaguar veneer. This can be brought to a beautiful sheen with Scott's (brand) Liquid Gold. I've used spray waxes, furniture polishes, etc. and this is the best. It cleans and shines, and moisturizes the wood. Unfortunately, it has a rather strong smell, but it will dissipate in about two days. If you do NOT keep your wood cleaned and moisturized, it will crack. Regardless of what you do, it will fade. Jaguars are expensive, but try pricing out replacing all those veneer pieces sometime. A valve adjustment is cheaper! Put this on all wood surfaces twice. Rub it on in small circular motions. Wipe off all residue and buff to a high shine.

Step 7--Rubber trim pieces and door jams: There are small rubber pieces in the interior, notably by the windows and the foot pedals. Use the Snap (brand) Silicone Tire Shine. Use a Q-tip or your finger wrapped around a terry cloth towel and wipe these crevices several times--they will shine up beautifullypromise! Little details like this really set off cleaning from detailing. You can clean without detailing, but you can not detail without cleaning. Spray the rubber around the door jams and wipe down. Then do it again. This rubber does have a tendency to rot or tare if not taken care of. The door jams can be shined with Maguires Cleaner Wax. The aluminum kick plate can be polished with Alu-Magic (see Jaguar World for advert or British Auto USA).

Step 8--Chrome pieces: On my XJ-S, I have a few chrome pieces in the cockpit--on the door panels and rear panels. the ashtray covers, the seat rake adjusters, door levers, etc. Use the Chrome-Magic (brand) cleaner on all of these. I surprised myself in taking over 30 minutes on all these pieces. Go slowly, apply, and wipe off. Repeat if necessary. Take your time. Patience in detailing is everything. The important thing in all of these steps, is once you do a through deep cleaning and detailing the next time is a lot easier! These chrome pieces will really set off the interior.

Step 9--Glass and Instruments: Why clean the class last? Because it's probably gotten mucked up with all this dusting, spraying, and wiping you've done so far! A good glass cleaner is essential. I've used several, both foam and liquid. I don't like Windex--it leaves streaks. Funny, it's supposed to be "it" (in the USA). Clean cloth towels are essential (again). You may have to clean the glass 3-4 times before it comes "clean". This is my least favorite part. BTW, you can't really see if you've cleaned the inside adequately unless you clean the outside too. Yeah, that's right, more work! But hey, this isn't just ANY car, it's an XJ-S,and it is worth it. If you are fanatical, you'll remove the instrument cluster, and clean the inside and outside of the instrument cluster. On the instrument gauges, a *very* light spray of the silicone spray will "moisturize" the black paint on the gauges. Also spray and wipe it on all the plastic pieces around the instrument cluster.

Step 10--Vents: If you a fanatic like me, take some window cleaner and Q-tips, and clean out the vents on the dash. A quick shot of silicone spray and a wipe down with a lint free towel will make them look better than new.

OK, we made it (again). Yeah, I am a nut to have a) spent en evening writing this when I could have slept two hours longer and b) be this maniacal in spending a whole day cleaning the inside of any car. But then again, this isn't JUST a car, it's an XJ-S. I guarantee you'll be satisfied with the results and also enjoying bonding with your Jaguar.

Wayne Estrada
President, Richmond NET
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Copyright 1999, Wayne Estrada.

Also read Exterior Detailing Procedures for the Immaculate Jaguar

Also See:
Engine and Engine Bay Detailing Procedures

Interior Detailing Procedures and Leather and Wood Care

Exterior Detailing Procedures for the Immaculate Jaguar

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