When it comes to detailing the exterior of your car and the paint the most important thing is to be very gentle with your paintwork to prevent scratches and swirl marks. They are your car's number one enemy. If you can avoid scratches and swirl marks you can keep your car looking great!
When you wash your car you are actually rubbing that dirt and grime into the paint which has a sandpaper effect that then causes scratches and swirl marks. Therefore you need to remember that anything that will come in contact with your car's paint has to be ultra soft. So no hard bristle brushes at the DIY car wash bays and no automatic car washes!
You also need to protect your car from the elements. A good start to this is parking it in a garage or under a car port, although that's not always an option. Always make sure your car is sealed with a paint sealant or wax to block out any of the environmental elements.
Start by applying a good paint sealant to your car. Then apply a good coat of wax. You need to apply wax on a regular basis, as a carnauba wax will only last an average of 3 months where a good paint sealant will last 8-12 months. This will accomplish a few things. It will make it easier for you to remove bird droppings and other debris without damaging the paint, it will stop the paint from oxidizing, and depending on the wax it will make the paint look real wet/deep/slick.
When your detailing your car park the car in a cool shady area so that the sun doesn't get a chance to bake the wax on, although a lot of modern waxes can be applied in the sun.
Now rub the wax onto the car in a circular motion. Keep your circles small and avoid getting the wax into the seams because it's difficult to remove. Do your car in sections starting at the front working down the body around the back and then up the other side. Do a small area about 2 foot square, then apply the wax to the next area, returning back to remove the first square which is now dry. Continue this process around the car.
To remove the wax and polish you need a very soft microfiber cloth which will ensure you do not create any scratches and it will also give you the optimum shine with no marring from the product. There are some excellent products available that will cover all aspects of your car, if you want your car always looking its best then make sure you use premium detailing products only which can be bought online, most off the shelf car detailing products are low-medium grade products that are produced in bulk.
You should wash your car every week and detail it every 3 months to keep it looking its very best.