Top 5 Misconceptions About Detailing

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Oftentimes we hear rumors or get questions about detailing techniques that seem to make sense, but can actually end up being detrimental to your vehicle. Although many of these misconceptions are about matte paint care, I thought it was important address the popular misconceptions about detailing in general.

1. “There’s no such thing as ‘over-washing’ my car.”

Many car fanatics and detailing enthusiasts are very particular about their car being clean. So much so that anytime some mud or dirt hits the lower rocker panel due to a puddle in the road, they wash their car. This is all fine as long as it keeps with your regular car wash schedule. I always recommend washing your car every 2-4 weeks. This will keep your sealant or other coatings performing well and any contaminants from etching through to the paint.

However, if you’re the kind of person that washes your car every week or more, you’re putting your car’s paint at risk. No matter how safe the process or the accessories used to wash your car, there’s still some abrasion and can negatively impact your paint. Furthermore, car wash soap is slightly acidic to combat contaminants and improve cleaning, if you wash your car too often, you are weakening your coating.

The best way to combat this urge and to have a clean car, use a simple detailing spray to get any loose contaminants or dirt off your car. A spray (lubricant) and a soft microfiber towel will do a great job in cleaning the car without being too aggressive.

2. “All I need is a good all-purpose interior cleaner!”

False. False on so many levels. I say that because your interior has so many different types of surfaces which have different needs that one product can’t possibly do all of that!

Let’s start with all-purpose cleaners for the sake of cleaning. Sure you can clean your leather seats and plastic dash with one cleaner and do a fine job in removing dust and light dirt debris, but that’s not cleaning. Your plastic dash is subject to dust and UV damage. It needs to be cleaned and conditioned to combat fading and other related damage. Leather, upholstery, and other interior surfaces that you are in contact with continually, need to be cleaned with organic cleaners to remove body oils and food/drink messes while an inorganic cleaner for grease and clothing dye stains.

Now let’s talk about conditioning and protecting. It’s hard to believe how any product can clean and condition in one step. Call me old fashioned, but a surface, like the paint, needs to be primed and prepped before conditioning your plastic, leather, and upholstery can start. Ridding the surface of contaminants and dirt is the first step to preventing and correcting interior damage.

3. “I’ve got a little scratch on the hood, I should buff that out.”

This concept took me a while to understand myself. It’s a hard concept to comprehend when the industry is saturated with polishes and buffer machines to go along with the idea of paint correction. However, knowing when you don’t have to buff can be more important than your skills with a machine.

Polishing paint is a very aggressive process and the decision to do so shouldn’t be made lightly. Based on how long someone plans to own or has owned a vehicle can be a deciding factor as to when and why to buff. By scratching microns off the clear coat, you’re diminishing how much protection that paint has for the future. Buff too much and you’re out of protection and required to repaint the car. A simple scratch or stain that isn’t easily removed is not reason enough for me to polish my car!

Some of the steps to get around this is using paint cleaner to remove any blemishes that you are struggling with. If that doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to use mineral spirits or paint thinner. When used properly, they can be very effective cleaners.

To diminish light scratches in clear coat, a glaze with fillers is a great tool to bring some pop back to your paint while making these scratches less visible. Top this with your sealant and wax of choice and you’ve done a great job in making the finish look close to flawless!

4. “Claying is just decontaminating the paint, I don’t need to buff”

This one goes hand in hand with the last point. I’ve seen it far too often that people are trying to decontaminate the paint without buffing it and decide that claying the car is the way to go. Clay does a great job in picking up the contaminants that are stuck in the paint, however, it’s also a pretty aggressive process in and of itself. Each time you clay you’re cleaning the paint but creating some micro-scratches that are less than desired. If you’re trying to clean the paint, use a paint cleaner. If you’re going to clay, then I highly recommend that you buff after to fully correct the paint.

5. “They’re a Car Wash/Detail Shop, they should know what they’re doing…”

Another false statement. We’ve all been to restaurants where the waiter/waitress is darn awful and we’ve all been to mechanics that pretend to fix your car but end up completely taking advantage of you. It’s unfortunate, but it happens. The detailing industry is the same. Don’t take your car just anywhere, pick a company with credentials. Credentials for their field like being apart of the International Detailing Association (IDA), and company programs like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or Angie’s List. These are tell tale signs that they are looking out for the customer to be the best they can be by holding themselves up to higher standards of customer service.