Tips For Maintaining A Booth Car At SEMA

Red Hyundai Genesis at SEMAExhibiting at SEMA? Then you know that every year hundreds of custom-built cars pour into the Las Vegas convention center for the show to demo detailing products, display aftermarket parts and accessories, show off a fresh new paint job, or just to draw attention to an OEM’s booth. They’ve become a popular attraction for both attendees and the show’s notoriously large social media following. More importantly, they’ve got to look good. The question is how…

Pre-SEMA detailing

Most cars that come to SEMA tend to have fairly new paint jobs on them. When this is the case, you don’t need to dive in and use heavy polishes to correct the finish. Actually, that will make it look worse in the long run. After washing the car (always the first step), I recommend the following:

Light polish & glaze. Using a gentle smoothing polish will round the edges of any minor imperfections and make them less visible—if you have deep swirls you’ll need something stronger. Following with a glaze will fill in any deeper areas—that would’ve otherwise required a more invasive paintwork correction process—and create a glass-like smoothness. After doing this, protect the finish.
Seal and wax. One layer of protection simply isn’t enough for the SEMA show. First of all, if you’re displaying a car there will be hundreds of pictures taken; you want it looking good. Protection does this. Secondly, you don’t want to have to spend an hour cleaning it after or before the show every day. A paint sealant-wax combo will keep the car looking great and require minimal effort to maintain.

Aside from the above, you want to do the obvious: clean the wheels, polish any chrome, seal exterior trim, and condition interior surfaces. Just make sure all the heavy lifting is done before the show.

At the show

When you’re at the show it’s all about making sure the car stays clean. I understand you dont have time to baby the finish since you’re there to network, so the following tips are quick and simple things you can do during the day or before the show to make sure your cars cosmetic appearance is never in question.

Clean windows.
Trust me, smudgy windows are noticed. Keep a glass cleaner in the booth and a cloth to keep them clear.
Detail spray.
Cars at SEMA are bound for dust and fingerprints. I wouldn’t be caught dead without a detail spray.
Condition tires.
Dark, rich tires attract attention. It’s something people notice and it’s an easy way to stick out.
More ‘nuba.
Add a layer of wax to your car at night or before the show for an even deeper shine.


For the most part, pre-SEMA is when you take care of all the major detailing projects like removing scratches and steam cleaning the seats. You don’t want to break your back at the show when you should be networking, showing off whatever you’re exhibiting, and meeting people in the car community. At-SEMA care is where it gets easy. Keep a few touch up products handy (mentioned above) and you’ll be ready to address any problem with just a spray and a wipe. In the mornings, before the show opens, you can do some touch-up work as well to make sure the car is grabbing as much attention as possible. Oh, and I guess it’s fair to mention that you can stop by booth #13045 or find me at the show if you have any questions. As always, drop us a line in the comments if there’s anything you’re curious about or want us to answer.

Tune in later for matte car care at SEMA!


If you won’t be attending but are interested in following the event, we’ll be liveblogging it here on Behind the Detail.