12 Common Car Detailing Mistakes

There are so many common mistakes made when it comes to car detailing.

We’ve outlined and briefly explained 12 of them for you.

1. Washing In The Sun

Washing in the sun isn’t just uncomfortable and sweaty it’s also not the greatest for your paintwork. The big issue at hand is the drying of soaps and water to the surface. Depending on the type of soap you’re using, the heat of the sun will bake the chemicals on the paint resulting in streaks and water marks. If you must wash in the sun, you must only wash one panel at a time so stop this occurrence and ensure you only us a pH neutral wash.

2. Using a sponges/brushes

Sponges and Brushes are just a big no, no. Let’s start with sponges. Sponges while feeling soft and ‘spongy’ are actually a very rough thing to use when washing your car. The surface of the sponge does not allow dirt to be absorbed into it, meaning any dirt will be trapped on the surface and then as you continue washing, will be dragged across the paint leaving swirls, marring and potentially scratching. Brushes, while not trapping dirt on the surface, are just rough and far too harsh on paintwork, absolutely destroying the finish.

The only thing you should be using to wash your car is a nice, plush microfibre wash mitt. The fibres while being soft, allow dirt to fall into the fibres instead of sitting on top, minimising any chances of swirls, marring or scratches. It’s also a good practise to wash your wash mitt or pad out in clean water after every panel, just in case it has picked up excess dirt and grime.

3. Using a synthetic chamois

The partner in crime to the sponge and brush. Not only do they do a pretty average job of drying the car, due to the surface being quite solid, again dirt will be trapped on the surface. If you have a chamois, through it out! Get yourself a plush microfibre drying towel. It will not only dry the car faster and more effectively but any dirt will also fall into the fibres of the towel, ensuring a safe drying experience.

4. Rubbing/Touching the paint

It brings tears to our eyes when we see people, touching and even worse, rubbing the paint. The paint may seem quite hard but it is actually quite soft and rubbing anything on the surface, even our finger, will induce some form of marring. Mixed with a dirty car you might as well be rubbing sand paper across it. If you value your car and care about it’s appearance and value, nothing touches paint except microfibre and only when clean! You’ll find our detailers also using Nitrile gloves when correction/polishing paint and with ceramic coatings. This ensures that no oils from our skin contaminates the paintwork affecting any protective coatings we apply.

5. Hoses dragging on paint

A very common mistake we see all the time, especially from those cheap hand car washes, is the dragging of water or vacuum hoses over the paint. Both will cause scratches and marring, the vacuum cleaner hose, with its ribbed surface catching on any edges and the water hose causing some pretty good friction and with it heat, also making a mess of your paint.

6. Not using a pressure washer

Many people belive that using a pressure washer to wash your car is a terrible thing. It is actually quite the opposite. It is very uncommon for pressure washes to cause some damage but in extreme cases it is possible if the paint has cracks or big chips present. The pressure of the water can get under these cracks/chips and lift the paint, causing further damage. Generally speaking though, it is the safest way to wash your car and also the best way.

Coupled with the correct wash process, the pressure behind the water will increase the cleaning ability prior to hand washing, ensuring as much dirt as possible has been removed from the surface before you touch it.

7. Using dishwashing soap

We see this all the time. The old Palmolive dishwashing liquid being used as a car wash soap. Sounds good in theory but it just ruins your car. Any dishwashing liquid is made to remove grease, fat and grime from your pots, pans, oven trays etc. The way it does this is being slightly alkaline (above pH 7). An alkaline will very quickly strip any wax, sealant or protective coating from your car, leaving the surface bare and unprotected. So unless you are going to put a wax on your car after every wash, this is not what you want to use. A perfectly pH neutral car wash is what you need to use to ensure any protective layers stay in place for as long as possible.

8. Using silicone tyre dressing

A silicone tyre dressing serves 3 purposes. It’s cheap, makes the tyres shiny and then once you drive down the road, it flicks up the side of your car leaving unsightly black spots everywhere. A quality, non-silicone tyre dressing applied correctly with an applicator will not only leave your tyres looking beautifully shiny but won’t fling and will last a lot longer.

9. Not using multiple buckets

The old ‘wash the car with a bucket and sponge’ trick. If you think about it, washing your car with only one bucket doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Fill your bucket with water and soap, begin washing your car, continually put your dirty sponge back in the clean wash water, that before long becomes very dirty and then continue to rub that all over the paint.

The 2 or 3 bucket wash method is more involved but far safer and easier on your paintwork and once you have it down pat, won’t take much longer.

The 2/3 Bucket Wash method briefly explained.

Bucket 1 (Wash Bucket) – Clean Water with pH neutral Wash Gel
Bucket 2 (Rinse Bucket) – Clean Water only
Bucket 3 (Wheel Bucket) – For Wheels only

After rinsing the car down with your pressure washer, you can then begin washing. Take your microfibre wash mitt from Bucket 1, the wash bucket and wash 1 panel at a time, starting from the top of the car, leaving the bottom and rear of the car until last, as these will be the dirtiest. After washing every panel you will rinse your wash mitt in Bucket 2, the rinse bucket. Continue and repeat the process until the car is washed. Bucket 3 is only used for washing wheels and never cross contaminated with the paintwork.

10. Not separating wheel washing from paint washing

The wheels of the car will always be the dirtiest part of the car and brake dust has bits of metal in it. For these reasons, wheel washing should always be done separately, using a a completely different bucket and set of wash products.

11. Trying to polish by hand

We’ll be blunt. Polishing by hand is basically useless. By the time you have polished a small section of the bonnet, you’ll be huffing, puffing, your arm will be sore, and you will already be losing interest. As you continue, you get less and less enthusiastic and that glossy, shiny, showroom finish that you had pictured in your head will be getting further and further away becoming reality. When polishing by hand you will never get the same even and consistent pressure around the entire car and you will struggle to break down the polish enough to leave a refined finish.

Machine is the ONLY way to go. The machine does the work. All you need to do is pull the trigger and keep some pressure on it, in a nut shell. When you get down to the nitty gritty, you need to carefully select the right polishing compound and polishing pad for the paint. These combinations will vary greatly from manufacture to manufacture and from paint to paint. But that’s what we do best.

12. Using Armor All (cheap) dressings.

I’m sure we’ve all heard of the brand Armor All when it comes to cleaning your car. Should you use it? No. It’s cheap, mass produced and designed for people that don’t know any better. Most of the dressings contain some degree of silicone in them. If we take the dash of your car for example. By applying their vinyl dressing to the dash, you will create a glossy, greasy, shiny mess. Why is this bad? Firstly, you don’t want your dash to be shiny or glossy. This will just reflect the sun and create bad visibility for you when driving. Secondly, the silicone creates a greasy layer which will actually attract dirt. An thirdly, rather than shielding and protecting that dash from UV rays, the silicone traps the heat underneath, drying out the vinyl, super heating it and then eventually cracking it. It’s never a good idea to use silicone-based products anywhere.

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