I have detailed a lot of cars. From daily drivers to pre-production. The most fun I have had are the vehicles that are being sent out on a long drive either for a press event, summer vacation, or car show. Each one unique but all needing the same protection on the drive and ease of cleaning once at the destination. Here are five great tips from a professional detailer on getting, and keeping, your ride clean on your road trip. Click the links to check out some of my personal favorite products (they are all in my garage, I swear)
Seal, Don’t Wax.
Synthetic sealants have come a long way in ease of application, durability, and shine. For most, shine won’t matter on your trip as much as keeping your car clean. I recommend Optimum Opti-Seal. This is a spray on product that can go on your paint finish dry or wet and lasts about 3 months. It is safe on the plastic, trim, and glass so you don’t have to worry. Also, seal your wheels. This will make it easier to clean off the brake dust. Don’t use wax, it is pointless. The heat from the wheels and brakes will just melt it off before you hit the first state line.
If you are headed to a car show and want great shine, then there is a layering technique. First apply the sealant to the paint for the durability. Then apply your favorite wax on top of the sealant for shine. Finally, spray another coat of sealant on top of the wax. Sealant bonds to paint, as will wax. And the wax will stick to the sealant. But sealant will not want to stick to wax, which is what we want on the final layer. When you hit that bug, it sticks to the sealant and you just wash them both away. And easy way to clean your car at the show. Follow up with your favorite detail spray to aid in drying and up the shine.
Driving in the rain and snow sucks. A good glass sealant will help you see much better headed down the highway. The water will just fly off the glass. Getting the bugs off when you are at the pump won’t be nearly as difficult, and it will also make it easier to clear off and snow and ice in the morning.
Most of your trip will be spent in your car, not looking at the outside of it. Spills are going to happen on the road. Messes will be made. Be prepared for them. A small 12-volt vacuum will help keep things tidy for minor messes. An interior detail spray will keep the dust down and clean up the hard surfaces. And a good glass cleaner will help you see the way to your destination. If you have leather seats, treat them leather conditioner before your trip to protect them and give you a pleasant odor to enjoy.
Silicon-carbide coatings are the latest technology in protecting your vehicle finish. They are different than waxes and sealants and require special preparation. Manufacturers claim over 5-years of protection, incredible water beading, and good shine. I have coatings on two of my own cars. And it was worth every penny. I don’t have to wax and the cars continue to shed water and are easier to clean. Also, the interiors are coated; the hard plastics, carpets, upholstery, and the leather. The first time a soda exploded in my truck I was glad to have made this investment. There are dozens of options for having your car coated. Be forewarned, coatings last a long time and the cost reflects this.
Towels, Towels, Towels
If you use a bath towel to dry your car, you are just wrong. Short of using a brick there is not much that is worse for your finish. What cotton towels are good for is their absorbent qualities, but leave them for cleaning up spills on the inside or sitting on after a swim. For car, high-quality microfiber is the way to go. I get mine from The Rag Company. For the outside, soft, plush, high-GSM microfiber towels are best. For the interior, medium-GSM towels are good. And for glass and screens, use a low-GSM microfiber towel. This will help you avoid scratches and damaging any finishes. It is also a good idea to have some cheap microfiber towels around for big misses and spills as well.
Paint Protection Film (commonly known as “clear bra”) is another great investment. I made the mistake of not taking my own advice before our road trip in my new truck (read about that trip here). When I came home I found a nice ding and a paint chip on the leading edge of my hood. My brand-new baby got a booboo which will cost a few hundred dollars to have the dent tapped out and paint touched up. The paint film would have kept that damage to a minimum. Lesson learned. If you have a truck, a bug deflector is another great add-on. I recommend installing one along with the film.
Window tint is another must for the long-haul trips. It will keep your car cooler, make it harder for prying eyes to see what you have, and just looks good. You will be more comfortable and help avoid long-term damage to your vehicle interior.
For tips, pricing, and installation of coating, paint protection films, and window tint contact my good friends over at Colorado Detail. They take care of many of my car needs over there and have never let me down. Tell them Dave sent you.