Back washing and car cleaning detailing cover image

Time To Clean Your Vehicle – Don’t Make These Detailing Mistakes!

Depending on the level of service you seek, the cost of detailing a vehicle can reach hundreds of dollars. While it may be convenient to pay professionals to care for your vehicle’s appearance, it can be more personally rewarding – and cost-effective –  to put in the work needed to keep your vehicle looking like it just rolled out of the showroom. 

A variety of increasingly affordable consumer products make DIY detailing more possible than ever. Unfortunately, many people make serious mistakes when detailing their vehicles that can actually cause more harm than good.

It’s important to have your vehicle looking its best, especially if you are planning to trade it in or sell it. However, your vehicle’s paint and glass are more delicate than you might think. If you’re not careful, you could damage your vehicle while cleaning or detailing it. 

Want to make your vehicle look like it was cleaned by a pro or like it’s new? Avoid these common car cleaning/detailing mistakes.

Detailing Mistake #1: Using Cleaning Products Not Made For Cars

We’ve all seen those “life hacks and tricks” that say you can use regular old dish soap (among other things) to clean your car. Laundry soap, dish soap, and other household cleaners will absolutely clean your car, but at a price. These soaps are too strong for your car’s paint. Household cleaning products and human soaps have a high PH level that will damage your car’s paint. You want to preserve and maintain the protective coating on your car, and these soaps are too abrasive for that.

In the same vein, Windex (or other glass cleaners of that nature) shouldn’t be used, either. These types of glass cleaners have ammonia in them that will leave tough streaks on car windows and damage tinted applications.

Do This Instead

While an easy workaround might be tempting, products made specifically for car cleaning and detailing are the way to go. You want to clean your car, but not to the level of destroying the paint and glass. Our personal favorite car cleaning soaps and shampoos are from Chemical Guys. They even have all-in-one kits that come with everything you need to clean your vehicle safely!

chemical guys car cleaning kit

Detailing Mistake #2: Cleaning In Direct Sunlight On A Hot Day

When the movies depict washing a car, they show a beautiful person in a bathing suit on the hottest day of the year spraying soap and water on their car. While it may look good and fun, cleaning in direct sunlight can only make things harder on yourself. You want the car to be continuously wet during the cleaning process. If the sun is beating down on it the whole time, then the water and cleaning products will dry before you want it to, leaving streaks and marks.

Do This Instead

Choose to clean your vehicle in a shaded area. If this isn’t possible, you may have to clean during the early morning or at sunset, when the sun will be less glaring. The look of the sun shining on a clean car is great, but only after you’re finished!

cleaned car in sun with drilled and slotted rotors

Detailing Mistake #3: Not Cleaning In The Proper Order

You may have heard “clean from the top to the bottom.” This is true, with the exception of wheels. Wheels are the dirtiest thing on your vehicle because they are constantly in contact with the road. Dirt and debris get swept up into wheels all the time, along with nasty brake dust. Brake dust can be corrosive and damage the clear coating on body paint and rims, so you’ll want to tackle this right away. If you save the wheels for last, using the regular top-to-bottom method, dirt and brake dust can be sprayed onto freshly cleaned body paint and ruin the whole operation.

Do This Instead

When cleaning your vehicle, start with the wheels first, then wash top to bottom.

Unfortunately, brake dust may be all too familiar to you. Because normal driving requires frequent braking, nasty dust will continually form on wheels. Fortunately, there’s a way to prevent this in the first place. Regular-stock brakes use a cheap brake pad compound that leads to a lot of dust. PowerStop takes brake dust seriously and we are committed to helping. PowerStop brake pads are made to be easy on the rotors and generate virtually no brake dust, while still providing upgraded stopping power. This is all thanks to our exclusive Carbon-Fiber Ceramic formula that is third-party-laboratory tested to ensure dust-free performance.

Low dust means you can wash your wheels less, and your rims get a healthier, prolonged lifespan. Check out the before-and-after shots of this Chevy’s wheels when upgrading to PowerStop pads:

Dirty Wheels from brake dust chevy

clean wheels no brake dust powerstop brake pads

Detailing Mistake #4: Cleaning Shift Knobs, Pedals, And Steering Wheels With Oily Products

Shift Knobs, pedals, and steering wheels can get dirty quickly. Naturally, you want to clean them so they look new. However, it’s important to remember that you touch these components every time you drive. It can be very dangerous in traffic if your foot slips off the brake pedal because it’s slippery from oily cleaning products.

Do This Instead

Make sure your shift knobs, pedals, and steering wheel are clean, just not slick. Make a point to only use cleaning products that aren’t too oily.

Detailing Mistake #5: Using The Wrong Type Of Towel

Everyone has sponges, bath towels, hand towels, and even paper towels lying around the house. Can’t you just use those to clean your vehicle? No. 

Regular old towels are not soft enough for the paint of your car no matter how new they are. Sponges can be harsh and abrasive when used on a vehicle’s paint. Additionally, Sponges do not pick up dirt and trap it inside. Instead, the dirt remains on the sponge’s surface and causes micro-scratches that can damage the clear coating of your vehicle’s exterior paint.

Do This Instead

Use a clean microfiber towel to clean your car. Microfiber is soft and absorbent, preventing scratches. It effectively removes water residue, thanks to its high absorbency. The “nap” (fuzzy surface) on microfiber towels easily absorbs moisture, dirt, and impurities, unlike smooth towels that leave dirt on the surface.

Pro Tip: We recommend washing microfiber cloths separately from other clothing/towels because it might ruin the threading on the microfiber.

Detailing Mistake #6: Not Cleaning Tools Beforehand

You’ve got your microfiber towels, paint-safe car soaps, and buckets all ready to go. It would be a shame if you started cleaning only to find out the buckets and towels were dirty from the start.

Do This Instead

Wash your buckets and towels thoroughly beforehand to be safe and get the job done right. You don’t want to put more dirt onto your vehicle and in your soaps.

cleaned and detailed Mustang Driving

Cleaning your vehicle is a rewarding experience, and doing it the right way is even better! Have the best-looking ride on the block by avoiding these mistakes the next time you take the soap and water to your vehicle.

Have a Question? PowerStop Can Help!

PowerStop is dedicated to delivering top-quality performance brakes for every vehicle on the road. If you have a question about any of our products, contact us today online or toll-free at (888) 863-4415. Our customer service team is available to answer your questions Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST). Se habla español.


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