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Car Maintenance

How to Detail Your Car at a Show Like a Pro in Minutes

Throughout the course of our business, we have the opportunity to attend many car shows to demonstrate and market our products. The shows that we go to might be a casual cruise-in, a local or a national meet. Regardless of the type of show - there is always one thing that stands out – a nicely detailed car!

Your ride might be a “driver”, a concourse-quality “trailer-queen” or even a racecar. No matter what you drive, there is no doubt that a detailed car that “pops” grabs your attention. And who doesn’t like to drive a nicely detailed car? And if you are a gear-head like me, yes I have a great job!

Some of these shows are meant to be just “fun”, while others are highly competitive. For example at the Mid America Truck show they have a show and shine. All of these “Big Rigs” are working trucks. The judges actually use white gloves! These guys even wax the inside of the frame rails – and detail the tires inside the tread. I couldn’t fathom such detail until I attended the event last year with our Canadian distributor Stephane Gauthier who is well known in the Big Rig Show and Shine circuit. They start detailing their rigs the week before the show.

Assuming that you don’t have a week to dedicate to detailing and staging a car at a show and the judges aren’t using white gloves, I will attempt to share with you tips and techniques for prepping your ride on site at the show. Now, your car might never see water and be towed to the event in an enclosed trailer, or it might be a cruiser and you drive it – the process is about the same - and can look equally nice – it’s all in the details!

Let’s assume that we are starting with a fairly clean surface - there is no sense in putting wax and dressings on dirty, soiled or otherwise contaminated surfaces.

Start with the exterior. Think of detailing your vehicle like painting a room – always start from the top down. The reason for that is if there is any overspray from wax or dressings, you can catch them as you work your way down the surfaces of the vehicle.

If you have a convertible or vinyl top, it’s time to dress it! Let’s talk a little about dressings here. For the most part, there are basically two kinds of dressings for vinyl, rubber and plastic – they all are either water based or solvent based. You will want to use solvent based dressings for the exterior of your ride – solvent based dressings won’t wash right off and fall apart like water-based dressings will, and in my opinion give a richer, deeper luster. As well, a solvent based dressing, like our Super Blue will do a better job for conditioning and UV protection.

I always suggest dedicating an applicator to your solvent-based dressing. The reason for this is that you want to do this as efficiently as possible and minimize any clean up of overspray. Start with spraying small amount of dressing on the applicator and wipe the entire top from front to back. Now – this is where some people stop and they get streaky-looking results. To eliminate this – repeat the process going from side to side, front to back. This crisscross technique ensures even coverage and eliminates any chance of getting those dreaded streaks when it dries.

If you don’t have a convertible or vinyl top, start with a quick detailer / spray wax and a clean microfiber towel on the roof surface.

Before you begin, let’s talk a little bit about your quick detailer /spray wax and microfiber towel. To get optimum results, you will want to use a quick detailer / spray wax that will not streak. Some will, given the humidity and temperature when they are applied – the bottom line is you want to enhance the appearance of your ride – not add smears or streaks. Also look for a quick detailer / spray wax that contains a small amount of carnauba – as an added benefit you will also be extending the protection of any existing wax you have on your ride. We also recommend using a clean microfiber towel dedicated to this purpose.

When using your quick detailer / spray wax – a little goes a long way. Just spritz the product lightly. Other than adding more protection and “pop” to your surface, it will also serve as a lubricant helping to safely float off dust and grime. Our natural tendency is if this much is good, more is better, right? Just like me with laundry detergent – wrong! All you end up doing is wasting product and making a mess.

The reason that we recommend a microfiber is that if used correctly, it will not scratch the surface of your ride. Don’t treat the microfiber towel like sandpaper – wipe gently, turning the towel over frequently - let the towel do the work. You won’t be adding any more shine or luster my rubbing hard, and even a microfiber can scratch your paint if you rub hard enough. Just by turning the towel over frequently and wiping off any excess it will easily collect any dust, road grime or bug splatters. I usually concentrate on a concentrate on a 2-foot by 2-foot area at a time – the old cliché applies here – inch-by-inch life’s a cinch! Do your entire surface of the roof.

Next, let’s move down to the glass with your quick detailer / spray wax. Now, some of these products don’t work well on glass, but the good ones will, like our Body Shine Showroom Spray Wax. Spritz a little on the glass surfaces, then wipe with a microfiber towel. The microfiber will make it a snap to clean up any contaminants like bug splatter if you drove to the show, and they are highly absorbent to suck up any excess detail spray. Your quick detailer / spray wax will make your windows “pop”!

Now is the time to start with the front part of your ride. Start at the hood and continue to work your way down. After the hood is wiped off, I move to the front of the vehicle. Repeat the same process, paying particular attention to the nooks and crannies of the grill and other trim of the car, including the headlights and grill.

Staying with the front part of your ride, I then start on the front fenders. Repeat the same process. Don’t worry about any vinyl, rubber or plastic trim; I usually save that for last. Ensure that you hit the chrome with your quick detail / spray wax as well as any painted surfaces. At this point – take a step back, check it out and admire your work – things are starting to come together after only a few minutes!

Next, move to the back of the vehicle. Start on another big surface - the trunk lid. After the trunk is done – continue on to the rear of the vehicle, again doing all painted and chrome surfaces. Next, move on to the rear quarters. I usually then will do both doors and surfaces in between the front and back last.

Now is the time that you want to dress the rubber, plastic and vinyl trim on your ride. Again, I apply the product with an applicator instead of spraying it on – it saves clean up time. Don’t worry or fret if you get any of the dressing on the adjoining painted or chrome surface – just wipe it off with your microfiber towel!

After dressing the trim on the body of your ride, move to the wheel wells. Yes – the wheel wells. Use your dressing to spray under the wheel wells to get it to look like new. It will easily cover up any dust or dirt that you might have accumulated driving to the show or parking at the show and it will look like new! Next hit your tires. There is nothing better looking than fresh-dressed tires - remember - it is all about the details!

Again, I suggest dressing wiping the tires with an applicator for two reasons. First, you will minimize any clean up from overspray. Secondly, we all have personal preferences about shine and finish – wiping the product on will allow you to get the exact finish that you desire – the heavier that you apply it the shinier the surface.

As a last step, use your quick detailer / spray wax and microfiber towel on your rims/wheels. This last step allows you to wipe up any excess dressing off your wheels.

Take another break and step back and admire your work. Next – let’s look at the interior.

Start with cleaning the interior glass. If needed, use a streak free glass cleaner and a microfiber towel dedicated to cleaning glass. Remember to clean up any overspray on the dash and door panels. Using your microfiber towel, wipe any dust off the dashboard, rear deck lid and the rest of your interior trim.

After wiping the interior down, open the door and pay attention to the jambs. Using a quick detailer / spray wax, spritz the surfaces and collect any grime that might be present.

As a final touch, use an aerosol touch up dressing for hard to reach places, like our Dash Vent Magic to dress those hard to reach areas like the conduit that carries wiring for power windows and locks. It will make them look like new!

Open the hood and trunk and wipe down those compartments. Use your spray wax / quick detailer if needed. Pay attention to the seams where the hood and trunk meet the body – on both sides of the panels – remember - it’s all in the details!

Grab your lawn chair, get a cold beverage and admire your ride – and watch as everyone else does.

Scott Ellis is from Jax Wax Distribution Systems and is responsible for distributing Jax Wax Car Care Products retail worldwide. Jax Wax Car Care Products are widely used in commercial businesses such as detail shops, body shops, and auto dealers. Jax Wax is now packaging its products in smaller quantities for the consumer market. You can get fast, commercial quality results by doing the detail work yourself. For more information, go to or call 877-7JAXWAX.

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