How to Detail Your Car and Get it Ready for a Car Show

Classic Car ShowUnless the vehicle in question is a survivor, a shiny car is a winning car. What does it take to get a car to look like it came out of a showroom? It isn’t about which products are used but how they are used: it takes several steps and a lot of time to bring surfaces back to life.

While a daily driver may simply want their car washed, the show car owner will want interior and exterior detailing, which centers on three processes: cleaning, polishing and protecting.


Cleaning should be done in stages from the dirtiest jobs and harshest chemicals to the cleanest and gentlest. Start with engine degreasing and wheel cleaning, and then move onto washing, polishing and waxing.

To prevent swirled and scratches when washing a car, it’s critical to keep debris off of the sponge. Use a dedicated rinse bucket to clean the sponge before reapplying soap. If the sponge is dropped onto the ground, throw it out.

Paint condition is easy to overlook, but it has a big impact on the final result. Clay bars are the best way to remove oxidation, but the surface has to be carefully lubricated. Polish-like products can get similar results and can be applied just like wax. When working with antique paint jobs, this step should be done before polishing to return flexibility back to the paint. Otherwise, the polish will remove far more paint than it should and could damage the paint job.

Wax protects painted parts, but it can also get that last bit of shine. Finishing with a microfiber cloth will get rid of any fine imperfections for the best appearance.


Amateurs often apply thick layer of protectant, which will make the car look shiny for a short time. However, a combination of dressings, cleaners and protectants needs to be used to get the best result. The appearance of an interior depends on the first two by revitalizing the materials, while a thin layer of protectant shields the materials from UV damage. Leather should never look shiny as a shiny surface means the pores of the skin are clogged and dirty.

When cleaning windows, wipe in one direction on the outside and a different direction on the inside. This makes it easy to tell which side of the glass the streaks are on.

Finishing Touches At the Show

A quick detailer is a must-have for spray and wipe removal of any grime left from the road. It’s also a good idea to apply a final layer of tire dressing once the wheels no longer have to turn to get that last bit of cleanliness.


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