Auto detailing your vehicle is a great way to keep it in mint condition especially if you have to use it to go out with that special someone. A lot of people around the world clean their cars themselves, even more so now after realizing how dangerous automatic car washes are for the exterior of one’s vehicle. Many people view auto detailing as an opportunity to bond with their vehicle.

Although it seems very straightforward, auto detailing is a daunting and complicated task. If done right, it can be very rewarding and satisfying and vice versa if done poorly. A lot of components and steps are involved in properly detailing a car and most people unknowingly make plenty of mistakes while doing so. Such mistakes can have long-lasting deteriorating effects on the car. This is mostly due to lack of knowledge and guidance.

Let us explore the common mistakes that should be avoided during auto detailing a car.

Mistake 1: Not Protecting Your Skin

Most people tend to buy all sorts of different chemicals to be applied on their car, from shampoos all the way to the wax products. Although these chemicals are highly beneficial for the vehicle, they can cause adverse reactions if they come in contact with the skin or hair. Therefore, hard shoes should be worn along with rubber hand gloves and eye protection. Wearing shorts and sandals is a strict no. This is a very common mistake in the world of auto detailing which should be avoided.

Mistake 2: Believing that Automotive Clay Removes Scratches

Auto detailing clay products

Auto detailing clay removes from the vehicle’s paint what washing cannot. The clay removes contaminants from the surface of your car’s paint, glass, fiberglass and metal. If used too often it can actually cause scratches on the car’s bodywork. Some believe that it can be used on all cars but that is not true. The third mistake people make with clay bars is that they use it directly on the body instead of using lubrication. Without lubrication, using the clay alone would create scratches and swirls all over the body of the car.

Mistake 3: Using All-purpose Cleaners on the Car’s Interior

chart  showing pH levels for cleaning

All-purpose cleaners generally have high pH levels. If used on the fabrics of the car, they can cause permanent damage. Therefore, products with high pH levels should never be used in the interior of the car, especially on seats.

A pH neutral car wash is neither acidic nor alkaline. The ideal pH for your car is 7.0 which is almost identical to that of pure water.

Mistake 4: Applying Plastic and Trim Restorer on other Areas

Car with yellow masking tape with top black car trim in the center of the masking tape.

Another common auto detailing mistake people make is applying plastic and trim restorer to other areas of the car. Most vehicles may have black plastic trim on the front and rear bumpers and on the doors. It can also be found around the front and rear glass and around the side windows. It can be quite difficult to remove if it gets on other areas of the vehicle. This can be easily avoided by covering the areas you want protected with masking tape before detailing.

Mistake 5: Using Dish-Washing Soap Instead of Car Shampoo

Many people use dish washing soap as a substitute for car shampoo. It should be made clear that all soaps are made for different purposes and therefore have different pH levels. Dish soap is very strong and can really inflict damage to the car’s paintwork. In some instances, it can be mixed with car shampoo to remove previous wax and polish from the car. Simply using the dish soap would cause all the layers of protection on the paint to diminish, and therefore make the car more prone to scratches, scrapes and other environmental factors.

Mistake 6: Not Cleaning the Wash Cloth after Use

white female placing laundry in a washing machine.

Microfiber towels and other detailing cloths should be kept very clean. Any amount of dust in them can cause scratches while detailing. Therefore, they should be washed thoroughly and dried properly. Also, they are washed with other clothes while doing your laundry, they may attract lint which can be difficult to remove. Hence, you should wash it separately from your laundry. It should also be mentioned that only liquid detergent is to be used while doing so.

Mistake 7: Auto Detailing Under Direct Sunlight

a white female woman washing a car with a spray hose in a covered area.

Some people believe that washing the car under the sun would help assist in drying the vehicle faster and provides them with more space to
maneuver. Although this is partly true, the quick-drying causes watermarks on the entire body. This is a very common auto detailing mistake. If the car is washed under direct sunlight, the heat will cause the water and soap on the body to dry prematurely, thus making the process much harder. Morning or late afternoon timings are ideal for cleaning your car outdoors. If you want more space to wash your car any time during the day, it’s best to do so under a covered area. Being under a sheltered area also helps if the rain begins to fall.

Mistake 8: Wiping Your Car without Water

the rear glass of a car with the words wash me written on it.

Sometimes you’re in a rush and to clean the vehicle quickly you apply a dry cloth on a dry car.

If the vehicle is not properly lubricated this would lead to scratches and swirl marks which are easily spotted. Therefore, a car should only be wiped when the body is wet and lubricated.

Mistake 9: Not Starting with the Wheels First

white female woman with blonde hair stooping down, washing the wheel of a red vehicle.

Another common auto detailing mistake is to finish detailing the body and then move to the wheels and tires. It should be the other way around because tires and wheels carry the most dust particles on the whole car.

If you use high-pressure water or harsh chemicals on the wheels after cleaning the rest of the car, splashes are bound to reach the other body parts. This will cause you to have to partial clean the body of the vehicle over again. Therefore, you should always clean the tires and wheels first.

Mistake 10: Not Keeping Car Wash Tools Clean

someone washing a black car with a sponge and soap with a yellow bucket on the ground with other car washing items close to the bucket.

How can something be actually clean when the thing cleaning it isn’t clean? The point is that all the mitts, microfiber towels, buckets, brushes, and other tools used in detailing should be ‘spick and span’ before starting the detailing process. They should be washed and rinsed thoroughly before and after every detailing session.

Mistake 11: Using Ammonia Solution on the Glass

white female washing the front glass of a car with a water hose.

The fumes of the ammonia solution can be destructive to your health if inhaled. The solution can also leave streaks across the glass of your vehicle which can impair one’s vision and sometimes simply annoying to look at.

Ammonia solutions can be damaging if spilled or sprayed on other surface areas of the vehicle’s glass, eventually deteriorating or drying out the plastic or rubber areas of the car. Therefore, it is better to use an ammonia-free cleaner.

Mistake 12: Applying Polish or Wax Directly on the Body

white female hand wiping a car's dashboard with a blue cloth.

This is yet another auto detailing mistake that many people make. It can cause imperfections in the shine of the paint. All chemicals should first be put on the mitts or towels and then applied on the car.

Above mentioned were some of the most common auto detailing mistakes. We here at FixingAuto hope that this article has shed enough light on them to help you the next time you wash your vehicle. Happy detailing!