The top car detailing mistakes you need to avoid

Make sure you’re staying away from these car detailing mistakes so you can improve your service and delight more customers

As the owner of your own car detailing business, you know that a typical soap and water detail just doesn't cut it. Customers today expect a premium experience from end-to-end. And the last thing you want to do is make a car look worse or damage a paint job that can be expensive to repair. 

If you’re new to the industry, it’s important to understand that detailing takes time and effort to master. But even the most experienced pros can sometimes use a refresher on new products or techniques they can use for their services. 

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of detailing mistakes to avoid so you can save tons of time and headaches while wowing your customers with super professional service. 


Waxing might be one of the most important parts of the detailing process. While it gives the vehicle a shiny finish, its main purpose is to keep the vehicle’s paint from fading and oxidating.  

However, a common misconception is that the more wax, the better the protection and shine. Actually, too much wax could cause heavy buildup and clouding. Plus, it can lead to even more headaches throughout the service, requiring you to spend more time on buffing the exterior and making the overall job look uneven. 

So how much wax is enough? 

As long as you coat the car evenly on every area, you shouldn’t need more than two coats of wax. While layering wax won’t cause a ton of damage to the paint of a vehicle, over waxing is just overkill because the excess will just be buffed away later in the process.

Plus, over-waxing just wastes your time and resources. You shouldn’t have to waste an extra 15-30 minutes on a waxing job when you have multiple appointments to get to in a day. Not to mention spend more money on wax than you need to. 

Poor application of wax and polish    

Another part of the detailing process newer detailers tend to get wrong is the actual application of the wax. The application of wax can make or break the final outcome of how the car looks. The last thing you want to do is finish a job with random swirl marks or uneven textures. That’s why the actual application process is important. 

  1. Clean your surface first

Before anything, make sure the surface is sparkling clean and prepped up for the wax. You should aim to remove any dirt particles which might scratch the vehicle's topcoat throughout the service. 

  1. Use the right applicator

The best way to apply wax is to pour the wax onto an applicator and then apply it on the vehicle's surface rather than pour it directly onto the vehicle. If you pour it directly, you might damage the color of the vehicle or cause uneven streaks.

Also equally important is the type and quality of the applicator you use. Most wax products will come with a small foam applicator or sponge designed explicitly for the purpose. They’re meant to ensure that the wax is evenly distributed as you apply it.  

We recommend using a microfiber wax applicator but there are a ton of other options you can choose from here. 

Detailing in direct sunlight

As most car washing and detailing experts will tell you, sunlight is the number one enemy of any job. Avoid it like the plague.

When you expose a vehicle to direct sunlight during an appointment, it’s going to heat up. This means that throughout the job, soapy water will dry up faster than you can rinse it off. In the end, this means heavy water spots on the vehicle, which are extremely hard to remove. 

Not only is washing a car in direct sunlight bad for the vehicle’s finish, it will make your job much harder. You’ll have to start all over again and waste extra time and effort removing the soap spots. If you have no other choice than to complete a job in direct sunlight, make sure you constantly water down the exterior to keep the surface of the car cool. 

Using the wrong cleaning agents

Most people think that car cleaning products are just ordinary detergents packaged differently and then sold at a higher price. But you know car cleaning products are specifically made for washing a vehicle’s surface and paint. 

That’s why you’ll want to avoid using dish soaps and detergents at all costs. Ironically, the problem with these products is that they work too well. Most dish soaps and detergents contain certain ingredients like bleach and chlorine, which might be tough on the vehicle's surface. They end up stripping away protective finishes like wax and paint, ultimately leaving the car exposed to the harsh UV rays of the sun.

That’s why you’ll want to use products manufactured for the purpose of cleaning a car. 

Using the wrong towels

As a beginner, you might not think much about the towel you use to clean vehicles. Any old cloth or rag won’t suffice just because it can soak up some water off the car. But the type of towel you use is actually super important. Sponges, for instance, can let in some dirt between the car's surface and it, which causes tiny scratches over time.

It’s always recommended that you only use microfiber towels or car-specific mitts to clean the vehicle. That’s because they’re composed of soft, delicate materials that won’t compromise the vehicle's paint job. 

Another good practice is to use two different towels for washing and drying. Using the same towel will only rub back the dirt onto the vehicle's paint.

Washing the wheels last

When detailing a car, your natural instinct might be to start washing from the top down. And while this might apply to pretty much every other cleaning endeavor, when it comes to detailing a car, you want to take the opposite approach.

Car wheels are usually the dirtiest bit of a vehicle. If you clean them last, the chances are that you'll splash grime and dirt from the wheels to the freshly cleaned surface. By starting with the wheels, you’ll avoid the extra headache of wiping off any dirt or grime later on. 

After washing the tires, make sure you clean any buckets you used. They might contain specks of dirt and small debris that might rub onto the body of the vehicle.

Reduce annoying admin work 

While some of the mistakes above might seem fairly small, being mindful of them go a long way in improving the quality of the detail and making your customers happier. 

You should also be thinking about ways to spend less time managing your hectic schedule, manually sending upsell requests, and chasing customers down for payment after each service.  Zippity makes it super easy to compete, and win, against your biggest competitors with the most modern customer service tool in the industry, all while being super easy to use. 

Get a demo with Zippity today to start managing your entire mobile service business from your phone. This way, you can focus on what’s important, providing awesome service to your clients and spending less time on heavy admin work.

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