Category: Cars

DYI vs. Professional Ceramic Coating

DYI vs. Professional Ceramic Coating

We know lots of car enthusiasts like to tinker with their cars and will perform a lot of work themselves. Many will even handle their own maintenance washes and minor at-home detailing. While it is certainly possible to apply a ceramic coating to a car by yourself, it might not be the best idea. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of doing a DIY ceramic coating compared to using a professional shop.

DYI Ceramic Coating

To get a better understanding of what’s involved in a do-it-yourself ceramic coating application we will first briefly review the ceramic coating process. Before even getting to apply the actual ceramic coating a do-it-yourselfer must be able to perform the below steps. Note: this is not intended to be a guide on how to perform the ceramic coating process!

  1. Thorough 2-bucket wash
  2. Decontamination – Usually, this process involves a hand wash, iron removal, rinse, and clay bar decontamination.
  3. Paint correction – The current condition of the paint will determine how much or little paint correction is needed. Most vehicles will need at least a 2 stage paint correction. A 2 stage paint correction involves a cutting polish to remove light swirl marks and a finishing polish to restore depth and shine.
  4. Prepare for coating – To prepare for the coating application and to get the best bonding usually the car is wiped with an isopropyl alcohol type solution. Sometimes this is referred to as an IPA wipe. The IPA wipe will make sure all the oils are removed from the polishing phase leaving the car ready for the actual ceramic coating.

After completing the above steps, the car is ready for the ceramic coating application. The process will vary slightly between coating manufacturers. Generally, the process is to evenly apply the coating using a microsuede cloth and foam block while trying to keep the coating as level as possible. The excess coating will then be wiped away and after the car is complete a silica spray is used to help the coating set and protect the car while it cures. With a better understanding of the work involved in applying a ceramic coating lets take a look at some of the pros and cons of doing it yourself.

Do-it-yourself Pros

  • Cost – it is significantly cheaper to do-it-yourself (assuming you don’t do any damage during the process).
  • Satisfaction – if working on cars is one of your hobbies and you have the time and skill to perform the ceramic coating process, the end result can be very satisfying.
  • Attention to detail – There is no one that cares about your car as much as you. If you are a skilled detailer you will be able to spend as much time on every step of the process as you’d like.

Do-it-yourself Cons

  • Time – There is a lot of effort that goes into applying a ceramic coating and it is a lengthy process, even for detailers that have done these hundreds of time.
  • Quality – There is definitely a learning curve to paint correction. If this is your first time performing any of the steps, the results simply will not be as good as using a professional shop.
  • Damage – Related to quality, it is possible to damage your vehicle – especially during the paint correction.
  • Tools – To correctly perform the ceramic coating and paint correction process you will need lots of tools and products. If you don’t already have these you could end up spending as much money on equipment as it would cost to have a professional perform the service.

Professional Ceramic Coating

Using a professional detail shop to perform the ceramic coating can be a lot less stressful and get you a high-quality result. Now we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of using a professional detail shop for the ceramic coating process.

Detail Shop Pros

  • Quality – If you use a reputable detail shop, you can almost be guaranteed the outcome is going to be excellent.
  • Time – Professional shops can often turn around the vehicle much faster than a do-it-yourselfer
  • Warranty – Many ceramic coatings come with a warranty when installed and maintained by a professional detail shop
  • Overlap savings – If you are also getting a clear bra there can often be some savings to get the coating and clear bra installed at the same time due to an overlap in the process.

Detail Shop Cons

  • Cost – A professional shop will cost quite a bit more than a do-it-yourself ceramic coating.

For the majority of people, it will make sense to use a professional detail shop instead of the do-it-yourself approach. Do-it-yourself should be skilled in paint correction and have a bit of detail work under their belt before attempting to perform this service. If you are looking to give it a try, we suggest starting with a vehicle where you won’t be too upset with a subpar outcome. We’ve also included a video below that shows the ceramic coating process in greater detail.

How to Choose a Detail Shop

How to Choose a Detail Shop

There can be a lot of options when looking for a car detail shop near you, making it difficult to pick the right one. Many people often choose the closet or cheapest detailer but can be disappointed in the results. There are many factors to consider when trying to find the best car detail shop. In this post, we will walk you through the main things we look for – quality, pricing, and convenience.

Car Detail Shop Quality

To us, the quality of work is the most important part of choosing the best car detail shop. But, it is important to balance the quality of the shop with your individual needs. For example, it probably is not necessary to take the family minivan to a detail shop that primarily focuses on high-end exotic cars. Let’s take a look at how you get a sense of the quality of the detail shop.

  • Detail shop reviews – A great place to start is with online reviews. A shop that does not care about their online reputation is a major red flag. When evaluating a shop take a look at their recent reviews especially ones where the reviewer purchased the same service you are looking for.
  • Past examples – Most shops will have before and after photos on their website to help you visualize their capabilities.
  • Talk to the shop – One of the best ways to get a better idea of the detail shop’s quality is to call or visit the shop and talk with the owner and employees. Most reputable shops will be happy to walk you through their process, different levels of service, and answer any questions you may have.

Car Detail Pricing

Once you’ve narrowed your search to a few shops that meet your quality needs, it is time to start looking at the detail shop’s pricing. Each shop will have slightly different packages and names for their detail services. They may also have differing opinions on the level of service you need. To compare pricing, you will want to make sure you are comparing apples to apples as much as possible. For example, if shop A is more expensive and going to perform a multistage paint correction but shop B is cheaper and is only planning on a quick polish it does not make sense to directly compare their prices. Also, it is OK to be transparent if you find a shop that you love but they are a few hundred dollars more expensive than another shop you considering, give your preferred shop a call and see if they have any deals or promotions to win your business.


Most people think of convenience as the location of the shop, but there are other factors that are part of the convenience. Depending on the service you are looking to get done, many shops offer mobile detailing services. Mobile detailing services can be great, especially for a simple service like a maintenance wash. Another convenience factor to consider is how quickly the detail shop will be able to start work on your vehicle. If you have a brand new car and you are looking to get a ceramic coating or clear bra on it quickly, you might not be willing to wait a week or two if a shop is backed up. The last piece of convenience we like to look at is the time it takes to perform the work. You don’t want to choose the fastest shop but you also don’t want to have your car sitting at the shop idle for a week. Talk to the shop owner and make sure you are both on the same page regarding timelines.

Conclusion – Finding the Best Detail Shop Near You

Overall, finding the best car detail shop near you isn’t too difficult. With a little time spent upfront, you can make sure you are making the best decision.

Levels of Paint Correction

Levels of Paint Correction

What is a Paint Correction

Paint correction is a service performed by auto detailing shops to remove imperfections in the paint. For example, a paint correction would try to fix swirls, scratches, water spots, etching, and many other defects. It is a labor-intensive process with many steps that lead can lead to near perfect paint. A paint correction is often a required first step before a car is able to be protected by a ceramic coating. Below we will take a deeper look at paint correction benefits, how to determine if your car needs a paint correction, and paint correction cost.

Paint Correction Benefits

The overall benefit of a paint correction is to restore the paint, often to the best condition possible. Here’s a breakdown of some of the main paint correction benefits.

  • Reduced spiderwebbing
  • Leveled paint
  • Reduced paint orange peel
  • Improved clarity
  • Added color depth
  • Water spot removal
  • Etching removal

Paint Correction Process

Every detail shop will have a slightly different approach to paint correction. In general, the process will usually follow the steps below. Be aware you want to use the least amount of wet sanding and compounding as possible to achieve your paint goals as there is a limited amount of paint and clear coat on your vehicle that you can cut into. A good deatiler with work you to balance the longevity of the paint along with your correction goals.

  1. Inspection & consultation – In this step, a detailer will inspect the vehicle and talk to the owner about their goals with the paint correction and set proper expectations. The level of paint correction needed will vary for each car depending on current paint condition, budget, and desired outcome.
  2. Two-bucket wash – Most paint corrections will start with a detail wash or two-bucket wash. This is a thorough wash that will help the detailer get a better idea of the paint’s condition and prepare the car for the decontamination stage.
  3. Decontamination – At a minimum, this step usually involves clay barring the car to remove stubborn surface contaminants. It is also common and we recommend iron removal during the decontamination phase. The goal is to remove as many rough, gritty contaminants as possible so that they are not ground into the paint during the later steps (compounding and polishing). The clay barring is usually done by spraying a lubricant on the vehicle and then rubbing a clay bar across the paint.
  4. Wet sanding (if needed) – Many cars will not need this step. Wet sanding is used to remove heavy imperfections or level paint. It is only performed on specific areas that need it. For example, heavy scratches, orange peel paint, or spots that require paint leveling are candidates for wet sanding. The process involves using lubricated automotive sandpaper to remove some of the clear coat imperfections which are later buffed and polished.
  5. Compounding (if needed) – Compounding is pretty common in a paint correction and more vehicles will need it than wet sanding. The amount of clear coat left on the paint and the depth or severity of the imperfections will be taken into account to determine if compounding is needed. Compounding can be thought of as a much gentler version of wet sanding. Instead of sandpaper, an abrasive compound is used with an electric buffer/polisher. There are many compounds with different levels of abrasiveness that can be used depending on the state of the paint.
  6. Polishing – The polishing step is used to bring out the high gloss and shine of the paint. This is used to remove light swirling and fix any abrasions from the compounding stage.
  7. Sealant – The final step of the paint correction process is to seal the vehicle to protect the paint. Traditionally, this was usually done with a premium car wax. Today, a ceramic coating is often recommended as the best way to seal and protect the paint correction. Ceramic coatings provide more benefits and last much longer. You can read more about ceramic coatings here.

Does My Car Need a Paint Correction?

Determining whether or not your car needs a paint correction can be a tricky question to answer. Let’s look at a few common situations below.

Are you planning to get a ceramic coating?

If you are looking to get a ceramic coating and the vehicle isn’t brand new, you’ll probably need a paint correction. Ceramic coatings can be thought of as semi-permanent or in some cases permanent so you want to make sure your car looks its best before investing in the coating.

Does your paint have significant spiderwebbing, etching, or is starting to fade?

If your car is starting to visually deteriorate and any of the above apply it might be time to invest in a paint correction. Stopping the problem before it gets too bad and sealing the paint is a great way to restore and preserve your vehicle!

Is your car any of the following: exotic, high-end, a collector’s car, special heirloom, or a historic vehicle?

If the car is significantly more valuable than your average car (sentimental value counts too) it might be a good idea to invest in a paint correction and ceramic coating. Keeping the car in top-notch condition will help maintain the value, especially in the car collecting world where a few imperfections can drastically change the value.

Are you planning to show your car?

If you have a show car, you probably don’t need to be asking us if you need a paint correction. Chances are you already got one or will be getting one soon – show cars need to be looking perfect all the time!

Paint Correction Costs

The costs of a paint correction are directly related to the amount or level of paint correction needed. Generally we see paint correction prices ranging from $500 – $2,500. The low-end of the range would probably look like a detail wash with light polishing and a wax. The high-end of the range would typically include chemical and mechanical decontamination, wet sanding, multistage polishing, ceramic coating, and an interior detail.

Maintenance Car Wash Routine

Maintenance Car Wash Routine

A proper maintenance car wash routine is an important part of keeping your car’s paint in great shape. Cars with ceramic coatings can be a bit quicker and easier to wash. However, our maintenance wash process is the same whether or not the vehicle has a ceramic coating. The goal of a maintenance wash is to keep the car looking as good as possible between detail washes without spending tons of time or breaking the bank. Here’s a look at our preferred maintenance wash routine and a few of the products we like.

2-Bucket Wash Process

To avoid smearing dirt across the vehicle, we think a two-bucket wash is a must. The two-bucket method simply uses a separate wash bucket (with soap) and a rinse bucket (with water). After each section of the car is cleaned, the wash mitt is first dipped into the rinse bucket before being loaded up with suds. Here are the steps for our typical two-bucket wash.

  1. Wheels first – The wheels are usually the dirtiest part of the car which is why we like to hit them first. To begin, give them a good rinse using either a pressure washer or garden hose with a jet nozzle. Next, spray the tires with a rubber cleaner and give them a quick scrub with a tire brush. After cleaning the rubber, spray a generous amount of wheel cleaner and use an EZ detail brush to remove all the dirt and brake dust from the barrel of the wheel. To finish the wheel, give it a good rinse and repeat the process on the remaining wheels.
  2. Rinse – Now that the wheels are clean, give the car a good rinse. Make sure to use high pressure on areas with lots of dirt or particles stuck to the paint.
  3. Foam gun (Optional) – If you have a foam gun it’s time to cover the vehicle in foam. We like to start with the top the vehicle and work toward the bottom. We like to think of the foam as a lubricant for our cleaning with a wash mitt, so we don’t rinse it off the car before the next step.
  4. Hand wash – With the car already covered in foam it’s time to get the wash mitt, soap bucket, and rinse bucket out. Starting at the top of the car and working toward the bottom load the mitt up with soapy suds and work in sections, rinsing and reloading the mitt as needed. We prefer to start at the top because most of the dirt tends to be at the bottom and we want to avoid grinding any grit into the paint.
  5. Rinse – A quick rinse using light pressure (ex. shower setting on an adjustable hose nozzle).
  6. Dry – There are a few options to drying. Either first blow the vehicle with a blower to remove the majority of the water or use large waffle weave towels. Next, using a drying aid and high-quality microfiber towel to remove any water spots and add a nice shine.
  7. Wheels – To finish this wheels, we like to use a microfiber and dry them while removing any dirt that wasn’t picked up in step 1.
  8. Finishing Details – In this step it’s time to wrap up the maintenance wash and hit any of the final details. Tire dressing, glass, mirrors, and door jambs are all little details that you don’t want to forget!

Maintenance Wash Tips

Here are a few tips to consider when performing a maintenance wash.

  • To avoid water spots, perform the wash in the shade and preferably cooler weather.
  • Use high-quality microfiber towels and wash mitts to keep from scratching the paint.
  • Have dedicated microfiber towels for different parts of the car (ex. wheels, paint, interior).
  • Don’t use too much pressure – let the cleaning products do the work!
  • Use a high-quality car shampoo, not dish soap – especially if your car does not have a ceramic coating.

Wash Products

High-quality wash products are an important part of a maintenance car wash. Below you’ll find a list of some of the products we like to use.

The Best Foam Gun For A Garden Hose And Car Wash

The Best Foam Gun For A Garden Hose And Car Wash

Don’t have a high-pressure washer but still looking for the extra suds from a foam gun when washing your car? No need to worry, as long as your garden hose has decent water pressure Gilmour’s Foamaster II will give you most of the same benefits at a fraction of the price. In this article, we’ll take a look at the benefits of using a foam gun, how to use them, and why we think the Foammaster II is the best garden hose foam gun.

Foam Gun Benefits

As we have mentioned in some of our previous posts, washing a car is all about providing lubrication between the wash mitt and the paint. Foam guns provide a quick and easy way to coat the car with the sudsy foam lubrication from the car shampoo. Typically, foam guns are used with high-pressure wash systems which professional detailers use but we managed to find one that attaches to a garden hose and works surprisingly well. The foam gun is also great for covering hard to reach areas like the wheels and wheel wells. Even though you may not be able to scrub back there just applying the soap and rinsing helps remove some of the build-ups.

How To Use A Foam Gun

The Gilmour Foamaster II is very easy to use. The foam gun comes with a screw on attachment to your garden hose, the fluid reservoir, and the foam sprayer. The foam sprayer has a quick disconnect attachment to switch between water and foam quickly. To use this for a car wash, we fill the reservoir with car shampoo – we use enough to have 3/4 inch – 1 inch of the container filled. Next, twist on the foam sprayer top and connect the foam gun to your garden hose. The foam sprayer has a dial setting with 5 different levels, labeled “A” through “E”. The “A” setting is the lightest and “D” or “E” seems to give us the best foam production.

Foam Gun Car Washing Tips

  • Don’t mix the car soap/shampoo with water, just pour it into the container.
  • When foaming the car, spray the top first and work toward the bottom last.
  • Use enough soap, you don’t want to have to add more part way through.
  • Hold the container upright when spraying for maximum foam.
  • Spray the wheels and tires with soap.
  • Use the “D” or “E” setting on the foam sprayer.

If you’re looking to improve your wash without spending tons of cash on a high-pressure wash system, make sure to check out the Foamaster II on Amazon. Also, if you need help with finding the best car wash mitt checkout our recommendation.

Weekend Wash – Top 10 Car Wash Supplies

Weekend Wash – Top 10 Car Wash Supplies

Want a little extra shine out of that weekend car wash? Our top 10 car wash supply list will get your car looking showroom ready without breaking the bank! Or if you’re feeling lazy, this car wash kit from Adam’s is a pretty good start.

Top 10 Car Wash Supplies

  1. Microfiber Wash Mitt / Wash Pad


    • A high-quality microfiber wash mitt is essential for anyone serious about taking care of their vehicles.Using the wrong mitt can leave your car with swirling and scratches in the paint. The mitt is one area you don’t want to cheap out on. We recommend the  2-pack Premium CYCLONE Korean Microfiber Wash Mitt and Huge 10″ x 10″ CYCLONE 10X Wash Pad by THE RAG COMPANY. You can read more about why we think this is The Best Car Wash Mitt & Pad.
  2. Adam’s Car Shampoo


    • Car shampoo is all about suds, lubrication, and water spots. This shampoo is great for all 3 – cleaning power, it doesn’t scratch, and it’s water spot resistant.
  3. Wash and Rinse Buckets (2-Bucket Wash)


    • The two bucket car wash method is a must. It is the simplest change you can make to your car washing process to achieve some of the best results. If you are using one bucket, then you’re smearing your grit across your paint causing swirl marks and marring.
  4. Waffle Weave Drying Towels


    • Similar to using a high-quality wash mitt (see #1), waffle weave drying towels are designed to remove water quickly and without scratching. The faster you are able to dry the car, the less likely you are to have water spots.
  5. Microfiber Towels


    • After removing all the majority of water with a waffle towel, we like to use a drying aid (see #6) and a microfiber towel to give the car a bit of protection and shine. We love these microfiber towels from THE RAG COMPANY.
  6. Optimum Car Wax (Drying Aid)


    • It’s tough to dry a car and avoid spotting, especially in the heat of summer. We use Optimum Car Wax as a drying aid leaving us with a nice shine and no water spots. After removing most of the water with waffle weave towels, we work panel by panel using a few squirts of Optimum Car Wax and wiping it down with a microfiber towel.
  7. EZ Detail Brush


    • Ever wondered how car detailers clean the barrel or inside of the wheel? Their secret is a brush like this – the EZ Detail Brush makes it easy to clean wheels, wheel wells, and exhaust.
  8. Car Pro Perl (Rubber/Plastic Protectant)


    • Car Pro Perl leaves your tires looking new but not wet. It’ll restore that deep black color to your rubber without giving you all wet shine.
  9. Chemical Guys Foam Block (Dressing Applicator)


    • We use these foam blocks from The Chemical Guys to help us apply Perl to our tires. The foam blocks are great, a quick rinse with the hose after each use and they are ready for your next car wash!
  10. Adam’s Wheel Cleaner


    • The wheels are usually the direst part of the car, filled with brake dust and grit. A few squirts of Adam’s Wheel Cleaner before getting in their with your EZ Detail Brush makes this process quick.

Now that you’ve got the top products, make sure you aren’t committing any of the Top 10 Car Wash Mistakes.

Top 10 Car Wash Mistakes – Don’t Do This!

Top 10 Car Wash Mistakes – Don’t Do This!

With winter leaving us and spring coming around, it’s car washing season! From paint marring and wax stripping to hard water spots, we’ve all made plenty of mistakes and a lot of times we learn the hard way. Today we are sharing the 10 biggest and surprisingly common, car washing mistakes. Don’t worry, we’ll also include some tips on what to do instead.

Top 10 Car Wash Mistakes

  1. An abrasive cloth. Don’t be the guy that uses any household rag on your precious car paint. Anything but high-quality microfiber towels and mitts will leave little micro scratches that over time give you awful swirl marks.
    Solution: Instead, use an ultrasoft wash mitt or pad, we like this one (The Best Car Wash Mitt and Pad).
  2. Using dish soap! Unless you intentionally want to strip all the wax from your car, which we will cover in a separate article, dish soap will strip the waxes that are protecting your paint from UV damage and contaminants.
    Solution: Use a high-quality car wash shampoo, such as Adam’s Shampoo.
  3. Washing your car in direct sunlight leaving you with hard water spots. Ok, hold on… We know what you’re thinking “I can’t wash my car in the sun?”, while it is best to wash in the shade, this isn’t always practical.Solution: Wash in the shade if possible. If you can’t wash in the shade, make sure to use a quality waffle weave towel and a drying aid with a microfiber cloth.
  4. Washing your wheels last. The wheels are often the dirtiest part of the car and need the most attention. Brake dust is the enemy of many car detailers, luckily this is a pretty easy fix.
    Solution: Clean your wheels first, and a good wheel cleaner and EZ Detail Brush sure do go a long way.
  5. Using too much pressure! Washing a car is not like scrubbing the dishes – too much pressure and you’ll be back to those same swirls and scratches from our first mistake.
    Solution: Let the cleaning solution do the work a nice light pressure with a great wash mitt is all you need. For any bugs that are stuck and hard to remove, leave them and address at the end of your car wash.
  6. Using one bucket. If you’re not using separate wash and rinse buckets AKA “the two bucket method”, yes that’s a real thing, then you’re smearing your grit across your paint bringing you right back to swirl marks and marring.
    Solution: Use a separate wash (soap) and rinse bucket. Each time after you do a section of your car, clean the wash mitt out in your rinse bucket before getting more soapy suds. This will keep all your grit off your paint!
  7. Leaving water in the cracks and crevices. This one is pretty simple but it is so often missed, we had to include it. After putting in all the hard work to wash your car, you go for a drive and all a sudden you have water streaks all over!
    Solution: Make sure to dry all the little cracks and crevices. Common culprits: mirrors, trunk, and door jambs!
  8. Mitt/rag sharing. When it comes to the really dirty areas of your car you’ll want to use dedicate different wash mitts or rags for them. For example, after cleaning your wheels, you don’t want to use that rag on your paint (even the two bucket method will struggle to keep that clean).
    Solution: Dedicate separate towels, mitts, and rags to different jobs. We like to keep our brand new clothes for the paint and over time turn them into wheel/grease rags.
  9. Taking too much time. This is especially important on a hot or sunny day. You want to avoid having any product of water dry on the car before you are finished, this can leave you with damaging hard water spots.
    Solution: Try to avoid the hottest parts of the day and keep your process quick! If you do notice anything drying, just give it a quick rinse.
  10. Not washing your car yourself and using the terrible tunnel! If you made it this far, you probably already wash your own car and avoid the terrible tunnel. If not, you’ve been warned the tunnel, over time, will create fine scratches on your cars’ paint.
    Solution: Avoid the other 9 mistakes and enjoy a weekend wash.
The Best Car Wash Mitt & Pad

The Best Car Wash Mitt & Pad


To achieve the perfect car wash, a microfiber mitt that doesn’t create swirl marks or marring is a must have. The problems most people run into are either using a microfiber towel/cloth that doesn’t have enough fibers to hold lubricating shampoo or using some type of a sponge/wash mitt that is just too abrasive! With our obsessive attention to detail, we set out to find the best car wash mitt and pad.

We think the 2-pack Premium CYCLONE Korean Microfiber Wash Mitt and Huge 10″ x 10″ CYCLONE 10X Wash Pad made by THE RAG COMPANY are the best out there without breaking the bank. The thick microfiber wash pad has a nice foam cushion on the inside that keeps you from using too much pressure when washing.

The combo pack is a great value, we like using the pad for all the big, long stretches of the car and the mitt for harder to reach areas and angles. The only drawback is the pad seems a bit big at first and takes a few washes to adjust to the size. We think a 9″ x 9″ wash pad would be perfect (don’t worry, we’ll let you know once we find one)!

Wash Mitt Stats

  • 70% Polyester / 30% Polyamide
  • Weight: 12 ounces

Wash & Mitt Pro Tips

  • Always wash new microfiber products prior to first use.
  • Skip the fabric softener when washing, this can clog the microfibers leaving your mitt rougher than intended.
  • While washing your car use a separate rinse and wash bucket.
  • When using the mitt, we like to tuck the wrist portion of the mitt inside, causing only the microfiber portions to touch the car.


If you can’t tell we’ve put a lot of thought into creating the best wash experience, check out some of our other articles where we share our thoughts on shampoo, drying aids, towels, and car detailing accessories.