13 Best Car Detailing Tools
Professional detailers swear by these car detailing tools to keep their vehicles looking new.
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Pressure washers force water through a small nozzle. That extra pressure saves a lot of elbow grease when it’s time to remove tough, stuck-on muck.
You can also put car soap into a pressure washer to avoid hand-washing altogether. Will Creech, a professional detailer and blogger at DetailDIY.com, says the Karcher K1700 Pressure Washer, an electric model with a maximum pounds per square inch (PSI) of 1,700, is a good choice with a good warranty if you only need it a few times a year.
If you’ll use a pressure washer more regularly, Creech says the Active VE52 Electric Pressure Washer, at about $100 more than the Karcher, is worth the money. The mostly metal Active should be more durable and last longer than the Karcher, which has some plastic parts. The Active goes up to 1,800 PSI and flows two gallons per minute; the Karcher offers about a 1.2 gallon per minute flow rate.
If you don’t want to invest in a pressure washer, Creech says a foam gun attachment for your garden hose is an affordable alternative. Fill the canister with water and a few ounces of car soap, turn on the hose and spray a decently thick lather onto your car.
Creech recommends Adam’s Foam Gun. It lets you choose between a concentrated stream or a wide fan of foam, and control the water-to-soap ratio as you go.
If you’re loyal to the longstanding two-bucket car wash method, Creech says grit guards are a must. They preserve your bucket of soapy water by filtering out the dirt, so you’re not washing with filthy water or potentially scratching your car with hard bits of dirt.
Put a grit guard on the bottom of your bucket, then run your mitt or sponge against it to loosen the dirt and trap it below the guard. That preserves the soapy water above. Creech likes the Dirt Trap Cyclones by Chemical Guys because the nearly 300 funnel-shaped traps keep the dirt at the bottom.
Car dryers effectively dry interiors and tight spots like side mirrors and door jambs. Water can run out later from those crevices and create unwanted and hard-to-remove water spots.
Creech likes the MetroVac Air Force Blaster Car and Motorcycle Dryer. Weighing three lbs., it blasts air at a rate of 18,000 feet per minute. It also filters and heats up the air to about 30 F above the ambient temperature.
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Microfiber Mitts and Towels
Microfiber is made of polyester and nylon. A single thread is less than 10 micrometers in diameter, even finer than human hair.
Creech says microfiber mitts and sponges prevent fine scratches and swirls in your car’s clear coat. He likes stocking up on microfiber towels and mitts from The Rag Company. Its Dry Me a River towel is particularly absorbent.
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Vacuums are essential for eliminating every kind of loose particle from your car’s interior. You can bring your household vacuum outside, but a dedicated car vacuum will do the job right.
Creech likes the Metrovac Vac N’ Blo Car Detailing Vacuum because also works as a dryer, removing water for tight spots and crevices. That prevents water spots which can damage your car’s clear coat.
If you’re not sure you’ll use the Metrovac enough to justify the $300+ price, a shop vacuum like the Armor All Wet/Dry Utility Shop Vac can do the trick, along with vacuuming the garage and workshop.
Car Detailing Steamer
A handheld steam cleaner shoots steam where you need it, loosening and remove the most stubborn stuck-on gunk. (Think chewing gum smashed into your cupholder).
Alex Killingsworth, a service consultant for Superior Honda in New Orleans, says a steamer is essential. The Bissell SteamShot is a customer favorite on Amazon with more than 15,000 five-star reviews. It comes with a jet nozzle and brush attachment, which are also great for cleaning tile grout, too!
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Polishers smooth out paint imperfections. Random orbital polishers mimic a hand-polishing motion and are easy enough for beginners to use. Steve Evans, owner of Tampa Boat Detailing, recommends the Shurhold Pro Rotary Polisher. Evans says his Shurhold polisher is durable and easy to use, and creates fantastic results.
Killingsworth prefers rotary polishers, which spin in a consistent, circular motion. They’re the strongest type of polisher, but it can take time to learn how to use and control one properly. The lightweight Black+Decker Six-Inch Random Orbit Waxer/Polisher gets top marks on Amazon for ergonomics and ease of use.
Boar’s Hair Detailing Brushes
Pros like Dennis Donchev, owner of La Jolla Mobile Car Detail, prefer boar’s hair because it’s tough enough to work, yet gentle enough that it won’t scratch. Use boar’s hair brushes for cleaning tires and wheel faces, engine bays, inner doors and weather stripping, and even your dashboard (minus tech screens).
This Chemical Guys Boar’s Hair Brush is densely packed so the bristles remain stiff, standing up to tough grease and grime. This brush earned a 4.7 star rating on Amazon.