It is becoming more and more common for car owners to personally detail their rides. Since the advent of rideshare services such as Lyft and Uber, a well-groomed car is no longer just a luxury but an also aspect that can affect the amount of money you make every day as well. Owning one of the best car detailing kits can elevate your ride from grocery getter to moneymaker in no time flat. Or make your pride and joy shine like the star that it is.
Why Use a Car Detailing Kit?
You don’t have to make money off of your vehicle as an incentive to keep it showroom clean. For those who derive self-satisfaction from driving a showroom clean ride, the best way to ensure a spotless interior and exterior is with an auto detailing kit.
Any professional car detailer will tell you that prep work is the key to achieving a finish on par with cars on stage at the Mecum Auction or in the impressive collections of Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld.
Pairing one of the 10 best car polishers with a car detailing kit can elevate your car’s finish to its true potential. Also, it’ll ensure that you have a professional auto detailing kit on par with the pros.
What to Look For in the Best Car Detailing Kits
Before you run out to your nearest auto parts store, you should first know what is included in a professional car detailing kit. The best car detailing kits will include a cleaning product for every part of your vehicle. Look for products that not only ensure a spotless finish but also protect your car from scratches and repel water.
What Comes in a Car Detailing Kit?
Car detailing kits will contain most or all of the following items:
- Water bucket
- Car wash hand mitt
- Applicators and brushes
- Car wash soap formulated not to remove wax
- Wheel cleaner
- Glass cleaner
- Microfiber drying towels
Depending on the brand, some kits will come with extra accessories, such as interior detailing brushes. A popular addition that has become more common among kits is foam cannons, which attach to a garden hose to spray soapy suds and take the elbow grease out of washing.
Finish Care and Protection
A professional car detail will generally employ a three-step process on your car’s finish, which means the best car exterior detailing kits will:
- Clean the exterior surface panels of dirt, dust, and automotive grime
- Correct scratches and remove unsightly swirls and blemishes for the paint and clear coat
- Protect from further scratches and repel water
Tires, Wheels, and Rims
No professional car detailing kit is complete without addressing the car’s tires, wheels, and rims. The best car detailing kits will include a tire cleaner that provides a wet black look — to say nothing of a wheel and rim cleaner that removes grime, grease, and brake dust without the use of acidic solvents.
Headlights, Taillights, and Glass
Automotive glass takes a real beating which can leave a car looking worn and weathered if not addressed. The auto detailing kit you choose should include a product that cleans automotive glass, is safe for metalized and ceramic window tint, repels water, and doesn’t streak.
Interior Detailing Kit
Detailing the exterior of your car while neglecting the interior is like only cooking a meal halfway. Professional car detailing kits include a set of brushes and cleaning products designed for the more delicate, tight, and hard-to-reach areas of a car’s interior while leaving a UV protective layer. They will also include a leather or upholstery cleaner to remove stains from your seats and carpets.
Engine and Chassis
Lastly, an auto detailing kit on par with the professionals will include a product that cleans the engine compartment and the chassis of the vehicle. Both of these areas are prone to accumulating stubborn dirt and road grime.
Every car owner, regardless of their level of enthusiasm and skill, can make good use of a car detailing kit. And every car can benefit from thorough detailing. The best auto detailing kits include a product for every cleaning and protection task. They are also affordable and comprehensive and, when used correctly, leave your car indistinguishable from the same model on display on the showroom floor.
The Best Car Detailing Kits
- Best Overall Choice: Meguiar’s Complete Car Care Kit
- Best Budget Choice: Armor All Premier Car Care Kit
- Best Premium Choice: Griot’s Garage Master Car Care Collection
- Best Waterless Car Wash Kit: Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax ALL
- Best Travel Kit: P21S Auto Care Kit
- Best Hybrid Ceramic Detailing Kit: Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions
Meguiar’s Complete Car Care Kit
Armor All Premier Car Care Kit
Aero Cosmetics Wash Wax ALL
P21S Auto Care Kit
Turtle Wax Hybrid Solutions Ceramic Collection
Adam’s Polishes Essentials Car Detailing Kit
How to Detail Your Car With a Car Detailing Kit
Most professional auto detailers will start with the exterior of the vehicle and move to the interior. Wherever you decide to start is up to you.
However, it is important to remember that auto-detailing works best when you move from large to small. It won’t do you any good to spend time washing the windows only to have to spray the entire car down with water to clean the surface panels.
Start with cleaning the largest components and surface panels first, moving to the smaller surfaces, and finally finishing with the smallest nooks and crannies.
The first step in any car detailing process is giving the car a thorough cleaning with an automotive detergent that will clean and remove the old wax. If you do not have any automotive detergent, a small amount of Dawn dish soap will do. However, most car detailing kits will include car soap or detergent formulated not to harm the paint or clear coat finish.
Begin by scrubbing the tires and wheels, as they are typically the dirtiest parts of the vehicle. Use a separate bucket of detergent for cleaning the wheels and tires. Or dump the dirty water and rinse it if you only have one bucket. Apply your specially designed wheel cleaner according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Spray down the wheel wells to rinse out the build-up of dirt, road grime, and salt if necessary.
Starting from the top, use a microfiber wash mitt to wash all exterior panels, windows, and lights, and then gently spray away the detergent and filth. Repeat until all of the dirt, dust, mud, and grime have been removed from the exterior of your car. Once finished, dry your car with a microfiber towel. Do not let any water evaporate on your car’s finish.
Decontaminate the Paint and Then Polish
Glide your fingers over the paint finish using a light touch. If the finish doesn’t feel smooth as glass, then the paint is due for a clay bar treatment. This step will remove stubborn, entrenched contaminants embedded in the finish. Use a clay bar or synthetic clay bar and generous amounts of lubricant to remove tree sap, road grime, and other impurities. A quick detailing spray or soapy water works well as a lubricant when clay barring.
The next step is to break out your car buffer if you have one. If not, a microfiber or foam applicator pad and some elbow grease can be used to apply the car polish or rubbing compound of your choice to the exterior surface panels.
Apply a small amount of your chosen polishing compound to the car buffer pad or microfiber towel, and then carefully apply the car buffer to the panel. Apply gentle, even pressure while keeping the car buffer pad parallel to the panel that you are polishing.
Be careful not to hover over one spot for too long, or you may burn the finish. Once you reach the desired level of shine, follow up with a coat of your favorite sealant and wax. Use a small, soft brush to remove the excess wax caught in the crevasses and seams between the panels and lenses.
The next step in the process is to utilize the individual cleaners that are designed to clean different sections of your car’s exterior. Use the glass cleaner included in your car detailing kit to clean all of your automotive glass, being sure to leave some for the interior. If your car detailing kit doesn’t include a glass cleaner, check out our recommendations for the best windshield cleaners.
Finally, clean and dress the trim pieces to complete the Concours level of cleanliness. Apply a tire dressing of your desired level of gloss to even out the black sidewall color.
Detailing the interior of your car can be intimidating the first time. There is a lot of leather and upholstery that can easily be stained or ruined by harsh chemical cleaners. But detailing your interior doesn’t have to be scary. Just as with the exterior, when detailing the interior, it’s important to start large and move progressively to smaller components.
The first step is to thoroughly vacuum the seats, carpet, and dashboard. Use a brush to agitate and loosen the particles embedded in the carpet and seat crevasses.
Apply car upholstery cleaner to your seats and carpets to remove stains and stubborn soil. For best results, use a leather-specific upholstery cleaner and conditioner on leather-covered surfaces and seats. Leather-specific products will gently clean the leather and rehydrate the fabric with necessary emollients. They also smell luxurious. First, test the product on a hidden area of your car’s upholstery to ensure it won’t damage it.
The next step to clean your car’s interior is to utilize small detailing brushes to lift the dust and dirt out of the small nooks and crannies of the dashboard, center console, door frames, and anywhere else dirt can accumulate. Wipe down the dashboard and door panels with an interior cleaner that also protects against harmful UV rays. A good one will not leave streaks and will dry without leaving behind any residue.
Use a mild glass cleaner or interior spray that doesn’t leave streaks to wipe down the infotainment screen and windows. If the interior glass is tinted with a window film, use a glass cleaner that is safe to use on window tint.
Remember, the job isn’t done until the interior can be displayed at an auto auction or car show.
Get Started With the Best Car Detailing Kit
The important thing to remember when you detail your car is to detail it regularly. Detailing your car on a regular basis ensures that you always have a clean finish that is protected from the elements. Detailing your car can also extend the life of your car’s finish and increase the overall value of the vehicle. No matter how often you choose to detail your ride, selecting one of these 10 best car detailing kits is the perfect place to start.
While some people are worried that excessive scrubbing and cleaning will shorten the life of their car’s paint or upholstery, the truth is that proper detailing greatly extends the life of a car. With that being said, always make sure that you read the product instructions for proper application and use.
Dirt and grit in the interior fabrics gradually break down the fabrics and cause them to eventually wear out entirely. Similarly, exterior finishes like chrome and paint can wear away faster when exposed to the elements. Top detailing kits include products that add an extra protective layer to the exterior.
If you take your car to a professional, a basic car detailing, which usually includes a wash, wax, vacuum, interior polish, and tire cleaning, will cost in the range of $50-125 for a car and $75-150 for an SUV, van, or truck. Additional or upgraded services will cost more.
Specialty automotive detailing shops will spend hours to days working on a single vehicle, depending on the level of service requested by the customer. Of course, the cost will coincide directly with the number of work hours.
If you choose to detail your car yourself, after the upfront cost of investing in a car detailing kit, you will find that with a little time and elbow grease, this is by far the more cost-effective way to keep your car clean.
Generally, it is recommended to detail your car every 4 to 6 months or two to three times per year. How frequently you need to detail your car depends on how you maintain it between detailings, how often you drive the vehicle, and your tolerance for dirt and imperfections.
If you regularly wash, wax, and clean your car, this upkeep will help keep your car in top shape, prolonging the time between detailing.
After detailing your car, you obviously want to keep it in prime condition for as long as possible. For the exterior, we recommend washing your car regularly and reapplying a quick detailer as needed to any spots that need a touch-up.
Similarly, vacuuming your interior regularly and cleaning up any spills or stains as soon as possible will help keep your leather and upholstery in top shape.
The best cleaner for your car’s interior will be the one best suited to the material you are cleaning. Be sure to select an appropriate cleaner for whatever interior surface you want to clean, whether that is carpet, upholstery, leather, vinyl, or plastic.
While some brands offer multipurpose cleaners, always read the product description and instructions before using it. Make sure to spot-test the product on a small area first.