Common Newbie Detailing Mistakes

The purpose of this thread is to inform those of you beginning and novice detailers of common mistakes and guffaws made while detailing vehicles. My intentis to avoid "the school of hard knocks" and learn from my and others misfortunes in detailng. This is not a complete list by any means, but as the title states, these are some of the most common miscues made by newbies. These tips and suggestions also separate the "hacks" from those who truly care and know how to properly detail a vehicle.

You can tell when this has not been done and replacing such scuffed trim is not cheap. Many experienced detailers using a buffer may forgo this, saying they can control their machine during the buffing process. Just play it safe and tape it off and do not worry about how the tape job looks.


You`ll remove the tape anyway. Just remember to use painter`s tape (3M Blue) and not cheap masking tape, or God forbid, duct tape.

Let`s be clear; almost ALL original equipment of manufacturer (OEM) wheels on vehicles today are clear-coated, even those that look like chrome or polished aluminum. You`ll scratch the clear-coat if you use a chrome metal cleaner of them. Play it safe and use a clear-coat safe one-step wax or sealant on these rims, or you can polish and wax/seal/coat them just like you would a paint.

This one has been debated ad nausem about the harmful effects on aluminum parts so prevalent these days on modern vehicles. It will, indeed, etch and cause that white bloom to cast and machined aluminum if it is not rinsed completely. The best way to avoid this is simple do not use OTC Simple Green. In all fairness, Simple Green does make an aluminum-safe degreaser, but it is about 2-1/2 times the cost of OTC Simple Green. I use Optimum Polymer Technology`s Power Clean for degreasing engines and the outside of vehicles. Not cheap, but very effective.

This statement is for week-end warriors and hobbyist who have limited financial means or a budget to getting started in detail. My suggestion is to buy good vehicle wash equipment and car-care chemicals with the first $300 or so. Sounds like a lot of money, but washing is the most common and frequent vehicle detailing process and many detailing "problems" happen in the washing process. There are car-washing kits available from the Autopia Store and don`t forget about the wheels and rims, along with the window-cleaning. Once you`ve assembled that collection, you can budget accordingly for the next phase of your detailing hobby.

I am more inclined to do the latter, JUST to protect the vinyl trim from polishing and deal with the mess of clean-up on the paint when applying the vinyl protectant/sealant. The flipside is that wax/sealant does not "stain" or stick so easily to trim that has been treated FIRST. Someone will insert the comment, "Why not just be careful in the application process of either vinyl treatment or wax/sealant and avoid the messy after-clean-up." That may be very true for someone with a steady hand, but wherever the two exterior vehicle material surfaces meet, I want to make sure each is covered COMPLETELY with wax or vinyl treatment, so there is that overlap and mess that occurs for me and the ensuing clean-up. Pick you poison. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Oh, yes, I cannot forget that when you tape vinyl trim FIRST, there is the distinct possibility that the tape adhesive will stick to the vinyl if the trim is old and neglected or if the ambient work environment temperature is quite "warm". That can be a real pain to remove and can cause more damage to the trim when you use a solvent in an attempt to remove all the adhesive.