The most common definition of detailing, is to bring a car’s condition back to new, or better than new? But what does this actually mean. And should you be detailing a new car to get it to look “better than new”.
In this article, I’ll be talking about all the main reasons why you should absolutely detail your brand new car to make sure it stays looking new for years to come.
Reasons a New Car Needs Detailing
You should detail a new car to decontaminate it, and protect it so it stays looking new for longer. Here are the main reasons why you should detail a brand new car.
- New cars are often dirty
- They often have heavy iron fallout contamination
- Poor wash technique at the dealership may have caused scratches
- To protect the paintwork from contamination and fading
- To keep the trim, wheels and glass clean and protected
- To prevent interior surfaces from fading, dirt and spillages
Detailing Keeps Your Car Looking New
Essentially, you should detail a new car to make sure the finish is flawless and protected, so that it stays looking new for years to come.
When I first brought home my MX-5 from the dealership, it had just 30 miles on the clock, 10 of which were me on my test drive, and another 15 were me on my drive home. So it wouldn’t be uncommon to believe that it didn’t need washing, and certainly wouldn’t need detailing.
But the first thing I did was wash, decontaminate, polish and protect the vehicle, both inside and outside. This, and of course regular maintenance, is what’s kept it looking pretty much brand new almost two years later.
So let me explain the reasons why I believe that one of the most important times to detail a car, is when it’s brand new.
1. New Cars are Never Clean
Okay, so if you’ve got a brand new car, you are probably assuming it’s pretty clean, especially if it’s just been pulled out of the show room. But new cars are never actually clean.
Although someone else hasn’t driven around in the car for several years and thousands of miles, a brand new car has still been subjected to a fair bit of weather.
New cars travel for thousands of miles, often over continents before they arrive on your driveway.
They’ve not been driven much yet, but they will have been test driven and driven home. Plus they’ve probably sat outside on the dealership lot for several weeks or even months before they’ve been shifted. And if the weather hasn’t been great, the car will definitely have water spots, dust and mid all over the paint, glass and trim.
So even if from a few meters away the car looks fairly new, if you start to inspect it, then you’ll notice a fair amount of dirt.
It’s a good idea to get this off the car as quickly as possible, because at this point, the finish won’t have any protection applied.
Quick Note: Never let the dealer wash the car or apply any kind of protection. This process is often rushed and improper tools and techniques are used which cause scratches. The poorly applied “sealant” will also wear away after a few weeks (more on all this later). Always request that the car isn’t detailed or cleaned when it arrives by anyone except you. This is the safest way to prevent any swirls or scratches.
2. Decontamination is Essential
The second reason why you need to detail a new car, is because it’s often very contaminated. So what do I mean by this?
Well, your car’s paintwork and glass, is subjected to various sources of contamination all the time. These include bird dropping, tar, tree sap and iron fallout.
These contaminants can bond to your car very easily, and are not removed by normal wash processes.
As well as causing the paintwork to look dull, these contaminants can actually corrode the clear coat, causing it to weaken and become thinner.
The clear coat is essential to protect your car’s base coat (colour) from fading and becoming damaged. So these contaminants need to be removed as soon as possible.
If you’re fairly familiar with detailing, then you probably know already about these contaminants, and how to remove them. But a lot of car owners make the mistake of thinking that a new car is simply too new to have contamination yet.
However, if you feel the paintwork, you’ll notice that there is often quite bad contamination on the surface that needs to be addressed so that it’s squeaky clean.
This is usually because new cars are transported via railway. This means they’re heavily exposed to iron fallout, one of the most common sources of contamination.
To get the paint and glass smooth again, you should use an iron fallout remover and clay bar to thoroughly decontaminate the vehicle before applying any protection, otherwise it won’t bond properly to the surface.
3. The Paint is Often Swirled
So hopefully you already know a bit about proper wash technique, and why it’s so important to avoid scratches and swirl marks in the paintwork.
Some of the most common mistakes are using brushes, sponges, bath towels and carelessness when washing the paint.
If you want to learn about proper wash technique, then take a look at this article I’ve written about how to wash a car without causing scratches to find out everything you need to know.
But why I am talking about this now? Surely new cars have only been washed once or twice before they arrive on your driveway, and surely car dealerships know the proper way to wash a car safely?
Unfortunately, this is almost always not the case. Even on very high-end vehicles.
Your brand new car will probably have been washed around 2-3 times since it was first made.
Even if you’ve remembered to tell the dealership not to wash your car when it arrives to them, it could have been washed at the place beforehand.
The worst thing is, the way that dealerships wash cars. They are not at all interested in using proper wash mitts, pre-washing the car and using microfiber to dry them, because it takes a long time.
Instead, they will wash the car super quickly by skipping the pre-wash, and using dirty brushes, sponges and harsh towels. The result, is a swirled and scratched clear coat.
Don’t believe me?
Well, this is what my brand new MX-5 looked like when I picked up, despite asking the dealer not to wash it before I arrived.
And really, this photo doesn’t do it justice. The scratches and swirls were very severe. And they were all over the entire car.
But I was getting a pretty good discount, and I knew I could tackle them myself using a machine polisher.
If you want your brand new car to have a flawless finish, like you’d expect from any new vehicle, then it may need to undergo some paint correction.
This is something you can do yourself, if you know what you’re doing, or let a professional detailer tackle.
4. You Need to Protect the Finish
Probably the most important reason to protect a new car, is to protect the finish. All cars should have a layer of paint protection in the form of a ceramic coating, sealant or wax.
This paint protection shields your vehicle from the following:
- Dirt and mud
- UV rays
- Water spots
Most modern clear coats will last around 2 years without washing or protecting. But when the clear coat is gone, your colour coat will quickly fade, corrode, and basically look terrible.
That’s why it’s essential to protect the clear coat from the issues I’ve described above.
The best time to protect the paint, is when the car is brand new. If you neglect it at this stage, then it will start to lose its “newness” very quickly.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that new cars don’t need protecting. Get ahead of the aging process and keeping your car looking brand new for years to come by applying some form of paint protection, whether it’s a wax, sealant or ceramic coating.
Also, don’t fall for the car dealership “paint protection packages”. In the vast majority of cases, the durability is terrible (a few weeks or months, even if they claim years), the application is poor (causing more swirls and scratches), and finally the price is extortionate.
The products dealerships use are mostly of poor quality. Don’t let them use this as a negotiation tactic, when they say they’ll throw it in for free.
These packages are just never worth it, and often more than harm than good when the application process causes clear coat scratches.
Instead, choose a good paint protection product and apply it yourself. It’s far safer, more cost-effective, and better quality.
Take a look at my recommended products page to learn about some of my favourite paint protection products I use on my car.
5. And The Trim, Glass and Wheels
It’s really important to protect the paintwork, because worn, dull and faded paint is often what gives away a car’s age. So if you want it to look brand new for years to come, then protecting the paintwork from day one is essential.
But you also really shouldn’t forget about the trim, glass and wheels. All surfaces on your car need protecting from UV rays, fading and contaminants to keep them looking newer for longer.
One of the biggest giveaways of an older car, is the black plastic and rubber trim. This can become faded very quickly, if you don’t protect it from the start. In fact, my first car, was just 3 years old and already had pretty faded looking trim.
You can avoid this my adding a trim dressing, or specially designed ceramic coating if you’re looking for a longer lasting alternative.
Dull tires and rusty alloys also ruin a freshly detailed look. So you can protect the wheels as well to stop this from happening.
Applying a tire dressing keeps the tires looking black and shiny for years, rather than dull, faded and even brown. The alloys also need protecting with a wheel wax, or better still a ceramic coating. This helps to prevent corrosion, which is particularly common on diamond cut painted alloys.
It’s not unusual to see a car that’s just a year old with corroded alloys because they weren’t protected from the beginning. This can be a pretty expensive fix, so avoid it by applying a sealant.
A lot of car owners forget about the glass when they thing about protecting the exterior. I always apply a glass sealant, and top it up with a water repellent glass cleaner.
This serves two purposes.
- It makes driving safer because water beads off and flies off the windscreen when I’m driving to improve visibility.
- It prevents contaminants from bonding to it.
6. The Interior Also Needs Protecting
Everything we’ve talked about so far has been related to the car’s exterior. But it’s also really important to protect the interior of a new car to keep it looking fresh for years to come.
Personally, I split the interior surfaces into the following:
- Leather seats and trim
- Mats and carpet
- Plastic trim
It’s important to clean and protect all these areas of the interior to keep it looking brand new.
So if you have leather seats, check out my guide on how to seal car leather to protect them from fading, staining and cracking.
You can also use fabric protection for the seats, mats and carpet, as well as dashboard sealants to shield them from UV rays.
Spending just an hour protecting the interior surfaces when you first get your car, can be so effective at keeping it looking brand new for many years, as long as you top up the protection every now and again.
Check out my recommended interior care products page to see all my top picks.
Who Should Detail a New Car?
So now you know why it’s essential to detail a new car, you may be wondering who should actually do it?
Is it necessary to hire a professional detailer, or can you do a good DIY job?
You do not need to hire a professional detailer to detail a brand new car. You can do it yourself if you have the correct products. Only perform paint correction if you’re experienced though, if not, take the car to a professional.
Personally, I always detail my own car. Partly because I don’t actually trust anyone else to clean and maintain my car (I know, bit of a control freak), and partly because it’s more cost effective. I also really enjoy the process, especially on a brand new car.
However, if you simply don’t have time. Then spending a bit of money on a professional detailing package is a good idea. You need to make sure your new car is protected to make sure the finish lasts for as long as possible.
If time isn’t your concern, and you are worried about your experience level instead, then don’t! Detailing isn’t that hard at all, and it can be really enjoyable.
Take a look around the website to learn everything you need to, including how-to guides, top tips and recommended products.
Frequently Asked Questions
Don’t worry if you still have a few more questions. Here are the answers to some of the most FAQs about new car detailing.
How long does it take to detail a new car?
It will normally take a full day to detail a new car, without any paint correction. If swirls and scratches need removing, then it can take 2-3 days even longer for a full detail.
Take a look at this article I’ve written on how long it takes to detail a car, where I break down each step and give a time estimate for each method.
How soon should a new car be detailed?
You should get a new car detailed as soon as possible to ensure it’s decontaminated and protected. If you’re detailing the car yourself, try and do this as soon as you get the vehicle, ideally on the same day. If you’re using a professional detailer, try and do this within one to two weeks of owning the car.
Are professional “new car detailing packages” worth it?
Professional “new car” detailing packages are worth it in most cases, if you cannot detail the car yourself. It’s important to detail a new car to keep it looking new for as long as possible, so investing some money is wise. Check the package includes everything you need, and no unnecessary extras to get the best value possible.
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ve found this article helpful. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the website to learn everything you need to about keeping your car looking brand new.