Beginners Guide to Black Car Detailing.

Beginners guide to black car detailing

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Black is probably the most stunning color a car can have.  No other color can look soooo good. That perfect shine is just so rewarding on a sunny day.  But black cars take a little more work to get those rewards.

Black scratches easily. It gets dirty easily. Water spots when it rains.  Dust when it’s sunny. Is there anything we can do to make our lives just a little bit easier?  Some good news …. modern shampoo, wax, polish, and sealant are much better than there were just a few years ago.  And the latest techniques to wash your car will help massively too.

With the right care, water and mud and road grime will slide more easily from your paint.  And I’ll give you tips on how to wash your car so that you don’t create those dreaded swirl marks (they look like cobwebs on your paint).  With your car washed and protected, you only need to spend a few minutes cleaning your car when its gets dirty.

Swirl marks are the enemy.

Swirl marks

The paint on a black car begins to fade when swirl marks start to appear.  These are NOT caused so much by bad weather. They are almost entirely caused by how the car is washed and dried.  Tiny scratches appear on the paints clear coat and these scratches defuse the light and dull the shine.  These scratches really are microscopic.

So in most cases it’s possible to do something about them. You can temporarily cover them with a wax or you can try to remove them with compound and polish.  Once gone you want to prevent them from coming back and keep your car looking new and shiny for years.

Tips for avoiding swirl marks.

  • Never wash your car with a sponge or a brush.
  • Never dry your car with a bathroom towel.
  • Never dry your car with a car squeegee.
  • Never wax your car if the paint feels rough.
  • Never use dish-washing soap or detergent.
  • Never wash your car in direct sunlight.
  • Use a pressure washer first if you can (like this excellent cheap one).
  • Use the two bucket method or another recommended method.
  • Use a wash mitt either microfiber or lambswool.
  • Use a good quality car wash shampoo.
  • Use a separate bucket and mitt to wash your wheels.
  • Wash your wheels first.
  • Use a detailer spray or spray wax when drying.
  • Use a big towel to dry your car without scratching it.
  • Use sealant once or twice a year.

How to prevent black car paint from fading.

Learn to wash and dry your car in a way that minimizes scratches and swirl marks.  Read my post on washing a black car.  Once the surface is clean you can apply products that protect the paint and improve the shine.  Protected paint is easier to clean because dirt doesn’t stick so well to it.

The sun can also cause paint to fade so it probably goes without saying that you should park it in the shade during hot weather or use a car cover.  Many waxes and sealants now offer UV protection to your paint.

The improper use of products such as clay bars, compounds and polishes can also cause paint to fade.  I have plenty of posts in my blog about how to use these things correctly.  They shouldn’t need to be used very often if you take care of your car properly.

READ MORE: What does Waxing a Car do?

My paint feels rough to the touch.

If you rub your fingers over your clean paint after your wash it does it feel smooth?  Your paint should feel as smooth as silk.  If it feels rough after washing there are some products available that can help remove it.  

The road grime on your car can be tar or tree sap or iron from brake dust.  Professionals call this “contamination”.  Contamination needs to be removed before you polish or wax your car because the movement of the applicator pad will cause the contamination to become loose and scratch your paint.

But you don’t need to be a pro detailer to remove this contamination.  Don’t be tempted to try to get this roughness off with a powerful pressure washer or with dish soap and a scrubbing brush because you will badly scratch your paint.  You just need a clay bar and some lubricant.  A clay mitt or a clay towel can also be used.  Read my blog post on how to use a clay bar.  Not learning to use a clay bar properly can badly scratch your paint.

My black paint is faded.

Has your paint lost its shine?  For faded paint, you can either hide the problem temporarily or you can try to remove the problem.  Fading is usually caused by swirl marks mentioned above but it can also be oxidization which I talk about below.  To hide it you can use sealant, wax or glaze either separately or a hybrid product.

Some of these products only last a few months while others last up to a year.  Prepare the surface properly before you apply any of these products. Read my blog post about how to seal and wax your car or my post on the best waxes and sealants on the market today.

To remove the problem you need to use compound and polish to smoothen down the paint.  Compound is more abrasive than polish. These are abrasive products that actually cut away a tiny layer of paint or clear coat.  The clear coat is a clear coat of paint that is sprayed on top of your colored paint to protect it.

Compounding and polishing might need the use of a dual-action polishing machine for best results but you can also apply them by hand.  Failure to use these products properly can make things worse so try out the product you buy in a small area first. Read my blog post on compounding and polishing a black car.  

I have some scratches

Scratches really show up on a black car.  And they can drive you totally nuts. There are some really great products available now that can hide them and even remove them.  But if your scratches are really deep you might need to go to a professional detailer. 

If you want to try some of the off the shelf products you must learn to use them properly.  These products contain very abrasive cutting compound and can damage paint of not used correctly.  The surface needs to be properly prepared and when you are done the product needs to be properly removed.  Read my blog post on compounding and polishing a black car.  

My paint has oxidization.

Does you paint look foggy?  Then it could be oxidization.  This can be removed with polish.  The abrasive substance in car paint polish is usually enough to take away the tiny layer of oxidized paint.  Some polishes contain chemicals that will help to remove the oxidization.

When you buy a product test it out first to make sure it’s working.  If your oxidization is really bad you may need to use compound before using the polish although some compounds now don’t need to have polish applied after.   You might need to clay your car first.

Are polish and wax the same thing?

It’s easy to get these two things confused because manufacturers make it confusing.  There is no hard rule but the general idea is that polish is used for correcting paint problems while wax is used the protect and shine.  Polish is abrasive and wax is temporary.  Read my blog posts on polishing and waxing for a lot more information including product recommendations and how to guides.

What is a coating?

A coating also known as a nano-coating or a ceramic coating is the latest way to protect your car.  They provide super hard protection to clean paint which will greatly reduce scratches.  You can apply sealant and wax on top of the coating.

Coatings don’t usually have as much shine as a sealant or wax but they can last over a year.

What does sealant do?

Over the last few years, sealants have taken off.  It’s also much easier to apply than it used to be.  Some sealants are sprayed on wipe in and rise off. And they can last up to a year.  Sealant is a man-made synthetic product while wax is usually a natural product such as carnauba wax.  It’s not uncommon for car enthusiasts to just use sealant and many have stopped using wax entirely.

Wax can bring out a deeper shine than just sealant on its own.  I would sometimes apply wax on top of sealant to give more shine and protection.  Waxes come it three types. Spray wax is the easiest to apply and can be applied when you are drying your car after a wash.  Liquid wax lasts longer and takes a little longer to apply.  Paste wax is the hardest to apply but gives the longest-lasting protection and shine.  Please read my various product recommendations on waxes and sealants.

Wheel and tire cleaning.

Wheels that haven’t been cleaned regularly may be badly stained.  Tires can turn brown and look faded. Brake dust and road grime need to be removed regularly from wheels to keep them clean.  Brake dust will more easily come off if you wash it every week.  But it becomes fused to the wheel is if left on for a longer term.

Wheels can be tricky to clean properly due to their shapes.  Buy yourself some wheel cleaning brushes that can reach into the small areas.  Also, use a wheel cleaning mitt that you will only ever use on your wheels. You might need to use a wheel and try cleaning spray.  Read my post on washing your car where I recommend some products.

How to keep a black car clean.

Your car is cleaned and protected so how do you keep it that way? If you just want to remove dust you might get away with a waterless car wash .  Or you could hose it down first to rinse off the water and then dry it with a drying aid spray or a detailing spray and apply a spray wax after to give it a good shine.  

These products are quick and easy to apply and can quickly restore your shine and add weekly protection. Apply these with clean microfiber towels and use a clean side for each wipe.  You should put almost no pressure on the mitt.

Dirtier cars will need a proper wash with car wash shampoo.  If you have access to a pressure washer you might get away with just using the foam cannon and power wash.  But if there is still some dirt left you will need to get the buckets and mitts out.

Should I respray my car?

If you think your car paint is beyond repair or you just want to change its color then a respray might be needed.  This is usually a last resort and can be an expensive option to have done professionally.  I found this really good set of videos on how to do this yourself if you would like to give it a try.  Click here to see them.  The videos are extremely clear and detailed and are easy to follow.

What products do I need to buy?

  • Microfiber towels for drying your car.
  • Gloves.
  • Wash mitts for washing your car.
  • Grit guards for your water buckets.
  • A high-quality car wash shampoo.
  • A spray detailer or spray wax.
  • A wheel cleaning spray.
  • A tire cleaner.
  • A set of wheel cleaning brushes.

What products are nice to have?

  • A pressure washer with foam cannon.
  • A glass cleaner formulated for cars.
  • A dual-action polisher with pads.
  • A wax stripper for use before applying new wax or sealant.
  • A clay bar kit for removing contaminants.
  • A lot of good car wash mitts for washing each section of the car.
  • Lots of microfiber towels for drying each section of the car.
  • A leaf blower for drying the car.
  • Compound and sealant for paint correction.
  • Waffle weave towel for glass.
  • A high-quality sealant.
  • A high-quality carnauba wax.
  • A small step ladder for reaching the roof or sitting on it.
  • A bucket dolly for easily moving the buckets.


Hi, I'm Mike and I've owned and detailed black cars for over 30 years. In this blog, I want to share with you some of the things I've learned. Almost every car I've ever owned has been black. I just think it's the best color but it needs lots of work. I have seen too many people make the same mistakes over and over with their cars. Even if you only learn the right car washing and drying techniques from me, this blog has done its job. Mike [email protected]

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