The fastest way to make a car look new again is to give it a new paint job. Nothing says “right off the lot” quite like that gleaming, perfect polish that always seems to disappear within five hours of hitting the road.
Unfortunately, a brand new coat of paint is likely to cost you anywhere from $500 to $5,000, depending on your vehicle and how much work you need done. The good news is that instead of starting from scratch, you can save thousands of dollars and still enjoy that off-the-lot finish with some careful detailing and regular washes.
- Regular Washing: The best thing you can do to preserve the state of your paint job is get your car washed regularly. This will not only keep things looking good, but will also prevent any damaging chemicals or materials from sitting on the paint too long and eating away at the surface. Remember, though, that not any old wash will do. You need to:
- Wash the car under cover and out of the hot sun
- Use soap specially designed for cars (household detergents may actually end up being worse for the paint finish)
- Dry the car afterwards using microfiber
- Detail the Details: A regular detailing will look beyond the surface to make sure all those nooks and crannies are attended to. If you don’t want to detail your own car, you should find a car wash that also provides detailing services so that you can complete everything at once. If you do take a DIY approach, we recommend you invest in a quality clay bar. Clay is one of the fastest ways to get rid of dirt and oxidation to keep your paint job looking great.
- Take Care of Scratches/Dents/Dings: If your car has been in an accident or scuffed up in a parking lot, no amount of cleaning and washing will restore your finish. That’s because most scratches go beyond the surface of the car and go all the way down to the paint job. There are ways to fix these yourself, especially if you have a handheld car polisher and can restore the paint that way. If you don’t have access to these tools (or skills), you may need to turn to an auto-body professional.
(Note: One rule of car care is that it’s always best to use the least invasive type of repair whenever you can. Instead of jumping right to sanding down the surface or reapplying paint, try the clay bar first. This also means you should use cleaners and expensive compounds only as they are needed, and only in the areas they’re meant to be applied.)
- Wax vs. Polish: Car wax is the application most often used at a car wash, but it’s important to remember that a wax is meant to provide a temporary shine. Your car will look great after a wax, but it must be applied regularly in order to showcase results. A polish is more protective and will do more for the car’s paint in the long-term. Experts suggest that for the best results, a polish and then a wax is best.
Regular Washing: Did we mention the regular washing? It sounds repetitive, we know, but the number one best way to keep a car’s paint job looking new is preventative care. Regular visits to the car wash and detailing that attends to all those small issues will do more to protect your car than any amount of painting and/or polishing.