Tag Archives: car detailing

Keep car paint clean
Car Ownership Explained

How to keep your car paint looking clean and pristine

You ever walk by a car on the street and go, “Damn, what the hell happened to you?”

It’s me. I’m that car on the street. Or at least I was with my last few cars. Tattered. Swirled. Somehow clinging to its primer in the Vegas heat by way of a miracle.

But that doesn’t have to be you. You can be better. As a reader of this site, whether by choice or because I hacked your computer or phone and am forcing you to, you must be better. And you can! All it takes to keep car paint looking fly like a G6 is a little bit of know-how, good habits, and a bit of elbow grease if it’s in need of some restoration. So let me help you with these pointers on proper care and feeding for your car’s skin.

Buffing and waxing car paint
Image credit: Turtle Wax

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Good habits to prolong car paint

Stay indoors

This probably goes without saying, but like human skin, sparing car paint from the elements is an obvious and mostly bulletproof way to ensure it doesn’t bubble and flake off in the scorching sun or get dinged up by falling debris. Think of the headaches that can result from exposing your car to being sandblasted in a windstorm, caked in bird crap, pelted with pine cones or hail, or being pancaked by a grand piano dropped by an ill-experienced duo of rubber hose cartoon characters. Very real situation, that last one. Extra points if your home or apartment’s garage is climate and humidity-controlled, but I get that’s not a common option.

If you can’t park indoors, consider a car cover to shield your paint from extreme heat. However, this is far less safe than a garage, as the cover can trap in dirt and moisture, and the rubbing of the cover against our car, even if the wind so much as coughs on it or if you accidentally graze it, can scratch the surface like fine-grit sandpaper. If anything, don’t top your car with one without a proper wash and wax. Make sure the vehicle and the cover are clean, and make sure the car cover is properly fitted to your vehicle so it doesn’t rub on it by itself or press on any flexible parts.

Just don’t touch it… with anything

Here’s another “No shit, Sherlock” habit that people still overlook. If you’re that neurotic about your car’s paint, then minimize contact with foreign materials, liquids, and other thingamajigs as much as possible. No dirty towels. No clothes. Not even those “meat grinder” car washes with the revolving brushes, as those can miss spots, leave hard water stains, and potentially damage paint and bodywork if the universe really hates you. You just don’t know how abrasive these materials are or what foreign debris they may be carrying.

Even some liquids can be detrimental. Gasoline spilled at the pump? If left to sit for too long without rinsing off, that’s a stain right there. Bird dookie is also known to be fairly acidic, which can chew away at your paint over time if left to sit. And perhaps the most annoying of all to clean up is sprinkler water, where sediment in the water can harden and cling to the car, becoming frustratingly difficult to wash off once it sets.

Will an occasional brush-up or an accidental splash of mystery juice kill your car’s paint? Not always. Or at least it shouldn’t spell instant death, especially if we’re talking about a newer car or a car with paint that’s been properly cared for over the years. But incident after incident, you can still wear it down, scuff up your clear coat, or accidentally leave micro scratches. I’ve even heard of incidents from friends and colleagues of simply their paints brushing against the car and leaving micro scratches. Isn’t that something?

Dodge Hornet R/T
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Goodies to protect and maintain car paint

Clay bars and speed clays

Wash. Your. Car. Wash your car, and use a good speed clay or clay bar to catch contaminants in the paint before a layer of wax or ceramic coating. But be very careful to make sure you always have a clean clay bar and that your surface is well-lubricated with water or car wash soap. Claying a dry surface can marr the paint, and using a dirty clay bar can simply swirl around the contaminants they’ve caught, potentially leaving behind micro scratches and damaging your paint rather than repairing.

Iron remover

In addition to clay bars, an iron remover can be handy early in the washing process, especially for downright filthy cars. If your car is a real dust pile, consider using iron remover while washing it to dissolve and loosen contaminants in its clear coat before following up with clay bars and speed clays. Typically, iron removers feature a mix of alkaline and acidic ingredients to tackle an array of contaminants while maintaining a neutral pH balance to not harm your car’s paint.

Paint protection film

A staple for auto salons and car dealers alike, paint protection film (PPF) is a common go-to for paint protection. I mean, it’s in the name, after all. As suggested, it’s merely a stick-on clear film you can apply to any body panel, although just applying it to the front bumper, hood, and fenders is a common application. The film is soft and malleable, allowing it to absorb impacts from debris and leaving a sufficient enough barrier to prevent most small dents and rock chips. Note that cheap PPFs may not be the safest route, especially for old cars or cars with degrading paint, as the adhesives can pull off chunks of paint when it comes time to replace the film. Some films can even degrade when exposed to extreme heat or direct sunlight.

Ceramic coating

Ceramic coating is an increasingly popular method among car detailers for protecting paint. It’s a liquid that’s applied in a thin layer after detailing, either to your car’s paint or even atop PPF for a double layer of protection. The coating cures and hardens, creating a shiny and clear layer that not only acts as a protective shield but also repels dirt and water. The coating fills in any minute crevices or ridges within your paint as it cures, leaving a smooth topping that’s difficult for contaminants to stick. Although hard and bonded to the car upon curing, ceramic coatings can wear out over time, so it’s common for users to reapply their coatings every year, two years, or a handful of years, depending on the car’s living conditions.


Although not as resilient and long-lasting as ceramic coating, it’s cheaper, easier, and still gets the job done. Good ol’ car wax, baby. Get yourself a nice bottle of that sprayable stuff, or be old school with a tub of carnuba. It’s affordable, proven, and comes in a variety of formulas and application methods, but it doesn’t harden or bond to your car in the same way ceramic coatings will, so they will wear out sooner and require more frequent reapplications.

Ceramic coating + wax?

If you love redundancy and extra armoring, you can try applying waxes to your ceramic-coated car to revive that shine and add an additional layer of protection. Some folks argue that stacking the two products has the benefit of the wax acting as a protectant for the protectant. But this carries its own drawbacks that make it less of a worthwhile endeavor.

Detailers argue that the slick surface left behind by ceramic coating is too slippery for wax to even adhere, while others also point out that even a great wax can still attract contaminants to your paint, totally negating one of the key benefits of a ceramic coating. Instead, detail companies formulate ceramic coating-specific products intended to stack on top of the coating and rejuvenate it without hindering its abilities.

Either way, whichever route you choose, if you only had to pick one, you’d end up with sealed and protected car paint.

Ways to save damaged car paint

Throw the whole car away.

I’m kidding. You have options.

Touch-up paint

This one is probably the bane of my existence because I suck so hard at blending it, but touch-up paint can be a great band-aid for those in need of a quick fix or even an actual fix should you take the time to blend the paint properly. Order online or snag one at your local dealership. Pick your poison, but it’s just a nice bit of emergency car care to keep around.

It’s important to address paint chips as soon as possible. Deep ones that penetrate straight to the metalwork open a window for oxidation and rust, which can spread beyond the chipped area. Yes, rust can spread beneath the paint and open up a whole heap of problems later down the line if left untreated.

Polish and paint correction

Swirl marks masquerading as a Weather Channel hurricane tracker and paint as faded as the D.O. Double-G doesn’t have to be the end. A proper paint correction job with the correct polishing tools and compounds can bring your car back to life! Drawbacks? Well, it’s a delicate, labor-intensive job that takes some elbow grease and a bit of know-how to do it right without burning a hole through your paint (or what’s left of it) with a polishing tool.

What you may need depends on your desired outcome and the state of the car. Sometimes, dispelling orange peel or swirls is as easy as buffing with a rubbing compound, making it shine with some polish, and sealing in your shiny restored paint with wax. Or if you’re trying to undo paint that’s literally falling off the car, you may need to take it a step further and actually respray sections of your car’s body before moving in for a paint correction, as good ol’ Chris Fix will demonstrate below.

Study up on the proper techniques and tools for your specific application if you want to take the DIY route. Or, if you’re an anxious pansy like me, consider calling a professional detailer whose job it is to do the job of doing this job.

“What I learned in boating school is…”

Learn anything new? Or did we just touch up on key habits we may have forgotten or not taken that seriously? We hope you walk away with something from our first entry to Car Ownership Explained, and we’ll be sure to have more coming your way. Perhaps we’ll even toss in more detailed how-tos on the individual car care processes for saving or repairing car paint, but for now, here are the takeaways to keeping your paint pristine:

  • Park indoors or at least in shaded areas if possible.
  • Exercise caution with car covers.
  • Be careful not to let foreign materials touch your paint, from abrasive clothes, dirty towels, harsh chemicals, and car wash brushes.
  • Various cleaning products, such as iron remover, clay bars, and speed clays, help dissolve and remove contaminants from paint when washing your car.
  • Paint protection film forms a soft, removable barrier to protect from scratches and chips from road debris.
  • Ceramic coating is a liquid sealant that cures and hardens to form an excellent protective barrier on your paint, repelling dirt and moisture.
  • Wax is a low-effort and low-cost alternative to ceramic coating that still does an excellent job of preserving your clear coat and leaving behind a radiant shine. Just don’t use it in conjunction with coatings.
  • Keep touch-up paint handy as a sort of band-aid for rock chips and fine scratches.
  • If your paint is in need of saving, a good polish and paint correction job will often do the trick.
Maserati GranTurismo Trofeo
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Collab Gift Guide feature photo
Buying GuidesFeatures

Here’s our gift guide for all your automotive holiday shopping

The season is well upon us, and the days are rapidly approaching when we must be ready to express our love and appreciation for those dear to us through reckless spending and consumerism! For some, depending on what you celebrate, those days may already be here. But thankfully, it isn’t too late to snag some last-minute gearhead cheer! Merry winter and happy holidays from the Acceleramota crew as we bring to you this collaborative gift guide for all things car-related, from services and subscriptions to toys, apparel, and more.

Thinking of snagging a gift for yourself? Or how about your gearhead friends? Or perhaps your spouse or partner could use something as simple as some car care products to stay busy on the weekends. We got you covered here. But remember, this is a mere sampling of what we’ve offered recently, so don’t forget to check out more cool products from our prior guides linked below! 

Also see: 

Nathan: Detailing & car care

Chemical Guys Black & Dark Car Care Kit

Chemical Guys Black & Dark car care
Image credit: Amazon

Black cars are brilliant on the showroom floor. That matte black Cybertruck looks great until a few trips to the car wash, after which you’re left with a swirly mess. This black car care kit is designed to restore that glossy paint finish. Use the high gloss car wash soap to pull abrasive dirt from the paint surface and more abrasive soap to clean the undercarriage and wheels.

What makes this kit unique is the black light and butter-wet wax. These creams give your black that extra shine, ensuring that it looks just as smooth as the day you bought it.

Leather Honey leather conditioner

Leather Honey conditioner
Image credit: Amazon

Ever wanted to buy a used car with leather seats? The seat bolsters are always cracked! The most underrated car care item is a leather conditioner. This formula from the leather experts, Leather Honey, will ensure that your oversized pickup truck’s leather seats are smooth for years to come.

We could go on about how it’s made in America, restores all types of leather or that the company has been around since 1968, but that’s rather boring. The real kicker is that if you’re not 100%, you can just return the bottle for a full refund!

Griot’s Garage Master Car Care Kit

Griot's Garage car care kit
Image credit: Amazon

If you want an all-you-can-clean kit, Griot’s Garage has you covered. From applicators, pads, and brushes to leather spray, wheel cleaner, and wax, you can get down to business with this kit. We picked this one based on the sheer number of products you get for $299.

The “Pure Freakin’ Magic” or PFM® microfiber is one of the reasons you never go cheap when buying car care products. These looped-weave microfiber cloths are truly the best out there.

Chemical Guys HOL148VB 16-piece Arsenal Builder Car Wash Kit

Chemical Guys car care kit
Image credit: Amazon

This kit has every other kit beat on pure value. For $129 (probably less with ongoing deals), you get everything you need to keep your car in tip-top shape. This kit contains your usual car cleaning products and comes with a convenient dirt trap and bucket to prevent cross-contamination. You also get a foam blaster, which can help prevent those nasty swirls and scratches when applying car wash soap.

Still, there is always somebody doing a better job with more expensive products. But this kit will get you the clean and shine you need. With that, you also get helpful instruction videos. So it’s a no-brainer to go with this kit if you’re on a budget.

Jeric: Enthusiast apparel

Heel & Toe Apparel

Heel & Toe shirt
Image credit: Heel & Toe Apparel

Huzzah! For my first pick, I present a brand near and dear to my closet, one whose shirts have stood the test of time in my possession for years. Heel & Toe Apparel joins the collective of car enthusiast-centric apparel, creating subtle yet tasteful designs for any and all niches. While primarily Euro-centric, they have neutral designs that’d work with just about any ride, with nearly all designs themed after manual gearboxes. Surprise, surprise, given the name.

I’ve personally had one of their apex t-shirts in my collection, where the material has never shrunk, faded, or torn over the years. The black remains a deep black while the white remains vivid, and I promise you it’s not because I take good care of my laundry. Complaints? Just a little pricey, with simple t-shirts currently ringing in at $32, but I can’t fault the universal appeal of their prints and the quality of their materials. And if you want more, they also have hoodies, hats, and stocks. Real stocking stuffers. 

Simply Carbon Fiber accessories

Simply Carbon Apollo watch
Image credit: Simply Carbon Fiber

A peculiar pick from our recent car enthusiast-centric merch guide, Simply Carbon Fiber is a niche, relatively inexpensive lifestyle brand pitching carbon fiber jewelry and accessories in a variety of shapes and sizes. From sunglasses to money clips, wallets, and even watches, they got it! And I get it. Swathes of carbon can be tacky to some. But there are a few understated designs that should better appeal to those who simply like a more modern look, such as their Astro Series watches with the chopped carbon dial or the Alpha Series with the carbon weave dial and leather strap.

Customer reviews across the internet seem to be quite pleased with the company, citing genuinely good quality and some noting themselves as returning customers. However, a few hiccups regarding the fitment of some of their phone cases have been made known, but they’re few and far between. 

Piloti driving shoes

Piloti driving shoes
Image credit: Amazon

Long touted online as a premium driving shoe that can do more than just live in the footwell of your car, Piloti driving shoes exude loads of style and pizzazz. No longer do you have to feel like a tool rocking those oddly shaped and peculiar driving shoes that look like you stole them from an IMSA paddock (unless that’s your style, then be my guest). Piloti shoes come in a wide array of styles, including slip-on loafers, high-top sneakers, and skate shoe-esque sneakers. No matter your choice, each shoe is styled to match a certain lifestyle or aesthetic to ensure you look like the distinguished driving enthusiast you are on or off the track. 

Expectedly for a company that’s been playing this game since 1999, reviews are almost universally positive. Consumers laud the appreciable blend of comfort and usability while still allowing for that enhanced pedal feel that driving shoes should be capable of. Minimal fatigue, plenty of cushion, but still good pedal feedback when behind the wheel. Friend and colleague, Peter Nelson, even commended the Piloti Shift for its construction beneath its otherwise understated appearance.

Sheilah: Toys

Lewis Hamilton F1 Remote Control Car

Hamilton Mercedes F1 RC car
Image credit: Amazon

This wouldn’t be a Sheilah entry if I didn’t include Lewis Hamilton. This remote-controlled version of his #44 Mercedes-AMG F1 car is an excellent pick for any lover of Hammertime. I love that the controller mimics that of an actual F1 car, albeit much less complicated. The sponsor stickers come separately for you to place them wherever you like. If you’re particularly crafty, you could make your own too. Just remember to add AA batteries (seven, to be exact) to your order, you’ll need seven total for both the car and controller. This is a solid big boy also, at 19 inches long and weighing almost three pounds.

Aoshima Initial D Series Takahashi Ryosuke – Model Building Kit

Initial D Ryosuke RX-7 model car kit
Image credit: Amazon

I’m deep in a rewatch of Initial D at the moment, so this felt right. If you’ve ever wanted to build a model car but are intimidated, Aoshima’s sets are for you. They couldn’t be easier, as seen in this unboxing video. They take all the stress and time-consuming nature of model building away. These kits are strangely relaxing, and I’ve got a few of them. Aoshima has a ton of models to pick from, so if you find you love one you can create a whole series to show off. The instructions are in Japanese, but much like Ikea, they are idiot-proof with pictures. I’ve never run into an issue getting a car put together, so I don’t think you will either. I recommend getting a basic tool set like this one linked here to help assemble such tiny parts.

Gabe: Services & gift cards:

Virgin Experience Gifts

Virgin Experiences x Exotics Racing
Image credit: Virgin Experiences, Exotics Racing

Let’s face it, most people will never have the chance to own and drive an exotic supercar, let alone on a track. Fortunately, Virgin (the phone carrier slash airline, not the average Redditor) also has a website for booking supercar driving experiences on real circuits, many of which include in-depth performance driving lessons from professional instructors. It’s among the handful of car-related adventures Virgin will help travelers experience, among race car ride-alongs at oval tracks across the country, if that’s your thing.

If you know someone who’s been dreaming of driving a Ferrari 488, a Lamborghini Huracan, or a Porsche 911, you can’t go wrong with an unforgettable driving experience from Virgin Experience Gifts. Believe me, my dad and I did something like this at Lime Rock Park in a brand new McLaren GT, and it was one of the highlights of my 2023. 

FINN car subscription services

FINN car subscription service
Image credit: FINN

Sure, maybe it’s a stretch to recommend buying someone a car for Christmas. But what if you subscribed to one? That’s the idea behind FINN, a German car subscription service offering a new kind of business model for acquiring and maintaining a car. While even the best lease deals and financing offers come with hidden costs and long-term maintenance expenses, subscription services like FINN are all-inclusive. 

Along with the car itself, routine maintenance and insurance are covered by the monthly cost, so you don’t have to deal with the headache of all the administrative work that typically comes with buying or leasing a car. Besides, for most people, the days of gifting someone a car for Christmas are numbered. In 2023, the average price of a new car exceeded $48K, according to Kelley Blue Book. That’s absurd, considering most cars depreciate by a whopping 20% in their first year. At least with a FINN subscription, you can upgrade your car once or twice a year just like you would an iPhone – no down payment required.

Apart from the initial sticker shock, one major downside to FINN is the limited selection of vehicles. Every time I check the site, fewer and fewer cars are available. Not only that, but it seems the makes and models are in constant rotation. The first time I perused its inventory, I recall FINN had a handful of BMW SUVs and a Tesla Model 3 – now it doesn’t offer any fully electric vehicles, and all but two models are unavailable at the time of this writing. Still, if you can get your hands on something your loved one will enjoy, you can always spend a fraction of the price of a new car on a 6-month subscription.

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