A big part of car ownership is caring for your vehicle’s physical appearance. With the proper washing and detailing, you can keep your car looking new for many years. But what products do you need to build out the ultimate car care kit?
Below, we highlight the major car care products and other detailing products you'll need to keep your car in tip-top shape.
No car care kit is complete without a large car wash bucket—preferably a 19-litre one with a lid. This is where you'll mix your water and car wash liquid for washing the car, but it also doubles as storage for the other car detailing supplies.
You'll also want to buy a bucket-sized dirt trap: a small platform that sits inside the bucket and creates about a 2.5-cm gap from the bottom of the bucket. The gap allows dirt to settle at the bottom of the bucket, away from the sponge or car wash mitt you clean with. That way, you don't accidentally scratch your vehicle with the dirt.
Please, we beg you! Do not use dish soap on your vehicle. It will cause serious damage to your car's finish in the long run. Instead, pick up a car wash soap from the local store. These soaps come in many variations. Some include wax, while others claim superior cleaning effectiveness. Instead of focusing on their marketing gimmicks, simply choose the car wash soap that fits your needs and budget.
The goal here is simply to find a product that'll remove the heavy dirt and grime from your car's exterior.
While a sponge works fine for washing a car, a microfibre wash mitt gives you more control, as you can contour your hands around shaped items, like the mirror or door handle. This will give your car a more thorough cleaning. Plus, these mitts go in the washing machine and don't trap damage-causing rocks as easily.
Microfibre towels are among the most versatile items in any car care kit. You can use them to wash and dry your vehicle, remote wax, perform a final polish, and even apply glass cleaner or headlight restoration fluid.
Always have plenty of microfibre cloths on hand and use each towel for only one purpose until you can wash it. For example, if you use one towel to remove wax, don't then use the same one to do the final polish. Always grab a fresh towel when changing steps.
A small pressure washer is a great addition to your car care kit, as the pressurized water can really help blast the dirt and road grime off your car. Plus, you can get the foam cannon attachment to get your car super-clean.
A chamois—sometimes called a shammy towel—is a super-absorbent sponge in the shape and size of a small towel that dries your vehicle as you drag it across the body. Then, you simply wring it out and drag it over your vehicle again to absorb even more water.
If water spots drive you nuts, a chamois drying towel is a must-have for any car cleaning kit.
Car wax is a must-have in any complete car care kit. This chemical creates an invisible layer of protection between the outside environment and your car's paint and clear coat keeping all the bug guts (gross), bird droppings (also gross), and other environmental fallout off your paint's surface and easy to wash away.
Car wax also creates a deep sheen that makes your car's paint job stand out.
There are multiple types of car wax to choose from, starting with natural or synthetic car wax. Natural wax is generally carnauba-based and offers the deep sheen most people want to see after washing their car. Synthetic wax is great because it's generally easier to apply and longer-lasting, but it also lacks the depth of carnauba wax.
You can also choose between paste, liquid, and spray car wax. Paste generally offers the best results but requires the most effort. Liquid wax is easier to apply but doesn't offer the depth and protection of paste. Spray wax offers the least protection and should be reserved for between-waxing touch-ups.
Last but not least, there’s sealant. An alternative to wax, sealant creates a protective barrier on the paint. Sealant differs from wax because it lasts significantly longer—often six months or more—but it creates a more visible, glass-like coating on the paint instead of wax's deep sheen.
Some waxes come with an applicator pad, but they're generally a crummy sponge that breaks down after a short time using it. Instead, get a high-quality, reusable wax applicator. You'll see a significant difference in the effort you put in and the results you receive.
Few things restore an aging paint job better than a good polish. Pick up a fine- to medium-grit polish from your local parts store and use it once a year to restore a smooth finish and buff out any imperfections. This polish uses light cutting action to level out surface scratches and remove any contaminants from the paint, leaving behind a smooth, straight-from-the-factory feel.
You can apply polish by hand, but to be honest, that takes a long time. We recommend picking up a dual-action polisher to speed up the process and improve your final results. You may notice professional detailers use a high-speed buffer for this, but we suggest leaving that tool to the professionals, as it's easy to damage your paint using this tool without the proper experience.
Clay bar, like polish, has a mild grit to it but instead of being a paste, it's a piece of clay. Simply spray the area you need to smooth out with the clay bar lubricant, then buff the area with the clay bar and wipe it clean with a microfibre towel, and you're done.
Don't have time to do a full clean but your car needs a freshening? Having a quick detailer in your car care kit will do the trick. Simply spray the product on the car and wipe away the dirt and grime. Plus, some quick detailers include wax, so it touches up your coat of wax in the process.
No car can avoid all bug guts, so you need a product to remove them without damaging your vehicle's finish. There are automotive bug gut removers on the market, or you can just pick up a can of WD-40, which will do the trick.
Your wheels get filthy from the dirt on the road and the brake dust coming from the braking system. This gunk is nearly impossible to just wipe off, so you'll need a special wheel cleaner to dissolve it.
Some products claim you can just spray them on and hose them off—and some actually work, for the most part—but we suggest picking up a scrubbing brush for more stubborn dirt and debris on your rims. Some wheel cleaners also double as a tire cleaner.
Nothing makes a car detail job complete like shiny tires. Add this product to your car detailing kit and you'll be able to put the finishing touch on every detail job you do.
You likely have an ammonia-based window cleaner in your house that you think will work just fine on your car. Sure, it will clean the dirt, but ammonia-based cleaners damage the tint on automotive glass, cause fogging issues, and streak.
Your best bet is a quality automotive glass cleaner, which is typically alcohol-based. This will leave your glass looking new again.
You want to make sure your interior is as clean and shiny as the exterior, so add an interior detailer to the list. There's no shortage of these items, but a popular brand name is Armor All. Some of these products only clean and protect, leaving behind no shiny finish. Others leave a shiny look behind. Either one is good; simply choose the one you prefer.
You need a powerful vacuum to get all the dirt from your carpet and upholstery, but you also need a vacuum that can handle a little moisture. This leaves your normal household vacuum out, but you can pick up a quality shop vacuum to handle all your interior-vacuuming needs.
Whether it's a leather and vinyl cleaner or a cloth upholstery cleaner, you need this chemical to freshen up your seats periodically. The leather cleaner is extremely important, as it includes a moisturizer that'll keep the leather flexible and prevent cracking.
Your interior has tons of tight spaces to get into, so you often need special brushes to clean everywhere. Most auto parts stores will sell a collection of brushes for cleaning your interior. Alternatively, you can opt for less expensive foam craft brushes—like paint brushes with foam tips—in various sizes or even a toothbrush to access these tight areas on the cheap.
Commonly referred to by the brand name Scotchguard, there are many brands of upholstery protectants to pick from. These products create a shield between your upholstery and stains from spilled drinks and food. This ultimately makes keeping your interior clean a far easier task.
With the ultimate car care kit built, now you just need a quality vehicle to use it on! At Clutch, Canada's largest pre-owned automotive retailer, we have a wide range of quality pre-owned vehicles to choose from.
All our vehicles have been through a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process to ensure they're top-notch and ready for the road. Plus, all our vehicles are backed by a 90-day or 6,000-km warranty. You also get a 10-day or 750-km test-own period. If you don't love your Clutch vehicle during these 10 days, you can exchange it for a different vehicle or return it for a full refund.
Our car-buying process is simple and streamlined. Find the vehicle you like in our vast inventory, complete most of the purchase paperwork online, get a firm value for your trade-in vehicle, and secure financing. We'll then deliver the vehicle to you, complete any remaining paperwork in person, and pick up your trade-in car. The best part is, you never set foot in a dealership.