Tips on Detailing a Black Car

by Jenny Carver

Detailing a car is hard but rewarding work. Once your detailing work is done, your car should look stunning. Yet sometimes, a black car may look worse than it did before, because some steps in the detailing process left swirl marks or visible scratches in the paint. Detailing a black car should be done carefully and by following a few different steps than you would when detailing a lighter-colored car.


Every detail job starts with a good wash, but extra care should be taken when washing a black car. Park the car in the shade, away from direct sunlight. Sunlight dries the car too quickly and causes soap residue to bake onto the surface. Use a water hose with no nozzle to rinse the car completely before washing. Wash the car with car wash soap, not dish detergent. Use a soft sponge and rinse it frequently to remove any dirt or buildup, as this may scratch the car's surface. Rinse the car again using a water hose with no nozzle. Once the car is dry, use a synthetic chamois cloth to dry the surface, preventing water spots. Water spots are very noticeable on black cars. Once they dry and the sunlight bakes them on, they can be hard to remove.

After the Wash

Once the black car has been washed and dried, use a clay bar kit to remove all particles that may be embedded into the surface. Spray the lubricant from the kit onto a small area, then rub back and forth with the clay bar several times, covering the entire lubricated area. Spray detailer on the area and wipe it clean with a microfiber cloth. The clay bar can be folded over to expose a clean area after getting dirty. One clay bar should be able to clean an entire car. Continue working in small areas until the entire metal surface of the car has been rubbed with the clay bar.

Polish and Wax

Polishing a black car can leave visible swirl marks and light scratches on the surface. To polish without leaving swirl marks, or to remove swirl marks, use a dual-action orbital polisher. This polisher works well to remove light scratches and swirls, but does not heat up as much as conventional orbital polisher; therefore, it won't burn through the paint or heat the clearcoat up enough to cause damage. Apply a medium to fine abrasive polish directly to the pad on the polisher. Start at the top of the car, on the roof, hood and trunk. Next, move to the front of the car and work towards the rear. Use small circular motions, alternating with back and forth movements. This is very important for removing existing swirl marks in the paint. Once the car has been polished, apply a thin coat or two of pure caranuba wax. The polish should have the car shiny and swirl free, but the wax will protect the surface. Apply the wax with a damp cloth, allow it to stand for less than five minutes, then buff it away by hand with a dry cotton cloth.

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