Preparing a Car for a Show

I don’t really talk much about it these days but my experience working with / around cars goes back a looooooong way, and actually included organizing car shows. I would arrange for hundreds of supercars to meet under cover of darkness at a secret location, rally out to the countryside, spend hours blasting around a racetrack or airfield, and then finally convoy to an historic estate where they would go on display for tens of thousands of excitable fans.

Of course car shows come in all varieties for some it’s about the modifications, others are marque or model specific – but whatever the theme, if you’re planning to take your car to a show (and you’re not this guy) there’s a good chance you’d like your pride and joy to be looking its best.

In general, preparing for a car show is about keeping on top of the finishing touches. This blog isn’t going to cover the full detailing process – we’ll assume your car is in good order already – rather, these are my top tips for making sure your car reflects well on the big day:

Before you go…

• Check your glass

Sunlight will highlight the smears on the inside just as much, so be sure to clean all your windows inside and out.  Here’s a pro-tip: using a Handheld Detailing Light from the outside will help you identify streaks and smears on the inside that might not be obvious under natural / shaded light conditions.

• Don’t miss the shuts and panel gaps

If you’ve been polishing or waxing your car, take a minute to check that there’s no leftover residue along panel edges, in shuts, wheel arches, or basically anywhere that two surfaces meet (such as around PPF). If you do find any, it’s time for some ‘toothpickery’ (as Jim White calls it) which is where you would take a toothpick or barbecue skewer, often wrapped in a microfiber towel, and get those fine details cleaned up properly. Leftover residue in edges and gaps looks awful, and obvious, on a sunny show stand.

• Emergency ‘spot’ polishing

From time to time, cars pick up minor scratches and swirls and if you spot something new that’s letting down your paintwork in an isolated area, why not deal with it using a battery-operated mini machine polisher and some of our 1”, 2” or 3” pads?  We manufacture our popular SDO, HDO and microfiber pads in those varieties meaning you can cut and polish away a random defect with extreme precision and convenience. You can even perform minor spot polishing repairs at the show itself, if you’ve got enough time and the weather conditions allow!*

* The caveat to this point is that it could be complicated by timescales, particularly if you have a ceramic coating on your car. Machine polishing has been proven to remove ceramic coatings (check this recent video for proof), so if you have to address a localized area it would be a good idea to do so in advance, leaving enough time to re-coat the affected area and let it cure before the show.  Either that, or don’t forget you’ll need to prepare and re-coat that patch when you get home!

• Be organized and on time

There’s nothing worse than a last-minute panic, so save yourself the anxiety by giving your car a proper inspection around a week before the show. I would recommend taking a walk around the car with your Handheld Detailing Light, because its powerful wide beam will highlight certain defects or areas needing attention that natural light, cloud cover or general darkness just don’t reveal.

Add to that – I recommend planning ahead of time by checking your products.  You don’t want to discover you’re down to your last dribble of QD when you arrive, so check them off while loading up your key detailing supplies in a dedicated detailing kit, such as the Detailer’s Backpack. In case you didn’t already know, we’ve produced a dedicated backpack for detailers which has separated pockets and holders for compounds, pads, polishers, sprays, everything else mentioned in this article and more.  You can pick up one simple bag on show day and head out the door feeling confident that you’re good to go, all bases covered, and no need for a mad rush.

When you get there...

• Carry QD and cloths – lots of cloths, plus a separate bag for used ones

Since washing your car on-site is unlikely to be an option, having plenty of quick detail spray for emergency dust, road grime (especially underneath sills / bumpers), dead bug and dirt removal is a no-brainer; and, because you’ll not want to be inflicting swirls when doing so, make sure you’re carrying as many fresh microfiber towels as you can – spray a problem area liberally, wipe away with one towel, and use a separate one for drying up before discarding your contaminated cloths in a separate bag or container.

• Re-dress your tires – and be sure to remove excess product
I know it’s a cliché, but having smartly dressed tires really does make a huge difference to the presentation of a vehicle, and it’s such a quick and simple process that taking the time to wipe-down and re-dress your tires on site (being sure to remove drippy excess) is always a good idea.  I would recommend carrying your tire dressing / applicators / take-off cloths in a separate plastic bag, because that stuff gets everywhere…
• Give those wheels and tailpipes one last wipe

I’m sure you cleaned them properly beforehand, but unless you trailered your vehicle to the show the wheels will have picked up a fine film of brake dust, and the tailpipes just a little soot.  Give those areas a little boost back to full brilliance with a simple QD and wipe.

In summary

These are some of my top tips for making sure your car looks its best at a car show – and even though the summer season is over, with Christmas drives and New Year celebrations coming up I’m sure we’ll all be enjoying our cars, often among friends, right the way through into 2023.

Please feel free to share this blog anywhere you want, and write back to me with your own suggestions and experiences – you’ll find me on the major socials.

Until next time,
Jay @ LC

IG: /jaybroomdetailing

FB: /jay.broom.detailing 
FB group: Detailing with Lake Country

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