When To Detail Your Car: Ultimate Guide

Detailing your car is a thorough cleaning process that involves specialized products and tools. It can help extend your car’s appearance and keep it looking brand-new. So, when would be a good time to detail your car?

It’s best to detail a car as soon as you own it. Detailing protects your car’s interior and exterior from all forms of damage. New cars should also be detailed immediately, as this way the detail doesn’t take too much work and the new car can directly be protected to keep its value.

This ultimate guide will explain when it’s best to detail your car. I’ll also answer some frequently asked questions, such as how often you should do it, what it does, and if it’s worth the cost.

What’s the Best Time to Detail My Car?

“When is the best time to detail a car?” is one of the most common questions regarding car detailing. No matter what season it is, outside elements like rain and snow will wreck your car’s beautiful paint job. Additionally, regular washes using automatic washing machines lead to minor scratches to the pain caused by the towels and brushes from the car wash.

In general, the best time to detail your car is immediately after purchase. Detailing is worth doing on both new and used vehicles to preserve their value and protect them from environmental damage.

When it comes to the best two seasons to detail a vehicle throughout the year, it’s best to do so in summer or fall. Here’s why:


Summer is one of the harshest seasons for your car’s paint. Many people take long trips throughout summer and drive more frequently in general. 

UV rays are the main reason why summer is a bad season for your car. UV rays will quickly degrade any plastic trim bits, both on the inside and outside of your vehicle.

It’d be ideal to detail your car towards the beginning of the summer. The hot, dry air will help the wax dry out quicker.

Fall/Early Winter

When talking about harsh seasons, nothing gets worse than winter. And that goes for cars as well. You should detail your vehicle towards the end of fall or right at the beginning of winter to protect it from early frosts. Winters can also get very snowy in certain areas, leading to salty road conditions that are prime contributors to rust or other damage to the finish and even to the mechanics of your car.

The fall is the perfect time to get your car properly protected for winter. Remember that detailing your interior is just as important as the exterior. This is especially important if you have leather seats as the extreme cold can dry them out and cause cracks.

You Should Detail a New Car

Here’s why you should always detail a new car:

  • New cars don’t get a full detail at the factory.
  • The car gets dirty during transport.
  • New cars spend months at the dealership’s parking lot.
  • Car dealerships don’t clean new cars thoroughly.

Even if it’s brand new, the car won’t look at its best before you detail it. So, you should have it detailed, even if you just drove it off the dealership lot. There are a few compelling reasons why:

  • Manufacturers can’t afford to fully detail a vehicle before sending it out of the factory. A complete detailing job can take up to 15 hours. Even though cars at the factory go through quality control before being sent out, manufacturers limit the time dedicated to each vehicle, which means that some paintwork needs to be corrected.
  • New car transportation. After leaving the factory, cars go on long journeys to reach their final destinations, usually by truck, train, or boat. New vehicles are exposed to the elements, such as industrial fallout, dust, water, oxidation, and more during the transportation process. All of this can accumulate and cause contamination to the paintwork.
  • Time spent at the dealership. Even when new cars reach their final destination, usually a dealership, it’s not like they’ll be immediately driven off by a new owner. They typically spend weeks, even months, at dealership parking lots before that happens. During all that time, they are once again exposed to outside elements.
  • Most car dealerships do a poor job at prepping vehicles. Just like the manufacturers, time is money for dealerships, so unless you pay extra for a complete detailing job before you drive off with the car, you shouldn’t expect the dealership to spend a lot of time prepping it for you.

Pan The Organizer has an excellent video explaining why to detail your new car:

Should I Get My Car Detailed Before Winter?

I briefly touched on this earlier, so let’s see why you should consider detailing your vehicle before winter.

You should get your car detailed before winter. Winter is the most harmful time of year for car paint, given the harsh conditions with cold, snow, and maybe even hail. Furthermore, your leather seats can dry out if not conditioned properly.

It’s best to detail and protect a car before winter to limit any potential damage done by the cold, snow, and maybe even hail. Here are some of the main reasons why detailing your car before winter is so important:

Helps Preserve the Paint Job

A car’s paint job is one of its most delicate parts, so it’s vital to have it prepared to handle the harsh winter season. 

First, you should perform a thorough wash to remove all dust and debris that may scratch the vehicle’s finish. It’d be best to complete the wash with specialized car-washing cleaners, as using household detergents may strip the car’s protective wax.

Since gravel and salt are so prevalent on roads during the winter season, you should keep a regular washing schedule for your car.

The next step in protecting the paint job during winter is applying a high-quality paint sealant to preserve the finish. The sealant’s texture adds an extra layer of protection against salt, water, and other chemicals used on roads during winter.

Protects Your Tires

Another important part of your car that is particularly exposed to salt and harsh chemicals during winter is the tires. A detailing job also includes applying high-quality polish to the tires to make them look good and protect them from the environment.

One thing that can help, especially if you live in an area that sees particularly harsh winters, is installing mud flaps to prevent salt, snow, and ice buildup in the wheel well.

Safeguards the Interior From Cold

Last but not least, the interior of your car also needs protection from the cold, particularly if you have leather seats. The cold weather and lack of humidity can cause the leather to dry out and become prone to cracking. 

The ideal weather for detailing the leather is around 50 °F (10 °C), which means you’d have to do this during fall, not in the middle of winter. If you do it in winter, the leather won’t absorb the conditioner completely. Look for a conditioner with mink oil and lanolin to detail your leather seats.

How Often Should I Get My Car Professionally Detailed?

You should generally look to get your car professionally detailed 2-4 times per year, depending on how clean you like your vehicle. How often you drive your car, where you park it, what you use it for, and the road conditions affect how often your vehicle needs to get detailed.

Here are all factors that can affect how often you need a professional detail:

How Often You Drive the Car

The more you drive the car, the more chances there are for paintwork to get damaged from scratches, dust or snow build-up, animal droppings, and everything else your daily driver has to endure.

If you only drive the car once or twice per week, there’s no need to perform more than two detailing jobs in a year, as the paintwork should be in near-perfect condition, especially if the car is parked in a safe space, which leads us to the next point.

Where You Park the Car

Parking your car in a garage means that it won’t be exposed to outside elements such as sunlight, rain, and snow nearly as much as if it was parked in your driveway.

If you have a garage or something similar, you should be more than okay with professionally detailing your car twice per year. If you park your car on the street, 3-4 times would be ideal.

What You’re Using the Car For

If you’re using your vehicle for transporting others, it’ll require more frequent detailing than if you use it just to drive around on your own. For example, if you’re an Uber driver, you’ll want the interior to be as clean as possible for your passengers. In that case, it’d be best to do full detailing 3-4 times per year while also performing weekly washes.

The Condition of the Roads

The condition of the roads you drive the car on is entirely out of your control, but it plays a significant role in how often your car will require a detailing job. If you live in areas close to a desert, the roads are dustier than average. This means will an additional professional detailing each year.

You can watch this video by Red Clay Detailing to better understand how often to detail your car:

What Does Car Detailing Include?

Detailing your car includes an exterior wash, interior cleaning, and all-around protection from the elements. Depending on the detailing in question, you may get a ceramic coating, waxing, or both.

It’s hard to see the value in detailing if you’ve never had it done, so let’s look at what exactly you can expect from a complete detailing job:

Exterior Wash

Washing the exterior is the first part of the detailing process. It includes cleaning the vehicle’s body, windows, wheels, and other exposed parts. 

The exterior wash begins with a rinse using a pressure washer, which removes all external debris, dust, and grime. Here are the other steps included in the exterior wash:

  • Wheels and tires wash. Wheels and tires often remain dirty even after the pressure washer. They need additional attention to get them squeaky clean.
  • Pre-wash with a foam cannon. The foam cannon allows for a quick and thorough wash.
  • Hand wash with a bucket of car shampoo. Whatever the foam cannon and pressure washer missed gets cleaned by hand.
  • Rinse. Your car gets rinsed with clean water to prevent stains.
  • Dry. The detailing service dries the car with clean towels.

Interior Cleaning

Some detailers would start with the interior first, but it doesn’t make much difference. An interior cleaning involves vacuuming the floor and carpets to remove dirt, debris, and garbage. Windows are also cleaned from the inside, along with every other surface.

You can judge the quality of a detailing job based on how well the interior is cleaned.

Additionally, you may need to pay extra for a thorough interior cleaning.

Exterior Protection

What separates a detailing job from a regular wash and clean is that they apply a coating to protect your car. This is also where the price of the job can skyrocket. 

The exterior protection process usually begins with applying a clay mitt or a clay bar and lubrication spray to remove contaminants along the vehicle’s surface. After this is done, the detailer will tell whether he should do paint correction or polishing, depending on the number of scratches and other imperfections he finds.

If needed, the car will go through polishing and a cleaning process to remove all oils and wax left from the paint correction.

To complete the exterior protection process, detailers can use several methods:

  • Carnauba wax. Carnauba wax is an old and reliable protection method. It can come as a liquid or a solid wax. It’s applied using a special cloth to distribute the wax across the surface evenly. You can expect this method to last you 3-5 months.
  • Paint Sealant. These come in liquid form and can last up to a year. Although they are often branded as “ceramic coating,” they’re actually far from it. They’re much cheaper and can’t protect your car’s paint as well as a ceramic coating. They last about 6-12 months.
  • Ceramic Coating. A ceramic coating is the best type of protection for your car. It can last for 3 years if applied properly.

Wheels and Tire Protection

A complete detailing job usually ends with polishing the rims and treating the tires. Most detailers go for hand-applied treatment for adding extra protection to the tires. 

Most detailing shops will also apply a tire shine spray or gel to make your car look like it’s in mint condition.

Key Takeaways

  • It’s best to detail your vehicle 2-4 times per year.
  • The best time to do so is in the summer or fall.
  • Winter can be particularly harsh on your car.
  • Detailing a brand new car is also a good idea.


Jan-Lucas Ganssauge
Jan-Lucas Ganssauge