Essential Must-Have Tools for Car Detailers
Detailing at both the professional and enthusiast level is a time-consuming enterprise. With the right detailing tools, you can save hours during all your detailing projects.
This video reviews seven of our favorite detailing tools. These are the tools that we’ve found to be essential for consistent, efficient, quality detailing work. These are the tools that have saved us the most time, made us more effective, and delivered the biggest return for the money and time invested.
Lighting to See Your Detailing Work
To do good detailing work, you need to see what you’re doing and where to do it.
We have a lot of lighting in our shop, but we still depend on handheld lights to do inspections on paint correction, lighting up dark areas like wheel wells and footwells, and doing our final inspection.
Since 2016, we’ve been using Scangrip lights in our shop and selling Scangrip to detailers and detail shops across Canada through our web store.
We’re fortunate to be living in the age of LEDs. Modern LED inspection lamps from Scangrip provide:
- bright lights with dimming options
- good battery life
- correctly-colored lights in multiple color ranges
- mounting options that are convenient and reliable
- size formats to match all detailing situations
We feel Scangrip lighting is an essential tool for our detailing work. You can browse Scangrip lights here on the Auto Obsessed web store.
Glass Cleaning Tool
It might not seem important, but the ability to quickly and thoroughly clean interior windshield glass is a detailing lifesaver.
We use the GlassMaster Pro glass cleaning tool to clean the interior glass of the front windscreen, side windows, and back window.
This unassuming tool is surprising. It changes windshield cleaning entirely. Without the GlassMaster, cleaning the windshield requires acrobatics in the front seat of the car, elbow grease, and sweat.
The shape of the GlassMaster’s cleaning edge and its sturdy handle mean you can get into all the far corners of the windshield without having to twist your arm upside down. It’s a small thing, but it saves a ton of time.
We use the GlassMaster Pro on all of the cars that come through our Detailing Studio. We recommend it for anybody who needs to clean interior auto glass. You can get a GlassMaster Pro glass cleaning tool from the Auto Obsssed web store.
Wash Bucket System
The bucket is something that gets overlooked. But it’s a tool that you need to use every time you do a wash.
Buckets transport your water and shampoo solution. They hold your brushes. And, if you add a lid to the bucket, it can serve as a seat for when you’re working on the side of the car.
Our preferred bucket system is as follows:
The buckets themselves are a sturdy 90-mil high-density polyethylene that won’t deform or buckle under load. The handle has a strong, thick grip so it’s easy to pick up and move around, even when it’s fully loaded with water.
You should have a Grit Guard at the bottom of every wash bucket. This plastic grid helps keep sand and debris separated from the wash water. The abrasive debris settles out of the water down below the Grit Guard. When you rinse your wash mitt, the guard prevents the grit from coming up into the water. This lowers your risk of carrying abrasives back onto the paint and scratching the paint finish as you wash.
These 5-wheel dollys are amazing. They’re rated for up to 250 lbs and roll very nicely even on rough asphalt surfaces. The clamps at the base of the dolly work to hold 3.5- and 7-gallon buckets securely in place.
Gamma Seal Lid
Thick, dependable watertight lid to keep water inside the bucket during transport. These lids are strong enough to sit on, though that’s more comfortable when you have a seat/kneeling pad in place.
Round Seat/Kneeling Pad
This round cushion pad saves your knees when you’re down low working on wheels and exhaust tips. It also makes a great seat when placed on top of a bucket.
If you’ve ever wasted time reaching in water, fishing for a lost brush, you know the value of the Buckanizer. Never lose a brush in soapy water again. This is a convenient storage accessory that clips onto the top edge of the bucket. Use them to store microfibers, brushes, and pads in easy reach. You can fit three Buckanizers around one bucket.
All components for your car wash bucket system are available separately, however it's more affordable to purchase a bucket kit with all items included. Buckets, accessories, and bucket kits are available in the Auto Obsessed web store.
Foam Cannon to Cover the Car in Shampoo
Foaming the car prior to a hand wash loosens dirt and debris and makes washing the car easier. The foam cannon works best with a pressure washer. If you’re working without a pressure washer, the foam gun version works with main water pressure to spray foam onto the car.
Foaming the vehicle lowers the risk of scratching and marring the paint during the wash stage. The shampoo foam lifts and encapsulates dirt and abrasive debris. When you rinse the foam off the car, it carries the dirt away with the rinse water. Starting a hand wash after foaming means there’s less manual work to do and the wash will be easier and faster.
We like using the MTM foam cannon products. The MTM PF22 is a professional-grade product, good for thousands of hours of use. The MTM Original is a perfect product for enthusiasts and weekend detailers. Auto Obsessed also carries replacement seals and connectors in case you need to rebuild your foam cannon in the future.
We recommend a powered air dryer for touchless drying. Our favorite car dryer is the Master Blaster by Metropolitan Vacuum.
No Auto Obsessed “Essential Detailing Tools” list could be complete without mentioning the Master Blaster touchless air dryer.
If you’ve ever dried a car with towels or with a non-purpose-built machine, you understand the high effort required to manually dry a car. Unfortunately, drying by hand cannot remove all the water from a vehicle. Hours or days after finishing your wash, you can still see water dripping out of a wing mirror, headlight assembly, trunk lid, or any other seal or gap where accumulated water can remain out of reach.
The best way to completely dry a vehicle is with a Master Blaster air dryer.
- Master Blaster dryers are powerful
- Heated air
- High volume of air easily pushes water off the car
- Rubber nozzle
- No risk of damage
- Fully remove water from all areas
We’re including Master Blaster dryers here because they’re an essential tool for us. We also did an in-depth review on the Master Blaster here.
No detailer has ever regretted upgrading to a Master Blaster air dryer. Purchase MetroVac Master Blaster dryers from the Auto Obsessed web store.
When you need to dispense a large volume of product or spray product onto a big area, the sprayer heads that most product bottles come with are too small or take too long.
We use specialized detailing sprayers to apply more product in less time.
Hand-pump Pressurized Sprayers
A pressurized sprayer is to great to dispense a lot of product without continually using a trigger sprayer. To use, simply add your liquid product into the sprayer's reservoir, and hand pump to pressurize the sprayer. The sprayer dispenses the product with a simple press of the button. Product dispenses as long as you hold to button down. This saves time and is an ease to use.
Hand-held pressurized sprayers from IK Sprayer are our recommended tool for this purpose. You can browse IK Sprayer products in the Auto Obsessed web store.
Rugged, Dual-action Sprayers
Dispense twice as much product with half the effort. These Kwazar dual-action sprayer heads are amazing. Squeeze the trigger to spray once. Let go and the sprayer gives a second spray on the way out. The sprayer trigger itself is long enough to fit all four fingers. Your hands won’t get tired of using this ergonomic design.
We have a number of these bottles in the shop and they get used regularly. They save time and they save the muscles in your fingers and forearms from getting tired.
Easy to Calculate Dilution Ratios
Our favorite bottle for diluting a concentrated products is CarPro Dilute. These bottles are made with a sturdy, chemical-resistant plastic. The bottle sides are semi-transparent, so you can see the level of liquid inside.
The nice dilution ratio markings around the bottle’s circumference make it easy to pour in the correct mixture for the product you’re using. You can get a 500ml or 1-liter version of the CarPro Dilute bottles via the Auto Obsessed web store.
Last but certainly not least on this list of essential detailing tools: brushes. This is not an exhaustive list of every brush we use, but it does cover the brushes we consider “must have” for detailing.
We can’t emphasize this enough to new customers: wheel brushes aren’t essential, they’re all-caps bold ESSENTIAL.
With the right set of brushes, it’s possible to completely wash a wheel in under five minutes. Without brushes, you could burn an entire hour on one wheel, and still not have it perfectly clean.
We strongly recommend all detailers have a long wheel brush that can clean between the spokes, behind the spokes, and reach into the barrel of the wheel. If you find that your brush is too big to clean between all spokes and between the wheel and the brake caliper, you should acquire a second, smaller brush for that purpose.
We also recommend a wide boar’s hair brush for the face of the wheel, and a small round detailing brush for the lug holes, bolts, and valve stem.
We have a set of soft detailing brushes for interior detailing. These brushes are excellent tools for cleaning interior panels and in gaps between trim pieces, climate vents, handles, and controls.
Browse Auto Obsessed's collection of brushes to find the brushes that match your requirements.
Leather and Textile Brushes
The best way to clean a leather seat is with leather cleaner and a leather brush. A good brush is necessary to agitate the dirt out of the leather’s pores, textures, and stitching.
These brushes have bristles that are fairly stiff. They’re also good for fabric upholstery, carpet, and convertible tops.
Review our Recommendations
You can browse all the products mentioned in our Essential Detailing Tools video here in the Auto Obsessed web store. If you own any of these tools, please leave a review to help other customers understand the benefits they deliver.
Thank you for reading!
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