Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (2022)

During my 14 years of detailing cars, I’ve had customers share with me many mistruths, myths, and flat-out lies—all told to them by their new car dealers. The biggest lie of all: that your new car is coming to you the same way the factory painted it. Unfortunately for us, there’s a lot of potential for damage between the assembly line and the first day on your driveway. Using the brand-new 30th Anniversary Miata recently delivered to Mazda fanatic/MX-5 Cup owner Charley “Danger Girl” Baruth, I’ll show you what happens to a “new” car, and how to limit the potential for mayhem on your own new car.


The paint on a new car 30 years ago would have contained solvents that took months for the inside to fully dry before you could even think of waxing it. Today’s new car paint is totally different. One of the first steps in the assembly process is painting the car, which now dries much faster due to the reduction of solvents and the addition of chemical hardeners. To finish off the paint drying process, the car is baked in a curing oven. That means this Miata’s exclusive racing orange paint was fully dried before it even left the factory in Hiroshima.

Although this particular example was special ordered and shipped right after completion, many new builds could spend weeks (or months, in the case of some beleaguered automakers) sitting outside the factory. That perfect paint and clearcoat applied hours before… is now being exposed to industrial fallout that has been contaminating it since before you even knew the vehicle existed.


The Mazda took a weeklong boat ride with protective tape on its horizontal paint surfaces before the next source of trouble was encountered: rail dust. These microscopic pieces of metal come from the friction between rails and train wheels, and on its two-week journey across America, our Miata’s clearcoat grew quite a collection.

(Video) Should you detail a brand new car?


Even with your new car safety at the dealership, you are far from in the clear. Having worked as a detailer at a dealership that sold luxury and exotic cars, let me warn you that a lot of damage can occur here! I’m sure there are exceptions, but I know from experience that many dealership detailers are untrained, which leads to them unknowingly causing significant damage to the cars they “clean up” before delivery. Here are three examples I experienced; any one of them should convince you to tell the dealer to NOT TOUCH YOUR NEW CAR when it arrives.

Most cars we prepared were not washed with water. At all. We literally made a mixture of wax, mirror glaze, and a lot of polish, and just rubbed it directly on the dirty paint. This concoction made the car shiny, but more importantly, did a good job of (temporarily) covering all the swirl marks we were making.

When we did use water, it was sprayed from a power washer directly onto car exteriors and engine bays with zero training on which tips are safe to use or where in the engine bay to avoid. Follow that with the use of a single bucket of rapidly-degrading water, a dirty wash mitt, and old towels to dry… That basically guaranteed we put swirls into the paint of every customer’s car without them even knowing.

Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (1)

We were also in charge of removing the tape that some panels still had, but were never provided any chemicals to help with leftover residue. Instead, we were told to rub the residue with towels until it was gone, which, of course, only further marred the new paint. A product like 3M Adhesive Remover would have been a safer alternative. Luckily, in the case of our photo-model Miata, the owner specifically requested the dealer do no cosmetic work to the car during the pre-delivery inspection. She also told the dealer to leave the protective tape on.


(Video) What TO DO When Buying a Car TO TAKE CONTROL (Former Dealer Explains)

You’ve taken as many steps as you can to preserve your car’s finish. If you special-ordered it, you made sure the protective tape stayed on and that the car was delivered to you “dirty.” If you took delivery from dealer stock, you told them not to bother with a final detail before delivery. Now that your car has finally made it home, it’s time to clean and protect the new paint. Start with a hand wash, using the two-bucket system, of course. One bucket for clean water, one for the water coming off the sponge or rag.

Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (2)
Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (3)


With the car clean, take a good look at the paint. Are there any swirls or “holograms” in the paint? If so, you will need to apply polish later.

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Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (5)

Since this MX-5 wasn’t touched, the paint looks great. Knowing this will see some track time, the owner chose to have a clear bra applied to the hood and fenders for future protection, so that part should stay safe for now. The next step may be the most important. Before waxing, check the paint for contaminants. The easiest way to check is by rubbing the paint with your hand in a sandwich bag.

Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (6)

Does it feel rough or bumpy? Not to ruin the suspense, but in about 99 percent of cases, you will find contaminants not visible to the naked eye. If the paint’s not silky smooth, there is room for improvement. Even in this brand-new car, with only a handful of miles, that never sat on a dealer’s lot, and that I personally just hand washed… the paint was not smooth.

Clay (Clean)

(Video) RUN AWAY If a Car Dealer Won't Let You Do THIS When You're Buying a Car

If you want the paint on your vehicle to shine, you need as much light bouncing off it as possible. However, light reflection is blocked by contaminants. These include brake dust, rail dust, pollution, acid rain, and industrial fallout. The problem is that none of these are removed by washing.

What car paint looks like before the clay bar process, limiting light rays from being reflected:

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Not to fear, simple clay barring can fix this!

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The clay removes the contaminants that normal washing can’t touch. This is what my new piece of clay looked like after each 12-inch by 12-inch section I rubbed on the paint.

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What car paint looks like after using clay, now reflecting more light giving your car much better shine:

Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (10)

If your wheels have clearcoat on them (most do), go ahead and clay bar those as well.

(Video) Car Dealers Will Try And Sell You BOTH OF THESE THINGS (You Don't Need Them!!)

Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (11)

Polishing (Perfect)

Now that the paint is clean and contaminants have been removed, you can attack any of the light scratches or swirls with a simple polish. Typically, on a new car, the swirls aren’t deep enough that you’d need to use an orbital buffer.

Wax (Protect)

Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (12)

It is finally time to wax. Ignore what your salesman says: new car paint does not come with any protection from the factory. The clearcoat needs UV protection as soon as possible. If you want that new car shine to last for years to come, it’s going to need a good coat of wax (or paint sealant, whichever you prefer). This includes waxing over the clear bra applied to this Miata back to the A-pillar. Wax not only gives your car a more appealing shine, it also adds a layer of protection against weather, salt, bird droppings, UV light, pollution, etc. Without that layer of protection, it is much easier for these harmful substances to damage the clearcoat. This Mazda is not going to become a garage queen, so any protection from these outside elements will also make it easier to keep clean in the future.

Now get out there and enjoy your new car!

Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (13)
Here’s why you don’t let a dealer “detail” your new car (14)


Do new cars need to be detailed? ›

Detailing Keeps Your Car Looking New

Essentially, you should detail a new car to make sure the finish is flawless and protected, so that it stays looking new for years to come.

What should you not say to a new car salesman? ›

5 Things Not to Say When You're Buying a Car
  • 'I love this car! '
  • 'I've got to have a monthly payment of $350. '
  • 'My lease is up next week. '
  • 'I want $10,000 for my trade-in, and I won't take a penny less. '
  • 'I've been looking all over for this color. '
  • Information is power.

Is it OK to wax a brand new car? ›

Waiting to Wax A New Car: Myth

Those days are over. These days factories cure the paint jobs before leaving for the dealership. You can wax your car as soon as you bring it home from the dealer without worrying about ruining anything. It is highly recommended you, or a professional, wax your car as soon as possible.

Should you wash a brand new car? ›

You still need to wash your brand new car,

It can, with early detailing work that will protect the factory finish and prolong that deep, glossy shine. There's no better way to ensure that your brand new car will stay good for as long as possible than to engage in surface protection at the earliest possible opportunity.

What is the best thing to wash a new car with? ›

Our best bet is to visit a nearby car wash facility. They will have a pre-wash routine that includes applying snow foam to the vehicle and then rinsing it thoroughly. It aids in the cleaning process. After that, they will apply another layer of soap and scrub the vehicle gently with wash mitts to remove the dirt.

What is the break-in period for a new car? ›

The right way to break in a new car

Doing an engine break-in used to be a standard procedure with new cars. And it's still the case that you should avoid running the engine at high RPM for the first 1,300 miles. Experts recommend a maximum 3,500 rpm and 90 mph in diesel models and 4,500 rpm and 100 mph in gas models.

At what speed should a new car be driven? ›

For petrol engined cars, the manufacturers usually ask you keep the revs limited to 2,500-2,700 rpm and try and not go beyond 80kmph, at least for the first 1,000-1,200km. After you have crossed the 1,200km mark on the odometer, then you can rev upto 3,000-3,200rpm and maybe touch 100-110 kmph.

When should a brand new car get its first oil change? ›

With today's higher quality base stocks and the availability of synthetics, today's oils offer performance and protection far beyond earlier formulas. So it's not necessary to change the factory fill on a new car before the manufacturer's suggested service interval — typically 5,000, 7,500, or 10,000 miles.

What is Claying a car? ›

Claying a vehicle is the process of removing bonded surface contaminants from your car that cannot be removed by washing alone and that need to be eliminated before the polishing process, using a synthetic bar of poly clay.

Should you clay bar a new car? ›

Should you clay bar a new car? The answer is a definitive yes. A car's surface can easily accumulate contaminants due to transport, and an automobile dealer might not necessarily do the best job of keeping it clean. So it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your brand-new car.

Can I use Dawn to wash my car? ›

Should You Use Dish Soap to Wash a Car? The short answer is no. Never use dial or dawn to wash your vehicle as it will erode and damage the paint, and remove protective coatings.

What is the safest car wash? ›

The best possible wash for your vehicle's finish is a handwash.
  • Handwash.
  • Touchless wash (if using gentle soap)
  • Rinseless wash.
  • Waterless wash.
  • Brushless wash.
  • Automatic wash.
16 Feb 2019

Do new cars need paint protection? ›

Claimed extra paint protection. Do you need it? No. All new cars already have it, and it's covered under warranty.

Do automatic car washes scratch your car? ›

An Automatic Car Wash Will Damage Your Car Paint Over Time

The answer is simple. The brushes used by automatic washes are usually not properly maintained and thus, make deep micro scratches on the car's surface, also called swirl marks.

Should you drive a new car slowly? ›

When driving a new car, take it easy on the engine and brakes to avoid any damage. Drive slowly for 5 to 10 minutes each time you start out to allow the engine to fully warm-up. It's also good to drive routes that require frequent stops and starts for the first 1,000 miles.

Can we go for long drive in new car? ›

AAA While we'd recommend completing your first service and oil change before taking your new car for a long drive, there is nothing set in stone to say that you shouldn't, as modern cars are fairly reliable. However, you still need to exercise some caution.

How many miles till a car is not good? ›

As a general rule, most vehicles begin to seriously degrade at around 150,000 miles. It is considered rare, and therefore outstanding longevity, if a car reaches 200,000 miles on the road. That said, there's more to identifying good versus bad mileage on a used car than just the odometer reading.

What happens if you don't break-in your engine? ›

If there are imperfections in the pistons or the cylinder walls from the manufacturing process, working the engine too hard and too soon can wear down those imperfections too quickly. That leads to "hot spots" within the engine's cylinders, which can cause problems in the years to come.

Do brand new cars use more fuel at first? ›

11 Replies. Generally for the first 500-1000 miles new engines are tight and will use a bit more fuel. You will see that the maker tels you not to exceed certain revs until the engine has bedded in. Years ago older engines had to be carefully run in up to max speeds for mileage covered.

How long can a new car go without an oil change? ›

Cars can generally go 5,000 to 7,500 miles before needing an oil change. Furthermore, if your vehicle uses synthetic oil, you can drive 10,000 or even 15,000 miles between oil changes. Continue reading to learn more about oil changes or skip to scheduling your oil change right here on our website.

Is it OK to change oil once a year? ›

For those who drive only 6,000 miles or less per year, Calkins said manufacturers typically recommend changing the oil once a year. Moisture and other contaminants can build up in the oil, especially with frequent cold starts and short trips, so owners shouldn't let it go more than a year.

Should I change oil on new car at 1000 miles? ›

Were you wondering how long you should leave break-in oil in your new car's engine, it is crucial to know that the break-in time for modern vehicles is around 500 – 1000 miles. So, you shouldn't leave break-in oil in your brand new car's engine beyond 1000 miles.

What to check in a new car before you drive it out of the showroom? ›

Give the vehicle a thorough inspection before you drive it off the dealer's lot.
Here are some tips:
  1. Inspect the vehicle in bright daylight. ...
  2. Be sure the vehicle has all the options and accessories that you ordered and that they work.
  3. Inspect the exterior for scratches, dents, mismatched body panels, or paint defects.

What should I do with a new car? ›

Steps to Take After Buying a Car
  1. Insure the car.
  2. Register the car and transfer the title.
  3. Familiarize yourself with the owner's manual.
  4. Take care of routine maintenance.
  5. Make necessary repairs.
  6. Get acquainted with the car's features.
  7. Take it for a drive.
28 Apr 2020

Why should you get your car detailed? ›

Why is Detailing Important? Detailing will keep your vehicle looking it's best, while regular maintenance will keep it running it's best. Detailing protects your exterior paint and interior finishes, removes stains and odors you might not be able to remove yourself, and helps retain your car's resale value.

What happens at a new car handover? ›

What happens during the vehicle handover? Before being given the keys to your new pride and joy, the sales representative will run you through all the paperwork and any agreements that go with the car and that will need to be signed.

How do you inspect a brand new car? ›

Here's what you need to check when you take delivery of your new car:
  1. Exteriors. At times a new car can get damaged during the transit from the manufacturer's location to the dealer's stockyard. ...
  2. Interiors. ...
  3. Engine. ...
  4. Air-Conditioning. ...
  5. Electricals. ...
  6. Tyres. ...
  7. Odometer and Fuel. ...
  8. Take A Test Drive.

What should you ask when buying a new car? ›

8 questions to ask when buying a new car
  • Do you have the car I want? ...
  • What are the warranty details? ...
  • What is the 'out-the-door' price? ...
  • What are the additional fees? ...
  • Can I see the buyer's order? ...
  • What rebates or incentives are available? ...
  • Can you hold the car while I make a choice?
27 May 2020

At what speed should a new car be driven? ›

For petrol engined cars, the manufacturers usually ask you keep the revs limited to 2,500-2,700 rpm and try and not go beyond 80kmph, at least for the first 1,000-1,200km. After you have crossed the 1,200km mark on the odometer, then you can rev upto 3,000-3,200rpm and maybe touch 100-110 kmph.

How fast should you drive a brand new car? ›

How fast can you drive a brand new car? It is recommended that you avoid running the engine at a high RPM for the first 1,000 miles or so, depending on the type of car. No more than 100 mph with 4,500 rpm in gas vehicles and 90 mph with 3,500 for diesel models is recommended.

Is there a break-in period for new cars? ›

These vary from car maker to car maker. However, the typical break-in period is within the first 500-1000 miles. If you give in to the common urge and start pushing your engine too hard early on, you risk accelerating this process, causing minute imperfections in the size and shape of engine components.

Is paying for a car detail worth it? ›

Keeping a car clean and shiny is likely to increase its resale value (though mileage, mechanical condition, accident history and other factors can drag the value down). Car detailing can also provide a psychological benefit that boosts the owner's pride of ownership.

Should I clean my car before getting it detailed? ›

Before you take your car for professional car detailing, it is important to rinse it thoroughly. Clear loose dirt on the car's exterior and pay attention to the wheels. This step is crucial because you can avoid scratching the exterior paint when scrubbing out dirt.

What does a full detail on a car include? ›

In a general term, a full detail implies that all (or most) areas of the vehicle are cleaned (detailed)… exterior wash, wheels and wheel wells cleaned and dressed, door jambs cleaned, windows, interior vacuumed, interior surfaces wiped down, etc.

Do new cars get delivered with fuel? ›

Your delivery driver will talk you through the key functions of the vehicle and will answer any questions you may have about the vehicle. The vehicle should also arrive with enough fuel to get you to the nearest fuel station.

What is pre delivery inspection? ›

This means its mechanicals and other essential features are to be tested in order to make sure that the unit has no issues. By the end of the test, it should then be declared if the car is ready and safe to be driven on the road.

What happens on car delivery day? ›

It includes a thorough checking of fluid levels, all the mechanical parts, the exterior and interior of the car, road test, scratches, etc. You should insist on getting a pre-delivery inspection done by the dealer so that any issues, major or minor, can be flagged immediately.


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