12 essentials for your mobile DIY car detailing kit

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When it comes to prepping your car for a show, you need a Goodfellas “shine box” stocked with detailing essentials to make your car stand out.

I try to keep it simple, with a small container that holds everything and fits everywhere—the trunk, the back seat, the passenger footwell. Plastic or aluminum hard cases work, as does a piece of carry-on luggage, but the best detailer I know uses a simple leather bowling-ball bag. Your kit just needs to be big enough to suit your needs. And remember that sharp corners could cause unexpected damage to your car. With your shine box selected, these are the things I consider indispensable for keeping it stocked.

Quick detailer

quick detailer

The first line of defense for dust and dirt on any surface. My current weapon of choice is Griot’s Best of Show detailer.

Towels

microfiber Towels

I always use new microfiber towels, for less of a chance of dirt or foreign matter scratching the finish. Bring more than you think you’ll need, and dedicate some to only the dirtiest areas of the car: the tires, the wheels, the fender wells, etc.

Brushes

Brushes

These are versatile, so carry several. My favorites are Zibra triangular paintbrushes. Wrap the metal ferrule in gaffer tape, and you’re ready to dust. These brushes are soft enough for dashboards yet pointy enough for fender welting.

Masking tape

Masking tape

Three-quarter and two-inch sizes are best. Great as a lint vacuum or fabric duster and for protecting parts during transport.

General purpose cleaner

General purpose cleaner

Use your favorite nonaggressive cleaner to give the car a general onceover. I like Griot’s interior cleaner, diluted Simple Green, or similar—for anything the quick detailer can’t remove.

Polish, compound, wax

car Polish

I make up small bottles of each; four-ounce craft store or Wilton cake decorating bottles are best. You should be prepared for anything on the field.

Paints

Paints

Again, I make up small bottles for touch-up. Aside from body colors, semigloss black, flat aluminum, and clear are always in my kit.

Glass cleaner

Glass cleaner

I hate to clean glass, but it has to be done, and fresh, dedicated glass towels help. I prefer aerosol glass cleaners, like Invisible Glass by Stoner.

Dressing

A product like Honda Spray makes things shine for a short time. Use anywhere that needs a little sparkle.

Bamboo sticks, cotton swabs

Bamboo sticks and cotton swabs

Bamboo skewers are one of the best detailing tools. They clean everything well, don’t scratch, and are pointy enough to get errant wax out of small places. Stock cotton swabs of all sizes.

Plastic sheeting

Plastic sheeting

An emergency cover. Make sure your car is dry; never put plastic on a wet car.

Tools

Just the basics: a multibit screwdriver, an adjustable wrench, and maybe a small socket set.

Now go home and get your shine box!

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