I am in Middle TN and have detailed cars (my own) since I was a kid. Been at it professionally for almost three years. My website is: www.masterautodetailer.com

I can help with questions about what a detailer can handle, what needs a body shop, etc. I am not a mechanic, and that has a lot to do with caring for your car, but upkeep and maintenance are in my wheelhouse.

I am a moderator of r/detailing so feel free to check us out and post specific questions over there. If you have any burning questions about cleaning, restoring, or protecting your vehicle, AMA.

Comments: 305 • Responses: 64  • Date: 

magni0856 karma

How the hell do you guys get the carpet areas so clean? I spent half an hour with my shop vac and different attachments, even a motorized one, and there was still flecks of junk or animal hair in the carpet spots! Ugh...

neildmaster66 karma

We have different tools for different jobs. Obviously, a thorough vacuum is the first step. If stains are prevalent, shampooing the carpet with carpet cleaner and an extractor (think rug doctor) would do the trick. Pet hair can be tough, especially with the wrong type of carpet (short, dense pile), because the hair gets really stuck. A simple, but effective way to get pet hair out is rubber gloves while vacuuming. Just rub the hair in one direction toward the vacuum and it comes right up. Another tool detailers have is called a Tornador. It uses compressed air to clean and they are awesome.

denverpilot14 karma

I have also seen a pumice stone bar used really effectively to remove pet hair from a carpet like that.

Just grippy enough to catch the hair, not so grippy to ruin the carpet.

neildmaster24 karma

I've tried one and didn't like the results. I kind of figured out the rubber glove thing by accident.

BlueRockStar6 karma

I just have to say I so wanted that to not be a typo and now I have to have one after looking it up.

neildmaster6 karma

The Tornador? I know, right?!

guuutbutttt8 karma

My best friend used to work at an auto detailer. He said for the really gnarly carpets they use a fabric spray paint that best matches the color. He worked for a used car dealership, so they cut corners pretty often. It's a dirty secret of the auto detailing world.

neildmaster3 karma

Ooohhh, that's bad (or good, depending on your perspective).

memebuster17 karma

Should I try to apply ceramic coating as a first timer? I would watch youtube videos for help. I really want it sone but don’t want to pay over a grand for it.

neildmaster13 karma

If you are experienced at correcting paint, that is the biggest thing. Applying and removing the ceramic coating (depending on brand and product) is pretty simple, you just need to know what to look for as to when to remove it. www.detailedimage.com has good articles about ceramic coatings. I have had good success with CQuartz UK 3.0. It is a good pro-sumer quality coating and is easy to apply and remove. Not too expensive as well.

neildmaster12 karma

I also meant to say we're all first timers at some point. Also, if you do it yourself, just take your time and follow the directions!

JakeRadden9 karma

FWIW I am a 100% homegamer and have coated now 6 vehicles for myself and friends. It's all in the prep. Take your time getting the paint corrected to a place you're happy with, and you'll be happy with the results.

neildmaster3 karma


PvtApache12 karma

What's a good way to tell if a detailer is reputable?

neildmaster24 karma

Ones that will display their work on IG, FB, their website or elsewhere. Next, reviews as a whole. If they have a bad review here or there, ask them about them. If they are straight up with you and honest about it, that's good. Ask them lots of questions and see if they take the time to respond or blow you off. Are they respectful of your time, etc.

Chaz_wazzers11 karma

What exactly is paint correction?

neildmaster26 karma

Good question. Paint correction is the process of getting it back to how it was when it came from the factory, within reason. I say within reason, because we're not magicians, and some scratches, chips, etc. just aren't able to be fixed as a detailer, within the customers time and budget constraints. This means thorough cleaning and decontaminating, scratch removal, paint touch up, if necessary, polish (to remove minor swirl marks or haziness). After that, you want to protect it with wax (boo), sealant (yes) or ceramic coating (Yeah!)

TheNewJasonBourne4 karma

Paint correction is the process of getting it back to how it was when it came from the factory

In my experience, when I had paint correction (before an application of CQuartz Pro) performed by a fantastic detailer, he got the paint looking WAY better than it looked from the factory. How do I know? I took the car to him a month after I got it.

neildmaster4 karma

Cool. You found a good guy. Keep using him and send him business, that's the best thing you can do for him.

DJ_Rorok3 karma

I have a question with this as well. When speaking of paint correction. Is the "5 stage" or "3 stage" paint correction/coating a thing? Or, is this some wording that a detailer would use trying to market & use as a selling point.

I guess while commenting, is there a difference between coating a windshield and coating the paint? In other words, do you have to prep the windshield/window the same way?

neildmaster3 karma

5 stage or 3 stage is a thing, but I think it is kind of gimmicky, unless they are preparing a car for concours or a car show to get it absolutely perfect.

Any surface that you are going to coat deserves some prep. Glass is awfully hard and smooth, so it requires less (no need to remove scratches). However, a good cleaning and polish to get out water marks and contaminants really helps.

rob_s_4583 karma

There's a detailer who I've talked to at our Cars & Coffee and I follow his Facebook. He'll do single- and two-stage corrections. In a two stage process, he'll use a more aggressive pad on the first stage, which goes deeper and removes more clear coat, but may be required to get out the scratches and swirls if it's in rough shape. Then he'll follow up with a less aggressive finishing pad to make the surface super smooth, which the cutting pad doesn't do as well. A single stage would likely just use the finishing pad if the surface is good enough to not need a lot of cutting. I would assume 3- and 5-stage just takes this to the extreme, although from the work I've seen of his, I can't see how that many stages would really be necessary.

neildmaster2 karma

You're right. Generally not necessary, mainly because it takes off too much clear coat.

UW8111 karma

Mt car smells like ass from dog, kids, drilling farts into the seat. What do?

neildmaster5 karma

Clean with interior cleaner and water, then use an extractor, like a portable Rug Doctor

nnote9 karma

The plastic display in front of my speedometer, someone previously sprayed it with a plastic shiner I believe, and it's splotched. How can I clear it back up?

neildmaster6 karma

It depends on what you mean by splotched. If it is 'stained' as in parts of the plastic have been discolored, a good glass cleaner should get it off. If it is rough, a light polish should do it. I know it's a small area, but some polish on a rag with a relatively flat surface should get it out.

nnote4 karma

Splotched, as in oversprayed onto, and the spray sat there. Hazed in oversprayed pattern.

neildmaster9 karma

Polish should take care of it. Plastic is relatively soft, so take your time and they should come out.

mattywankenobi6 karma

I live in a part of the country where they use loads of road salt in the winter. After 7 months of winter and wearing boots all the time, salt gets encrusted in the carpet around the area of my left foot rest when I drive. What is the best solution for getting this out of the carpet? Thank you in advance.

neildmaster5 karma

I would suggest a good carpet cleaner, or all purpose cleaner, diluted for carpet, plus a steamer, and if you have access to one, an extractor (like a Rug Doctor). And, lots of microfiber towels. A good detailer should have all of the products and accessories. ;)

Kartavious6 karma

My kid spilled milk in my truck yesterday and I can barely drive it today. What is the best way to fix it?

neildmaster14 karma

You need to get it all up out of the carpet or wherever it spilled. All purpose cleaners are good, as are interior and carpet specific cleaners. If it is in floor mats, pull them out, douse them with cleaner, scrub the hell out of them, then pressure wash them until you can't smell it any more. If it is in cracks in seats or hard surfaces, a steamer is great for getting the hot water in there and loosening it all up.

TheAmazoness3 karma

I also have spilled milk in my car. I cleaned the mats thoroughly so the smell isn't so much the issue but I still notice milk splotches/stains on my leather seats. Any advice on removing them? I've tried ArmorAll wipes and some generic car interior cleaner to no avail.

neildmaster4 karma

Cleaner plus the brush I've recommend a few times on here. (Sorry, in on my phone now). Plus some hot water it a steamer. The leather will probably need protectant after. See if your armor all wipes are a cleaner or protectant.

talon326 karma

I have a truck that's gotten a decent number of paint chips and clear coat scratches over the years. My question is, do you have a preferred method for small paint chip repair, and do you have a preferred brand for touch up paint? In my case I'd be looking for Chevy paint from 2007.

neildmaster9 karma

Preferred paint is from the manufacturer. They all sell touch up pens that are factory matched color to the color on your vehicle by the VIN.

As for method, I take my time by touching up the paint, then coming back, maybe a week later to sand it down, smoothing it, then polishing it out.

stirb64 karma

What if anything should I worry about if my car is parked under a tree that produces a lot of sap? Is there anything I should to do to protect the car?

neildmaster6 karma

Just remove the sap on the car as soon as practical. Over time, if its left on there, it can stain the paint and be a bitch to get off. Protect the paint with a good polish and sealant, which is just a man made wax that does the same thing, but lasts longer.

hellochase4 karma

What sealants do you recommend for an amateur to apply? I’m currently doing 2-bucket wash with ONR. No buffer but a bunch of clean microfibre.

neildmaster2 karma

Most of the reputable brands have good sealants like: Meguiar's, Mother's, Adams, Griots Garage, AMMO, Carpro, etc. Those are in order of preference and cost (least to most).

sartan4 karma

My biggest problem is dealing with 10 year old plastic that just looks scuffed up from kids being in the car all the time. Brushing and cleaning does nothing to return it to any sort of clean look. What can I do about that?

neildmaster2 karma

Yeah, textured plastic, when it gets scuffed is a bitch. Just make it as dark as possible with something like 303 Aerospace protectant.

wreckeditralph3 karma

I had a cup of soda sit too long and it leaked into my center cup holder, now it's sticky and gross. What is the best way to clean it out?

What do you recommend for cleaning the inside of a decently dirty windshield?

What tools and products would you recommend to someone who is just looking to clean their car well?

neildmaster4 karma

A good all purpose cleaner like SImple Green or Super Clean (diluted properly) are good for most any interior cleaning. As for the cupholder. Cleaner and hot water and towels. If it is removable (they usually have little tabs at the bottom if they are) take it out and clean under it, too.

Cleaning a window is all about the towel. Either have several or a large one, because as it picks up dirt or haze or whatever, you don't want to push it around the rest of the windshield. SOme specialized aerosol window cleaners are awesome, but diluted isopropyl alcohol works fine, too.

Tools: How much do you want to spend?! First off, you need microfiber towels, at the minimim: 1) a few, like 5-10, general purpose, if you want to go crazy: 2) large exterior drying towel, 3) window specific towels, 4) tire/wheel specific. Next, like I said above, a good all purpose cleaner for the interior and dirtier areas. Basic car wash soap, as it has lubrication in it and is not too harsh for paint. Interior/hard surface protectant like 303 Aerospace. Wash buckets, etc.

enska23 karma

Is there a way to prevent hail damage if I must park outside?

I've watched a lot of detailing videos on YouTube mostly from Ammo and I've done a lot of detailing on my car. I'm a girl. One time some kids came by when I was applying wax and made some snide comments toward me and I haven't detailed since then because I was so discouraged. Is there any advice you might have for me to help me get back into it? I just have no desire to work on it anymore because of the one bad experience.

neildmaster10 karma

Preventing hail damage is a tough one. If you can park close to a building, where it protects your car from the prevailing wind is all I got!

Sorry to hear about the discouragement. I would say that if you enjoy doing it, just get back on the horse and do it. It is therapeutic to clean your own car and the results speak for themselves. Don't avoid the happiness it brings you just because of one experience. I've had people get upset at me and accuse me of crap I didn't do, you just can't let it stop you. People are going to be who they are.

DeathGodBob3 karma

Have you watched Chris Fix's YouTube Channel?

Do you have any comments regarding his advice regarding this subject?

neildmaster2 karma

I've watched him some. He has some good basic tips. Good DIY ideas, etc. Great guy and he makes fun videos, too.

LostMyOldInfo2 karma

My car has been polished and waxed multiple times and I’ve never been able to create a surface where the water beads properly on the hood. When it rains, the water will just collect in circles the size of about a quarter. If I drive really fast they will bead off. Is there anything I could do to create almost a rain x affect?

neildmaster2 karma

It probably isn't truly clean. Feel the paint. When it is washed, does the paint feel soft and smooth, and make no noise when you gently rub it with your hand? If so, it is clean, and you probably need to use a better wax or sealant.

If it makes a swishing sound and feels rough, it is contaminated. You need to decontaminate it with a clay bar and possibly with a chemical like Iron X. Then, lightly polish and seal/wax it.

beard-second2 karma

My van has those roller-lid storage compartments in the console and it seems impossible to get all the gunk out from between each of the slats. Anything I've tried to push in there to scrub it just seems to compact it more. Any suggestions?

neildmaster5 karma

A steamer. They usually propel the steam with a little pressure and can get down in the cracks. Here is one from Amazon: https://amzn.to/2JkToLY

Blackmonchan2 karma

How do you feel about automatic car wash versus hand wash?

neildmaster2 karma

If you care about your paint, avoid automatic washes at all costs. Coin operated, hand held washes are OK, since you are in control. Just be sure to wash off the foaming brush with the pressure washer before putting it on the paint.

tungvu2562 karma

how to remove stains from non-leather seats? is there a brand you highly recommend or a key ingredient?

neildmaster1 karma

This stuff: https://imgur.com/gallery/mVkkLh5 diluted 10-1 or so. Spray it on, agitate with a stiff brush, then wipe up, or if you have an extractor (like a rug doctor) extract it.

goatsandboats691 karma

How do I clean and condition the leather seats in my Jeep Wrangler?

neildmaster2 karma

Good quality leather cleaner and conditioner, also, one of these: https://amzn.to/2Hg4tvb as well as ceramic coating them. It's not difficult and will get years of protection with this: https://amzn.to/2W1goVY

metalmayne1 karma

In your professional opinion, would a paint chip like this be better suited for a detailer or body shop? https://i.imgur.com/G0sOX9p.jpg

neildmaster1 karma

That looks awfully large for touch up paint. I'd say a body shop, because they can sand and fill it, then paint it. A detailer with experience could do it, but it would most likely not look as good as a body shop job.

mirrorclick1 karma

Any special/specific ways to clean Alcantara?

gunther-centralperk1 karma

Not OP but I have a ton of Alcantara in my RS5, and one of the things I know about it is that Alcantara is synthetic and pretty durable. Just use water and a towel with some elbow grease. I don’t use soap at all, it cleans up pretty easily without it.

mirrorclick1 karma

Was thinking of using this BISSELL Deep Cleaner Pro Heat 2X Lift-Off Bought a loaded Jeep Grand Cherokee with 170k.

neildmaster2 karma

Yeah, you can pretty much treat it like leather. Just know it will absorb some liquid, so try to get it all up or give it time to dry.

mcmahonj051 karma

Question.. I have a small plastic rectangle spot where I guess i am suppose to place my left foot when i am driving.. the area is very dirty and almost discolored looking. I usually just run the shop vac over my carpets every two weeks and armor all the dash and such.. However I don't put it on that spot cause I dont want my foot slipping while im driving.. Any idea's on what can bring that small spot back to life ?? also how do people deal with fading black vinyl turning grey on the outside of the vehicle ?

neildmaster2 karma

The foot rest needs to be thoroughly cleaned. Steam works great. You are correct, I would not put protectant on there, as it can get slippery.

PlasticGirl1 karma

The clear coat on my 14 year old Tracker is blistering and peeling. Not really sure what to do about it. Should I strip it? Let it go? Recoat it?

neildmaster1 karma

Once it starts peeling, you have to re-do it.

iAmBrandonD1 karma

What do you think are the best products for someone to keep their car clean? I recently picked up this kit

Is this a good kit? Anything else I should be getting?

neildmaster2 karma

For the price, that looks decent. I've used Griot's Garage products for 20 years and love them all. High quality and reasonable prices and great customer service.

L1ndz71 karma

In what ways are you different from a car wash?

neildmaster5 karma

Most car washes are either do-it-yourself or limited to just washes. They are also low paid, high volume businesses. Some have pro detailers on site, but not many. An individual detailer (some, like me, are mobile) take more time trying to figure out what you are really looking for. Scratch removal? Stain removal? Overall clean? Then, we take the time to get it done right. It is a time consuming job. Some details can take several hours and cost several hundred dollars. Detailers have the experience and ability to take a worn out car and make it look new, within reason.

Shoestring301 karma


neildmaster1 karma

Hire out better, more responsible drivers. Or, force them to pay someone like me to do it.

gamrgy2271 karma

If a car has a dent in it, is it true you can pour boiling water over the dent area and use a plunger to reflex the metal back or is there a better way?

neildmaster1 karma

Not sure if that is true, as I've never tried it, but it kind of makes sense to me that it would, if the dent is the right size and shape.

phrequency_1 karma

My light grey seat is kinda black from me sitting on it with black pants. How can I safely remove the discoloration?

neildmaster1 karma

Interior cleaner and one of these brushes:https://amzn.to/2Hg4tvb

smittyline1 karma

I have worked with cars for over 10 years and I am in process of opening a new shop with a wash bay. I want to offer a car wash to customers even if they are just in for a tire job. I would hire a junior person to man the wash bay and to help clean the shop every now and then. What do you recommend I teach this new person - the common to's and dont's? E.g. don't wear a metal buckle while washing cars and..?

neildmaster1 karma

Just the basics until they get that down. Tips and tricks are great, because they are like AHA moments for the trainee, and they stick with them. Once they get the basics, help them expand their knowledge, so that they can offer more services for your business. Then, increase their pay...

readerbore1 karma


neildmaster1 karma

I don't have a problem with them. More than likely, they work with lesser experienced detailers, because its a way to help them get business. Probably a little less expensive, but just be aware of that.

Zombie_Dick_Attack1 karma

What’s the best way to remove hard water stains in the paint?

neildmaster1 karma

Full strength distilled vinegar, then a thorough rinse. If that doesn't work (and it should work), then try polishing them out.

Shrimp_Biskit1 karma

I have perforated vented seats in my Chrysler 300 I used to use for ridesharing. Someone threw up in my backseat. How do you get stuff out of the holes?

neildmaster2 karma

I recommend steam and a good, strong vacuum. The steam loosens up the stuff and leather, then the vacuum pulls it out.

sourbees1 karma

I bought car that has a few old rock chips, some went all the way through to the metal. Most are status quo repairable with touch up paint, but some have started rusting as the previous owner didn't find/fix them.

How can I clean up the rust, then paint correct without a full repaint of the area? Thanks!

neildmaster1 karma

Products like Iron X (CarPro) or Rust Remover (Griot's Garage) will remove surface rust. If it is deep, you can apply several times, and agitate with a stiff brush. That should get you to bare metal, then you can apply touch up paint.

MrFrode1 karma

what needs a body shop, etc.

my family car had a recent small incident where the reflective part of a side mirror was knocked out and part of the plastic paneling was knocked off. However the mirror housing is still firmly attached to the car.

Does this need a body shop or just a mechanic to repair?

neildmaster2 karma

I would think mechanic, if you can get him the parts.

PepperLuigi1 karma

What product do you recommend for shining a chrome exhaust tip? I bought this : P21S 15300P Polishing Soap. This was recommended to use with a wool 0000 but i feel like I'm gonna scratch the tip (Giggity). Is this setup ok to use? Any recommended product beside this and how to apply it.

neildmaster1 karma

If it is bright chrome, tread lightly with steel wool. I would try that product with a MF towel first, and if that doesn't get it clean, try the steel wool, then go back to the MF towel and polishing soap.

mooneydriver1 karma

Have you found a product that restores UV damaged / faded black exterior plastic?

neildmaster1 karma

Yes, this stuff: https://amzn.to/2JFuYvZ

AskewArtichoke1 karma

I have leather seats. What is the best way to keep them in good condition? Do I just use the same kind of leather conditioner I would use on my shoes?

neildmaster2 karma

If they are new and clean, I recommend this: https://amzn.to/2W1goVY

thegeorgianwelshman1 karma

Got a question about (extremely) hard water and one particular product: Ammo Hydrate.

I have a black e46---soft paint---and I live in New Mexico, with lots of dust and, in my town, very very hard water. Like maybe the hardest water of any place I've ever lived or heard of.

Trouble is, after I wash the car and apply Ammo Hydrate while drying, the car develops ASTONISHING streaks. It looks like my paint is made out of corduroy, it's so severe.

I talked quite a bit to Larry, the Ammo guy, about it and he was convinced that the problem was with my paint, not the product. But then I washed the car using a hoseless humectant (Ammo Frothe) and bottled water and the problem went away entirely.

Larry is still convinced that Hydrate used with hard water is not the problem.

So my question is: have you ever encountered something like this? Getting terrible results from applying a product of that kind to a car with soft paint while using very hard water?

neildmaster1 karma

No, I haven't. Sorry. One solution would be adding a water filter to your hose to remove the dissolved minerals.

BauTek_MN1 karma

Any tips for removing a ton of little scratches from door panels and lower dashboard cowling? Previous owner of my Civic let their small dog yap all over the car and their claws left marks on all the plastics.

neildmaster2 karma

No, unfortunately, since it is likely textured, trying to remove the scratches will remove the texture and then it just looks weird. Best thing is to make it as dark as possible, using something like 303 Aerospace protectant.

vicemagnet1 karma

Is there any decent way to restore a partiality fallen head liner?

neildmaster2 karma

I'm not sure, I don't do that kind of work. But, I imagine an upholstery repair guy could re-glue it. Not sure, though.

Bubbledood1 karma

What is the best practice for cleaning vomit?

neildmaster5 karma

Lots of interior cleaner and steam. The steam gets in all the little cracks and sanitizes everything at the same time. Gloves and lots and lots of towels, you don't want to touch that shit.

mellcrisp1 karma

Do leather repair kits like Leather Magic work? Do they work on fake leather? I've got a fake leather seat that's in kinda rough shape with a lot of cracking and I'm concerned reupholstering is going to be like a quarter of the value of the car itself.

If they do work, do the dyes ever bleed onto clothing, like on hot days or anything like that?

How would you condition/clean the other seats moving forward?


neildmaster3 karma

I don't do leather repair, nor have I use Leather Magic. I have a friend that does leather repair and they dye leather a lot. If properly cured and cared for, it should not bleed. However, I have been able to remove the dye from some cars when cleaning/detailing them.

An interior or leather cleaner with steam and one of these brushes https://amzn.to/2Hg4tvb they are amazing for cleaning.

CannibalismIsNatural1 karma

What's the nastiest clean-up you've ever had to do?

neildmaster4 karma

Luckily, I have not had any really, really bad ones. One SUV, I had to remove four grocery bags of trash before I could begin really working on it. Another minivan was probably the worst: http://bit.ly/2Hk9qn6 I've had some pretty nasty vomit, too. One in particular was very fresh.

kjlovesthebay1 karma

I have light tan leather that stains. I have a leather cleaner with magic erasers that work well but not great. Any advice to prevent staining or better removal?

neildmaster4 karma

I would not use the magic erasers. I'm sure they clean up the leather, but they work because they are abrasive. Over time, you'll wear down the leather, and you might be already, hence they get dirty easily. Clean it with the leather cleaner, and a good brush like this: https://amzn.to/2Hg4tvb then protect the leather with something like 303 aerospace protectant, or if you want to really protect it for the long term, ceramic coat the leather. This: https://amzn.to/2W1goVY is a great ceramic coating that protects from dirt, fading and wear.

Tm23246-5 karma

Why does the AC in my Mitsubishi Eclipse keep breaking?

neildmaster3 karma

No idea, I'm not a mechanic. Nor do I play one on TV. Ask a mechanic in person, not on the internet.

Tm23246-3 karma

That's the joke :P

neildmaster10 karma