My Basket

  • Your basket is empty!

    Let's change that.

How to prepare your car for any show on the go -
18 min read Thursday 08 July 2021

How to prepare your car for any show on the go

Follow the ultimate guide to show prep and get maximum results!

The summer show season is well underway and, even though the British weather can be dicey from one day to the next, most of us just can't wait to get out there. But, with so many events now on the horizon, what's the best way to get your car fighting fresh for those all-important displays? After all, when it comes to the shows, it's all about looking your best, right?

The thing to remember is that there's two distinct stages to perfect show car prep - the detail you perform at home before the event, and the preparation and finishing you carry out when you get there. It makes sense, doesn't it? For us mere mortals without the luxury of a covered trailer, actually driving to get to any given event is pretty essential.

So, perhaps the biggest questions are: how do you put all this together to look your best when your car is finally being pawed over by other showgoers? And what are the quick and simple finishing touches to push your pride and joy to an even higher show standard?

Well, that's exactly where we're here to help…

Before the show

It doesn't matter if you have a full-on show car or a daily driver that you'd like to display, pre-show preparation is everything. The basic premise here is to be sure to get your vehicle - especially the paintwork - to the standard you're looking for before you leave for the event. Then it's just a question of maintaining the look and adding a few finishing touches.

There are four main parts to the journey - safe washing, decontamination, polishing/paint correction and protection. Each and every one of these stages is vital to the final finish and will need to be carried out before you leave, simply because most of these are practically impossible to carry out effectively when you get there. Besides, even if it were possible, you'd end up missing the whole show!

So, first thing's first, carry out your detail, from top to bottom, and don't forget your engine bay and interior. The condition of your paintwork, or indeed how far you'd like to dive into full-correction, will also dictate the time you'll take and the amount of work involved in your preparation. But, once all this is complete, we have a few extra tips - not to mention amazing products - to make life easier, give maximum aesthetic results, and make your car far easier to prepare for the next one!

Clean, shine and protect in one

You may have already used Tripple, our fantastic all-in-one polish, for paintwork enhancement and gloss plastic restoration, either via hand polishing or with a machine. But it's always worth remembering that Tripple makes the perfect cleaner for the more awkward areas like under door handles, in the jambs, the shuts, under the bonnet and all sorts of other painted surfaces. Trust us when we say that Tripple does it all.

This advanced abrasive cleans away oxidisation with ease, lightly abrading surfaces to remove defects, scuffs and swirls. Using a Microfibre Applicator or simply a short pile Microfibre Work Cloth, work a small amount of product into the surface. Once it has hazed, wipe away the residue and you'll immediately see a huge difference. As Tripple is also infused with carnauba wax it adds gloss and protection, too. The fact that it can effectively clean, shine and protect in one application, makes it arguably the most crucial of kit bag essentials.

Protection, protection, protection

When it comes to finishing your paintwork after any polishing, enhancement or paint correction - protection, protection, protection! We really can't say it enough! The point is that, if you don't apply protection (for the summer, shows we always recommend layering on multiple coats of a hard wax, nothing looks better), all you're doing is wasting the work you've put in.

A wax is so pleasing to eye because it levels the optical finish of painted surfaces. Deep down paintwork isn't actually flat, there's all sorts of ruts and recesses in the lacquer or top layer, these refract light in different directions, highlighting flaws and making the surface appear to be relatively shallow. By filling these imperfections and smoothing out the surface on a microscopic level, a wax makes surface light refraction more uniform, making it appear deeper and glossier. Because there are natural colour tints in waxes - unlike coatings or sealants which are man-made to be sterile and perfectly clear - they tend to give a warm glow, too. That's the reason why nothing will ever look better.

The other huge advantage of course, is that this protective layer is designed specifically to shield your paintwork from the elements, stopping the majority of grime from sticking, beading off water, and making the car easer to clean when you get to your show. Apply your protection correctly and all you should need is a little Finale Quick Detailer to remove any surface soiling when you get there.

Further enhance that deep, glossy show car look

Okay, so we've said that nothing makes your paintwork look deeper and more glorious than a hard wax, but there is one exception to the rule - paintwork that has Ultra Glaze Paint Glaze underneath that wax!

Paint Glazes are extremely useful tools for getting the best from both your paint and wax at the same time - in many ways they're the professional secret to a truly show-worthy finish.

Ultra Glaze is a non-abrasive blend of synthetic polymers that performs a number of tasks. The first is reducing the appearance of fine scratches and swirl marks by physically filling them in, obscuring these kind of defects to the eye. This unique formula also brings a high-gloss and clarity to paintwork, offering the perfect base for further enhancement with your hard wax. On its own Ultra Glaze is capable of deepening darker colours, enhancing fiery reds, and leaving a wet-glossy finish. Locked-in with a suitable wax, it makes paintwork appear even deeper and glossier, and then you get the protection side, too.

Most of all, Ultra Glaze has been developed to be quick, simple and extremely versatile in application. It can be applied by hand using a Microfibre Applicator or Polish Pad, or using any type of machine polisher, making it a quick and simple step to a flawless appearance.

Protect your wheels before you drive

Apart from your paintwork, arguably the most important area for protection after your detail is your wheels. These require a slightly different product to your paintwork, purely because of the temperatures involved when driving. Heat is not only transferred from your brakes when they're in use, but the wheels need to be shielded from hot brake dust, too.
With this in mind, you can see why, when you're driving your fully prepared show car to an event, your wheels may need the most protection of all. But doing it the right way with Mint Wheels Wheel Wax will mean that contaminants can't stick to surfaces effectively, making cleaning them away so much easier. In fact, once again, all that should be required at your show will be a little Finale.
Mint Rims is a specially-developed, high temperature synthetic wax, suitable for use on any wheel finish and capable of repelling hot brake dust, salt and road grime. Like a natural wax-based product, it will also install a high gloss finish, but this will be durable for up to 3-months in this, the most extreme of protection scenarios.
Application is similar to other hard waxes, simply apply a thin, even layer over the whole wheel using a Wax Mate XL or Dual Foam Applicator, and immediately buff off the residue with a short pile Microfibre Work Cloth. Mint Rims requires no curing time, so subsequent coats can be layered up immediately. We recommend 2-3 coats for the ultimate protection.

Revive your glass

Finally, it's important not to neglect your glass, especially on older vehicles or daily drivers, where it may be in need of a little more TLC than usual. In any case, eradicating stubborn stains and general revival of all glass surfaces is always a job for Vision Glass Polish.

This blend of light abrasives and deep cleaning agents both mechanically and chemically removes stains, scrubbing and breaking down grease and grime on a molecular level to remove even the most ingrained contaminants. What's more, Vision is the master at filling light scratches to further restore clarity, bringing the most tired glass back to life.

Unlike many traditional polishes, we've developed Vision to be easy to work with, too. Just apply a few pea-sized drops to a Microfibre Applicator or Polish Pad, work into the area with a little pressure, and buff away the residue - along with the grime - using your microfibre cloth. For maximum deep-cleaning ability here, try using our Glass Waffle cloth, which has been specially engineered for the most intense clean. The special microfibre weave will not only give you plenty of extra scrub, but lock away any debris in the pockets, keeping them away from the surface.

At the main event

Here's where the maintenance starts, and obviously the amount of work involved will depend on the condition your car is in when you finally touch down. It's worth noting that any vehicle that's extremely contaminated through hundreds of miles of driving in bad weather will need a full maintenance wash, no matter the level of protection. There are no shortcuts in keeping heavily soiled paintwork swirl-free, if your car looks like it needs a pre-wash and two bucket contact wash, it probably does.

For light contamination though - say, after a reasonable drive in a fully protected vehicle - safe maintenance and finishing to an immaculate show car standard is a simple case of using the correct products and processes.

Cleaning and finishing your exterior

Generally speaking, the areas that will be most affected by your drive will be the wheels, lower halves and possibly the front bumper. These will be the grubbiest bits you'll need to leave until last, purely to stop the transfer of grime to cleaner areas. But, of course, you're still going to need to give the whole car a good once-over to rid all surfaces of any dust, pollen and fingerprints you may have picked up along the way.

Finale Quick Detailer is the master multitasker and the go-to product for tackling cleaning and finishing on the go. It works by gently lifting and lubricating light contamination (including brake dust particles on protected wheels), allowing it to be safely wiped off of the surface with a microfibre cloth. This water-based formula is safe for use on any surface, including paintwork, vinyl wraps, glass and trim, and it's even infused with Carnauba wax to add a little protection and install more of that characteristic wax glow.

Infinitely versatile for cleaning at shows, Finale can be used in one of two ways. The first is the most common, tackling one panel at a time (starting on the least grimy areas and finishing with your wheels), mist a few spritzes of Finale over the surface before gently wiping away any grime. The quick and easy way to leave surfaces spotless.

For the best results on paintwork, wipe in one liner direction using a fluffy, deep pile cloth, like our Ultra Plush or Primo Plush Microfibre. These are designed to pick up and trap any dirt deep within the pile, keeping larger particles away from paintwork, to further cut down on the infliction of swirl marks. In this way, Finale is just the ticket for periodical dust downs and fingerprint removal throughout the day, too.

The second way of utilising Finale is when performing a limited-water wash. This is ideal for events, even those indoors, and can tackle slightly heavier soiling.

The process involves adding approximately 50ml of Finale to every litre of fresh water in a bucket. This wash solution can then be used to wipe down the entire vehicle, panel by panel, using an Ultra Soft Wash Mitt. In a similar way the Finale suspended in the solution will lift and lubricate the grime, allowing it to be safely wiped away with your mitt. Immediately follow your "Finale Wash' to mop up excess solution with an Aqua Deluxe or Silk Drying Towel to ensure that there's no air drying to leave streaks. For more details of this kind of limited water cleaning you can check out our full article here.

Eradicating bug splatter

Summer driving means that, almost inevitably, you'll pick up a little bug splatter, especially during the morning and early evening. The problem here is that bug blood and debris is acidic, chiefly because these tend to feed on acidic substances like fruit and berries. This means that, if left for an extended period, splatter can etch through protective layers and into paintwork - requiring polishing to remove the resulting defects. 

The good news is that splatter removal isn't a problem, even at a show. On an otherwise clean, protected car the debris can be tackled using Citrus Power Bug & Grime Remover and a microfibre cloth or Polish Pad.

During a normal pre-wash, Citrus Power acts a powerful, but extremely gentle, pre-cleaner that will chemically break down the worst road grime bug splatter and heavy soiling, allowing them to be rinsed away with your pressure washer. But, it can also be extremely effective on bug splatter, without the rinsing, which is particularly useful events when water isn't available.

Simply spray directly onto the contamination, allowing the product to dwell for a few seconds. Then saturate the surface of your microfibre and work gently into the surface to remove your bug splatter. Once the contamination is removed, wipe away any excess with a fresh piece of your cloth. Citrus Power is also ideal for this job because it won't strip your waxes or sealants along the way.

Follow this process with a spritz of Finale, this will ensure that now Citrus Power is left over, and even top up your protection.

Topping up the shine on paintwork

In our humble opinion, come showtime, nothing looks quite as good as a hard wax. It's the reason why our Signature Wax Collection contains options for every paint type and application. Waxes offer amazingly durable protection, too. And, if you've applied yours correctly in the first place, you've already completed half the battle - plenty of the grime and water will have practically removed itself on the drive to the show! To top up your wax finish on the go though, or even as lightning quick alternative to a hard wax, Glisten is the answer.

Glisten Spray Wax is s solvent-based formula that's suitable for all paint finishes and even vinyl wraps. It's not only ideal for offering wax protection to the hard-to-reach areas (by spritzing directly into panel gaps and shuts), but it's also the speediest product out there when it comes to topping up hard waxes and installing a high-gloss shine.

Working on around half a panel at a time, spritz a light mist over the area, spread with a microfibre cloth and then buff to a high shine. It couldn't be simpler, and you only need a small amount of Glisten for each panel - a little always goes a long way.

Quickly tackle your trim

Dressle All Purpose Dressing is one of our all-time favourite showtime essentials, it really is as versatile as they come. This water-based formula contains no waxes, oils or petroleum-based distillates and is safe to use on all plastics and rubber surfaces.

Developed for a dry-touch, non-greasy finish, Dressle not only makes a great interior dressing for your dash and other plastics, but it's also ideal for bringing a deep, rich finish to matte plastic exterior trim, arch liners and even whole engine bays.

For targeted application spray onto a cloth and wipe over surfaces. And, for engine bays, arch liners and large areas, simply spray over the entire area and, either mop up any excess with a microfibre cloth, or simply allow it to dry. That's all there is to it!

Alternatively, Dressle can be used on your engine bay when in the wash stages of your pre-detail. After cleaning your bay with Eradicate Engine Degreaser and rinsing away any grease and grime, apply a liberal amount of Dressle over the whole bay while it's still wet. Then simply close the bonnet and leave the product to cure for 4-6 hours. After this time a quick wipe to mop up any excess is an optional step to finish off your newly transformed bay.

Clean and dress your rubber

A car just isn't ready to show without immaculate tyres, is it? Unfortunately, of course, tyres tend to get a little grubby on the way to any event, and simply applying a dressing to dirty tyres only compounds the problem. At best grime will stop dressings for bonding properly and, at worst, all you'll get is a messy finish.

Getting your rubber up to scratch is a simple 2-stage process, first they need to be cleansed using Tread Tyre Cleaner, before applying a dressing of your choice.

Tread is a unique, fast acting blend of powerful cleaners and degreasers designed to break down extreme road grime on contact. During a routine maintenance wash, we utilise this product with our Rubber Scrubber Tyre Brush to clean away the heaviest soiling, before rinsing. For lighter soiling at a show though, Tread can be used by spraying directly onto an old microfibre cloth, and then working into the sidewalls to physically wipe away any grime. This process negates the need for rinsing afterwards and, most importantly, fully cleanses the rubber surface, allowing your tyre dressing to adhere properly. This not only makes the most of the "look' of your dressing, but helps to stop it slinging when the wheel is in motion.

When it comes to finishing your tyres, we have two top dressings for you to choose from. Satin Tyre Crème is a water-based formula designed to nourish rubber from within and leave behind a natural satin/matte finish. This thick cream is applied using a Tyre Spot Pad or Tyre and Trim Applicator and has been developed as a unique, layerable formula. This means that, although a single application will give the natural finish, you can build up a deep gloss through multiple applications.

Gloss Tyre Dressing, on the other hand, instantly installs a dripping-wet, show car-style gloss. This silicone-based formula has been designed as a quick and easy "spray and walk away' formula, but can also be used with an applicator when more targeted application is necessary.

Make that metal shine

You know what they say - details matter! Mercury Metal Polish is all about the details, and the ideal product for bringing the shine back to brightwork, polished engine parts, wheel lips and, of course, your stainless-steel exhaust tips.

Mercury is an advanced abrasive compound designed to quickly remove oxidisation and tarnishing, physically cutting through ingrained contaminants and exposing the original metal finish. Safe for use on all bare metal surfaces, Mercury can be applied using a microfibre cloth or applicator, before being gently worked into the surface and buffed to a high shine.

For severely oxidised surfaces, or those with extreme contaminant build-up, where a little more bite may be needed, Mercury Xtreme contains slightly coarser abrasives, making it a real heavy-hitter suitable for the toughest tasks.

Get sparkling, smear-free glass

There's no doubt about it, nothing lets down any car like smeary, streaky windows, and this is why we always finish our exterior detail using Crystal Glass Cleaner - put simply, it's the ultimate finishing touch to any detail!

Crystal is a powerful mix of solvents, specially blended to cut through greasy films, dirt and fingerprints. The highly concentrated mix literally melts away sticky contaminants, lifting them away from the surface, making them easy to remove with a microfibre cloth or, ideally, our Superior Waffle - the ultimate accessory for soaking up and buffing this spray-on product. All it takes is a quick spritz and a wipe to make any vehicle glass sparkle. Crystal is also suitable for use on polycarbonate windows or tinting film… just don't forget to clean the inside of the glass as well, it shows!

Always finish off your interior

One other thing that shows, especially after you've just treated your windows to a crystal-clear finish, is the interior. Particularly visible areas include the dashboard, the top of your doorcards and the steering wheel. Don't forget that your car is on show after all.

It's true to say that - assuming that the cup holders and crisp packets from the journey to your event have been emptied - your interior should be in good condition following your preparation detail. But that said, we all know that there are always a few details to tidy up following any journey - fingerprints, heater dust and static-charged particles being but a few. This is where Spritz Interior Quick Detailer comes into its own, because this all-in-one cleaner and finisher leaves behind nothing but a non-sticky, natural matte finish. 

Application is as easy as spritzing a light mist onto a small area, and buffing to clean with a microfibre cloth. Spritz can also be sprayed directly onto your cloth and spread across surfaces for more targeted application. A huge bonus of course, is that Spritz also protects your plastics - it contains UV inhibitors to prevent fading, and even anti-static agents to stop the dust from being attracted back to surfaces, keeping your interior looking fresher for longer; certainly for the duration of any event. A perfect little finisher, and one of the all-time great mobile kitbag essentials.

Just a few steps and your ready to go …


⟵ How to remove swirl marks from paint

How to effectively remove annoying swirl marks is perhaps the number one question in all of detailin...

The Basic Guide To Machin...⟶

Machine polishing is often thought of as the dark side of, or at least a dark art in, detailing. But...