It is frustrating to detail a car perfectly, only to find that it looks terrible afterward because of damage from dirt that has been sitting there forever!
Here are some secrets I’ve learned to “fix” interior damage:
Let’s talk about types of damage
- Normal wear and tear:
This is obviously most common as we all know that vehicle interiors wear over time. But what does this look like?
Scuff marks are the easiest to recognize. These occur on interior plastics that normally sit lower than the rest. That means lower door panels, trunk doors, and plastics that are on the floor of any kind.
Scuffs can be removed with a magic eraser and some all purpose cleaner only if they are surface level. Those that are deeper are there to stay.
Outside of the obvious scuff mark, I would categorize any other miscellaneous plastic damage as “normal wear and tear.” Damaged plastic that is not scuffed is most often the result of dirt that has sat for a long enough time to weaken the underlying plastic. When the detailer cleans it, you see the discontinuity in the plastic that just doesn’t look like the rest.
- Chemical damage:
Detailers sometimes experience a white chalky residue left over from the all purpose cleaner, or interior cleaner they happen to be using. It freaks them out because it doesn’t wipe off and it looks TERRIBLE!
The most common reasons for this happening are:
- Not diluting the chemical enough
- Using really really really hard water
- Using the chemical on old, weathered, and normally black plastics
Detailers often see this happen when they use Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner, though it can happen with any stronger alkaline cleaner.
Here’s a picture of what it looks like:
Without going into a full scientific explanation here, the biggest problem is this: It’s not always obvious when this is going to happen, and it’s therefore not the most preventable thing in the world. If you detail enough cars, it will happen eventually.
It happens most often on hard, black plastics that are older, & worn.
Outside of the normal wear and tear, and the infrequent chemical damage, all other forms of interior plastic damage can be chalked up to “miscellaneous.”
So how do we fix these things as detailers?
Let’s start with normal wear and tear/scuff marks.
This is a permanent type of damage that is not a cleaning issue, it’s just a visual issue. It makes a newly detailed car still look “dirty” in some ways because there’s a lack of uniformity.
For YEARS I carried a product with me everywhere I went called “Ultra Shine Detail Spray,” from a company called Show Car. But unless you are connected with the distributor, ordering this product online is too expensive.
I have since switched to a product from P&S called “P&S No Rub Coating.” I call this product my ole faithful because it’s kind of like duct tape… you can use it on basically anything when you need help!
When I have a door panel that is scuffed & faded, a quick spray of this product (I like to knock down the shine with a microfiber towel) immediately brings it back to life. It also lasts far longer than traditional dressings.
Where do I use this most often?
Door panels, door jambs, plastics on floors, exterior trim, front grills, and trunk doors/seals.
Here’s a real life example of some plastic damage that was masked with this product:
I have no idea what this stain was, but it was not a cleaning issue. You can see why a product like this is so helpful for these situations.
This product ALSO works on non black interior plastics as well. I use this spray anytime I want to create some uniformity or an even appearance on something including gray or tan interior plastics.
So how do you fix the chemical damage mentioned above? This product would mask it, but I prefer Solution Finish for masking chemical damage.
Solution finish is an actually dye that works to restore the plastic to its original condition, and it is a longer term solution that work LONG ENOUGH for the chemical damage to go away on its own.
Here is an example of the chemical damage being fixed by Solution Finish:
- Most vehicles that are driven regularly have some sort of normal wear and tear on the interior, and while this is totally normal, it can bring the overall appearance of a detail down pretty significantly. One of the most common types of wear and tear are scuff marks. These can normally be taken care of with a damp magic eraser and all purpose cleaner, but when they can’t a stronger interior dressing can do the trick to mask the damage and bring a uniform appearance. I suggest P&S No Rub Coating.
- Every now and then a detailer freaks out because their all purpose cleaner has left a white chalky residue on the interior of the vehicle that looks horrible. While there are many reasons for this, the simple fix is to mask it for a while to let it go away on its own. I like to wipe the area with distilled water, then use a product like Solution Finish on black interior surfaces, or the P&S No Rub Coating on other color surfaces.
- As detailers get more experienced, they get better at categorizing things as detailing issues or damage issues. While a detailer cannot necessarily fix damaged interiors, we can mask damage with some creative product and strategy that creates a uniform appearance on the interior to bring back that new car feel. When you don’t do this properly you risk the customer thinking YOU caused some sort of damage, or a customer that is pretty unsatisfied with the job simply because you’ve unmasked all of the damage that was being hidden by dirt.
These are the things I wish I knew when I was in my early days of detailing.
Hope this helps.