What lights are the best for auto detailing?

Have you ever detailed your car in your garage then the next day pulled it out in the sunlight just to see all kinds of missed spots and streaks from the wax? Well I have, and fortunately that was years ago before I ever started Finishing Touch Auto. I’m sure you know why this happens. Most garages have just enough light to find your way inside the house, and if you’re lucky you might have enough light to see inside your toolbox. The fact is, sunlight is 50-100,000 lumens… per square yard! So with this in mind, we are on a mission; not to create as much light as the sun (we know it’s impossible, we’ve tried), but to emulate the effect the sun has on a detail job.

Needless to say, after several years we’ve invested thousands of dollars in lighting solutions. Some got the job done, some did the job impressively well, and some went straight to the trash can. Each type of light has it’s own purpose. If our goal was to just figure out how to get as much light in an area as possible it wouldn’t be a topic of discussion. We’ll go over the lights we use for coating, RIDS (random isolated deep scratches), swirls, overall lighting, and interior lighting.

First, we must get the general shop lighting in order. This is where we look for lumens per dollar. In my shop we have 20ft peaks in the ceiling so we opted for T5 high bay lights. These 8 bulb fixtures put out 40,000 lumens of light and light up a large area quite efficiently. When dealing with ceilings lower than 15ft we recommend using t8 lights, these 6 bulb fixtures are quite effective in lower ceiling applications.

For spotting RIDS we have found that solid diffused LED lights work the best. We use these integrated 4ft LED lights in our shop. We mount them vertically on the walls and, in areas where possible, we link them together to form long lines all the way to the ceiling. We also mount these lights vertically on our interior detailing carts to help light up the interior from the side. This helps with door panels and the sides of the seats and dash.

For detecting swirls and micro-marring, we use a variety of lights. These cordless LED work lights work great, can go a whole day without recharging (obviously we don’t leave them on all day), and provide a good color temperature for detecting swirls on a variety of paint colors. Another handheld light we use is the NEBO Slyde Z Flashlight, with 4750 LUX it provides a steady focused stream of light for detecting micro marring you can’t even see in direct sunlight. But who wants to pick up a flashlight to check their work every 5 minutes? We’ve got a solution for that too. We build light stands using cable ties to secure 3 of these 50 Watt LED lights to a photography light stand on castors.

All these lights help with interior detailing, but we often find that sunlight always shows a missed spot or two. Jason Barker of Fresh Start Detail in Beaverton, Oregon, designed these amazing interior work lights. We’ve tested lots of interior lights and underhood lights for this purpose and this is the only one that puts out enough light to show every spec of dirt in the car. One of our favorite features is the length of the unit and the attachment straps, they are designed so that the doors can be closed without damaging the paint. A must have for any shop doing interior detailing.

Hopefully this list helps with your detail light needs. We could go on for days on this topic, so please understand that this isn't an all inclusive list. Feel free to call Ryan at 971-599-3823. We will soon be releasing a video showing each type of light and how we use them in our shop so that you can better understand the topic. Subscribe to our youtube channel to stay up to date on this topic.

It’s cooling down… Here’s how to stay safe this Autumn

Summer’s over, for some of us that means it’s time to slow down, and for those with kids, it’s just the beginning. With the Fall season comes cool, wet weather, and shorter days. All of which can have an impact on driving. There are many things you can do to improve vehicle handling and visibility this year, and most of them you can do yourself for little to no money.


So here it goes, 6 tips for staying safe this autumn.


  1. Headlight Restoration - Over time the polycarbonate that modern headlight lenses are made out of starts to oxidize and turn yellow. Not only does this make your vehicle look 10 years older, but it can reduce light output up to 50%. Luckily most headlights can be restored in your driveway in just a few minutes. We recommend using rubbing compound, if you don’t already have some it can usually be found at your local auto parts store for a few dollars. Usually compound is used to buff out scratches in the paint, in this case we’ll be using it to remove the oxidized plastic or clear coat. Simply place a dime sized drop on a microfiber towel and rub until the headlight looks clear. Many times you’ll see the recommendation to use bug repellant or toothpaste. While these products can improve the look of the lights, they actually can cause long term damage. We recommend sticking to products designed for automotive use. If rubbing compound doesn’t work we recommend finding a professional detail shop. They will sand down the headlight removing all the oxidation and failed clear coat then polish and recoat them.

  2. Clean Windows - Another thing that can impact visibility is having streaky or dirty windows. When headlights from another vehicle beam into your car it can create a glare making it hard to see. Using a dedicated glass cleaner and a microfiber towel can make quick work of dirty windows. For combatting streaks we recommend having a friend shine a bright flashlight through the glass while you buff dry so that you can see any residue you may have missed.

  3. Tire Tread - This is especially important with the wet weather. Tires with too little tread lose resistance to hydroplaning and you can say goodbye to traction in the snow. Water can’t be compressed, and tires are designed to allow rain to escape through the grooves of the tire so when you have less than 4/32” of tread remaining the water may not be able to escape fast enough and can cause hydroplaning. There are two critical depths and it’s simple to check each of them. First, the quarter test: Insert a quarter into your tread groove; if you can see all of Washington’s head, you have less than 4/32” of tread left and should think about replacing your tires soon and start to monitor them closely. Second, the penny test: Insert a penny into the tires tread groove; if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tread depth is below 2/32” and your tires need to be replaced now.

  4. Cruise Control - Use special care in deciding when to use cruise control and when to control speed with your right foot. When it’s raining we recommend ditching cruise control all together. With rain comes decreased visibility, and a puddle in the road can come out of nowhere. With cruise control on, your vehicle may try to compensate in the wrong spot and cause hydroplaning to be greatly exaggerated and put the vehicle out of control. Using your right foot to control acceleration will make wet weather driving much safer.

  5. Wiper Blades - We already touched on dirty, streaky windows; but what about the rain? After several months of your wiper blades sitting idle, the rubber starts to deteriorate, and doesn’t do as good of job removing the rainwater from your windshield. Replacing wiper blades can be done in as little as 5 minutes and costs about $15. It’s a good idea to do this at least once a year at the beginning of the rainy season. Another thing you can do to improve visibility in the rain is applying a rain repellant such as Rain-X, or go to a professional detail shop and have a coating applied that can last up to a year.

  6. Use Caution - While you might be doing everything you’re supposed to, there may be other motorists out there not paying attention. Always use caution, especially in areas where another driver could do something unsafe and put you in harm’s way.

Thanks for reading, hopefully you learned something new you can use to make your autumn commute safer this year. If you have any further questions or want to learn more about car care and auto detailing, feel free to contact us.

Waxing Before Winter: Should I or Shouldn't I?

Summer's over, and sadly the Eurythmics had it all figured out in 1983. Here comes the rain, and with that your freshly detailed car won't be freshly detailed for long, right? Well, we might have some good news for you...

Back in the 1800's when the first car polish was invented, professionals went to work maintaining the shine on brand new horse carriages. For nearly 100 years wax didn't do much other than add shine to the lacquer on vehicles. Eventually companies like Turtle Wax and Meguiar's began producing waxes that protected the paint from fading. And every year since, major advancements have been made in the auto detailing industry.

Gone are the days of having to wax your car after every wash, and with the advancement of clear coat, gone are the days of paint resembling a chalkboard after a few months in the sun. The waxes of today can last several months, but are they the best option? I'll get to that later, right now you probably just want to know if you should be waxing your car before winter.

The answer is yes, every season has it's own set of conditions that can wreak havoc on your vehicle's finish. The UV rays of summer can break down the UV inhibitors in your clear coat and eventually cause oxidation and paint failure. And with the winter comes dirt, salt, water, and decomposing leaves... All of which break down the finish on your vehicle. Wax acts as a buffer between your car's paint and the elements.

And there's an added bonus, that salt and road grime will be much easier to remove. Especially with the desire to go longer between washes when it's 40 degrees out, it's important to have something protecting the paint. When you detail your vehicle before winter, you're setting yourself up for several months of easy maintenance, avoiding that detail before winter can cost much more in the long run.

"Now is wax really the best option?" you ask. Well, with the recent advancements in the car care industry I can with 100% confidence tell you that wax is no longer the best way to protect your vehicle. Ceramic coatings are quickly making wax a thing of the past. A single application of Opti-Coat Pro can last a lifetime.

No, really... Opti-Coat is a permanent coating we apply to your vehicle that will outlast any wax on the market, and with proper coating maintenance, it'll outlast your engine. How does it work? We go through a multi-step preparation process that deep cleans the pores of the paint and removes every scratch and swirl leaving a flawless surface. We then apply Opti-Coat Pro and it crosslinks with the paint creating a permanent bond. In fact, the only way to remove Opti-Coat is using abrasion, meaning you'll need to sand or use an abrasive compound.

Opti-Coat Pro will make cleaning your car this winter a breeze, and you won't be rushing to see us as soon as the sun comes back out, because it'll still look freshly waxed. In between washes the rain will carry away most of the dirt leaving you with a cleaner looking vehicle all the time.

We are your local authorized Opti-Coat installer. Please call 503-767-3007 or stop by our shop for more info.