I get a lot of questions about what kinds of detailing products I use, and I love giving recommendations! Unfortunately, I have a confession to make: I'm somewhat of a tool/detailing junkie.
I usually spend an inordinate amount of time researching everything I purchase, obsessing and overanalyzing the little details that make one product better than another. This is further complicated when it comes to my budget; As much as I'd love to go with the latest and greatest option every time, I'm just a regular guy with a full-time job and bills to pay! As a result, I tend to find and purchase products that provide the best "bang for the buck".
For reference, I've curated a list of all my favorite photography, detailing products, and tools below. These are items I use personally every single day and can enthusiastically stand behind.
- Canon Rebel XS DSLR - It may be old, but it still gets the job done! A great entry-level DSLR for anyone looking to step up their photography game.
- Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 Lens - The "nifty fifty" is a great lens for automotive photography. With an f/1.8 aperture, you can get some awesome depth of field effects. I use this lens almost every time I shoot! The only downside is the 50mm focal length means you have to step back a ways from your subject, which can be tough at crowded car shows. However, for raw versatility, it can't be beat. If I could only keep one lens, it'd be this!
- Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 Lens - While the 50mm is a great portrait lens, I found myself wanting something a little wider-angle for some sharper macro shots. Enter the 24mm "pancake" lens. This thing is ridiculously short, and is hardly noticeable once it's mounted on the camera. While it can't beat the 50mm in bokeh, it grabs exceptionally sharp photos and is MUCH easier to use at shows.
- Griots Garage Brilliant Finish - I've found this to be a very affordable, pH-balanced soap; great for washing away contaminants without stripping waxes or coatings. It also doesn't have quite as many additives/waxes/marketing fluff as other soaps, which is nice.
- Meguiars X3002 Microfiber Wash Mitt - Cheap, durable, and most importantly great at lifting contaminants away from the paint. I have a few of these on hand for the paint as well as the wheels.
- Gyeon Silk Drying Towel - This might seem a little steep for a towel (~$25), but the quality and size are well worth the money. It's honestly gigantic which translates to a lot of surface area to absorb and lift water away. It feels like drying your car with a bath towel!
- Grit Guard w/ Wash Board - This is a must have for anyone serious about detailing; designed for five gallon buckets, it provides a surface to scrub your wash mitt against and release dirt/contaminants while washing. The lower guard is designed to keep the dirt separated from the rest of your wash water.
- Optimum Opti-Seal - Opti-Seal is an extremely easy to use spray sealant that offers excellent protection. It's also perfect for cleaning glass and leaves a very hydrophobic barrier behind with absolutely no streaking! I've found that a single spray on a still-wet panel of the vehicle is more than enough for complete coverage; a little goes a LONG way with this stuff. If you're looking for ease of use and maximum protection (without a coating), I highly recommend Opti-Seal.
- AMMO Mud Tire Gel - I've used a number of tire gels over the years and was continuously frustrated by the mess of application, durability, and getting stuck with shiny sidewalls that attracted dirt and dust like magnets. AMMO Mud is not only extremely easy to use, but leaves a satisfying matte layer of protection behind. It's honestly as good as tire gel gets, and is unbeatable bang for the buck.
- Adam's Wheel Cleaner - I had heard good things about Adam's products, but never had a reason to try them. However, the sickly chemical smell of other wheel cleaners like DUB Wheel Cleaner, IronX, and Sonax were getting old so I thought I'd give Adam's a shot. Boy am I glad I did! Not only does Adam's match or beat the others in terms of raw cleaning ability, but it actually smells pretty good! The product itself itself "sticks" to the wheel better as well, meaning more cleaning power from less product. Check out my full review for more details.
- Optimum No Rinse - No Rinse is a must have for anyone in a winter climate. A few caps worth is enough to safely and thoroughly clean your paint in the winter with a single bucket and no hose. See my Winter Maintenance Wash post for more info on why this stuff is so awesome!
- AMMO Microfiber Towels - Larry takes his microfibers seriously, and these are seriously the nicest I've found. They come in a pack of six, so I'd recommend grabbing a few at a time. I've tried a number of different "high quality" microfibers in dozens of applications, and these have remained the most versatile and durable of them all.
- Finish Kare BWM-1000 - The most durable, easiest to apply wax I've ever used; so much so that it easily ousted Collinite 845 as my wax of choice. If you're not ready to take the coating plunge, this is your next best bet. A single application of Finish Kare is enough to last through an entire season if properly maintained and the shine is unbelievable! I don't recommend it for use on panels with clear bras (stick with Opti-Seal), as the synthetic-based material is pretty visible on the edges of films.
- Gyeon Can Coat - I have yet to make the jump to a full-fledged ceramic coating, as I've historically had reservations about their ease of maintenance. Having used Can Coat now, it's safe to say I've shelved my waxes for the forseeable future. Significantly easier to apply than a traditional ceramic coating, Can Coat is nearly as durable and is as easy as spraying onto a microfiber and wiping the vehicle down! I've continued to be blown away by the beading and ease of maintenance that comes with this stuff.
- Milwaukee Tool M18 Blower - A leaf blower is a great thing to have on-hand for blowing the water out of the cracks/crevices in your vehicle. It speeds up drying time and helps reduce scratches from unecessary wiping when drying. Really any leaf blower will do, but I just had to plug the Milwaukee!
- Arcan 3 Ton Floor Jack - Having purchased and used everything from a Harbor Freight to Craftsman floor jack, I finally jumped on this Costco deal and have had no regrets. It's a crazy heavy-duty jack, and lifts everything I've thrown at it with ease. It's low profile enough for my WRX, and when combined with a hockey puck (between the pad and jacking point) has left no damage on any of my pinch welds or frame rails.
- Ryobi 1600 PSI Electric Pressure Washer - I had reservations about going with an electric pressure washer, but I've been extremely happy with the performance of this guy. It's highly portable, easy to store, very quiet, and has plenty of power for car washing. Combined the coating and blower, I almost don't have to touch the car with a wash mitt or towel to get it clean!
- Eley Hose Reel - $150+ might seem steep for a hose reel, but having gone through numerous plastic/self-winding reels from hardware stores, I did some research on the "best" consumer hose reel available. In almost every result Eley was mentioned, and for good reason. This thing is a beast! The reel itself and included hardware are all very high quality, and I could see this thing outlasting our house! I have mine mounted to the siding and unwinding/winding is a breeze now. Probably one of the best tool investments I've made thus far!