If you want to get into detailing for fun or profit, you must invest in a proper garage setup. From protecting your vehicle to increasing resale value or starting a detailing side business, a DIY detailing garage will help you create that show-worthy shine year-round. Here's everything you need to turn your garage from junk storage to social media brag-worthy.
Auto Detailing Lighting
One overlooked aspect of a successful detailing garage is having enough light. Well, that's second after cleaning out all those old donations, yardsale stuff, and junk you aren't going to use again. Assuming the garage is clean and empty, let's start upgrading with lighting.
You can always open the garage door if it's nice out, and maybe you're lucky enough to have a window or two, but the sun isn't always shining. You need supportive lighting on overcast days or evenings in December when the sun sets at early o'clock.
Source | Advance Auto Parts
Bright lighting is important for detailers when performing paint correction or even just a basic wax job. Strong lighting makes for increased visibility of problem areas. Polishing with residue still stuck to the paint will swirl around the paint finish, leaving micro scratches or swirl marks. You can use a clay bar or synthetic clay by feel to remove some paint imperfections, but bright direct lighting will speed up the process. A pro car detailing garage should have plenty of bright white lights for spotting dull areas that need work, swirls and scratches, and residue missed by the wash step. Look for modern LED lights with minimum glare and the ability to be wired in parallel. While the hexagon lights look great on Insta, regular old-style light bars work just fine. Pro tip: mount LED lights on the walls of your garage, too, for powerful see-anything lighting on any vehicle surface.
There are two main types of automotive garage storage: visible and hidden, and both have their advantages. An example of visible storage can be spray bottles hung along a pipe fixed to the wall for easy access and as a visual indicator of what to use next and (if clear) the levels inside each bottle. Other examples of in-your-face storage include pegboard walls with all their handy attachments or even basic garage shelves open on all sides.
Source | Advance Auto Parts
Hidden storage includes tool chests, cabinets, totes, and dedicated storage racks. The benefit here is for a much cleaner look when closed, and spills can stay limited instead of going all over the floor.
Big box hardware stores will gladly sell you large metal cabinets, often costing well into four digits. If you're on a budget, look for nearby home renovations where contractors might be throwing away older kitchen cabinets, and you might be able to score some for free. Yardsales and second-hand stores are also good bets for affordable storage cabinets and open heavy-duty shelving.
Pro detailing requires a lot of water and air; an air compressor is the key to pro detailing tools that can get the job done. For example, tools like foam cannons need at least a garden hose water line and an air compressor that can consistently move at least 5 CFM. Foam cannons are like cheat codes for vehicle detailing, quickly blasting incredible amounts of soapy water at a vehicle. They can do some interior work, such as throwing massive suds deep into filthy or muddy floor mats. Switch to clean water, and all the soap and cleaning solution are gone in just a few seconds.
Now you're left with a wet ride and sopping wet floor mats. The air compressor wins again here by quickly drying your vehicle. Use a high-pressure blow gun to send pools of water into the next time zone, and quickly set up the floor mats to air dry.
Remember to clean your air tools after every use and grease them regularly. Hang the tools near the compressor with wall hooks. The air hose is best managed with a retractable air hose reel that keeps it safely out of the way when not in use. For a low-buck solution with flair, grab a cool-looking wheel from the junkyard and spray paint it your color of choice, secure it to the garage wall, and use it as an air hose hanger.
Auto Detailing Supplies
If you're just getting started and want to build a pro detailing package, you'll need at least:
- Microfiber towels (get different colors to use for different tasks)
- Car wash soap
- Car wash mitt
- Clay bar and/or synthetic clay
- Iron remover
- Polisher and pads
- Wheel cleaner
- Wheel brush
- Interior cleaner
- Interior brushes
- Carpet brush (drill brush)
- Glass cleaner
The goal isn't to have pristine rides and a filthy garage. Having a garage as clean as the vehicles you work on is possible. A shop vacuum is a piece of essential equipment for getting filthy auto carpets and upholstery spotless, and it's also great for cleaning large spaces like a garage floor. Larger sizes need emptying less often, so get the one that fits your budget, even if it's smaller. Plus, small shop vacs are easily portable if your detailing operation is mobile. Look for wet/dry vacuuming to gain powerful deep cleaning through heavy product saturation, followed by clean water spray and extraction. This technique gets even set-in stains out of carpets. If you are currently building or remodeling a garage, look into routing plumbing for a shop sink and floor drain. These items are affordable and make a massive difference in detailing efficiency.
Source | Tima Miroshnichenko
Make it pretty
Once the above requirements are met, you can focus on the aesthetics. Choose a wall color you love or a classic racing livery. For some nearly-free character, reclaimed pallets make for a great accent wall. Almost as cheap is using salvaged parts for decoration. Cover one wall with old used-up car parts, such as intake manifolds, valve covers, or hubcaps from the salvage yard. Your flooring needs consideration too. DIY epoxy floor kits add an attractive pop of color while making the garage floor much more chemical- and stain-resistant. Have a favorite tool or high-performance air filter brand? Buy banners and hang them on the walls. Last, add a cheap TV (used is a great option here) and Wi-Fi for all the YouTube garage info you could ever use.
Source | Advance Auto Parts
Have any questions or tips for a pro-level detail garage? Let us know in the comments below.