Spray Detailer Comparison Test


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story by Tim McNair • photography by the author

Get to one of the country’s top concours events early, and you’ll find Tim McNair of Grand Prix Concours Preparation detailing the most immaculate entries.

Spray detailers have come a long way. What started as a quick method for keeping our cars presentable between washes or touching them up before a show has become a staple in the community.

Whether we’re shopping for a clay bar lube or a replacement for a soap-and-hose session, we have all manner of brands, colors and scents to choose from. Most of us, though, probably didn’t put too much thought into the last spray detailer we brought home. Maybe it was just the cheapest bottle at the auto parts store. Or maybe it was a sample handed out at an event.

The formulas are all basically the same, right? Well, maybe not.

We rounded up several options for a head-to-head comparison. Eric Peterson of Leydon Restorations provided the shop space and test vehicle: a filthy 2008 BMW 5 Series.

We taped the hood and trunk into equal sections–one per cleaning product. Each cleaner was sprayed onto the body and then wiped off using a generic microfiber towel.

The bottles all had similar multifunction spray heads, and all were turned to the spray setting. Most of the cleaners required two or three sprays per section. Scents were described by our judges’ consensus.

Each one of our 15 products got its own square on this 2008 BMW 5 Series, which started the process absolutely filthy.

Each one of our 15 products got its own square on this 2008 BMW 5 Series, which started the process absolutely filthy.

CROFTGATE AQUANIL

We started with Aquanil, a product found mostly at auto flea markets. Croftgate products don’t have the popularity of the mainstream brands.

Qualities: A citrusy orange smell and a weird, almost fluorescent orange color.

Cleaning: Wiped off easily, quickly removing dirt and leaving a dry finish. It added some gloss, but that dissipated soon after.

None

BARRETT-JACKSON RAPID DETAILER

While a relative newcomer to the detail world, this product already has eye-catching endcap displays in the auto parts stores. The marketing is big and bold, just like Barrett-Jackson’s auctions.

Qualities: Sprays on with a distinct smell, kind of like Mr. Bubble. It’s pink in color.

Cleaning: Left the surface clean but a little sticky. Average gloss.

None

MEGUIAR’S QUIK DETAILER MIST & WIPE

The old standard in the maroon bottle.

Qualities: Blue liquid with a bubblegum scent.

Cleaning: Worked well, leaving an average shine. Harmless. Average gloss.

None

MEGUIAR’S M34 MIRROR GLAZE FINAL INSPECTION

This one is part of the brand’s Professional series. We decanted our sample from a gallon jug.

Qualities: Pink in color with a fruity smell. Body-shop safe, too.

Cleaning: Average gloss but cleaned quickly.

None

MEGUIAR’S ULTIMATE QUIK DETAILER

Here’s yet another quick detailer solution from Meguiar’s, and this was the first one we tested that made a real difference.

Qualities: White in color with a strange smell–perhaps cedar.

Cleaning: Cleaned very well, but a bit sticky when wiping. This one left a much higher gloss and a slicker finish than any product we’d tested so far.

None

MOTHERS CALIFORNIA GOLD SHOWTIME INSTANT DETAILER

Available almost everywhere, this one is a favorite of the hotrod crowd.

Qualities: Sprays well and has a cinnamon scent. Pink in color.

Cleaning: Sticky when applied. It left a waxy finish but not much gloss.

None

MOLECULE DETAILER

This one isn’t available everywhere. It’s usually advertised in motorsports magazines.

Qualities: Watery spray and a funky smell–like a restroom cleaning product.

Cleaning: Soapy on the paint and dried with average gloss. It melted our paper test cup after a few minutes.

None

WHO’S MAGIC SOLUTION

Sold in a white, generic bottle, this is not a flashy product. Sales are handled through their equally generic website.

Qualities: No scent at all. Sprays on with a waxy feel.

Cleaning: Superior gloss with some scratch-filling quality. The most surprising product of our test.

None

303 SPEED DETAILER

Quite a few pro detailers use 303 Products. Their protectant and convertible-top cleaners are exceptional.

Qualities: White in color with a piña colada scent.

Cleaning: Average cleaning and gloss.

None

SWISSVAX QUICK FINISH

The fancy wax company with the beautiful color ads offers high-end waxes that retail for more than $1500. At $60 per bottle, this was the most expensive product we tested–most others cost $10 to $20 per bottle.

Qualities: Green-blue in color. Scent is reminiscent of a toilet cookie.

Cleaning: Wiped off dry with average gloss and cleaning.

None

ZYMÖL DEEP GLOSS DETAILER

The manufacturer’s description sounds enticing: coconut wetting agents and rice bran wax infused with aloe vera.

Qualities: Cheap perfume smell.

Cleaning: Wiped on and off easily. Left a slick finish that then dissipated into an average shine.

None

GRIOT’S GARAGE SPEED SHINE

Now available in most auto parts stores in addition to Griot’s online shop and print catalog.

Qualities: Now in a clear bottle so it’s easier to see how much product remains. It has a pleasant, clean smell–maybe cherry.

Cleaning: Cleaned well, leaving behind a smooth finish. Clearly the glossiest detailer we tested.

None

VERDICT

WHICH SPRAY DETAILERS REIGN SUPREME?

Griot’s Garage Speed Shine, Who’s Magic Solution and Meguiar’s Ultimate Quik Detailer Mist & Wipe are the best of the bunch. These three literally outshine the competition. When considering price and availability, the Griot’s spray wins overall; the Meguiar’s product is a bit more expensive, and the Who’s spray is pretty much only available online. Still, we consider all three to be the best spray detailers currently available. Nozzle tov!

What About Spray Wax?

Quick detailers aren’t the only spray products for cars, as the market now includes spray waxes. We sampled three of these recent releases to see if they offer something that the quick detailers do not.

LUCAS SLICK MIST FAST & EASY SPEED WAX

Offered by the same company that makes oil additives, this spray is part of the Lucas detailing line.

Qualities: A blue liquid that sprays on with a slippery feel. Smells like bubble gum.

Cleaning: Left a glossy, waxy, smooth finish. Felt like a waxed finish when dry. Good depth of gloss, but not much glossier than the detailers’ results.

None

DRIVEN RACING OIL RACE WAX

This spray-on wax was developed by Joe Gibbs Racing, the NASCAR powerhouse.

Qualities: Orange in color with a citrus scent. Sprays with a soapy look.

Cleaning: Very glossy finish. The feel was smooth and waxy yet a little average. Dissipated quickly.

None

VERDICT

SPRAY WAXES: WORTH IT?

In general, spray waxes are not an alternative to quick detailers. Think of them more as wax boosters. Use them after quick detailing, traditional washing and drying, or immediately after bath time. Some actually perform better on a wet car. When applied after using a clay bar, both spray waxes add significant gloss and depth. Unlike traditional waxes, though, they offer minimal scratch filling.

What About Something That Does It All?

Detailers and spray waxes aren’t the only game in town for a waterless cleaning. We checked out a product that claims to be a one-bottle solution for cleaning and shining.

MEGUIAR’S ULTIMATE WASH & WAX ANYWHERE

Wash a car without a hose and bucket? That’s the promise behind Meguiar’s Ultimate Wash & Wax, a relatively new cleaning product.

Qualities: Smells really good.

Cleaning: Cut through mud and even light, greasy stuff to leave a waxy, high-gloss finish.

None

VERDICT

DIRTY TO DETAILED WITH ONE PRODUCT?

The Meguiar’s spray cleaned very well and proved great at bucketless washing. It left a good gloss, too. You could actually call this one an alternative to spray detailers, especially if you’re dealing with a dirtier car.

This article is from a past issue of the magazine. Like stories like this? You’ll see every article as soon as it's published, and get access to our full digital archive, by subscribing to Classic Motorsports. Subscribe now.

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Comments
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pirate
pirate Reader
2/23/19 10:02 a.m.

Recently used a product called Aerolon Tech Shine which is applied after washing to a wet car. After application the car is rinsed and dried. Leaves an incredible shine that seems to last. Would like to see test compared to other products.

Donatello
Donatello New Reader
2/23/19 11:53 a.m.

OK, it's shiney. But how many seconds will this take off my lap time?

pirate
pirate Reader
2/23/19 2:28 p.m.

Well don’t know about how much it will take off lap times but company advertising and advertising on TV car shows said it was developed for airplanes and racing powerboats to reduce drag. Only thing I can vouch for is made my Fiesta ST really shine with the least amount of work of any wax job I ever did. Will admit I try to keep it looking good anyway. 

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