What shop lights work for professional car detailing?

In this article, you will learn:



  • Why proper lighting is important during the paint correction process

  • How professionals light their workspaces for car detailing services

  • How car owners can approximate pro-style lighting in their home garages

For your car or truck, a bright and sunny day can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If your car is scratch-free, washed and waxed, that bright light will make your car sparkle like crazy. But, if you have scratches or swirls in your clear coat, the sunlight will emphasize every little imperfection. The bright side is you can use this intense lighting to your advantage when detailing your car. And this is precisely why professional detail shops light up their workspaces with super bright shop lights. Regular, interior light just won't recreate the actual light conditions your car will face when it's outside. And let's face it -how it looks outside, not in the garage, is what counts.

So let's talk about how you can create the right lighting for your next auto detailing job. With the right information and a little effort, you can come pretty close to creating pro-level lighting at your house.

Under the sun

Plenty of people detail their cars outside. They get all the lighting they need free of charge (along with some Vitamin D) from that warm, glowing ball in the sky. That's a perfectly fine way to do it, but keep in mind that detailing outside brings other challenges. For instance, many detailing tasks should not be performed in direct sunlight, so you'll need to find a shady spot. Of course, if you're working outside, you'll be at the whims of mother nature. That surprise rain shower, freezing cold, gust of wind or pollen floating through the air can really throw a wrench into your plans for a beautiful showroom finish. But, if you can find the right spot outside on a pleasant and calm day, the sun's natural light can help you see every speck of dust, scratch and swirl on your car, so you can get to work and get every exterior detail in tiptop shape.

In the garage

On the flipside, detailing in the garage allows you to control almost every variable, so you can work any time of day or night, 365 days a year. One of those elements you absolutely must address is the light. The overhead fluorescent lights that are typical in most garages don't emit the right color or brightness to reveal the true condition of your clear coat.

For starters, you'll need at least one strong overhead source that floods light over all the horizontal surfaces of your car. To make this change, you don't necessarily need to replace the bulbs or a single light fixture in your garage. You can find a powerful LED shop light on a telescopic stand online or in photography or home improvement stores. In addition to overhead lighting, you'll need a number of lights positioned around the car to illuminate the front-end, sides and rear-end. To keep the costs in check, you could purchase one light on a tripod and move it around the car with you as you work. And, like most professional detailers do, you'll benefit from a light that you can aim like a spotlight. For this, an LED headlight can be especially handy, so you can illuminate the precise area where you're looking and working.

Types of light

With so many lights operating in a closed space, your workspace can get hot. Be sure to choose lights that don't emit a great deal of heat. LEDs are the preferred option. Avoid halogen lights entirely.

A mix of soft white and bright white LEDs will help recreate the look of natural light. And, because different paint colors respond differently under the same light, you can fine-tune the color temperature of your lighting to match your needs. The average sunny day has a color temperature of 5,000 Ð 6,000 kelvins. That's a great target range for most cars, but working on darker cars may require a higher color temperature, even up to 7,000 kelvins, while silver cars, for example, may require a lower intensity, perhaps around 4,000 kelvins. Before you purchase LEDs for your garage, check the color temperature specs online or, if you're at the store, look on the product package. You should see the color temperature listed along with light output and wattage.

The ultimate test

Once you've finished (or think you've finished) removing the scratches, swirls and oxidation from your clear coat, pull your car out of the garage and check it under the sunlight. Inspect it closely to make sure you're satisfied with your paint correction. This is an important step, especially before you start waxing your car. After all, this is where your car really needs to shine, out in the open sunlight! If it looks great, pull it back into the garage and finish it with a nice coat of wax. If you spot an area that needs more work, touch it up under the sunlight or drive it back into the garage and correct the surface a little more. Then, just top it off with wax, step back and take it in. What a beautiful sight, thanks to a little attention and the right light.

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