How To Properly Mask a Car To Prevent Damage?

As with any detailing task, half of the work is in the preparation. Preparation is the most important thing that differentiates a professional detailer. One of the most important preparation tasks is masking delicate areas of the vehicle.

We see so many cars coming into Vietnam Car Care with damage to the vehicle because detailers have not masked off plastics/trims etc to protect them. In this article, we will show you how to properly mask a car. If you want to retain vehicles resell value it’s important to tape off sensitive features, where to tape off, and when.

mask a car - car masking tape process

Why is it Important to Mask With Tape?

You may be asking, ‘whats the point in taping in the first place’ – basically, by doing this your will protect the rest of the vehicle from being contaminated or damaged by whatever process you are completing, for example….

1. Damage from polishing machines

A classic example (and where we see most damages caused) is when detailers are using a polishing machine. When polishing the door panel, they accidentally let the polishing machine come into contact with plastic trim, damn – if your polishing machine has not damaged the plastic, then its likely your compound did! Whilst a little compound can be removed from the plastic, if the polishing machine was spinning fast enough, you could have caused irreparable damage.

2. Products can get stuck in the crevices of the car

If you do not tape up the cracks and crevices, you may finish polishing and think ‘Wow, the paintwork looks great’. Then without noticing products get stuck in the crevices in the vehicle’s bodywork. Usually, this will be hard, dry and difficult to remove.
Whilst it may not be visible immediately to your client – give it time and they will soon see the bad workmanship.

mask a car - imperfections left on car crack

3. Cross-Contamination

When detailing or applying a ceramic coating, it is very easy to contaminate a different surface on the vehicle by accident.

A good example is when you apply a ceramic coating to the paintwork, but have not masked off the headlights. You may accidentally apply some of the coatings to the headlight. This won’t actually make a visible impact on the headlight by itself. However, if the customer chose to apply a dedicated headlight coating to their headlights, it may result in a sub-par bond between the coating and headlight, resulting in poor durability.

Further, some products contain acid and we often see client’s vehicles with white stains on the plastic trip near the wheels. This is as a result of the product reacting with the plastic, a material it is not designed to come into contact with.

mask a car - plastic car trim fade

Where to mask?

Looking at the car you are probably wondering, ‘so what do I need to tape off?’ – the answer is simple, look at the area you are working on, see what other surfaces are nearby such as headlights, plastic/chrome trim, etc.
Always ask yourself:
Is the job I am doing going to run the risk of damaging, contaminating, or changing the appearance of a nearby surface?
If the answer is ‘yes’, you must ensure you get the tape out and spend time preparing the vehicle to ensure there is no cross-contamination or accidental damage caused.
Our image gallery below shows some examples!

mask a car - car masking tape

mask a car - car mask tape

mask a car - car masking tape

What tape to use?

As with anything, you need the right tool for the right job. I have seen people using sellotape, which is just wrong! You need to use an automotive masking tape that is designed for this specific purpose. If you do not have access to this, it can be purchased here: link to CCC product page

Tape as I go or at the beginning?

If you are going to be working on a number of different panels, it’s probably better to tape off delicate features as you move from panel to panel. The reason for this is because if you are not using a quality tape and tape up the whole vehicle at the beginning, you could find that the tape is losing its adhesion by the time you get to the other side of the car.

Taping inside the crevices of the vehicle.

It is important that you fold the tape so it covers the crevices as mentioned earlier, this ensures better protection, as shown in this example below

In conclusion

It is your job as a professional detailer to make sure that you take adequate precautions to your client’s vehicles. Taping off is one of the most important tasks and preparing in advance is always critical.

Ask a Pro: Ed Bews @ Vietnam Car Care.
Ed Bews has had a passion for car care since he was 17, for over 18 years he has detailed and loved his cars! He is a member of the International Detailing Association (IDA) and a founding member of Vietnam Detailing Academy. Ed opened Vietnam Car Care in 2015 to bring the same passion and international detailing techniques and services he found in the UK to Vietnam!