Should You Wash or Detail Your Car Before a Road Trip?

Road Trip

With summer in full swing, my family and I were getting excited for our annual Big Sur road trip in my 2018 Nissan Rogue. But before loading up for the long drive, I questioned whether a quick wash would be enough to prepare the car, or if a more thorough auto detailing & ceramic coating would be warranted. Let me share my thoughts on pre-trip car prep based on our experience.

Road Trip

To Wash or Detail?

For shorter jaunts around town, most folks would agree that a standard wash at an automatic or self-serve spot does the trick. But for a multi-day road trip with lots of highway miles, the extra grit and grime that builds up could damage your paint longer term if not addressed before setting off. I wasn’t sure if my usual monthly wash would cut it or if a full detail service was a better investment.

A Fresh Slate

Opting to get the Rogue fully detailed beforehand really paid off in keeping it looking shiny and swirl-free for the entire trip. The shopclay barred to remove stubborn contaminants first. Then they used a dual-action polisher to eliminate any micro-swirls and leave a pristine gloss. Seeing all the exhaust dirt and fallout eliminated reassured me they effectively “prepped” the paint for the inevitable road grime to come.

Bug and Tar Troubles

As anticipated once we hit the Pacific Coast Highway, clinging insects and sticky tar started accumulating on the front end within an hour or two. Normally this debris gradually builds up over weeks. But having a clean canvas to start allowed bug and tar removal pitstops to truly reset the vehicle to like-new condition each time rather than just maintaining. No unsightly buildup occurred like on past trips.

Smooth Sailing Satisfaction

Arriving home after several days on the open road with narya swirl or blemish was tremendously satisfying. The comprehensive detail beforehand proved extremely worthwhile. Pulling into the driveway with the Rogue just as showroom shiny showed our guests the benefits of the prep work. It’ll have me fully detailing before longer trips from now on instead of chance it with only a wash. The ROI is well worth protecting unmarred paint during adventures.


In conclusion, for routinely driving conditions a basic wash suffices. But when preparing vehicles for prolonged road journeys, investing in a full detailing service makes immense sense in maintaining that “just-cleaned” feeling throughout. The extra time and money pays itself back in hassle-free, swirl-free trips. Don’t you agree?