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Car Show Etiquette and Advice


With everything that has gone on in the world recently a therapeutic revival of car meets and return of car shows is needed.  As we gather for car events and consider displaying our cars in public gatherings, I want to share a few insights.  Hopefully, all parties in the enthusiast community are reading and sharing this information.

Touching cars, especially paint (which is scratch sensitive) should always be discouraged.  Unfortunately, it is often not!

Finger Print Ferrari

Seeing fingerprints like this upsets me.

Hand print

Before I was old enough to drive, I remember individuals leaning against their own car as they struck a pose.  It is one thing to continue this trend with your car (not recommended) but leaning on a stranger’s car is rude.  One of my clients once told me he always taught his son to appreciate and respect other people’s cars.  I encourage everyone reading this to pass on and encourage this attitude amongst your peers.

I understand many people at these car shows will have NO interest in changing their car care habits, but I am going to bring up the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ anyway.   Unfortunately, most of the cars at these shows have dull looking paint (pictured below).  The owners’ effort to make them shine is the problem!  These are the consequences of taking a microfiber towel and wiping on cars with quick detailers.


Very rarely do I not see most cars with paint (pictured above) that looks like this at a car show. Notice there is always that one car that stands out.  The owner is NOT constantly rubbing on his or her car chasing dust!  I do not want anyone to feel forced to change a habit that provides fulfillment.  But I know some people are open to improving their car care habits. If you need some helpful tips on how to properly clean your vehicle and reduce imperfections check out the below articles!

Audi-RS5 CanCoat

I have been fortunate enough to be trusted to detail some of the rarest and most luxurious cars in these special events.  The owners of these vehicles all love their cars!  They also embrace the fact that there is something to always learn about car care.  To be frank, conversations with my clients regarding car shows are often about NOT doing what you normally see at car shows!  Oftentimes doing nothing when the dust settles is the best decision.

I am of the mindset I would rather have a dusty or even a dirty car than a dull looking car and this can change my thinking of how to care for a vehicle at a specific time. You may also be reluctant to participate in a car show, due to a reluctance to perform engine bay detailing.  Waterless wash options are available if that may add to your comfort level.  It is what I most prefer them for.


Between care for your own paint during these events, to etiquette when around other’s vehicles, I hope this article helps shed some light on each topic!

Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
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11 comments on Car Show Etiquette and Advice

  1. Ron Ayotte says:

    I enter my 2006 Mustang GT in a lot of car shows. I was at a cars and coffee event, walking around to see the other cars. When I went back to my car, I saw some “Millenial” leaning on my car and talking on his cell phone.

    I played “dumb”. walked up to him and said “excuse me… nice car, is it yours?”
    He said “no”.
    I said “well, this is my car… get your ass off of it!”
    Luckily, there was no damage to the car. Some people do not respect the hard work people put into making their cars look great

    • Rodney Tatum says:

      Ron I suspect you handled that situation with more grace than I would have. That’s infuriating.

      I feel no emotional connection to women’s everyday travel bags. I could never imagine stepping on, spilling crap on, or brushing up against a Coco Channel handbag with a ‘it’s just a storage container’ attitude. Showing respect and valuing another person’s property is just at the core of being a decent human being. It doesn’t have to make sense for me to appreciate another person’s sentimental connection to his or her property.

  2. Philip A. Arnold says:

    Great article. Absolutely agree with you. Hard to imagine the paint condition on the majority of cars that I see at various car shows I go to in the southeast. But you’re probably preaching to the choir for the most part. But thanks for the article. Excellent.

  3. Jim Broyles says:

    I quit taking my car to shows because people are spraying all sorts of detailers and tire shine….if there’s the slightest breeze that product travels through the air and lands on everyone else’s paint. Now you have splotches all over your car and the glass. Rather that be rude and get into an argument I just quit taking my car to shows. I don’t care about a trophy anyway.

  4. Steve Travis says:

    Several years ago, I had my ’59 Thunderbird at a car show. The car that parked directly behind mine was a –genuine– ’68 Shelby GT500… A beautiful car, that I know gets driven quite often. Those don’t grow on trees in this part of the country, so I understand that folks want to take pictures of it.

    However, I found one jerk LAYING ON MY CAR so he could get pictures of the front of the Shelby. His jeans had rivets on the pockets, he had a metal belt buckle, his camera strap had some metal pieces in it, he was wearing a zip-up sweatshirt with metal zipper……… Needless to say, I went ballistic. While I was going ballistic, I did explain about his various metal objects and what they do to paint.

    I don’t think he understood the concept of what I was explaining….. He just looked at me like he thought I was an indignant, horrible meanie for telling him to get off my car.

    It’s a good thing I had a couple friends there, or I would probably be typing this from PRISON.

  5. Vftank says:

    It truly is sad to know in this society that people do not care nor respect things others have worked hard for & maintain their beauty. As a detailer I understand all the comments Ive read. There’s countless hours & $$ that goes into those fine cars/ trucks. So please give the owners the respect they deserve for all their hard earned work. If need be- ask the owner to snap a pic of the car- they are more then happy to show out their pride & joy.

  6. Jeff says:

    when u don’t no better u can’t do better 🤔

  7. Jim says:

    This must be a local or regional phenomenon. Around here, even at a weekend cars & coffee meet, the vast majority of cars are detailed to a show level. This goes to 100% at a formal judged event. And nobody touches, leans on, or randomly sprays chemicals on other cars. The occasional fingerprint from a little kid who escaped Mom & Dad’s watchful eye does happen, followed by a quick scolding of the perpetrator and apology from the parents. Not a big deal, it cleans right up.

  8. Ross Wilson says:

    Unfortunately the average person with a car treats it like an appliance. They would act the same at a car show as they would at a crummy used car lot.

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