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5 Car Detailing Lighting Setups Perfect for Any Garage

If you’re new to car detailing or paint correction, what doesn’t often get discussed is the fact that proper lighting is key. Since swirl marks or scratches can appear invisible to the naked eye, natural light is the best way to see what you’re doing and correct mistakes.

Unfortunately, traditional halogen lights in warmer color temperatures can make it difficult to see your work. That’s why lights considered ‘detailing lights’ normally mimic daylight.

For the average Joe, consumer-grade LED lights can be a great value to get the job done in most detailing applications. However, a professional-quality lighting solution (designed for matching paint colors) will make even visibility easier.

In this post, I’ll share 5 lighting options I recommend for detailing, and when to use each type. There are a few different kinds of lights to be aware of.

1. Overhead garage lights

detailing light overhead configuration

You need soft overhead lights to see what you’re doing in a garage. LEDs are a good choice to mimic daylight (around 5-6000K); they also stay cool and are more energy-efficient than halogens or compact fluorescent lights.

While you can swap out your bulbs, you have other options if your garage is only wired for a single overhead lightbulb like mine was!

Hanging LED Shop Lights

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Hykolity LED Linkable LED Shop Light Fixture 

If you have a dedicated garage or shop for detailing, these shop light fixtures are easy to install and won’t require an electrician. These hang from the ceiling, can be linked, and plug into any standard outlet.

Hanging lights are nice if you’d like to tweak the vertical position a bit closer to the vehicle using a longer chain.

T8 LED Light Bulbs

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Hyperikon T8 LED bulbs detailing

If you already have fixtures installed, T8 LED bulbs are a simple upgrade that can easily brighten things up. These LED bulbs are much more efficient than fluorescent bulbs and can last 10 to 15 years.

The 6,000K cool white color makes them pretty good for detailing, and many have a lifespan of more than 50,000 hours. The set below comes with a nice 2-year warranty.

Linkable Mounted LED Garage Lights

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If you’re looking for an affordable solution you can mount, these Barrina LED fixtures with bulbs are a popular choice many people use for detailing.

They plug into a wall outlet and can link together with connectors. If your garage is small and only includes a single light source…these are a perfect solution since you won’t need to re-wire anything.

Quick Tip

When installing lights in a garage, one best practice is to configure them in a “U” shape, lining up with the perimeter of your car. Especially for waxing or paint correction work, a proper configuration can help with visibility.

2. Color matching lights for detailing

The Scangrip brand is popular in the detailing community for a few reasons: construction and durability, versatility, and color-matching. Different color temperature options ensure that emitted light provides a reliable representation of the paint color which is critical in detailing work.

Check out this video below for an overview of what these can do for your detailing game.

You can find other brands of ‘color matching lights’ for detailing that are more affordable but generally not as bright or high quality.

3. Spot lights and work lights

tripod led lights detailing

If color-matching lights are a little overkill for your skillset or budget,  a couple of LED work lights on a tripod may be your best choice. You can even use cordless tripod-style lights to avoid tripping over cords. 

Spotlights and tripod lights are a good investment for most shop or garage tasks and also work well for auto detailing applications. 

You may want to consider LED spotlight bulbs to minimize heat since many shop lights can get pretty warm.

A basic set of work lights like this PowerSmith 46W 4,800 lumen LED Work Light on Amazon is a good affordable choice (under $100) for beginners.

4. LED light bars

interior detailing led portable light

For use cases like cleaning under the hood, a simple LED light bar comes in handy, especially if you work at night.

This Neiko unit on Amazon has two brightness modes and telescopes so you can use them just about anywhere.

5. Head lamps for detailing

scangrip head lamp for detailing

Even in broad daylight, cleaning out your engine bay or interior can be difficult since holding a flashlight and dusting or cleaning is pretty ineffective. 

You can find headlamps just for paint correction (like the Coast HL7 here on Amazon) or basic LED headlamps in most automotive sections for around 20 bucks.

The difference between these two types is that the premium Coast headlamps have adjustable LED color options, so you don’t have to worry about lights washing out defects, or not being bright enough. These also allow you to focus the beam of light, which is nice.

These are a great choice for working on scratches and other areas hands-free instead of merely inspecting with a penlight.

Lighting for dark vs light-colored cars

Before you purchase bulbs or any type of lighting, consider the lumen rating you need. For darker-colored cars, bulbs in the 5000-6500k range work well, while lighter-colored cars may only require 3-4500k. 

If the temperature of your light is too bright it can wash out the fine details, especially on lighter cars.

 Finding the ideal color temperature is one reason color-matching lights are so popular in paint correction.

Understanding lumens, kelvin, and watts

You’ve probably heard these lighting terms, but in case you need a quick refresher, here’s what they mean:

  • Lumens: a measurement of light output 
  • Kelvin: a measurement of light temperature (higher temperatures around 7000k often look blue, while lower temperatures appear yellow)
  • Watts: a measurement of how much power a light bulb consumes.

For example, cheap flood lights may light up a garage….but not provide the white light you want without modifications.

At a bare minimum, a good set of overhead bulbs for your garage is a great place to start for most people if your garage simply isn’t bright enough for real paint correction or waxing.

For more ideas on creating a better workspace for detailing your vehicle, check out my blog post 10 Awesome Ideas for Your Detailing Garage Setup

Let me know if you have anything else to add based on your experience using lights in the detailing world!

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Baxter Overman is the founder of Carwash Country and has been been cleaning up dirty vehicles for nearly 20 years. Since 2017, he's helped thousands of beginners see better results by learning the fundamentals of washing and detailing. He's on a mission to make the car wash process more fun...and way easier.

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