Learning to properly detail your car is one of the more time consuming and rewarding journeys you embark upon as an auto enthusiast. The journey usually begins with the realization that the swirl marks plaguing your paint finish are the result of improper car washing. From there you do some research on the forums and adopt the two bucket method, maybe try out some waxes, a clay bar and if you are really ambitious, you even graduate to an orbital buffer.
There is pretty much zero possibility that your journey will lead to AutoWeek naming you one of the top 9 detailers in the United States. However, that is exactly where we find Ivan Rajic of LUSTR Auto Detail in Shamburg, Illinois. Ivan went from hobbyist to AutoWeek’s top 9 detailers list. Ivan spent his college years obsessing over perfecting the finish of his jet black 1998 BMW 328i. He spent countless hours researching and experimenting until he became a Jedi of the detail.
LUSTR Auto Detail was established in 2007 and has been providing the highest-end auto detail services in the Chicagoland area ever since. The mind blowing results of LUSTR’s work has made them a destination shop. The most meticulous car owners travel from all over the country for the LUSTR touch and Ivan finds himself making cross state house calls on the regular. The demand for LUSTR Auto Detail is so high that you should plan on booking your appointment at least a month in advance.
While we drool over the work LUSTR does on some of the most beautiful cars in the country and admire the resulting success of Ivan’s dedication to the art; the reason why he is the first detailer to be featured on Mid-America Cartell is because we are so thankful for the education he provides the enthusiasts community.
Ivan doesn’t rest on his laurels or put himself on pedestal. Instead of keeping his knowledge to himself, Ivan spends his free time posting educational material on the LUSTR Blog and Detailed Image. whether you are just learning how to properly detail your car or looking to take your game to next level, Ivan’s Detailed Image series is a must read! Check it out HERE.
We had the opportunity to ask Ivan some questions while he was inspecting some of his clients’ cars at the Another Level Car Show
Mid-America Cartell: What is the most important advice you would give to the enthusiast who has just graduated from the gas station car wash to DIY?
Ivan: One of the biggest issues such enthusiasts face is the overwhelming availability of detailing products these days. Every manufacturer has numerous chemicals for washing, polishing, etc., so it’s an extremely hard and many times expensive choice to make to find what works well for you. We at LUSTR try to minimize this wasted money by recommending products we have used successfully for many years. I guess at the end of the day my main piece of advice would be to do plenty of studying online and practicing in person, but don’t focus on overpriced products that are coming out every few weeks from various manufacturers. Rather, stick with the “tried and true” products and methods, which are bound to provide great results for you and your vehicle.
Mid-America Cartell: For the guy just getting started and on a budget of $200, what should they purchase and why?
Ivan: $200 will get you most of the supplies to properly maintain a car, such as wash materials (buckets, grit guards, mitts, towels, wheel cleaners and brushes, etc.) and some microfiber towels, wax and some dressing for tires, trim and similar parts. This is where everyone should start instead of spending the $400-500+ on machine polishing supplies because even if you do a great job fixing swirl marks by machine, the bigger challenge is maintaining that finish.
Mid-America Cartell: Is there one element of washing a car that must be mastered before proceeding?
Ivan: I believe the main thing is simply knowing that washing a car, regardless of products and technique, means that you will eventually cause some swirl marks. Some garage queens that are rarely washed may not see any noticeable swirl marks for years, whereas daily driven cars, even when washed very meticulously, will see some swirl marks within weeks or months. The point is not to fret over it and simply do the best job you can because at the end of the day we’re mechanically removing dirt from paint and something is bound to appear in terms of swirl marks. The biggest tip for washing a car properly is to wash as small of a section as possible to limit the amount of dirt being dragged across the paint, thus minimizing the possibility of swirl marks.
Mid-America Cartell: Midwest winters are brutal, what advice do you have for maintaining your show season finish during snow season?
Ivan: This is always a tough one for those that daily drive their vehicles. We in the Midwest seem to be on a completely different detail schedule than states such as California. Pre and post winter details are a must. Protect before winter and clean-up after! Touchless automatic washes can be of great help during the winter as they help remove a lot of buildup, after which you can do a safe rinseless wash at home and wax the car. Otherwise, it’s tough for DIY enthusiasts to find an indoor place where they can normally wash their vehicle without worrying about drainage and the freezing weather. Of course, we are open year round and have many regulars who come to the shop during winter for a wash every 1-2 weeks and wax every 6-8 weeks.
Mid-America Cartell: What is the biggest misconception about detailing a car?
Ivan: Tough question, as I’ve come to learn of many misconceptions over the years. I guess the biggest one is that it’s easy to do properly. Some people can wash a car in 20 minutes, others take 60 and some even 2 hours. The level of the wash is what differs but the general public somehow believes it’s all the same service. To go with that it seems that in general people think there’s only ONE kind of detailing, whereas the term detailing spans everything from a quick 2 hour wash & wax type of detail, to a 5 day intensive paint correction, coating application, wheel cleaning, etc. Many times people are asking us “how much is A DETAIL at LUSTR?” to which I can only reply “anywhere between $30 to $3000+.” At the end of the day, there are not only many different levels of detailing (wash, wax, clay, polish, etc), but also different levels of the quality and attention to detail within those different services, so saying “I just detailed my car” is almost as vague as saying “I just purchased a car.”
Mid-America Cartell: The full paint correction services the you transform cars with has put LUSTR on the map but we understand you are rolling out a new Wash & Wax Saturdays. Fill us in on the details?
Ivan: Absolutely correct. Current and potential clients normally know us for the 1-2 day intensive correction work we perform but we do offer all kinds of other services, from basic washing, waxing, and headlight restorations to wheel detailing. This is something we are trying to shed light on a bit more, thus the Wash & Wax Saturdays. These will be Saturdays scheduled throughout the year and we will only book 1-2 hour appointments for basic wash and wax type services. It will help to publicize our basic services and allow regulars and new clients alike to book a quick service with us as opposed to waiting a long time due to our normally constrained schedule.
Mid-America Cartell: Anything else in the works that we should be on the lookout for?
Ivan: We are always working on new things behind closed doors so to speak. We are thrilled to be developing ChicagoDetailing.com, a website that will prove loads of detailing informatrion for enthusiasts. The website will launch in the coming months and along with the digital education we will host regularly scheduled clinics. LUSTR Auto Detail will also be partnering with organization such as Chicago Rally to put together meets, bikini washes and charity events. Lastly, be sure to check out our website for detailing supplies, we will be adding even more products soon and are always happy to answer any questions.
Mid-America Cartell would like to thank Ivan for taking the time to drop detailing knowledge on the enthusiast community. We also thank him for having the cars at the Another Level Car Show looking so damn clean!
We can’t stress it enough, read up on his Detailed Image blog and we’ll be sure to let you know when ChicagoDetail.com goes live. In addition, Ivan will be dropping by Mid-America Cartell on occasion to share more tips on keeping your car sparkly