One of my earliest detailing experiences happened roughly 14 years ago. I wanted to revive the paint on my MR2, so I bought the Meguiars 3-step system from Canadian Tire.
My “after” results back then probably looked like my “before” shots now but I thought I was a hero at the time. That moment triggered a desire to really chase detailing and paint correction and ever since then, Meguiars has always had a place in my heart.
With what seems like a new detailing product line popping up on the market every week, it’s getting really hard for DIY detailers to choose which products to buy. Many of us have been led to believe that any company that sells their products in auto parts stores must be cheap and low quality. That’s not always the case.
There’s a lot more to Meguiars as a company than you might realize. The truth is, they’ve created a few lines of products that many professionals continue to use on a regular basis.
I want to make it clear that Meguiars isn’t paying me to write this. I just wanted to help set the record straight about this company and to explain why I continue to use a lot of their products.
Meguiars vs. Chemical Guys and Adams Polishes
Many people turn to companies like Chemical Guys and Adam’s Polishes when they want to take care of their car as a hobby. These two companies have done a great job of marketing, branding, and getting their products in front of the average car guy.
Are their products the best on the market? Not even close. But they get the job done, come in colorful bottles, and smell good. People enjoy using them and they’re proud of the results when they’re done. At the hobbyist level, detailing products are more about the experience and less about efficiency or effectiveness – and that’s ok.
Fancy packaging isn’t something Meguiars has necessarily done the best job of. They’ve been in business forever. Up until recently, their branding hasn’t changed a whole lot during that time, though.
Many of their products still come in the same plain yellow bottles you see on the dusty shelves of body shops. It’s no surprise that DIY detailers are drawn to the “Super Citrus Yum Yum Wash Goop” that other companies sell. Meguiars tends to focus more on developing and testing the product itself and less on fancy marketing.
In general, Meguiars consumer line of products is on par with most of the products from Chemical Guys and Adams Polishes. I know that might make some of you fanboys of those companies upset, but remember that product choice is very subjective. Some Meguiars products might work better, some might not work as well.
My belief is that the product you choose is nowhere near as important as your knowledge and technique. Experienced detailers can get the same result regardless of what bottle you put in their hand.
Different Meguiars product lines
Consumer Line (Ultimate, Hot, Gold Class, NXT etc.)
I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not really into most of the consumer grade products Meguiars (or others) sell on the shelves of the local parts store. These are essentially their entry-level line of products – they’re intended for people that don’t eat, sleep, and breath detailing the way us weirdos do.
These products have fancier packaging and aren’t usually the most powerful formulas out there. They do have their place on the market though. In a way, these products are watered down to protect inexperienced car owners from themselves. If someone fails to read the label and ends up spraying a trim restorer on their hood, it’s not the end of the world.
If you use these products as intended, you should at least get a decent result though. For example, don’t expect their Hot Rims wheel cleaner to be a touch-free solution for neglected wheels – you’ll have to agitate it with a brush and might need to repeat the process a few times. In the end, it’ll work.
But just like the hobbyist level products from those other companies, there are more efficient options out there. It just so happens that Meguiars offers those too.
Professional Line (Detailer, Mirror Glaze)
Meguiars professional line of products has been the benchmark for the rest of the industry for a very long time. There’s a reason for that. They’re workhorses. They bypass all of the flashy marketing and packaging and focus on getting the job done well and in a timely fashion. Want a compound that smells like roses and has a 4 hour long working time? Find another company.
One of the big draws to the Detailer line of products is the fact that many of them are sold as one gallon concentrates that you dilute to your desired strength. This is huge in terms of value because you aren’t paying to ship water. What do I mean by that?
Consider what you get when buying a bottle of ready-to-use all-purpose cleaner. A moderate strength mix of Meguiars APC is 10:1. That’s one part product – the rest of the bottle is all water. Buying a gallon of just the product and adding your own water means you get way more for your money. A gallon will last a hobbyist detailer a very, very long time.
Despite being marketed as professional grade products, both the Detailer and Mirror Glaze lines are great ways for new detailers to build up their arsenal without breaking the bank. Aside from some of the heavy cutting compounds, these are safe for everyone to use.
Where are Meguiars products made?
Meguiars liquids are all formulated and developed at their Irvine, California headquarters and manufactured at their plant in Memphis, Tennessee. Some of the equipment they sell like polishers for example, might be made in China to save on costs. Their general rule is “if it comes in a bottle, it’s made in the USA”.
Why does Meguiars still sell the same old products?
Meguiars has been accused of not being innovative in terms of new product development in the past. The reality is that they have a loyal fanbase of body shops and professional detailers. They don’t need to be coming out with new products constantly in an effort to stay relevant.
Unlike many popular detailing product manufacturers (and you would be surprised at how many), Meguiars doesn’t use a blender to create their products. A blender is a facility that creates a formula for a certain detailing product (take a polish as an example), then offers it to well-known companies to package it to suit their brand.
Sometimes they’ll ask the blender to modify the color or smell in order to seem like a different product when in reality, it’s the same stuff the other guy is selling.
Meguiars doesn’t do this. Rather than taking the same polish everyone else uses, changing the color to pink and calling it their own, they create, test, and manufacture their products themselves. Meguiars spends years testing and developing their stuff, so when they decide it’s ready to hit the market, they know it works without needing to update it every year.
There are a lot of old timers that have used the Meguiars Mirror Glaze line throughout their whole career. They’ve learned how to use their favorite products in a way that works best for them. These aren’t the folks that are interested in chasing the latest and greatest things in the industry. They’ve got a job to do and they know the product they’ve been comfortable using for the last 20 years will get it done.
Call it closed minded if you wish, but I think it’s cool that Meguiars refuses to leave these people hanging. As long as they keep buying (and they do), Meguiars will keep selling it. That’s why you see so many older products that you might have never heard of still being sold.
These old timers might not be all over social media and Youtube like other professionals, but make no mistake – they’re working behind the scenes in thousands of businesses across the world.
Popular older products: The Tried and True
There are a few Meguiars products that have been really popular among DIY detailers and professionals for a long time. That’s because they’ve been proven to work well by many people.
Meguiars Gold Class Car Wash
One of those products is their Gold Class Car Wash. You might be surprised by this because it’s easily found on the shelves of auto parts stores and big box stores. The reality is that it simply works.
It works so well that many professional detailers will recommend their customers use it to maintain their paint’s finish after paying for a paint correction and even a ceramic coating. They recommend it because it’s readily available, gentle on waxes and sealants, and since it doesn’t leave any waxes or protective polymers behind, it’s also ceramic coating friendly.
Meguiars Mirror Glaze compounds and polishes
What if I told you that a fancy $60 polishing compound won’t necessarily work any better than a $20 bottle from Meguiars? As a matter of fact, many of them won’t get the job done as well. Again, I want to remind you that technique is everything, especially when it comes to paint correction.
Well known detailers like Larry Kosilla, Kevin Brown, Jason Kilmer, and Andy Ward have all been fans of Meguiars. Jason Rose (now with Rupes USA) used to work for Meguiars and played a big role in developing some of these compounds and polishes. Even Jim White can be seen reaching for a bottle of M100 in some of his videos when the European compounds just don’t have enough cut.
Meguiars compounds are designed to cut well initially, then die off when they’re done. The trouble most people run into is usually caused by working them for too long. These are meant to be short cycled – get in and get out.
Yes, expensive compounds that use diminishing abrasives might be easier to use for beginners. They might even have darkening agents, nice smells, and pretty bottles. But for knowledgable detailers that are only concerned with removing defects from the paint, Meguiars is often the most efficient way to go.
Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner and Super Degreaser
The cleaners Meguiars offers in their Detailer line have also been popular for a very long time. They’re sold as concentrates by the gallon so you can dilute them to be as strong as you want. All Purpose Cleaner and Super Degreaser are extremely cost-effective because of this. At the recommended dilution ratios, these are strong enough to clean interiors, engine bays, tires, and wheel wells.
Meguiars X-Press Spray Wax
This is still one of the best spray waxes on the market. Although it’s not intended to be diluted like other products in the Detailer lineup, it does come in a one gallon jug. D156 X-Press Spray Wax is still a bargain because you can buy that gallon for only a few dollars more than a 16 oz bottle of another product.
This is another versatile product that Meguiars offers (notice a theme yet?) and can be used to boost the wax on your paint, as a drying aid, on wheels, and even as a protectant for interior plastic and vinyl.
Meguiar’s Hyper Dressing
Once again we have another dilutable concentrate from the Detailer line. A gallon of Hyper Dressing might seem a bit expensive at first, but it too can be diluted and used for many purposes. Hyper Dressing makes a great tire shine but also works really well as an engine bay and wheel well dressing.
People have even used it to dress spray-in bedliners on pickup trucks. Just spray it on and walk away. You can fine tune exactly how shiny you want it to be by diluting it with water. That level of customization makes Hyper Dressing a really versatile product.
Meguiars DA Microfiber Correction System
Meguiars might not have invented the microfiber cutting pad but they certainly changed the detailing industry with it. To this day, the Meguiars microfiber cutting pad is arguably the most popular one out there. In fact, there’s so much love for it that other companies sell punch sets to be able to create your own smaller sizes that Meguiar’s doesn’t offer.
It doesn’t stop there though. Meguiars developed an entire microfiber paint correction system to help car owners correct their own paint. This included the microfiber cutting and finishing pads, D300 cutting compound, D301 finishing polish, and even their own dual action polisher.
The concept was to be able to achieve nearly the same amount of cut that previously could only be found with a rotary polisher but with a safer dual action machine.
I’m a big fan of D300 compound. I tend to use it on cars that only suffer from swirl marks and moderate scratches because it’s so user friendly, keeps heat down, and creates very little dust. Out of curiosity, I’ve put it to the test and removed heavy sanding marks from a poorly finished aftermarket paint job, even with a short throw polisher! That’s no joke for such an easy to use product.
Interesting new products
People complained about them relying too much on past successes and Meguiars listened. They’ve launched some really interesting new products for 2019. Possibly the most exciting is a new compound (M110) and polish (M210).
They spent years developing and testing these to offer lots of cut, a great user experience, and the ability to finish down better on soft paint. Being a fan of their existing polishes, I’m really looking forward to trying this duo out.
Another new product that’s been getting a ton of buzz (and some controversy) is Meguiars Hybrid Ceramic Wax. It uses an SI-02 formula (similar to what you’d find in a ceramic coating) and is intended to be sprayed on and rinsed off with water. With so many spray-on ceramic coatings and SI-02 detail sprays hitting the market lately, it’s no secret that Meguiars used the word “ceramic” to jump onto that train.
Are any of these products the same as traditional ceramic coatings? No. Think of them more as a spray wax that you can use to boost the protection on your coated vehicle. An SI-02 spray like Hybrid Ceramic Wax should also work well on uncoated vehicles too.
For those that enjoy using iron and fallout removers that change color, Meguiars has come out with a new one. D1801 Wheel and Paint Iron Decon is the latest member of the Detailer family. It’s ph-neutral and is safe to use on both your wheels and paint. Not many other companies are marketing these products to be used on both (although many can be), so I think this one is pretty cool.
So are Meguiars products really any good?
Absolutely. There’s a reason why so many high-end detailers continue to use Meguiars products decade after decade. They’re efficient, affordable, and highly effective. They might have less entertaining packaging and smells, but in the end, they outperform many products that are triple the price.
The products that have been released recently have shown us that Meguiars is still interested in developing new things. That’s a good sign. They’ve given us so many great products in the past so any time they’re willing to bring out something new, we should definitely pay attention.
Tim is the creator of Canadian Gearhead. His experience with auto detailing and working for Toyota shows through all of the articles posted here. He runs the Canadian Gearhead site and YouTube channel full-time now and currently owns a 2007 4runner, 2006 Tacoma, and 1991 MR2. Read more about Tim: