If you’re an avid car show attendee like me, you quickly learn that judged shows are a completely different animal. Participant voting car shows are fun, gets you and your friends involved, and gets you talking with other participants. But judged car shows are totally different because it’s the car that’s solely in control, and how you present the car can make or break the possibility of you going home with a trophy. And although most blame it on judging, the fact is that it’s mostly on you, and what you didn’t do that affects the outcome of any judged car show.

I can tell you from experience, there’s 5 places most people overlook and cause huge deductions on their judging sheet… and most can be easily addressed.  Here are a few car show tips we can give you for judged car shows:


When I mention wheels, I’m not talking about the tires, but the rims themselves. Don’t just look at the outside, take those wheels off and clean inside the rims. There’s a lot of brake dust that can build up over time and can really look nasty. That’s where a judge will look and see if a car is really clean and well maintained. And while you have the wheels off, give your brakes & suspension a good cleaning! You’ll notice a huge difference!!

Door Jambs

This is probably the second most overlooked part of any detail job. Your door jambs should be clean and shiny, just like the rest of the paint. Just take a microfiber and some spray detailer and give them a wipedown. And if you get some trouble spots, a little wax & tar remover, or a dab of fine rubbing compound will go a long way.

Frame / Underbody

A car may be clean and shiny on the outside, but a car’s underbody can make or break a car at a judged car show. They should be free of dirt, oil, grease, or even overspray. If they’re not, you’ll loose points every time! For minor stuff, take a bit of sandpaper to any surface rust and then coat with a flat black paint. That will take care of most issues on any frame rail.

Wheel Wells

Yes, we’ve seen a lot of great cars at shows sitting there with dirt, mud, and tar on the top of the wheel well. It’s a common thing to overlook, but an easy thing for a judge to look at with an inspection mirror. So take the time to look at the whole wheel well and make sure they are clean.

Engine Bay

I always can tell a true show car from a wanna be, and I can do so looking at their engine bay. If their hood isn’t even open that’s the sign they don’t even care, but even if it is open I’ve seen a lot of horrible engines. A judge is going to look for cleanliness, how the paint looks inside the fenders, if there are any tape lines on the top of the fenders, if the rubber items are cleaned and dressed, if the chrome is polished, if any raw metal parts are free of rust or calcium from water, if there are any stray or loose wires. The list can go on and on, but if you take your time and completely go through your engine bay it will make a huge difference when it comes to your score.

So in the end, a car that scores good in all areas of a judging sheet is going to do better than one that scores high in one area and falls short in others. It’s usually not about what you’ve done to the car, and what other car show tips you have… it’s about cleanliness and how well you present the car. So take your time, look at every conceivable part of your car, and make sure it looks the best that it can be!

P.S. Don’t forget your car show display board!  It’s essential for conveying important info to the car to judges!

5 Places Cars Lose Points On At Judged Shows