Auto Services

Car Detailing Goes Beyond a Wash and Vacuum

Car detailing is a professional cleaning process that takes the pristine finish of a vehicle to the next level. It’s much more thorough than washing or valeting and can include paint enhancement, ceramic coating, and maintenance packages.

Modern detailing businesses often become hybrids of a wash, body shop, and service station. These businesses use a business management app like Mobile Tech RX to set up their packages and pricing, estimates, branded invoices, and bookkeeping through QuickBooks. Click to learn more.

car detailing

Car detailing goes beyond a solid scrub-down and usually involves the application of surface protectant coatings. These include car waxes, paint sealants, clear bras, and even ceramic coatings. These protect your car’s paint and trim surfaces from the elements and other contaminants such as bird droppings, dirt, tree sap, and iron fallout.

The exterior of a vehicle is often the most neglected part of a car, but it’s crucial to keeping your car looking like new. A detailed exterior starts with a pre-wash using snow foam to loosen and remove dirt before you even touch the car with a wash mitt. High quality shampoos are then used to wash the vehicle with a two bucket method (one for soapy water, one for rinse water). Frequently rinsing your wash mitt helps prevent the potential of scratching or swirl marks on the body panels.

After a proper wash, decontamination is performed to make sure that all the surfaces are clean and free from bound contamination such as tar, brake dust and iron fallout. The paint is then polished to a smooth finish and protected with a variety of products, from tried and true carnauba waxes to advanced ceramic coatings that offer extended durability and remarkable hydrophobic properties.

Other coatings such as tire dressing and wheel protectants are also used to enhance the appearance of your tires and wheels. These also help to keep them cleaner longer and reduce the risk of oxidation, scratching and marring. Some people even choose to apply a spray on bug repellent for an added level of protection.

Don’t forget to clean the headlights and taillights, as well as the windshield wipers and rearview mirrors. Using a non-ammonia glass cleaner with microfiber cloths is best to avoid the possibility of leaving streaks and smudges. Be careful when working in the sun, as heat speeds up the drying process and can cause your washing and cleaning products to become less effective. If possible, work indoors or in the shade. Finally, be sure to store your detailing supplies and equipment in a covered area to ensure they are not subjected to rain or extreme temperature changes that may damage them.

Taking car detailing beyond a simple wash and vacuum is where the real detailers separate themselves from the do-it-yourselfers. Professional detailers have the right tools, equipment, materials and chemicals to make a vehicle look like it just came out of the showroom.

The interior of a car is a complicated, time-consuming part of the detailing process. It requires special cleaners for leather, plastic and fabric, as well as specific material-specific protectant sprays. It also requires a deep clean that goes beyond washing to decontaminate surfaces so they’re free of bound contaminants (like tar, iron fallout and tree sap) before applying new protectants.

In addition to special cleaners and protectant sprays, professional detailers use a decontamination car shampoo during the cleaning process to break down oils, grease and waxes, which is required before applying most new paint sealants or spray on coatings. It’s a special detergent-based formula that’s usually on the ‘base’ side of the pH scale, similar to dawn dish soap.

The next step is to use a high-pressure washer to thoroughly wash the inside of the vehicle, paying special attention to the wheel wells and the crevices around the exhaust pipes. Professionals then dry the interior with a special air dryer and re-install the door panels, dashboard and console, if needed.

Most professional detailers then take the car through a pre-protectant treatment, which can be a lengthy and labor-intensive task. This is where the prices really skyrocket, as it involves using a variety of material-specific protectants, such as waxes, polishes and spray on coatings for leather, plastic and metal.

To prepare the surface for these protectants, a detailer will usually use a clay bar or clay mitt, along with a lubrication spray. This removes any bound contaminants on the surface of the paint and clear coat, glass and other porous materials. It’s important to note that before starting any of these processes, a detailer will usually remove any accessories on the car that can scratch the various surfaces. This includes long necklaces, bracelets and watches, rings and fanny packs. They’ll also use a vacuum on the floor mats and in the trunk, if applicable.

A car’s windshield and windows can look dull, discolored, or streaked. They can also be difficult to clean and often require specialized cleaners, such as glass cleaners that contain ammonia. While ammonia is a great grease cutter, it can also release dangerous fumes that are not good to inhale, especially in confined spaces like the interior of a vehicle.

Professional detailers always use caution when working with glass, ensuring they are in a well ventilated area and that their cleaning products don’t release hazardous fumes. They also take the time to thoroughly scrub and rinse the glass before wiping it down, removing as much dirt and grime as possible. This can include stubborn bug stains, bird droppings and even some road debris.

After the glass has been wiped down, they may decide to do some decontamination using chemical sprays or automotive clay. This helps ensure the surface of the vehicle is smooth and free from bound contaminants, such as tar and iron fallout. The decontamination process also helps the professional determine if any paint enhancement or polishing is needed on the clear coat or other surfaces, such as plastic and glass covers.

Once the glass is clean and decontaminated, it can be protected with a wax or sealant, extending the life of the product and providing extra shine. Depending on the client’s preference and the type of vehicle, they can also choose to do some additional treatments for the finish, such as water-repellent coating, which can help reduce the amount of rain that soaks into the vehicle and causes streaking and smudges on the glass.

To prepare the glass for applying a wax or protectant, first wipe it down with a microfiber towel that has been misted with a glass cleaner, such as Pinnacle GlassWork Windshield Washer Booster or 303 Wiper Treatment. Once the cleaner has been wiped off, apply a small amount of rubbing alcohol to another microfiber cloth and wipe down the windshield again. This will remove any remaining glass cleaner residue and prevent any streaking on the windshield. The rubbing alcohol will also help to remove any fogginess on the windshield, improving visibility while driving.

Car tires are one of the dirtiest parts of a vehicle and need regular cleaning to look their best. They also need to be properly cared for so that they can safely and efficiently deliver a smooth and enjoyable ride. Proper tire detailing ensures that a uniform shine is maintained, and protects the rubber against oxidation, cracking and fading.

Like the wheels, they need to be thoroughly washed and rinsed before being treated with a wax or tire protectant. This is the best way to eliminate all of the dust, grit, road salt, tar and other contaminants that have become embedded in the surface of the rubber. It’s a good idea to use a tire cleaner with a strong degreaser that will effectively clean the surface without damaging the tires or the wheels.

After cleaning the tires, they should be dried with a microfiber all purpose or wheel and tire towel, or with a terry cloth towel designed specifically for that task. Never use a towel that has been used on any other part of the vehicle, as the contaminated debris may scratch the surface of the tire or the wheel. It is important to dry the tires and wheels in a circular motion so that no water spots are left behind.

The sidewalls of a tire are especially susceptible to discoloration and can turn brown in a process called blooming when exposed to the elements and ozone. The tire manufacturer puts antiozonants and UV absorbers in the rubber, and they help to preserve the life of the tire. However, if these chemicals are not properly removed after the tire is cleaned, they will leach out and cause the appearance to degrade over time.

Aside from the abrasive damage that can be caused to the tires by improper washing techniques, the most common issue is that they simply look bad. A dirty tire can completely detract from the overall aesthetic of a vehicle, and it can even lead to physical damage in the form of pits and grooves that weaken the integrity of the rubber over time. This is why it’s always best to have a professional do the job.