Keeping your car clean is essential. Not only does it keep it looking its best, but it also helps prevent rust, scratches, dull paint, and similar issues that could impact its resale value.
While washing your car is important, you can take the process one step further with car detailing. In this post, we’ll explain what is detailing a car, the process, what makes it different from an ordinary car wash, and whether it’s something you can do yourself.
What is Car Detailing?
You’ve probably heard the words “car detailing” but you might struggle to pin down what it means or how it works.
Car detailing, at its most basic level, is a process that makes a car look as close to brand new as possible. In some cases, it might even be better than brand new.
The process often starts with an automated car wash, but everything else is done by hand, using vacuums and polishers, microfiber clothes, and specialty cleaning supplies such as degreasers, clay bars, waxes, and sealers.
When is Car Detailing Important?
If you like driving a car that looks like it’s brand new, car detailing is the best way to achieve that finish. Aside from the appearance of your car, detailing is also important when:
- You want to sell your car. Good detailing can quickly increase your car’s value.
- You want a more comfortable driving experience. A good detailer will remove all the clutter from your car, clean the glass, and banish any unwanted odors.
- You have a vintage vehicle. With expert detailing, your vehicle becomes a collector’s item rather than just another old car.
- You have a car that’s got a failing or damaged finish. A restorative detailer that’s good at what they do will be able to correct any defects. They’ll also be able to add a protective coating to stop such problems in the future.
- You want to increase the lifespan of your car. Some detailers also offer engine and underbody cleaning, which might reveal an underlying problem such as an oil leak.
Different Types of Car Detailing
As you might be able to tell from the name, the quality of a car detailing service is all in the details. The more detailers addressed, the better the overall result. However, the price also tends to be higher.
There are five levels or types of car detailing services. Some detailing companies will offer complete packages and some will offer just a few, which is probably sufficient in many cases.
- Standard exterior: The quality of the most basic detailing service varies. It might be a hand-wash and polish after a car has been through an automatic car wash. It might also be a more extensive service that includes a full hand wash, wheel rim and tire cleaning, paint claying, polish and seal of the finish.
- Standard interior: The basic interior detailing service will include vacuuming, wiping surfaces, and cleaning windows and mirrors. Pay a little more and you should be offered steam-cleaning, deodorizing, and disinfecting.
- Full car: This will include interior and exterior detailing.
- Restorative detailing: This type of service is also called corrective detailing. The focus is on the exterior and addressing flaking or fading pain, and scratches in the finish. It’s a service that can take several days and is usually expensive. However, once finished, your vehicle will look as good or even better than it did when new.
- Show-car detailing: If you’re looking for the Rolls Royce of detailing services, this is what you want to ask for. It tends to be reserved for high-end cars that aren’t driven too often.
What Does Car Detailing Include as Part of the Service?
Let’s look at some of the typical elements in a detailing package.
Exterior Car Detailing
- Wash and dry: This will be done by hand using specialized products that the detailer will spray on and then wipe down the body of the car. They will hand wash the rims, door handles, and glass as well.
- Paint claying: The detailer uses a clay bar to remove any contaminants, overspray, or residue left after the car has been washed and dried. Claying gives the exterior a cleaner and smooth surface. In turn, this increases the effectiveness of the polish and wax.
- Polishing: Abrasive compounds are buffed onto the car’s paint which removes small layers of clear coat. Any small scratches or swirls in the paint will disappear.
- Sealing/waxing: For a glossy finish, a protective layer is added to the car’s paint, followed by a sealant or wax.
Several other services might be included as part of an exterior car detailing package. They include trim repainting, bumper repair, engine detailing, glass chip repair, headlight polishing, engine pressure cleaning, and paint touch up.
Interior Car Detailing
If you’d like the interior of your car detailed as well, you can expect the following things:
- Vacuuming: Debris and dust will be vacuumed from seats, mats, carpets, headliner, trunk, and rear cargo area.
- Brushing and scrubbing: This will remove stains on mats and floor carpets.
- Steam cleaning: This is a very effective way to remove stubborn stains in seats and carpets.
- Glass cleaning: Cleaning the windows and windshield.
- Leather trimming: Any leather parts in the vehicle are cleaned using a leather cleaner and soap.
- Perfuming: An added extra offered by some detailers is spraying deodorant into the interior. This leaves your car smelling super clean and new.
Additional Car Detailing Services
Aside from the services mentioned above, some detailers offer some additional services. They might include one or more of the following:
- Paint correction: this process takes away any flaws, such as oxidation or dull paint, in the top layer of the paintwork. The detailer will use a rotary machine polisher for the best results.
- Ceramic coating: A protective layer is added to the car’s paint. Usually, it’s a ceramic coating in the form of a liquid polymer.
- PPF: PPF stands for paint protection film. It’s a thin polyurethane film that helps to protect the paint from UV light, mineral deposits, small scratches, rock chips, acid rain, and similar things. The level of protection is more than a ceramic coating.
What’s the Difference Between Car Washing and Detailing?
Car detailing goes far beyond a regular car wash. It’s a more thorough process that not only cleans but corrects and protects your investment.
Washing your vehicle every week or so is important, but pay a little more for car detailing now and then, and you’re rejuvenating your ride and helping to keep it looking good.
A car detailing service focuses on deep cleaning, but also on light cosmetic paint restoration and high-tech protective coatings.
DIY Car Detailing or Hiring a Pro – Which is Best?
If you’ve got the time, the patience, and the right equipment and products, of course, you can detail your car yourself. You can also save a substantial amount by DIYing your car care.
However, there is one type of car detailing you shouldn’t try yourself. Restorative detailing is best handled by a professional. It takes a professional eye to match paint colors and apply them correctly so that it matches the rest of the car.
If you don’t have the necessary skills and equipment, you could make your car look worse. If you get the restorative detailing wrong, you might need to repaint the entire car.
Whether you want the exterior, the interior, or both taken care of, detailing addresses far more than just a cursory wash. You could choose to invest in the materials, tools, and time for detailing your car yourself. However, for the best results with the maximum amount of protection and least amount of damage, you’re better off booking a professional detailing service.
How long does it take to detail a car?
The answer to this question depends on the level of detail required. If you opt for a detailing package that includes a full wash, decontamination, and ceramic coating, you can expect it to take a day.
What is the difference between washing a car and detailing it?
A detailing service takes things one step further than washing a car. It’s more thorough and includes a careful cleaning to protect the surfaces. The vehicle also goes through stages to preserve the finish and enhancement processes such as paint correction.
Can you detail a new car?
Detailing a new car is a good idea because it protects the finish and ensures the new car stays looking new for longer. Any swirl marks and clear coat scratches can also be corrected.
Is car detailing worth it?
If you want your vehicle to look its best and stay that way for longer, car detailing is a worthwhile expense.
What is car detailing the interior?
Car detailing the interior involves cleaning the inner parts of a vehicle. Surfaces that need detailing include leather, vinyl, plastics, natural fibers, and carbon fiber plastics. Different techniques will be used such as vacuuming and steam cleaning.