Is “detailing” different from a car wash? Why should I get it done?


Yes! Detailing is different from a regular car wash. While running your car through a car wash can certainly have it looking clean, and these days some automated washes even offer wax treatments, a thorough detailing will go far beyond this. A traditional detail treatment cleans your car inside and out, and pats much closer attention to the details, from brake calipers and lug nuts to the smallest plastic, rubber, and metal accents. Don’t get us wrong- if you’ve got a hot date tonight and only have half an hour to spare, run by that drive-thru car wash and spiff up your ride. For real deep clean, though, that will have your car feeling just like new, a thorough detailing at least a few times a year is the only way to go.

What does detailing involve?

Basically, detailing cleans and conditions nearly every aspect of your car, inside and out. Detailing treatments vary slightly depending on where you go, but here’s a quick breakdown of a typical detailing treatment:

Thorough Wash: An exterior wash that goes beyond the typical drive-through car wash. With special tools and brushes, your detailer will be able to more meticulously clean the intricate parts of your vehicle’s exterior, such as the wheels. The wheels are often overlooked in a regular wash, and can be difficult to clean, but a good detailing treatment will have them sparling and looking like new.

Paint Touchup/Protection: If your paint has any imperfections such as scratches, swirl marks or faded patches, many detailers will touch it up and polish it. After this, they’ll treat your vehicle’s exterior with wax, to give it a like-new shine and protect it from future blemishes.

Exterior Details: This is where the “details” part of detailing comes in. Special attention will be payed to all of the small components of your vehicle’s exterior, like the plastic and rubber around windows, chrome or wood accents, head and tail lights, and door handles. All of these parts will be cleaned with special tools, and often conditioned to help them stay clean and protected.

Interior Deep Clean: Finally, your vehicle’s interior will receive a thorough cleaning. Your upholstery and carpets will be vacuumed and shampooed, and leather upholstery will be cleaned and conditioned. Similar attention is payed to the interior details, and by the end of the treatment your car should feel just like new.

Will a detailer clean my engine bay?

Engine bay cleaning isn’t always a standard part of a detailing treatment (it depends on the location) but you can usually opt to add it on if it’s not. Having a clean engine bay will make your mechanic pretty happy, but the benefits go even further than that. A clean engine bay is easier to work with, and can allow mechanics (or even yourself) to more quickly diagnose a problem when something is going wrong or needs to be fixed. There are also many plastic and rubber parts under your hood that can benefit from being cleaned and conditioned, which could save you trouble and money in the long run.

Will getting my car detailed help retain its value?

Absolutely. Many steps of the detailing process, such as the cleaning and conditioning of the plastic and rubber parts, can extend the life of certain aspects of your vehicle. As far as resale value goes, our friends with Patrick Hyundai tell us that having your vehicle regularly detailed can make a big difference. When dealers are considering your vehicle for trade in, or when savvy buyers are looking at it in a private sale, they’ll look closely at the rubber and plastic parts, which show age more than other parts of the car, and under the hood. Having had these aspects of your vehicle, as well as the exterior, regularly maintained will go a long way in making your car look newer and more appealing. In general, experts recommend that you have your vehicle detailed every six months or so, maybe more often if you have an exotic or classic car.


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