A few bucks worth of quarters for a coin-operated car wash. Twelve to twenty bucks for the automatic car wash drive-through. No cost at all in your driveway. When it comes to cleaning your car, you have options. Pick your poison: five dollars, twenty dollars, free? When such low-cost car cleaning is available, why would some car owners opt to spend more than ten times what it costs at an automatic wash for professional car detailing ? And why might it take several hours for auto detailing when it only takes you twenty minutes for a hand car wash in the driveway? What is a detailer doing differently that would warrant the time and the cost?
Consider the cost
Of course, you want to take care of your vehicle. Just as with preventive mechanical maintenance, you have the option of doing some things yourself or having them done by professionals. For instance, you might change the oil and filter or you might take it to a mechanic. When it comes to cleaning your car, you might wash and wax it yourself or you might hire it out to a pro.
On the other hand, you probably are not going to tackle more in-depth jobs, like replacing a CV axle or a timing belt. Some things are best left to the professionals. Damage to the paint, stubborn stains in the seats , and in-depth car detailing fall into that category. Best left to the pros.
After all, is it really cheaper in the long run when you choose the drive-through automatic car wash or washing your car yourself? And is there really no cost to doing it yourself?
What is the difference between washing and professional car detailing?
Seriously, how hard can it be? Soap and water , glass cleaner and wax. A few rags and towels. A shop vac. True. An automatic car wash or hand car washing can be that simple. But…
A professional detailer employs special tools, techniques, and materials to make sure every bit of damage to the paint (that does not require a bump and paint shop) is repaired, every residue is removed, every stain is lifted. A detailer has to contend with the environmental effects of tree sap , bird droppings, acid rain or environmental fallout, rail dust, brake dust, water spots, bug residue , and salt, each of which can cause damage to the clearcoat. Rock chips, oxidation, fading, scratches, marring, scuff marks. All of these and more affect the paint, the wheels, the trim.
As for the interior, an auto detailing professional has to deal with dust and dirt, french fries between the seats, make-up stains, cola stains, salt stains, grease stains, and spilled chili. All this, without damaging sensitive interior surfaces. Even if none of these conditions are present, even if your car is in nice – even new – shape, using the wrong chemical cleaner on the wrong interior surface can cause significant damage. Dashboards can instantly mar or fade. Headliners can abrade or delaminate. Stains can become permanently embedded. A professional has the training, supplies, and experience to clean up the messes without hurting your car.
So, what are some of the materials used in professional car detailing? Here is a short list, a representation of the kinds of products and tools a detailer might use:
- Clay bar to remove contaminants on the paint surface
- Multiple buckets to avoid putting dirt back on the vehicle
- Brushes for wheels, wheel wells, and tires
- Microfiber wash mitt
- Car wash soap
- Soap foam applicator
- General-purpose degreaser
- Heavy-duty degreaser
- Wax and grease remover (bug and tar remover)
- Wheel cleaner to remove brake dust
- Wheel sealant to protect mag rims
- Tire bleach to clean the tires
- Tire dressing
- Micro-fine sandpaper to remove scratches in the clearcoat
- Orbital and dual-action polishers to buff the paint
- Polymer sealant
- Separate microfiber towels and cloths for drying, glass, waxing, and for interior use
- Automotive glass cleaner
- Carpet extractor
- Carpet and upholstery shampoo
- Leather cleaner and conditioner
- Odor eliminator
- Set of brushes for dusting sensitive areas and crevices
- Vinyl and rubber dressing
The list goes on. And the techniques perfected to use all of these products are even more impressive. Chances are you do not have this many materials lying around your garage, and while the techniques can be learned, chances are you have not spent the time to learn them. Nor is it likely you want to spend the time necessary to properly detail your vehicle. You also need an area out of the sunlight, but not under a tree that is likely to drop sap or needles or buds onto the car while you work on it. A professional has just the environment for the job.
What else might you get out of the deal? What are some other benefits of having a professional detail your car for you?
The benefit of professional car detailing: preserving the value of your investment
There really is very little cost to professional car detailing. It is more of an investment. Sure, you will spend more money for a detail job than for a car wash, but the price of the job is less than it would cost to buy the materials to do it properly yourself. And the cost over the long haul of avoiding damage (or of needing damage repaired) because of aggressive cleaning methods more than offsets the price of car detailing. Careful cleaning on a regular basis (by a pro or by you), along with professional car detailing, will preserve your investment in your car, truck, or SUV. It will add years to the useful life of the paint finish, help to protect your vehicle from corrosion, and keep your interior looking new.
An automatic car wash might serve in a pinch. The dollar wash will work if you don’t have access to a driveway and a hose. In any case, you should make every effort to clean your car on a regular basis, as part of routine maintenance. But every method has its cost. When it comes to rejuvenating your ride, giving it a “like new” appearance, or dealing with damage or stubborn stains, think about professional detailing, the only option that turns the cost of car detailing into an investment for your investment.
Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash | Author: Mike Ales | Copyright This article is intended only as a general guidance document and relying on its material is at your sole risk. By using this general guidance document, you agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash and its affiliates from and against any and all claims, damages, costs and expenses, including attorneys’ fees, arising from or related to your use of this guidance document. To the extent fully permissible under applicable law, Columbia Auto Care & Car Wash makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the information, content, or materials included in this document. This reservation of rights is intended to be only as broad and inclusive as is permitted by the laws of your State of residence.