Auto detailing: A Comprehensive Car Cleaning Guide

Maintenance. Nothing retains its worth and value without proper maintenance, including your home, body, and vehicle. Most people at least spend some time on their bodies and homes, but are you maintaining your car well? It is not enough to just wash and wax your car once in a while. It also needs some auto detailing.

Yes, auto detailing involves much more than washing and waxing your car. It also does much more to the interiors than vacuuming mats and upholstery. It eventually gives you a very clean car, and also helps keep your car in excellent condition. The car detailers not only give you a shiny, brand new car to drive around with but also a car that has a much better resale value.

However, with so many auto detailers around, you need to find one that offers maximum services for your money. This can be best done with the help of an auto detailing checklist.

This is a list of everything the various car detailing services offer and their rates. You can compare lists from a few companies to choose the perfect team to detail your car.

Car detailing checklist

The checklist is best divided into two parts which are exterior and interior auto detailing.

1) Exterior auto detailing

This is obviously the cleaning performed on the exterior of the vehicle. This typically involves paint care, cleaning the chassis, wheels, headlights, taillights, and trim.

Car lights and decorative additions

Detailing services never forget your car lights. They apply some polishing compounds to oxidized parts and then give it a plastic coating to prevent future possible oxidation.

All chrome trims just have to be cleaned while anything in plastic or vinyl are protected to prevent its possible cracking and fading. Some car detailing services even go to the extent of cleaning the chrome or polished exhaust tips. They even remove any waxy residue around the chrome plates and car’s decals and will even treat the windows with a rain repellent.

Taking care of your paint

It’s your paint that creates the first impression of your car. Reputable detailing services help maintain this impression by cleaning, correcting and protecting the paint.

The cleaning part involves removing all the dirt and grime on it by giving the car a thorough wash and then drying it. The correcting procedure involves removing unwanted materials in the paint like metallic dust, tar, industrial fallout, and dirt.

The body is then given a good polishing to get rid of any fine scratches and swirl marks before waxing to seal and protect the paint so that it shines. Automotive touch-up paint may also be applied in layers, if required, to cover up any blemishes. Each coat is left to dry out before adding the next coat.

Chassis and wheels

When you speak about the chassis, it’s not just the part under the car but also includes the inside of wheel and surrounding important suspension components like anti-roll bars and control arms.

A plastic protectant dresses the plastic parts and liners. The wheels and tires are thoroughly washed while the rims are polished. They are then covered with a protectant that improves its luster and protects from any possible cracking and corrosion.

2) Interior auto detailing

Interior detailing involves an extensive cleaning of the car’s interiors. No car looks spic and span if its interiors are not as clean as the exteriors. The process involves first vacuuming of all the carpets and seat upholstery and then shampooing or steam cleaning them. The detailers make sure all stains on the carpets and seats are removed and make them look new.

Anything in vinyl or plastic like dashboard, console and door panel trim are given a proper cleaning and conditioned to keep the vinyl pliable. Leather parts need to be given a thorough cleaning and are then conditioned.

However the steering wheel covers and foot pedals are only cleaned. They may get slippery if conditioned. Some auto detailers even remove the front seats for a more thorough cleaning and clean the truck area. They even polish the acrylic speedometer and rub out small scratches.

The detailers will also use Q-tips to clean dust and dirt on the air conditioning and heater vents and console seams. All glass parts are also given a complete washing and cleaning. This is done to remove any streaks or films that may affect your vision while driving.

3) The engine

If something went wrong with your vehicle’s engine, you would get it checked and fixed right? Keeping the engine clean is also an important factor in the longevity of your vehicle. The team at XL Mechanical Service Ltd. can confirm this! So remember, taking care of your engine is just as important as keeping the interior of your vehicle clean.

Most auto detailers may not include this as a service. So include this in your car detailing checklist and look for someone who does it. The process involves lightly misting the engine bay with water and then using the right degreaser to remove the grease on it.

The engine is then rinsed clean and once dry, all silicone, plastic and rubber parts are dressed to prevent cracking. The auto detailer should also clean and polish the hood’s underside and rails.

Mobile auto detailing

Do not worry if you do not have the time to take your car to the auto detailers. There are many mobiles detailing services that will send their professional workers to your location or some agreed-upon the spot to give your car a complete cleaning.

This is, of course, a bit more expensive than the rates quoted by a stationary auto detailing company. However, the extra service fee is well worth it if you do not have the time to leave your car at the repair center and return later on picking it up after a few hours.

You just have to schedule an appointment so that they will be able to fit your car’s detailing into their schedule. You then have to provide the worker with access to your car while you leave to work or to perform whatever other chores you have to do.

Most mobile auto detailing services provide the same services offered in the auto detailing checklist of a stationary detailing service. Make sure you check to find out because you can pay less if they don’t.

How long does it take to detail a car?

Now if you wonder how long an auto detailing takes, it depends on your car’s condition and the detailer’s package. It can typically take anywhere between thirty minutes to an entire day.

Mobile auto detailers are generally the quickest, they can complete a detailing in about half an hour while a more comprehensive package including waxing and dying of carpets take a few hours. Though convenient, they may not carry, and use the best tools.

Private or stationary auto detailers generally take a few hours and have a team of detailers working on your car. They have all the tools and products on hand to give you a thorough package.

However as they are usually hired by dealers to clean used cars, they can end up bit busy. You will have to schedule an appointment beforehand to bring your vehicle.

Car dealerships offer the best-detailing work but take the longest, perhaps as long as an entire day. It’s always better to find out if the auto detailers who take more time have service loaner you can use while they detail your car.

How much does car detailing cost?

This again isn’t a fixed rate. It depends on your location, the type of car you drive and the package and quality of auto detailing the company offers. It’s obvious that the larger vehicles like vans and SUVs cost more because there is much more work involved. Even auto detailers offering an upgraded and comprehensive package with more attention to detail charge more.

You may also have to pay extra if you want them to use high-quality shampoos and cleaning products, special equipment and superior waxing. Auto detailers offering additional services like engine cleaning, wheel detailing and dent removal will also charge more.

Why it’s better to hire professional auto detailers

It is, of course, possible for you to save money by doing all of this on your own, if you have the time and equipment to do it. You need various products like polishes, glazes, detailing solutions depending on how thorough the work will be.

These products are rather expensive, and are not worth the investment if you have only one vehicle, and will be detailing the car occasionally. You’ll end up spending more money this way than by hiring someone else to do it for you.

Besides, professionals do it every day, and have the expertise and knowledge to complete it as quickly as possible. As you will be doing it occasionally, you end up spending more time on it than required. Besides many auto detailing services even offer satisfaction guaranteed services. You know you’ll get your money’s worth of services.

Remember, auto detailing is worth the money and time spent on it. It helps extend your car’s life and even retains its luster for many years to come.  Make it a point to detail your car as when you deem it necessary, and you will not regret the money and time invested in it.



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About Me

Hi there, I’m Rod. Honestly, I don’t do much cleaning around the house (and until recently – my car)…

But I’ve always been strict and disciplined in keeping with my workspace clean and organized; my office, my desk, my bookshelfs, etc. A lot of that discipline comes from studying Lean methodologies in the past.

One thing I’ve struggled with has been keeping my car clean! So lately I started buying a few items and putting in some work!

I became interested with “best practices” for detailing a car, and that’s what you’ll find on this website. Hope this information helps you!

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