How Long Does Detailing A Car Take? Everything You Need To Know

Car detailing isn’t just a car wash. It’s a multi-step process that’s going to leave the car looking and feeling better than ever before. It’s an investment in an enjoyable driving experience.

In fact, detailing leaves cars looking better than new. Ideally, even cars that are straight out of the showroom should undergo a full detail. Car dealerships aren’t usually the most experienced detailers, so you might notice spots that have been missed, or swirl marks in the paintwork.

Detailing is the perfect way to protect your car’s coating, and give it an unmistakable shine. The car will be sparkling, both inside and out. There won’t be a single speck of dirt, smudge or fingerprint in sight or in any of your car’s nooks and crannies.

But before committing to this extensive cleaning process, you’re probably wondering how long does detailing a car take? Here’s everything you need to know.

How long does detailing a car take?

There’s no one answer to how long car details take, because to put it simply: it depends. It depends on whether you’re undergoing a DIY detail, or paying a professional. But it also depends on a few factors surrounding the vehicle itself.

Factors that affect the car detailing timeline

Each car has different needs, which will affect how long the car detailing process takes. Here are some factors which could affect the detailing timeline.


The larger your car, the longer it’s going to take to carry out a full detail. This is simply because there’s more to clean, both inside and out.


The dirtier the car, the longer it will take to bring it back to sparkling cleanliness. But the good news is, no car is too dirty for a detail.

If a car has never really been cleaned, and garbage has built up inside, it will just take a couple of hours longer to detail.


Age and dirtiness often go hand in hand, so new car details will take much less time than an old car detail.

Full new car details usually only take a couple of days, whereas older cars can take a bit longer.


The materials the car is made from can slightly affect the detailing timeline. For example, cars with leather upholstery may take less time to detail than those with cloth upholstery. This is simply because some materials are easier to clean than others.

Detailing a car yourself: how long to spend on it?

If you want to tackle the task of car detailing at home, you have the opportunity to spend as long or as little on it as you like. But for a full car detail, it’s going to take you at least a couple of days.

The interior may take you the best part of a day, as you’ll need to vacuum, steam clean, and clean the glass and upholstery. If you’ve shampooed or steam cleaned, you’ll need to allow time for the upholstery and mats for dry too.

And cleaning the exterior is a multi-step process, involving washing and drying, polishing and sealing.

For a partial detail, you could spend as little as an hour or two on your car. In a few hours you could give the exterior a wash, and tidy up the interior. But detailing is about details. It’s about transforming the car, using different cleaning products and final touches.

If you want to give every inch of your car the TLC it deserves, it’s a process that can be done over the course of a week.

DIY car detailing can take longer than hiring a professional, because you’ll likely be getting used to the process and products, and you may not have the professional equipment.

Professional car detailing: how long does it take?

Detailing isn’t a quick job, so you might prefer to hire a professional detailer. Depending on the detailer, you often drop your car off to their garage for a few days at least, or they may bring their tools to you.

A professional car detailer will usually work on your car for two days to a week. This way they’ll have time to make sure everything is spotless.

However, for brand new cars, most detailers offer a new car detail which will only take a couple of days.

Professional detailers will clean parts of your car that you probably hadn’t thought of cleaning before. From the headlining to the vents, to the tires, no part of your car will be left untouched. This is why the process can take up to a week.

How often do you need to detail your car?

Once your car has been detailed, it’s going to feel fresh and crisp for several months to come. Assuming it’s kept in a relatively clean condition that is.

And once it’s been detailed once, it’s going to be much easier to maintain the cleanliness.

But to keep your car in top condition, it’s best to give your car a full detail every 6 months or so. Detailing isn’t harmful to the car at all, so really you can do it as often as you like.

What does a full car detail include?

Many people are often shocked by how long a full detail takes, but when you break down the steps involved, it’s no surprise that it can take up to a week.

You don’t have to follow every step every time you wash your car, which is why partial detailing can be done in less than a day. But for a complete transformation, which leaves your car looking better than new, there’s more to it than simply shampooing.

The interior detailing part involves vacuuming up any dirt or crumbs from the floor, seats, vents, cup holders – anywhere dirt might accumulate. Then the carpets and mats should be steam cleaned to get rid of any dirt within the carpet fibres.

Cleaning the upholstery is one of the most important parts of interior detailing. This stage can include shampooing of cloth seats, or leather trimming.

Then final touches such as cleaning the glass on all of the windows and mirrors, and wiping the dashboard to bring back the shine. You might even want to perfume the interior to give it a new car smell.

As for detailing the exterior, the car should be washed with pre-cleaner and shampoo to get rid of stubborn dirt. It should be manually dried, and then it can be rubbed with a clay bar. This stage gets rid of stubborn contaminants that weren’t removed by the washing process.

For the perfect finish, the car should be polished and waxed. This is also going to protect the car’s coating from contaminants, dirt, dust and water.

Final touches for the exterior include cleaning the glass and dressing the tires. The tires should be thoroughly cleaned and a product should be used to bring out the original color.

So there are several different steps to car detailing, but it’s these steps that distinguish detailing from a simple clean. When wondering how long does detailing a car take, the answer really does depend. It can take anywhere from two days to a week, but once you see the transformation, it will have been worth the wait.



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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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