This is a question that gets asked a lot, so we thought we’d do a little blog to explain what it actually is.
We all wash our cars at some point, whether it’s just for the safety aspect (visible number plate and clean windscreen) or because we take pride in having a pristine ride. However, there are different levels to “cleaning” your vehicle...when does cleaning become detailing?
The process of cleaning your car can be known as a simple wash, a valet, or a detail, but what’s the difference?
Basic Car Wash
The basic car wash is the use of water and a chemical detergent (shampoo) to loosen and remove dirt and grime from the surface of a vehicle (including the wheels and tyres) and to vacuum the interior. The same product is used for the whole vehicle and this is purely to clean it with no other added benefits or protection. It does the job when you want your car to look “clean” but that’s really as far as it goes.
Car valeting really steps up the cleaning game from a “basic wash.” The dictionary definition is “to clean the bodywork and interior of a car as a professional service”. This usually includes cleaning the wheels & shuts, washing, polishing and waxing the bodywork, dressing exterior plastics and tyres, polishing brightwork and cleaning the glass. The cleaning process could also include the use of a clay bar to remove unwanted contaminants from the paint such as iron filings, industrial fallout, tar spots, tree sap and insect residue, which all cause the paint to feel rough and dull the appearance of the paint (not to mention how the acidity in these contaminants can physically deteriorate the paintwork on your vehicle if leftover time.)
The exterior process includes a variety of chemicals, tools and accessories (specific for different parts of your vehicle) in order to reach awkward areas, clean off as much soiling as possible and leave the car looking in great condition.
The interior would be vacuumed in all areas including, dash, centre console, seats, carpets, luggage areas and vents before a variety of specific products/chemicals and tools are used to wet clean any soiled areas such as upholstery, trim, carpets and headlining.
The main thing that you should know about car valeting, however, is that it is basically a cleaning service for your car. Admittedly, it's a highly professional cleaning service that is great value for money, especially when you consider the alternative (Car wash) but it cannot go beyond cleaning the vehicle.
The only thing that car valeters do which could be considered more than just cleaning is applying car wax and polish by hand (added protection for your vehicle), but this will not come close to producing the results you see from car detailing.
And so we come to detailing. As you can see, both the basic car wash and valeting are really just car cleaning services (albeit very different levels of cleaning.) Whereas, car detailing is an enhancement and small corrections service. Detailing is a relatively new term here in the U.K, having come across the pond from America sometime in the 90’s. Generally, the correct definition for the term car detailing is to meticulously clean, polish and protect all parts of a vehicle from top to bottom, inside and out, using specialist tools and products that would not normally be used by your typical car cleaner. It does not include major paintwork and body repairs, but light cosmetic restorative work will be undertaken. For example, stone chip touch ups and clear coat wet sanding, depending on the condition of the vehicle and the detailer in question.
A cut above car valeting, the detailing services provided are specialised which requires a high level of skill and experience to be completed successfully.
Car detailing can bring your car's paintwork back to life with a better than new look and feel. In fact, car detailers pride themselves on being able to make brand new cars look better than their factory condition. They can remove any hidden contaminants such as fallout or iron particles embedded within the paint, protect your paintwork from further damage in the future and machine polish your vehicle to make your car look its best.
Car detailing services are also practical and add value to your car. If, for example, over time your car starts to develop minor scratches and swirl marks, car detailers have the equipment and skill to remove them. This can considerably increase their value, especially if it was an expensive car, to begin with.
One of the most important aspects of detailing (and something you don't commonly get with valeting) is your vehicle’s need for long term protection from the elements/life. A common misconception is that a vehicle’s “clear coat” protects the exterior finish, and therefore regular maintenance is not required. This is not the case...in reality, your vehicle needs some help to protect it from things like harmful UV rays, stone chips and chemical contamination (bird faeces/iron filings/ bug splatter.) This comes in the form of waxes, sealants and coatings, all of which will be specific to the area being protected...not a one size fits all product.
Therefore, the main area and aim of car detailing are to fully enhance and restore the vehicle’s paintwork, eliminating light scratches and swirl marks that have been inflicted over time, while adding another layer of protection.
Hopefully, we have answered some of the questions you may have had in regards to cleaning, valeting and detailing your pride and joy. In short, a basic car wash and valeting are to get your car clean (on different levels) whereas, a detail is about getting the absolute best look for your paintwork and all other surfaces/parts. The hint really is in the name...every detail of your vehicle is considered. It delves much deeper than just cleaning, enabling you to get close to a re-spray like finish, without actually having to fork out for a full paint job.