While the notion of car 'detailing' may sound obscure or highly specialized, all it really amounts to is the care of a vehicle where focus is given to perfecting or maintain cosmetic features rather than mechanical components. While car detailing now refers to a whole industry which caters to professional and amateur pursuits of varying difficulty and meticulosity, the act can be reduced to something as vulgar and simple as vacuuming your car interior or spraying down the exterior in your driveway!

As mundane as it may then appear, car detailing nevertheless has a long history which in fact predates even the earliest automotive. Since the discovery and manufacture of wax at the outset of the 19th century, rich private carriage owners and industrious carriage companies have used the compound to buff their rides to a mirrored shine. With the invention of the automobile and then the innovation of its mass-production, the pre-existent practice of waxing found natural extension and given the complexity of motor vehicles, gradual elaboration.

What Does Car Detailing Include?

As indicated in the prior paragraph, car detailing is made up of, and is best understood by looking at, a handful of salient divisions. Let’s begin with interior and exterior detailing. Interior detailing concerns itself with the care of the whole of your vehicle’s passenger-facing insides (i.e., not the concealed chassis but the ‘cabin’) through processes like carpet cleaning and leather conditioning. Meanwhile exterior detailing is made up of the oldest practice, waxing, and other related processes extending from complete repainting and refinishing to scratch removal and dent levelling.

Another useful division to consider is that between professional and amateur detailing. Walk into any hardware store or car dealership and you will likely see a section or set of shelves dedicated to selling all manner of competing, specialized products to use in the care of your vehicle. This is for amateur / enthusiast / at-home detailing, a choice for those who are familiar with cars, enjoy the process, or would prefer a (slightly) more frugal option. Most quotidian detailing can be carried out at home, but naturally, certain more demanding detailing jobs (such as dent levelling or painting) are more easily done with the equipment accessible to professionals. Professional detailing is, self-evidently, carried out by a technician whose profession is in the maintenance of vehicles. Professional detailing is typically offered by car dealerships, auto-shops, some hardware stores, and businesses dedicated specifically to the practice of auto detailing.

As one might expect, any / all treatments included in a professional detailing job are variable and scalable. Professional detailers will usually offer different detailing packages depending on the needs of the consumer and their budget. Many of the same procedures can be carried out using different products or techniques towards ends of varying degrees of excellence. Is the end point of your car detailing a simple refresh? Or is the objective to make it appear like new again – beyond that, to exceed the glimmer it had as it rolled off the lot for the first time? Each of these possibilities require different methods and instruments. The best, if not only, way to determine what exactly will be included in any given detail job is to contact your prospective detailing professional and investigate their offerings. If, however, you are detailing your own car, then what you include or exclude is only limited by your ability and your means!

How Long Does Car Detailing Take?

Given the (already addressed) breadth that makes up the world of car detailing, just how long car detailing takes occupies a variable window. If you are taking your car to a specialist for detailing, the estimated turn around, whatever the procedure, will include not just the time spent working on the car, but how long the ‘lineup’ prior to your vehicle is, and how long things such as drying might take.

We all, at least those of us reading this article, likely already know how long basic car detailing takes: a few hours. When it comes to basic ‘detailing’, especially interior detailing, it is probably more worthwhile to vacuum, wash down, etc. vacuum, wash down, etc. yourself – all the logistics involved in hiring someone to do it may take as long. Of course, if your interior is in particularly bad condition or is made up of sensitive or unique materials with stringent cleaning requirements, you may have no choice but to find professional assistance.

Expensive / comprehensive car detailing will usually take a few days. Even if the actual labor involved would not take as many working days, certain steps may have a wait period involved which staggers progress. Given the few hours needed for the most basic task outlined above, it can be surprising how the hours stack up trying to ensure that a car detailing results in truly comprehensive coverage. As with all things demanding attention to detail, the passerby may take for granted the time and care spent on minutiae. It is details like this which speak most to those with the eye for it, however!

Is Car Detailing Difficult?

It is important to understand the difficulties that can be involved in detailing your vehicle. While the market catering to amateur or ‘enthusiast’ detailers might give the impression that detailing is a relatively low stakes endeavour, it certainly isn’t always the case. Some treatments, especially exterior detailing, hold the possibility of leaving your vehicle looking worse. Even waxing requires a degree of patience and practice to achieve an optimal shine! If you intend to try your hand at more demanding treatments at home, make sure you understand what you are getting involved in and what needs careful attention.

Will Detailing Remove Scratches?

Not all detailing jobs will remove scratches from your vehicle – it might be impossible to remove a scratch within the realm of detailing if it is large or deep enough, or it may only be possible to disguise it – but there are detailing treatments which try to deal with them. In the case that a scratch doesn’t go deeper than the exterior primer, it will be fairly easy for a professional to deal with. Various methods are used to smooth out such superficial damage, but it ought to be remembered that barring the most comprehensive interventions (ones not usually offered in detailing packages) detailing will not undo the damage done to a vehicle – it will merely patch or mask it. Consider a chip or scratch which does penetrate the primer of your car: most solutions, fillers, etc. will re-establish a barrier between the metal shell of your car and the environment, but it absolutely will not replicate the surety of the original barrier provided by the car’s primer, paint, or any other complete coatings shells.

Amateur detailers have access to scratch kits which they can use at home. Some of these are very simple and practical, such as scratch pens: these pens allow you to literally color in the problem area and disguise, at least to the passing eye, scratches. If you are unsure what tool best suits your needs, or simply care to determine what the best at-home scratch fix is that is available to consumers, ask your preferred auto-shop technician – in many cases, even professional detailers use retail solutions in a pinch!

Can I Install A Car Cover After Detailing My Car?

Installing a car cover after detailing is a common and sensible practice, though certain things ought to be kept in mind. When you detail a vehicle for yourself, you need to be aware of any dry or set times that finishing products require to prevent damage. Similarly, if you intend to install a car cover after having your vehicle professionally detailed you should verify that it is okay before doing so with the technician who performed your detailing. While it is unlikely that you will be driving your car off the lot before everything is set, practices differ!

If you haven’t been covering your car prior to a detailing job, it is the perfect time to start. Car Covers excel at protecting your vehicle and ensuring that their shimmer and shine last. Simply put, you will need to invest far less time and money in detailing if you protect your car with a car cover. After paying multiples more than the cost of a car cover on a top-of-the-line detailing, it is only sensible to make the minimal investment necessary to get the most out of that larger investment.

Making the wise decision of covering your car after a detailing is happily facilitated by us here at CarCover.com. A breathable car cover is the best choice generally, but especially after a recent detailing. Even after your finishing compounds have dried, trapping moisture inside a car cover can damage paint, wax, metal and promote rust. Our ‘Platinum Shield’ covers are breathable while still providing outstanding protection, the perfect solution for your freshly (or not so recently!) detailed car.

Is Car Detailing Worthwhile?

It is difficult to state decisively whether car detailing is worthwhile – these evaluations are unavoidably personal, but they are just as much circumstantial and pragmatic. If your vehicle is brand new, for instance, it does not make much sense to invest in a detailing – most detailing basically attempt to replicate this state. That said, if you are prepping a car for show, if you intend to get a top-of-the-line detailing, then the decision is better merited.

The question of a professional vs. at home detailing mostly comes down to budget, expectations, capability, and availability. If it is within your means to do a detailing yourself, and you believe the result will be satisfying, then it is almost always preferable, more worthwhile, to carry out a detailing independently. Especially as far as economics are concerned.

How Much Does Detailing A Car Cost?

Professional car detailing can get quite expensive. Prices in major Canadian cities (Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Etc.) can vary from (at the entry-level) around $200, all the way up to $1000+ and far beyond, when prices are disclosed. It is common in the auto-detailing industry to require a consultation and estimate prior to detailing, as the same endpoint will take longer to reach depending upon the size and condition of the vehicle being detailed.

Depending on how you value your time, amateur detailing saves considerable money when compared to entry level professional work. Using tools and materials you likely already have in your home, while making the investment for specific detailing products (which can be used to detail multiple vehicles, or multiple times!), you will typically spend half to three-quarters the cost of one basic detail job.

Should You Tip For Car Detailing?

Unlike other service-based industries, auto detailing does not have a norm ‘demanding’ that customers tip after a detail. This does not mean that tips are unwelcome or will be refused, but that a tip will be seen more as a compliment or expression of gratitude than a merely perfunctory act. Auto detailers usually price their work without implicit assumption of a tip, and detailer pay is in no way mediated by tipping as a waiter or barista’s might be. The greatest show of appreciation you can display to an autoworker is by reference, drawing clients to the shop. Unless you are an astronomically generous tipper, another customer will always be the most prized tip! Both tipping and referrals express gratitude, though they do so differently – tipping will likely impact the laborer working your vehicle more directly, while referrals benefit the business as a whole: an important difference.

Conclusion

Car detailing can preserve and enhance the impact your car makes on others, and the feeling you get while you drive it. While detailing is made up of more than just polish, the history and birth of auto detailing is closely intertwined with that of wax! Auto detailing is something you can do at home, or as a luxury by trained professionals. Whether or not you’ve already considered it such, basic car upkeep is itself a form of detailing: the vacuum is a detailers best friend. Once you’ve had your detail (and let it dry) a breathable car cover is a wise investment – it will keep your detail, and your car, longer. Order a cover from CarCover.com today and have it ready to go as soon as your detail job is!