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Getting your car detailed means having it cleaned from top-to-bottom, inside and out, giving it a like-new shine. However, detailing a car is about more than just cosmetics. Proper car detailing can also help protect it from the elements and improve its longevity.
Detailing is complex work, and a lot goes into it, so it’s normal to wonder what’s included in the full process.
What Does a Full Car Detail Include?
A full car detail involves cleaning both the interior and exterior of a car. The services included in a full detail are:
- Cleaning tires and rims
- Treating the vehicle with a foam wash
- Rinsing and performing a hand wash
- Decontaminating paint and tire rims
- Hand-drying the car
- Paint touch up
- Dressing tire and trims
- Steam cleaning of all surfaces
- Upholstery shampoo and clean
- Cleaning and conditioning for leather surfaces
- Interior trim touch-up and protection
- Cleaning the interior of windows
Many detailing shops will also offer add-on services like headlight restoration, rim coatings, leather treatments, and odor removals.
What are Different Types of Car Detailing?
Many people opt to get just the interior or exterior of their car detailed rather than doing a full detail all at once. Detailing just one part of the car can be less expensive and take less time than a full detail.
There are also more specialized services, such as a complete restoration or a showroom detailing. What’s included depends on the goals of the service.
For example, a complete restoration aims to return your car to like-new condition. On top of standard cleaning, it can include new paint and ceramics. A showroom detailing aims to get your car looking pristine and ready to display in a showroom, with a deeper focus on polish and dressing.
Does a Full Car Detail Include Car Wax?
Yes, a full car detail usually includes a coating for the exterior of your vehicle. There are many types of coating, such as wax, that can be used.
- Wax. This is the most common coating and is used to protect your car’s painted surfaces and offer a glossy finish.
- Sealant. This is a heavier-duty coating than wax and will tend to last much longer, often as long as six months under the right conditions.
- Ceramic. Ceramic coatings last even longer than sealant and involve a liquid polymer that adheres to your car’s exterior. It can last for years and protects your car from road chemicals and UV radiation.
- Paint protective film. These films last the longest but are usually only applied to areas that face the most paint damage from the elements.
What’s Included in a Full Exterior Car Detail?
A full exterior car details focuses on cleaning the outside of your car and protecting it from the elements. The services included are:
- Washing and drying. The detailers start by washing and drying the vehicle, often using powerful tools and following up with a hand wash and dry.
- Claying. Claying a vehicle uses a sticky material like clay to remove contaminants and dirt that have bonded to the surface of your car. It gently pulls the material off the car and absorbs it into the clay.
- Polishing and window cleaning. After claying the detailers will polish your car and clean the windows to get them clean and shiny.
- Tire and rim care. Car detailers usually work top-to-bottom, so near the end of the process they’ll clean your tires and rims, removing any grime and contaminants and polishing or shining as needed.
- Sealing. Finally, the detailers will apply a sealing coat, such as wax, sealant, or ceramic to protect your car’s exterior.
What’s Included in a Full Interior Car Detail?
An interior detail is all about cleaning the inside of your car to bring it to a like-new condition. Included services are:
- Vacuuming. The detailers usually start by vacuuming the interior of your car, using powerful tools to clean every nook and crevice of the vehicle.
- Window and mirror cleaning. This involves cleaning the interior of your car’s windows and windshield, as well as cleaning the surface of the rearview and other mirrors.
- Wiping down and polishing interior surfaces. The dashboard, console, and other surfaces of the car are cleaned and polished.
- Leather treatment. If you have a leather interior, the detailers will clean and treat the leather to eliminate stains and other contaminants.
- Steam cleaning and brushing. Detailers use steam to clean any upholstery and brush out any dirt.
- Touch-ups. The detailers will touch up any areas of the interior that may have damage, such as by applying small amounts of paint.
- Deodorizing. Cleaners and other chemicals are used to remove odors from the vehicle.
Benefits of a Full Car Detail
There are many benefits to getting your car detailed.
- Protects your car. Detailing a vehicle is about more than just looks. A proper detailing also involves sealing your car to keep it protected from the elements, chemicals used on roads, and other damage. It also helps preserve the interior of your vehicle to help it last longer.
- Improved performance. Detailing often includes cleaning your car’s engine, something that isn’t part of a typical car wash. That can help improve performance and lower engine temperatures.
- Extends lifespan. Cars spend all their time outdoors, exposed to the elements. They come into contact with harsh road chemicals, salt, and powerful UV rays. Even with normal care, rust can eventually leave your car unusable. Detailing can limit rust build up and remove rust that has appeared on the vehicle.
- Maintains value. Regular detailing can help keep your car’s value high by keeping it looking good.
- Better air quality inside the vehicle. Detailing will clean the interior and exterior of your car, removing dust and other pollutants that can reduce air quality.
- Improved safety. Clean windows, mirrors, and windshields help with visibility and can make your car safer to drive.
Why Choose Professional Car Detailing Over DIY
Some people opt to detail their cars themselves. It can save money and is fun for car enthusiasts. However, if you aren’t experienced or don’t love working on your car, there are many good reasons to hire a professional.
- Expert experience and knowledge. Professionals have detailed many cars and know exactly what to look for and what to do. They’ll be able to do a better job than most DIYers.
- Higher quality products and tools. Even the most enthusiastic DIYer won’t have access to the same expensive tools and materials as a professional. These supplies can provide higher quality finishes and make the process quicker. Many pros rely on business loans to afford car detailing equipment given its cost.
- Pros are faster. Hiring a professional who knows what they’re doing will take far less time than detailing the car on your own.
- Peace of mind. When you’re working on your own car, if you make a mistake, you own it and have to figure out how to fix it. Pros have the experience to avoid mistakes that can harm your car and will rectify any issues that they cause.
How to Choose a Full Car Detailing Service
Finding a good car detailing service is important. You want to make sure the people you hire are experienced, professional, and know how to maintain your specific vehicle.
A good place to start is through referrals. Ask friends who have had their car detailed about their experiences and try to find a good detailer that way. You could also visit local car shows or ask your dealership for recommendations.
Another option is to consult with detailing certification organizations, such as the International Detailing Association, to find a local, certified detailer.
How Much Does a Full Detail Cost?
The cost of a full car detail can vary based on where you live, the type of car you have, any add-on services you select, and many other factors.
For example, new cars will usually cost less to detail. Cars that are regularly maintained and detailed will also tend to cost less.
You can expect to spend anywhere from $100 for a very basic service to $300 or more for more intensive detailing work.