Many people haven’t a clue what it means to have a vehicle detailed. However, being the owner of an onsite automobile detailing company for the past five years, I make it my business to be a detail authority. In the paragraphs to come, I will explain thoroughly what it means to receive a basic exterior detail.
Over the years, I’ve amassed more equipment, chemicals and knowledge than I’ll probably ever use. The knowledge is here to stay, but the equipment and chemicals have been tailored to only what I need to efficiently service a vehicle. The heart and soul of my operation are my truck and trailer. Because my business services customers at their location, the truck with a towing package and trailer hitch is essential. The 4×8 trailer houses everything necessary to get the actual job done. The following list itemizes precisely the materials that I carry to every detail: 65 gallon water tank with water, pressure washer with 50 ft hose, generator, heated carpet extractor, shop vacuum, orbital buffer, retractable extension cord, microfiber towels, tire brush, upholstery brush, long handled hard bristle brush, long handled soft bristle brush, 5 gallon bucket, car wash soap, detailer’s wax, tire shine, window cleaner, carnauba wax, polish, degreaser, upholstery/carpet cleaner, leather/vinyl conditioner, and air freshener. However, for a strictly exterior detail, some of these items will not be used.
The first step that I take is to find a spot with suitable shade to cover the entire vehicle. After I’ve inspected the vehicle and carefully noted areas that may need more attention than others, I begin by pulling out my 5 gallon bucket and long handled soft bristle brush. About an ounce of concentrated car wash soap is added to the bucket, which will be filled with water via a hose leading to the 65 gallon tank. While the bucket is being filled, I retrieve the tire brush and degreaser from the trailer and start the pressure washer. If not already there, I wait until the bucket is about 2/3 full before connecting the hose to the pressure washer. Then, with pressure washer gun, degreaser and brush in hand, I extend the hose towards the vehicle and saturate the wheel wells, tires, and rims with water on one side. Next, the same process is repeated, only this time with degreaser. The area that was just degreased is then agitated with the tire brush. Immediately following, and before the degreaser dries, the treated area is rinsed with water. The same process is then repeated on the opposite side of the vehicle.
Once the wheel area has been cleaned, the entire vehicle is given a pre-rinse. Road tar and other surface contaminants are pretreated with degreaser before I return the chemical and brush to the trailer and retrieve the awaiting bucket of soapy water. Using the long handled soft bristle brush, I start at the top of the vehicle, washing only about a 2×2 square foot portion of the vehicle before dipping the brush back into the soapy water. After the top section is washed, I move on to the windshield and glass on one side of the vehicle. Next to be washed is the hood and bumper, and then the upper and finally lower door panels on the same side of the vehicle of the previously washed glass; the entire time paying close attention the pretreated areas. To prevent premature drying, the area that was just washed will be rinsed at this time, once again starting at the top and working down. The same process is then repeated on the opposite side, substituting the windshield and hood area with the trunk and back glass.
After the car has been thoroughly washed and rinsed, I quickly make my way back to the trailer to return the pressure washer gun to its proper position while I’m simultaneously cutting the machine off. Next I grab the detailer’s wax and 2 microfiber towels and head back to the vehicle I’m working on. The wax is concentrated and in spray form, and is sprayed sparingly on the top, hood and one side of the vehicle. Then with and overlapping motion, the wax is worked into the wet surface of the vehicle, again from top to bottom. When finished, the small amount of water that may be left on the vehicle will quickly evaporate leaving a high gloss finish. The same steps are then repeated on the opposing side of the vehicle.
I then turn my attention back to the wheel area. After returning one of the towels and the wax to the trailer, I pick up the tire shine and again head back to the now shining vehicle. Tire shine is sprayed liberally on the first tire I encounter, as well as its accompanying wheel well, being careful not to get overspray on the previously waxed finish. Using the towel that wasn’t returned to the trailer, the excess tire shine is wiped off of the rim as well as any brake dust or other dirt that hasn’t already come off. This part of the job isn’t finished until the entire rim and tire shines like the rest of the vehicle. Once completed, the remaining 3 tires receive the same treatment.
Returning everything to the trailer, the next step will be to wax the vehicle with a more durable, longer lasting, carnauba wax. I start my generator and extend the retractable extension cord to its limit, about 30 feet. After connecting to extension cord to the orbital buffer, I grab the carnauba wax and a few microfiber towels, and proceed to the awaiting vehicle. A small amount of wax is placed on the buffer pad and then rubbed into the paint in an attempt to create more even coverage. The buffer is then turned onto a low setting, and using a circular, overlapping motion, a thin layer of wax will be spread onto the vehicle. This process too will start at the top of the vehicle, finishing at the bottom. About a quarter of the vehicle will be waxed, then allowed to have before being wiped off by the microfiber towels, being careful to remove wax from crevices in addition to the dust caused by dried wax. That method will then be duplicated on the remainder of the vehicle.
Finally, after the entire vehicle has been waxed and wiped off, the windows will be cleaned. After all other materials have been returned to the trailer I grab the window cleaner and one last microfiber towel. The window cleaner is sprayed directly on a folded towel and then wiped onto one window at a time. Then turning to the dry side of the towel, the window is wiped off, removing streaks and excess window cleaner. After all windows have been cleaned, the very last thing that I do is step back and admire my completed work, a freshly detailed exterior.
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