Car detailing Guide for Beginners

Possibly for those interested in jargons and even others among car enthusiasts and the not so enthusiastic ones, car detailing as a term might spring a surprise, though it is easy to understand. The difference between detailing and washing is what is put up often as a question.

While the motor heads should make it a point to detail their cars often, they should also be familiar with the smaller processes which they can carry our regularly to make their cars look spic and span always.

To help readers understand car detailing aka auto detailing, we’ll give a decent idea of the process of car detailing and what you get, when you car gets detailed.

But believe this, you may not go back and detailing may remain your new normal.

Car Detailing

In simple terms, it is the thorough cleaning of your car-top to bottom- using specialized products and tools. In the normal course, the professional who details the car will also make light cosmetic level changes, sans paintwork and body repair.

Detailing involves cleaning and overhauling the exterior and interior extensively. Restoring the paintwork by eliminating the scratches and marks to give it a look similar to the one at the time of purchase is also the idea behind detailing.

A routine car wash gets rid of dirt on the exterior of the car and interior cleaning might capture some of the filth by vacuum cleaning. Car detailing goes beyond all these and buffs out minor imperfections, polishes and vacuums out extensively and makes your car display fit.

There isn’t any standard guideline for detailing and you need to check out the package before choosing the right detailer.


Difference between car wash and auto detail

Now that a bit more of explaining has been done on car detailing, let’s quickly go through the differences between a car wash and car detailing and why detailing is a wonderful idea.

Apart from the cost, an ordinary car wash only takes care of only a portion of what a car detailing does and hence only costs as much less, not to forget the result.

What does a car wash include then?

A majority of car washes are pretty fast and take less than 30 minutes, from washing to drying. Car washing can be done by hand or by machines where they set in motion bristles, soap and water to clean your car’s exterior.

A car wash isn’t in-depth . It is superficial rather, where as detailing is extensive and restorative.

Steps in auto detailing

The two major steps in car detailing are interior and exterior detailing and we will look at each of them in depth so that you will be aware of what you can expect after the process.

Exterior car detailing

An exterior comprehensive wash is carried out to remove dirt as can be. Foaming allows mud and dirt to be softened and taken off the surface.

Special brushes and wheel cleaning products are put into use by the detailer to remove dirt and sludge from the wheels, brake liners, nuts etc. The wheels, expectedly, are one of the dirtiest parts of the car.

The paint is then washed and dried from top to bottom with the aid of washing mitts and microfiber towels. The paint is then clayed using clay bar which removes the stubborn dirt from the car’s surface or clear coat.

Based on necessity, the paint is polished to rid it of scratches, oxidation and swirl marks. The paint is either hand or machine polished and this part of detailing is the one that consumes the maximum duration of time, depending on the condition of the paint.

Lastly, the paint is given a coat of wax as a protective layer using carnauba paste wax. This layer gives it added luster, one that will take you to the first looks when out of the showroom.

The remaining exterior parts, like the mirrors, the rubber parts and the trims are cleaned and polished methodically using specialized products to add sparkle.

Interior Detailing

The upholstery is given a thorough vacuum and shampoo cleaning to get rid of dust, stains and dirt. Leatherwork, if present, is conditioned and scrubbed to remove dirt that deeply fixed. Plastics and vinyl are given the required treatment. Glass in the interiors is also cleaned and polished to give it a crystal clear look.

An important step, though optional.

Many people forget what is under the bonnet or hood. Cleaning the engine bay is very important and most detailers feel that it is up to the mechanics to do this job.

Cleaning this part makes a mechanics job easier, faster too, should your car run into problems. A clean engine bay tells a lot about the owner and the way the car is maintained. A look under the hood can raise or lower the value of a car for sale, based on how it is maintained.

When cleaning the engine bay the detailer needs to ensure that the parts are protected from wear and tear. Light spraying with water and using a degreaser can be done before rinsing all parts. Once dried, rubber, silicon and plastic have to be dressed to protect them from cracking. A simple process, this can work to protect the car from daily issues of wear and tear of rubber and silicon components.


Benefits of Car detailing

An exhaustive car detailing service will return your car to the best condition. Minor details later will keep your car in a condition akin to new.

Car Value

Keeping your car well maintained and in good condition will preserve or restore resale value. In case of vantage or classic cars, this is true to the T. Car washes don’t produce the best results. A good round of detailing restores originality to take the resale value north.


Car detailing protects against external contamination. A good layer of wax coating on the exterior paint, it prevents rusting.

Attention to detail

A professional detailer will suggest customised solutions to get to every nook and corner and hidden crevice. This will not be available in a normal car wash.

Cost of detailing

You don’t have to shell out a bomb to get your car detailed. It depends on the size of the car. A wagon R and a Pajero will have different cost, not much different though.

A basic package can cost anything from Rs.7000/- to Rs.12000/- for a normal sedan, but for an SUV it may be Rs.10,000/- to Rs.15,000/-. Additional services like clay barring, leather conditioning and those caused due to pets can jack up the cost.

Mobile car detailing prices

This will cost more than the normal ones because you get the services at your location and saves you the time of driving, to and fro. On an average, it takes anything between 90 to 180 minutes to get your car detailed.

Choosing a car detailer

Having taken the decision to detail your car and getting a fair idea of the cost involved, the most important part is to identify the right detailer. The quality of services and experience in detailing are crucial. You will also want to know the services in the bouquet and more importantly, whether they suit your car’s needs. A one size fits all approach is useless here. Be choosy.

Let’s open up the little known aspects of choosing.

  1. Services offered: Look for a detailer who gives you what you want. Services should be in line with your requirements and not generalized.
  2. Pricing: Detailing may look expensive as the kinds of products used and the labour are too. Compare and square in one who provides the best deal. A short term investment will do long term good.
  3. Reviews: Hey man, we are in a Google powered era and looking for reviews is important before you start off. Go through Yelp too. To understand what customers mention about the services will be good for you too.
  4. Mobility: If someone offers you a mobile car detailing service at your location, saving you the pain of driving to and fro, you need to keep the detailer in the priority list.


We have touched just the tip of the iceberg of detailing. It is too deep to understand in a jiffy. There are exclusive fora attributed to detailing alone that will give you ample information on this aspect of keeping your car spic and span.





Exterior detailingInterior detailing