The most asked question in the car cleaning: What's the difference between a detail and the local hand wash?
Most local car washes are manned by multiple people who are getting paid peanuts to clean your car as fast as possible. This often leads to corners being cut in the aid of a quicker service, and the same dirty wash water and sponges being used for multiple vehicles. This can cause major damage to your cars clear coat, as improper wash techniques cause scratches and swirl marks which ruin a vehicles appearance. They also tend to use cheaper bulk chemicals which when used incorrectly can damage door seals, plastics and wheel lacquers. Automatic car washes are in the same boat, as they aren't cleaned in between each car. Who knows what condition the car before you was in and how much dirt and debris its left on the brushes that will destroy your paintwork.
A good quality detailer will utilise proven techniques in order to prevent damage being inflicted to your vehicle. A safe prewash in the form of a snowfoam or citrus cleaner will loosen and break down the road grime and dirt, allowing it to be removed easier with a rinse from a pressure washer. A 3 bucket method wash reduces the amount of dirt that is removed from your vehicle being reapplied by rinsing the wash mitt in a second clean water bucket between every panel. The 3rd bucket is a dedicated wheel bucket, so that no cross contamination will occur. Using a soft microfibre drying towel, the car is then dried before any other stage is undertaken.
Here's some examples of quality snow foam loosening any debris on the vehicle remaining after the initial rinse, which reduces the risk of inflicting swirl marks on the paintwork.
If the customer has opted for a valet, the last stage protection option will be applied. If they have opted for one of our detail packages, this is where the chemical decontamination will start. The first stage is covering the car in a Glue and Tar remover, which will dissolve the tar spots often picked up from daily driving. After a pressure rinse and dry, a Fallout Remover will be liberally applied to the whole car. These dissolve embedded brake dust and other foreign particles that have embedded themselves in the soft clearcoat of the car. After this has been allowed time to work, another pressure rinse will remove the residue. The next stage is the clay bar decontamination to remove any other particles not acted on by the previous two stages. This stage will also make the paint smooth to the touch and prep the paintwork for the the machine polishing stage(s).
This is the most time consuming stage of a detail, but arguably the most rewarding. After an initial inspection of the paint and documenting any damage present, multiple paint thickness readings are taken to ensure no serious damage can occur by striking through the clearcoat. Once deemed safe, some test spots are carried out to find the best pad and polish combination to achieve the best results for the level of detail chosen. If a single stage enhancement, the car will then be fully polished using the determined combination. Once complete, a full Isopropyl Alcohol wipe down removes any polishing oils to reveal the true finish.
Some examples of before and afters are shown here.
Once the polishing stage and wipe down has been carried out, the final protection will be applied. Most ceramic coatings require a curing time of over 24 hours with no contact with water, so a spray sealant will be applied as a sacrificial layer to protect the coating until it is fully cured which can be up to 7 days. Traditional waxes are allowed an hour between coats to allow a 'gassing off' period for maximum durability.