What is Car Detailing? [Answer]

Fully Detailed Mazda MX-5

So, what is car detailing? This is a very simple question so we’ll get it answered quickly and effectively. It might seem obvious to some, but not to all, so let’s be respectful and bear with the guys who are learning…

Car detailing is basically all that goes beyond a simple wash. It’s exactly THAT: Detailing… Going into fine detail by cleaning and polishing every nook and cranny of your vehicle. Along with that you’ll be applying protectants and a waxes that you normally wouldn’t do during a day-to-day quick wash.

This is car detailing
The detailing job on this Mazda MX5 took only 10 hours, but it’s a new car.

While washing a car properly will take you between 1 and 2 hours between hosing and drying, a simple car detail can take between 4-10 hours. A deep, high-end, super detailing can take anywhere from 10 hours to 40 hours (1 to 5 days). Yeah, don’t be surprised. Doing it right, can take a long time.

A good detail usually involves:

  1. Washing the body
  2. Washing the undercarriage
  3. Engine bay cleaning
  4. Wheel, brakes and wheel well wash
  5. Clay bar paint cleaning
  6. Paint polish, sealer and wax
  7. Tire dressing
  8. Glass cleaning
  9. Exhaust clean and polish
  10. Black rubber and plastic treatment
  11. Interior vacuum and shampoo
  12. Leather seat clean and protect
  13. Wheel polishing

The quality of the job is in the details!

With proper planning you can get away with doing the entire detailing job in a day, or in one weekend.

Took get all this done right can take a few days of work while the car is stored in a garage. With proper planning you can get away with doing the entire detailing job in a day, or in one weekend. This can sometimes be the only option for your daily driver. However, in order to get it done in only a day or two, some steps need to be done fast and cut a little short. Trust us, a good thorough detailing will take a long time. Specially if done by only one person.

If you are trying to get the detailing done in only a day or two, you might have to not do some of the really intricate detailing prep jobs. For example, we sometimes use masking tape to cover all the plastic and rubber fittings on the car to avoid contaminating them with wax. You might have to skip that to save time, but you must still be careful not to get wax on the plastic bits.

Car Wheel Detailing
A good wheel clean, polish and wax along with tire dressing is important to any complete car detailing project.

There are many interpretations of car detailing. Some think it’s just a matter of wash, wax and interior cleaning. We’d call that a mini-detail. But a real car-detailing job involves a lot more than that. Plus, while many people are not even aware of the benefits of using a clay bar for cars to clean the paint, we can go out on a limb and say that claying your car is SO IMPORTANT that it should ALWAYS be part of a detail job.

Now that you know what detailing a car really means, you might want to stick around RallyWays.com for bit. Check out our car detailing topics for more. You can start with the article about clay bars mentioned in the previous paragraph. Happy detailing. To many of us, it’s a serious hobby. To some it’s a profession.

We’ve taken the time to created a very extensive infographic based on experience to illustrate the entire process of a fully professional car detailing project. To see that go visit this article: The Complete Professional Car Detailing Step by Step Process

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