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Auto detailing is the act of performing a thorough cleaning, restoration, and finishing of a motor vehicle, to produce a show-quality cleanliness and polish. Detailing can be performed on a vehicle's exterior and/or interior.
Professional detailing services and sale of products to both professionals and hobbyists represent a large commercial presence in places where autos are a primary mode of transport. In the United States alone, the professional and home detailing industry was over $9 billion in revenue, as of April 2014.
Components of detailing
Detailing is generally broken down into two categories: exterior and interior (or cabin). There are products and services that focus on these two areas specifically.
Exterior detailing involves cleaning, and either restoring or exceeding the original condition of the surface of the car's finish (usually a paint with a glossy finish), chrome trim, windows, wheels, and tires, as well as other visible components on a vehicle's exterior. A wide array of detailing products and techniques is used, based on the vehicle's surface type and condition, or the detailer's preference. Products include, but are not limited to: detergents and acid free degreasers (to break down dirt and soil), detail clay (to remove embedded contaminates), waxes, shines, and polishes (to resurface and then improve reflectivity, or to give the tires a shine), as well as a variety of applicators, brushes, and drying towels.
Interior detailing involves a deep cleaning of the whole interior cabin. Vehicle interiors of the last 50 years comprise a variety of materials, such as synthetic carpet upholstery, vinyl, leather, various natural fibers, carbon fiber composites, plastics, and others, which necessitates the use of a variety of cleaning techniques and products. Vacuuming is standard, and upholstery stains may be removed using steam cleaning, liquid and foam chemicals, as well as brushes. Additionally, some nonporous surfaces may be polished.
In general, there are three main types of paint protection that is currently available to apply to cars and trucks: Waxes, Paint Sealants, and Ceramic Coatings.
Wax are natural products that are applied on top of a vehicle's' finish to protect it and increase its shine. The majority of these are carnauba wax. Carnauba wax has a short typical lifespan of weeks making it less than ideal as a car finish protectant, requiring reapplication at least monthly. Carnauba wax is still considered superior in its ability to create a deep, wet, glossy shine.
Paint Sealant are typically synthetic paint protection products that improve upon the longevity of the protection benefits of waxes. A synthetic paint sealant can contain carnauba wax in an attempt to improve how well the product produces a shine on the paint surface. Paint sealants typically last several months but some claim to last up to two years.
Ceramic Coating are synthetic paint protection products but rise above traditional paint sealants by incorporating ceramic nanoparticles that bond with the paint surface and provide a very durable protective layer. There are consumer-grade ceramic coatings as well as professional-grade ceramic coatings. The differences between these two classifications of coatings are primarily difficulty of application and longevity of protection. Consumer-grade ceramic coatings are usually easier to apply but last shorter durations. Professional-grade ceramic coatings often require special equipment to apply but can last significantly longer. Consumer-grade coatings often last a couple of years. Some professional-grade coatings claim to last as long as ten years.
As extensive as the detailing process may be, it typically does not include corrective action such as major body shop repairs, but may be limited to some paint restoration via a dual action or rotary polisher to eliminate swirl marks within the paint.
- "Car Wash & Auto Detailing in the US: Market Research Report". Ibisworld. April 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014.