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Auto detailing is the performance of thorough cleaning, restoration, and finishing of an automobile, both inside and out, to produce a show-quality level of detail.
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 is over $9 billion in revenue.
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 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 the exterior of a vehicle. A wide array of products and techniques are used to do this based on the surface type, surface 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 contaminants), waxes and polishes (to resurface and then improve reflectivity), as well as a variety of applicators, brushes, and drying towels.
- Washing & Drying - Washing and drying may sound simple, but properly washing and drying your car is very important to prevent adding imperfections like swirls, scratches, and water spots whether it's for your maintenance wash or before taking the next step of polishing or protecting your car's paint.
- Polishing - Polishing is a step that can be taken after properly washing and drying to remove imperfections from the car's clear coat. Polishing can be done by hand or machine through a buffer/polisher, polishes, and polishing pads.
- Protection - Protection is usually the last step of a detail when you can apply a wax, sealant, or coating to protect your clear coat during daily use of your vehicle.
Interior detailing involves a deep cleaning of the whole interior cabin. Automobile interiors of the last 50 years have a variety of materials used inside the cabin such as synthetic carpet upholstery, vinyl, leather, various natural fibers, carbon fiber composites, plastics, and others. Different techniques and products are used to address cleaning these. Vacuuming is standard, and steam cleaning, liquid and foam chemicals, as well as brushes may be used to remove stains on upholstery. Some nonporous surfaces may also be polished.
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.com. April 2014. Retrieved 26 June 2014.