July 19, 2012 Brad Will

Car Wash vs. Auto Detailing

I believe there is some confusion between a commercial car wash and an auto detail.  Some believe that taking a car to a commercial car wash is the same as having it professionally detailed.  The following information will help you to understand the difference, and make an educated decision on which service is best for your car.

At a car wash, cars are routed through a tunnel where mechanized cloths and brushes, detergent, and water jets are used to clean your car.  After your car travels through the wash tunnel, car wash employees may be present to dry your car.  Some car washes also offer interior services that are done after the wash process; either in front of the facility or on a conveyor belt in another area.  Interior work usually consists of a quick vacuum and wipe down of interior surfaces.  The process, as mentioned, produces a relatively clean car at an economical price.  The main problem with this process, is that it is not thorough and the tunnel wash can cause damage to your car’s paint.  The mechanized brushes and cloths are usually the source of paint damage, however, it can also occur during the drying process.  If the towels used by the car wash staff are not clean or have been cross contaminated by the wheels or other dirty areas, damage can occur.  These types of issues may not be typical of every car wash, however, I frequently observe it on customer’s cars.  If you are really enthusiastic about the appearance of your car, a commercial car wash is not likely to exceed your expectations.  Please keep reading to see how the auto detailing process is different and offers many more benefits to you.

When your car is detailed by a qualified shop or mobile detailing company, it is usually hand washed.  Each section of your car is carefully washed with the gentle touch of the human hand.  The wheels, wheel wells, and tires will also be carefully cleaned by hand.  The paint is gently dried with quality towels that never touch any other area of the car.  When your car is detailed, the paint will either be hand waxed or polished and sealed with a machine polisher.  This process will both protect and enhance your car’s paint.  Paint protection is important because it prevents UV damage and keeps contaminants from bonding to the paint.  Polishing and waxing services are sometimes offered at car washes, however, it is frequently done incorrectly and with little attention to detail.

When the interior is professionally detailed, the same care is taken.  Brushes and various vacuum attachments will be used to get into cracks and crevices.  Hard surfaces, such as vinyl, plastic, and leather will be carefully cleaned.  Care must be taken because certain interior surfaces can be damaged with the wrong cleaning process.  I have seen plenty of badly scratched touch screens, which are expensive to replace.  Only water-based UV protectors should be used on interior hard surfaces, which have a natural matte shine.  Thick and oily products applied at some car washes,  can attract dust and create a glare effect on the dash.

In summary, when you have your car professionally detailed, you will notice the difference.  More time will be spent on the key areas and greater care will be taken not to cause damage.  The benefit to you is that your car will look like new for many years.  Sure, auto detailing is more expensive than a car wash, however, the value is many times greater.  Please feel free to ask us any questions you may have regarding this topic.