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Car Wash vs. Car Detailing: What are the Differences?

Updated: Feb 17

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What's the Difference between a Car Wash and Car Detailing?
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Your car is a big investment, so it is only natural that you want to keep it looking its best. However, when it comes to maintaining the appearance of your vehicle, one of the most common questions we’re asked here at Exclusive Auto Detailing is what's the difference?

These two terms are often used interchangeably, but in fact, they are two very different methods of car cleaning. In this latest blog, we take a closer look at the two options to help you understand which is right for you.

Let's dive in to some of the differences!

A Traditional Car Wash.

At its core, a car wash is a service designed to cleanse the exterior of your vehicle, removing accumulated dirt, dust, and grime to restore its shine and appearance. Whether performed manually or through automated machinery, a car wash is an essential aspect of routine vehicle maintenance, offering a convenient and cost-effective solution to keep your car looking its best.

Types of Car Wash Services

Standard Car Wash

This conventional service is typically conducted at traditional car wash facilities or through drive-through "tunnel washes." These services often utilize a combination of water, detergents, brushes, and cloths or brushes to clean the vehicle's exterior.

Components of a standard car wash may include:

  • Exterior Wash: generic wash to remove dirt and grime.

  • Wheel and tire cleaning.

  • Drying using a series of cloths or high-volume blowers.

Hand Wash or Express Detail Services.

In certain instances, some dealerships or car wash facilities may offer a hand wash or express detail, these services differ slightly from the standard car wash but remain very similar and differ from a professional detailed service. They typically represent a faster-paced, lower-cost option.

The technician's process involves several steps:

  • Washing the car using brushes or mitts.

  • Rinsing and drying the vehicle.

  • Applying tire shine.

  • Cleaning windows.

  • Quick vacuuming.

  • Wiping down the interior.

Despite being labeled 'express detail' these services are distinct from comprehensive detailing, often resulting in less than adequate finish and sometimes unintended consequences.

Understanding the Limitations.

Ultimately, these seemingly convenient options have unfortunate downsides. Tunnel washes or hand washes, prevalent in traditional facilities or car dealerships, may seem innocuous. Yet, the reality is that the continual exposure to numerous dirty vehicles and the repeated use of the same brushes and mitts lead to the accumulation of abrasive contaminants, causing significant damage to your car's finish over time.

What is car detailing?

Car detailing isn't just about a surface-level clean; it's a meticulous process that breathes new life into your vehicle, inside and out. Unlike a simple car wash, detailing involves a comprehensive approach that ensures every nook and cranny is restored to perfection. Let's break it down and go over a brief explanation of our detailing process here at Exclusive Auto Detailing for comparison.

The key components of auto detailing include:

Exterior Detailing.

We start by giving your vehicle's exterior a presoak to help break down any bugs, tar and road film prior to washing. We then move to a thorough hand wash, removing all contaminants from every surface, including paintwork, wheels, tires, and even door jams. Once the vehicle is thoroughly washed, we move to the chemical and mechanical decontamination process, this process involves clay barring the vehicle’s painted surface to remove any embedded contamination, followed by an iron remover to further dissolve anything clay doesn’t get. Then comes the magic: paint enhancement or paint correction and polishing to eliminate imperfections and achieve a high gloss shine. To seal the deal, we apply protective sealants or coatings like ceramic coating to keep your paintwork pristine and easier to maintain. Want to opt for more protection? Paint protection film is another great option offered here!

Interior Detailing.

Our interior detailing is a deep dive into cleanliness and comfort. All loose items, mats and cover are removed from the vehicle, followed by the use of special air tools to blow out between all seats, vents, cracks and crevices. A thorough vacuum is performed to remove as much of the dirt and debris from all of the carpet and upholstery, followed by shampoo and hot water extraction of all the carpet and upholstery, ensuring stains, dirt, and build up are removed and the material is left fresh and plush. All panels are then thoroughly scrubbed using a series of dedicated brushes, cleaners and steam. Once all panels are cleaned, they’re then dressed in a satin protectant, no glossy sticky armor all used here! A final vacuum is done, glass is cleaned, door jams are detailed, and everything is placed back in the vehicle, leaving your interior looking and feeling brand new to the best of our ability!

SO, what's The Difference?

When it comes down to it, the difference between a standard car wash and a professional detail is all about the level of care and precision. Opting for a professional detail ensures that every tool and product used is fresh, meticulously maintained, and free of any contaminants, guaranteeing your vehicle receives top-notch treatment, each time without fail.

While the cost may be higher, what you're investing in is more than just a clean car. It's a complete rejuvenation, protecting your vehicle from wear and tear and leaving it looking pristine. Choosing a professional detail is like giving your car a spa day—it's a thoughtful, thorough service that goes beyond surface cleaning, ensuring your ride stays in tip-top condition for the long haul.

Ready to treat your car?

If you are ready to treat your car to a professional auto detail, then Exclusive Auto Detailing is here for you! Our full-service, customer-centric approach is designed to transform the exterior and interior of your vehicle. We don’t believe in rushing our work, which is why we adopt a quality over quantity approach, meaning we’ll take our time when working on your car, treating it like it was our own and guaranteeing the very best finish possible.

Want to find out more about our range of services? Get in touch today!

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