If you want to learn how to detail a vehicle like a pro, just go to YouTube. You’ll find thousands of videos ranging from wannabe social media celebrities to real pros who do it for a living and are willing to impart their knowledge to the “great unwashed.” Jason Otterness from Chicago Auto Pros has a great channel dedicated to detailing. What’s nice about his videos is he doesn’t promote any particular brand, and he lists all the products that he uses in his videos.
From a counter professional’s perspective, cleaning and detailing products likely represent a sizeable chunk of your chemical sales. And with more people staying at home during the pandemic, that could create more opportunities to sell these products to the DIY crowd. I’m sure most of you have been asked dozens of times, “What should I use to clean my car?” Beware, though, because you may find yourself going down a rabbithole of cleaning solutions, recommending everything from tire shine to pine-tree air fresheners!
If you look at the products that the pros use, they emphasize quality and not quantity. And they know how to use them. The pros also buy expensive polishers, brushes and towels because they work with these tools and products all day long.
According to an article by Chad Zani of Detail Garage in our sister publication Professional Carwashing & Detailing, teaching customers how to care for their vehicles will make them last longer. And cars are lasting longer these days with an average age of around 11.8 years old. Cars that old might be driven thousands of miles without being cleaned. “And it shows,” says Zani. “Cleaning a car involves a lot more than soap and water, of course. It is actually less about the washing than about keeping the car free of large dirt particles, bug guts and more that can do quite a bit of damage – both by letting them sit on the finish too long and in the process of removing them.”
Most pros use a dirt trap in the bottom of a 5-gallon wash bucket to filter out the debris. That way, they don’t pick up dirt with the mitt and scratch the vehicle. Jason at Chicago Auto Pros recommends using two buckets for washing: one for the chemical and the other to rinse the wash mitt, which helps keep the soap bucket clean and free of debris.
The ideal detailing job includes washing, claying, sealing and polishing, followed by waxing. Using a clay bar will remove contaminants from the paint that wasn’t removed during the washing process. Zani notes that if the paint feels rough to your hand, “it’s time to clay.”
Ceramic sealants have become quite popular, and they do add an extra layer of protection between washing and waxing. Using a ceramic sealant or hybrid spray adds a thin, clear coat and fills in the paint’s peaks and valleys. If you need to fix any minor flaws in the paint after that, you can use a compound cutting wax to remove; then follow with a final wax coat.
High-quality sealants and waxes can be expensive but will keep the vehicle cleaner and make it easier to wash when it comes time to do it again. Keeping a car clean is no easy task, no matter what part of the country you live in, and each region has its challenges. Customers who take the time to clean and care for their vehicles regularly buy the lion’s share of appearance products. Knowing the proper cleaning steps and some quality products to recommend can be money in the bank for both you and your customer.