Car Servicing

A Beginner’s Guide To Auto Detailing

Ever wondered what’s the difference between auto detailing and car washing? At their core, both services aim to accomplish a similar end goal – To keep your car looking immaculate and road-ready. But, beyond that, the process, pricing and result vary significantly. While a basic wash is meant to clean day-to-day dirt and debris from your car, detailing goes several steps further, helping to maintain the finish, quality and overall resale value of your car.

To help customers understand the many benefits of auto detailing, we outlined what you can expect when you choose to have your car detailed. Trust us when we say that you will never revert back to normal washing!

What is auto detailing?

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Auto detailing is the act of performing a thorough cleaning, restoration and finishing of a car with the use of specialized tools and products. In simpler terms, it is the process of reconditioning the interior and exterior of the car. The aim of this is to restore the paintwork by eliminating scratches or swirl marks to make the car look almost brand new like it did when you first drove it out of the shop.

What is the difference between auto detailing and car washing?

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Car washes target the dirt, dust, tar and other environmental debris from a car’s clear coat. A typical drive-through car wash uses power brushes to remove exterior dirt and grime, followed by a wash tunnel that applies a non-abrasive cleaning solution. The service may include an undercarriage wash, wheel cleaning or a clear-coat protector for an extra cost.

(Related Story: Affordable Places To Get A Car Wash In Singapore)

On the other hand, detailing is the process of deep-cleaning a car. First, the interiors of the car will be carefully vacuumed. An interior detailer will be applied to the plastic parts and then wiped with a soft towel. On top of that, a conditioner will be applied to protect those plastic parts from being damaged by the sun. In addition, a glass cleaner will be used to clean the interiors of the windows. 

Next, the car’s engine will be inspected, sprayed, degreased, cleaned, and dried with compressed air. A conditioner will be applied and painted parts will be waxed.

Then, the exterior of the car will be inspected, cleaned, and washed with car wash soap. Each car will be rinsed and wiped with a soft towel and a clay bar will be used to remove contaminants. Drivers can opt to have their car buffed, which might take several hours. Lastly, the polish will be applied to the panels and a dressing will be applied to the tires. The car will be inspected in bright sunlight to ensure that nothing has been missed.

What are the steps in auto detailing?

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A thorough car detailing consists of two main phases – Interior detailing and exterior detailing.

Interior Car Detailing

It comes as no surprise that interior car detailing requires more effort and time than exterior detailing. A dirty interior cabin not only has a bad odour, but also adds to operational complications.

Dirty air exhaust spreads allergens about the cabin; stain and grit causes switches to fail; and hazy windows can obscure the view of a driver. In that case, cleaning a car’s interior is more than just washing with water and soap.

Depending on the detailer you visit, there are different ways to do interior auto detailing. However, the standard processes include:

  • Vacuuming – The first step to cleaning the interior of a car includes vacuuming seats, headliners, rear cargo area, trunk and shelf. To get the best out of vacuuming, floor interior Car Detailing mats and the vacuum should be cleaned separately. As for the difficult areas that cannot be reached using a vacuum, an air compressor can be used.
  • Brushing and Steam Cleaning – This is used to clean carpets and mats. Thorough scrubbing is done on the mats in order to remove any stains and blemishes that may have accumulated over the past years. To be more effective, a steam-cleaner should be used. However, carpets should be left to dry completely to avoid mildew.
  • Glass Cleaning – A glass cleaner is used to clean the glass. It ensures that the glass remains sparkling and ensures the driver’s view is not obstructed.
  • Leather Trimming – A leather cleaner, saddle soap and leather soap are used to clean all the leather parts. As for the soapy areas, a damp cloth is used to remove the excess soap. If the leather is dry, a conditioner customized for leather can be used to make cleaning more efficient.
  • Re-Vacuuming and Wiping – Re-Vacuuming is important just after vacuuming. Any dirt left in the interior cabin is removed. Dashboards and windows should be wiped clean with a clean cloth using a cleaning detergent. After all this is done, a car’s original shine is restored.
  • Perfuming – Finally, to leave the car with a good scent, a deodorant is used in the car.

Exterior Car Detailing

Exterior car washing is not just a quick wash of the exterior components of a car. A good detailer will make the car gleam, minimize surface scratches, and should always apply a shielding paint sealant.

The common exterior process includes:

  • Washing and Drying – Unlike a car wash, detailing is done by hand. The first step involves spraying the car with specialized spray that is high-powered, followed by thorough hand washing on the rims of the car, door jambs, glass and all exterior parts that need cleaning.
  • Claying – A clay bar is used to remove any impurities, traces of overspray and other residues that cannot be removed with normal detergents.
  • Polishing – After a car has been used for a while, it is normal that it loses its polish or shine. Therefore, in this process, the original polish is restored.
  • Sealing – To give the car a glossy shine, a sealant is applied, and in some cases, wax can be used.

Other exterior services that can be done include trim repainting, engine detailing, headlight polishing, engine pressure cleaning, bumper repair, glass chip repair and paint touch up.

Finally, car wash and detail should involve analyzing all the types of paint, previous and current damages such as flaking, peeling, cracking and repainting, exterior conditions and analysis of rust, damage from acids and other effects of oxidation. Regular auto detailing adds value to your car and also makes it look attractive despite the number of years it has been used.

What are the benefits of getting your car detailed?

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A complete car detail will bring your car to its best condition. You can then perform mini details to keep your car looking as good as new.

Car Value

Keeping your car in good condition will help maintain or restore the value of your car. This is particularly true of older or classic cars, especially if you’re looking to sell your car in the future. You simply cannot get the same results from car washes. A good detailer will bring your car to its original beauty and increase its resale value.


Another benefit of auto detailing is the added protection against the elements. When a wax coat is routinely applied to the exterior painted surface, it protects the finish from contamination and oxidation (rust).

Attention to Detail

Since detailing is an incredibly thorough process, you can expect the detailer to meticulously assess every crevice of your car to suggest customized solutions. You will not get this kind of personalized service at a car wash.

Source: Cobble Stone | Washos

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