The Detail Mystery

  • What’s the difference between a car wash vs car detail?
  • I just go to the car wash down the street and have my car completely detailed for $39!
  • So, what is “reconditioning” anyway?

These are some of the most common questions and statements that we receive regarding car wash vs car detail.  We admit, there is a lot of mystery in the automotive world. Sort of the Wizard of Oz, “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” scenario. The truth is, there doesn’t have to be a lot of mystery. Just as in most of life – a little knowledge goes a long way. So, we’ll try to shine some light on the shadowy beast that is automotive detailing and reconditioning.

Car Wash vs Car Detail

The difference between a car wash and a car detail? Detail, of course! A car wash comes in many shapes and sizes – all sharing some commonalities. The basic car wash is the use of water and a chemical detergent to loosen and remove dirt and grime from the surface of a vehicle. Some car washes use a series of brushes and cloths, others use high pressure water, and some are variations of the home weekend driveway detail that we all know and love (as a side note – you are probably doing it wrong! Read our blog posts for TIPS AND TRICKS on how to properly clean your vehicle).

Can a car wash make my car shine like new?

Unfortunately, in most cases, this act of washing a car is slowly scratching and scuffing your car’s paint. The dirt and grime that slowly settles and builds up on the surface of car is relatively benign – though unattractive, it just sits there. When washing, the dirt and grime adhere to the surface of the cloth, sponge, or wash mitt and acts like sandpaper – scratching the clear coat, making it dull and more susceptible to collecting dirt and grime. Here at Detail Green USA, we’ve developed a technique to carefully “lift” dirt and grime away from the surface, minimizing the abrasive action of the wash process.

Again, the car wash is just the beginning of the detail process. A quick swipe of your hand across a freshly washed surface quickly reveals that wash only removed the visible dirt and grime. Over time, environmental particulate matter such as sap, bugs, tar, mineral deposits and animal droppings can adhere and even embed into the clear coat surface. Fortunately, auto detailers have a secret weapon in their arsenal to deal with these environmental contaminants – automotive clay.

Paint Correction and Reconditioning

Now is when the real fun happens – the true essence of detail, and most likely not covered in the $39 car detail offered by a car wash. Thoroughly cleaning the exterior cleans and prepares the surface, but doesn’t address or repair any issues or imperfections. Here is where paint correction comes in.

Paint shine is all about reflecting light. When light is reflected uniformly from a painted surface, the surface looks rich and bright. However, if light is scattered in different directions as in worn clear coat, the surface looks dull and scuffed. If we were able to look at a cross section of a painted panel, we would see what looks like the silhouette of a mountain range. The top of the mountains would be the top or outer most layer of clear coat. Over time, with age and wear, the peaks become more numerous and more defined and the valleys of the mountain range become deeper – reflecting more light at different angles and causing the overall surface to appear dull.

How can I make my car shine?

Wax, compounds, and polishes will help to smooth out the peaks and valleys, decreasing the number of different surfaces reflecting light and causing the painted surface to look smoother.  A corrected surface can then be protected with waxes and sealants to maintain a beautiful shine for years to come.

Automotive detailing exists on a spectrum that can range from quick and easy to meticulous and painstaking. Just as there are varying levels of cleaning the vehicle exterior, interior cleaning also exists on a spectrum.

Most people are used to quick once over to remove trash and crumbs and a quick pass of the vacuum. Yet an interior clean can go much beyond – into the level of reconditioning or restoring a vehicle to a like new condition.

At Detail Green USA, every inch of the vehicle interior is wiped down and cleaned. We start with a thorough vacuum. Also utilizing compressed air to blow dirt, dust, and debris from all of the cracks and crevices. Then, we’ll follow up with a steam clean or hot water extraction to address problem stains. We can even address repair issues such as dashboard cracks, upholstery tears, or cigarette burns for an additional cost.

As you can see, there is quite a large difference between a car wash vs car detail, and reconditioning services. Each of these can exist on its own spectrum of thoroughness. Making an informed decision about the level of service needed help to achieve desired outcome. Sure, a quick car wash will make a car look clean. But a true detail far surpasses the basic car wash and offers more long term protection.

Give us a call at 1-800-828-9291 or BOOK ONLINE today!


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Car Wash vs Car Detail
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Car Wash vs Car Detail
Car wash vs Car Detail. The Detail Mystery What’s the difference between a car wash and a car detail?
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