Here is a list of commonly used Car Detailing terms in the car wash and detailing industry to help you understand a bit more about the services.
You can also view more about how to choose a detail company on our blog by clicking HERE
Detailing Glossary Of Terms
Natural or synthetic particles (grit or media) found in polishes or compounds which cut the paint surface to remove imperfections.
A substance below 7 on a pH scale. Different types of acid: phosphoric, sulfuric, oxalic, hydroflouric. Main use is in wheel cleaners.
A piece of equipment used by skilled technicians to apply products to a vehicle. Reduces the time spent and improves the quality of work performed.
Detailers often say “We’re going to buff your car”. Generally, they really mean “I’m going to apply my wax with a buffer”. When in actuality, when people are looking for someone to “buff” their car, they assume they’re going to be removing scratches and imperfections from their paint. Although waxing will temporarily hide some minor scratches, it won’t remove them and after 2 washes you’ll be right back to where you started scratches and all. You need to “Polish them out” or do a “Cut and Buff” (hence the word “CUT” before the buff, referring to cutting process before the waxing step). So many Detailers use this term way to loosely and at the consumers expense.
A car wax is a sacrificial barrier between the harsh elements and your car’s paint. A good wax will improve the sheen and gloss of your vehicle while protecting the paint. A typical wax lasts 3-6 months.
Carnauba Car Wax
Carnuba wax is the hardest natural wax known to man and is produced by palm trees in Brazil.
Clay bar is a method for removing surface contaminants from a vehicle’s paint ranging from tree sap, industrial fall out (little rust looking spots), bugs or road tar. Although this is not necessary before waxing, it is sometimes preferred to give the vehicle a nice smooth, glossy finish.
Combination of a light abrasive cleaner and silicones that allow the user to clean and to provide shine in one step. Cleans and shines.
Combination of a light abrasive cleaner, silicones and waxes that allow the user to clean, shine and provide protection in one step. Cleans, shines and protects.
An abrasive (liquid or paste) product designed to remove oxidation, scratches and other imperfections. The first step in the detail process.
To clean item by item each minor part of a vehicle to the completeness of the work.
Water base and solvent base liquids designed to provide protection and gloss for rubber, vinyl, plastic and leather.
A machine used to clean carpet and cloth seats. Applies cleaning solution in fan spray and removes moisture and dirt with vacuum action.
Detailers often say “We’re giving you a Full Detail”. Although this isn’t a definition problem, it’s a clarity problem. A “Full Detail” is very subjective and depends who your talking to. A “Full Detail” could range from a moderate interior cleaning to full blown interior & exterior detail; which may or may not include items such as spot treatment, headliner extraction, scratch and scuff removal, touch up paint, rock chip repair, headlight restoration and much more. You get the gist of it, a “Full Detail” is ambiguous and unclear about the services your receiving.
Product designed to produce a quick high shine. Not as durable as waxes or polymer sealants.
The headliner is the fabric ceiling inside your vehicle.
Airborne pollutants from heavy industry or railroads which settle onto automotive surfaces and become embedded in the finish. Gradually the particles oxidize and appear as dark specks in the paint. Requires special products and procedures to be removed.
Optimum Gloss-Coat or Opti Coat is an additional ceramic barrier between the elements and your vehicle’s paint. The paint will retain its color and contaminants will be blocked out to keep the paint smooth and clean. Unlike waxes and paint sealants that require frequent reapplication, Optimum Gloss-Coat provides constant, unyielding protection for the life of the vehicle.
The nubbly rough appearance of paint; looks much like the texture of an orange skin; surface lacks clarity of reflected image. Caused by paint being applied too dry, resulting in poor flowout.
A mechanical buffer with a pad that travels ellipses instead of rotating on a fixed axis. Used when waxing to simulate the movement of the human hand.
Substance such as paint mist that settles out of the air onto automobile surface appearing as tiny speckles.
Loss of oils in paint due to weathering from the elements. An oxidized surface appears to show chalky paint, dullness and feels rough.
Protective paint coatings (like our opti-coat application) last longer and protect better than both car waxes and synthetic paint sealants. They also have hydrophobic qualities that assist in repelling water and dust. Paint coatings take more expertise to apply and the paint surface must be properly prepared for application of a paint coating before the protective layers can be applied. Coatings often last the life of the vehicle making it so you never have to wax the vehicle again.
Paint correction is the process of removing surface imperfections, light scratches and swirl marks from a vehicle’s paint and thus restoring the original beauty and clarity. This is the process of permanently restoring the finish, rather then simply covering the imperfections with a filler type wax product.
A light abrasive product normally applied by machine polisher designed to smooth out and eliminate the scratches and swirls left by compounding. May remove minor surface imperfections and light to medium oxidation. The second step in the detail process.
A piece of equipment used by skilled technicians to apply products to the painted surface of a vehicle. Typically turn at 1000 to 3000 R.P.M.
Detailers say “We polish your windows or we polish your chrome”. Generally, they really mean “I’m going to clean your windows with glass cleaner” or “I’m wiping your chrome off”. When in actuality if they where “polishing” your windows or chrome they would have the appropriate glass or a chrome polish out and applying it with an random orbital buffer or similar.
A naturally occurring or synthetic substance consisting of a large molecules formed by smaller molecules of the same substance with a definite arrangement. Used in the production of durable waxes and polishes.
A mechanical device that steps up city water pressure 50-65 P.S.I. to 500 to over 1200 P.S.I. A system used to clean surfaces with cleaning solutions under pressure.
Small metallic particles attributed to railroads which settle onto automotive surfaces and become embedded in the finish. Gradually, the particles oxidize and appear as dark speckles in the paint. Requires special products and procedures to be removed. Also, known as industrial fallout.
A product applied to fabric or cloth seats and carpets. Repels moisture and food soils. Allows textiles to be cleaned easier. There are resin and silicon types.
Non stick coating to reduce surface friction. Teflon® powder maybe used in polishes, waxes and sealers as a leveler to ease application and removal of excess material.
Generic term for removing loose dirt and other contaminants before any other exterior services are performed. This can include a normal car wash, water-less car wash or the use of a spray detailer.
A compound whose primary liquid ingredient is water.
Characterized by the ability to mix completely in or with water
May be in paste or liquid form for application by hand or polisher. Designed not only to provide protection but also enhance shine. Final step in detail process.
So many Detailers say their going to wax your car; however when vehicle receives its “wax” from sources such as a “spray bottle” or “wax in the soap bucket”. These don’t suffice for “waxing” in this industry and you’re receiving a less than an adequate “wax” job that you’ll most likely never even know. Nothing is worse than thinking your precious car is protected when its not!
A procedure of simultaneously sanding and rinsing an automotive finish to remove imperfections. Regarded as complicated and should only be attempted by professionals.