What Is Car Detailing!? The Simple Guide!

by Apr 23, 2020Auto Body/Detailing, Interior Cleaning/Restoration, Routine Maintenence2 comments

car restoration

What Is Car Detailing Exactly?

What is car detailing exactly? Well, it’s going above and beyond while cleaning a vehicle and paying attention to the small details.

Car detailing refers to going above and beyond when cleaning a vehicle. Detailers pay close attention to all the small details to restore a vehicles interior or exterior to a like new condition. This is a simplified version of what car detailing actually is.

How Much?

By Yourself – Entry Level

Car detailing can be very expensive. There is no such thing as a right or wrong budget in the detailing industry. Having a higher budget will get you better tools, better products, and will also open up a larger variety of products to choose from.

You can literally detail a car with some descent results for under $30. Typically these products will come from auto part stores, online, wherever you choose to purchase them from.

A typical entry level detail usually consists of a car wash, then a wax/sealer. As for the interior, a quick interior cleaning /vacuum is usually all that is done. This won’t get you those eye opening results, but for $30 it will at least look clean again.

Moving Up A Little Bit! what is car detailing

Detailers pay that extra bit of attention to detail. Instead of just doing a quick scrub why not try to do a decent quality detail instead?

A middle level detail typically costs about $60-$100. This will open you up to higher quality products as well as add more to your arsenal to achieve a fuller/deeper clean.

A middle level detail typically includes an exterior car wash, clay bar, wax/sealer, and for the inside you will want to do a dash cleaning, dash protection, carpet cleaning, and upholstery/seating cleaning/protection.

This is where things start to get a little more complicated. Remember, what is car detailing exactly? It’s paying attention to all the small details to make a vehicle look like new if not better than new.

This is where you should start to think about investing in brushes for hard to reach areas, and a clay bar to remove all the paint contaminates from your vehicle. Use your brushes to get inside of hard to reach areas like vents.

You can also use brushes to physically scrub your interior as well for that extra deep clean. This will allow you to get into all those small cracks and crevices. Trust us when we say this, when you go that extra mile, the rewards are intense.

You won’t believe how much of a difference it actually makes when you get into all the small areas. Having dirt/dust there before for so many months, you get used to it, once it’s cleaned though, it adds a whole new look!

Take your time here and really focus on doing multiple passes and get that super clean. You won’t quite get “like new” results doing it this way, but you will be close!

What Is Car Detailing – A True Self Detailer! what is car detailing tire shine

You decided to go for that “better than off the lot” kind of look! Congratulations! This is typically what it looks like as well as budget:

Things start to get a little more expensive here. This is where you go above and beyond like the pro detailers do in order to get amazing results! A high end detail typically consists of a car wash, paint correction/scratch removal, polish and protection treatment, as well as an engine bay detail.

Moving onto the interior, the vehicle will likely get a carpet shampoo, deep clean using a vet vacuum/extractor. Additionally, the vehicle should also get a full interior scrub as well.

Using brushes and cleaning products on the whole dash, carpets, seats, and trim will get you those like new results. However where it starts to get really expensive is because of the grade of products you will be using, as well as the “extras” you will want to make detailing easier.

Exterior: what is car detailing - red rim

As you seen above, we talked about paint correction. A full blown car detail will be washed, and then hit with a dual action polisher with rubbing compound to remove the scratches, swirls, and discoloration.

This will pull the “true color” back out of your vehicles paint and restore a “mirror like” reflection. The next step from there is it needs to be hit with polish. This adds more of a “wet glossy look” to the outside of the vehicle.

Multiple passes may be needed to achieve the best results.

After the vehicle has been washed, clay bar treatment, compounded, polished, all that’s left is to apply a protection layer. This can either be a wax or a ceramic coating to add that layer of protection.

Remember, the main goal after a detail is to maintain your detail.


The interior at this point should be vacuumed out all the way first. Afterwards you will want to scrub your carpets/seats with a medium or soft bristle brush depending on the fabric/leather used.

Really get in the and scrub everything incredibly well and then after us a wet vacuum/extractor to suck up all the cleaner/residue/dirt. This will give you those like new seats and carpets.

The dash panel will have to be scrubbed with brushes and using your preference of cleaner. After scrubbing your dash panels, glass, etc… wipe up the remaining residue with a clean microfiber towel.

Seems Like A Lot Of Work…

Because it is! Detailing isn’t just work, it’s a talent, a style, and a work of art all in the same go. So what happens if you don’t have the time to do all this and want a great detail?

Time to visit a professional!

If you want those “like new” results and don’t have the time to be able to clean your car like you wish you could, good news, there’s shops/self employed that will do this for you.

I don’t mean to sound negative on all the local businesses and such, but obviously one of the biggest cons to getting it done is cost. Detailers typically charge either flat rate packages, or they bill you by the hour.

The typical, national average is $45-$80 an hour depending on your location/where you live. Some details can take up to 8 hours and some details can be just 2 hours long. It all depends on what you want done and what kind of results you want.

Before paying ANYONE to do anything though, do your research first. Find out what types of products they use, what’s included in their details, etc… This helps you determine the kind of “look” you want and know that good products are being used.

Use The Good Stuff!

Why use great products? For great results of course. Companies like Chemical Guys, Mequires, and Rupes, all offer great products for a nice budget!

Some products actually dry your dash panels out. This can cause discoloration and a dry/cracking dash panel as well. Make sure you are completing the whole job and make sure the shop you are using does the same thing.

If you want our opinion, it’s better to actually go to someone who is self employed. They have their own take on products and most of the time they will come to you instead.

This lets you see your own vehicle get cleaned, in your own driveway, and get incredible results right in front of your eyes. Just make sure you do your research first and go with whomever offers the best clean, at the best price.

Detailing is very expensive and you can easily rack up over $500 in a professional detail. Not everyone has that kind of money so that’s why we opened up DIY Auto! We want the whole world to be able to detail and enjoy their vehicle.

Whether you take it to a shop or decide to do it yourself, this is the basic blueprint of what car detailing looks like!

For a more in depth guide to restoring/detailing your car yourself. Click here to check out our guide on restoring a car, or click here to check out our guide and restoring carpets and car seats!

Keep cleaning everyone!

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