It is perhaps an unknown fact that car wash cafes and shopping centre car washes represent more than 95% of the detailing industry in Australia, and this percentage might even be applicable to most other parts of the world.

They are aimed at the general public, motivated by volume of sales and is designed around the convenience of providing a quick clean whilst you sip your coffee or do your shopping. One may think that some car wash cafes are great at what they do finding the balance between speed and value for the customer, but their business model is not meant to serve the informed or enthused individual.

Anyone can wash a car, but it takes an understanding of paint systems, chemicals, processes and the right equipment to be able to safely detail or restore a car aesthetically to its original condition, or as best as possible. Without this knowledge, skill and time, there lies a risk of doing some damage to your car whilst detailing it.

The important word to take away is “time”. To detail at a higher level requires patience and a methodical approach encompassing different skills such as analysis, problem solving and hands on work. All of these factors come together and require time to properly execute.

One of the most common problems we are presented with by customers is buffer trails which is a paint defect caused by incorrect machine polishing. Many a time, we have had to fix up errors where another detailer was forced, by the constraints of time, to either rush through the paint correction stage or use more abrasive pads and polishes than necessary, or both – all to do the job quicker. The pressure of a waiting customer on-site and a queue of cars to be served would naturally be the proverbial whip to get things cracking.

The problem occurs when these quicker or poor methods induce finer scratches into the paintwork, which are typically only visible under direct light, such as when parking out in the sun. Without time to refine the paintwork over multiple steps of polishing or using finer abrasives, a flawless finish would never be achieved. It is, therefore, difficult for business models working with volume to deliver quality results when pressed to wash, dry, decontaminate, polish and protect within one to two hours, when it typically takes an experienced detailer at least three to four, or even more hours just for the polishing step alone. The precautionary steps prior to polishing, such as taping up trims, would be avoided to save time but risks irreversible damage or stubborn staining at the very least.

Another aspect, which is commonly rushed or overlooked, is the cleaning up stage. A quality detailer would aim to not leave any clues that the car has just been detailed. This means that any traces of polishing dust, waxes on trims and other residues would be cleaned up before handing back the car back to the customer. This step sometimes takes a significant amount of time and is the crux to what the art of detailing is about.

So be wary if anyone tells you that they can get your car polished or detailed by lunchtime. Ask them:

1.    What’s involved in their detail?

2.    What products and equipment do they use?

This is not to say an efficient detailer or operation can’t do a good job but raises the question if they’re given or utilise an adequate amount of time to detail your car in a safe and proper manner.

Give us a call now – I would be happy to answer these questions.