T Nation

I Wanna Detail Cars


So, me and a friend decided to start up a sort of car-detailing service to make some extra cash.
We're still working out the details, but I was wondering if you guys could offer any tips for doing a good job.

Since we haven't really worked out the kinks of this whole operation yet, I'm just hoping you guys could throw me some suggestions, or recommend some good products to use. Or any other advice, tips, etc? I would really like to know how my T-Nation brethren take care of their cars. Thanks a ton.


Doing the fine details makes a big difference. With my car cleaning supplies I keep a toothbrush and a paint brush. I use them on the interior to get into all the edges of places a rag can't get. You'd be surprised the difference that makes.


^^exactly. Details matter, as well as taking your time...especially when you're waxing. Dried wax that gets missed ends up looking like prominent scratches, so it's best to avoid that little embarrassing moment. I used to order my supplies from danase.com. A good guy runs the company, and I always enjoyed the products they have. Um, as far as the usual tips: don't wash the car in the sun, make sure it's completely dry before beginning the waxing, etc. etc.


Check these out:




Heh, you all would be shocked and appalled to see the way I abuse my poor car. I am in desperate need of a good detailing. Awhile back, I had my horses boarded where I used to live, 80 miles from where I am living now. We were planning to move them soon, so I did not want to have a ton of hay delivered that I would just have to move anyway.

After my bf left for the summer with his truck, I was left with just my Sable. We ran out of hay before we got the horses moved, so I had to haul bales of hay in my poor car. Ever tried to remove hay from a car? it gets EVERYWHERE. Esp because I could stuff two bales in the back seat, barely. There was even hay clinging to the ceiling.

Now, I have to travel through about 16 miles of construction 2x a day. No point in washing the car. If you do, it is a dirty mess again the next day, looks just the same, so why bother? Since I spend about three hours day in the car, I tend to do a lot of time-saving things, like eating in the car....

Yeah. The detailers would take one look at my car and shudder.



Check this out: http://www.ehow.com/videos-on_514_car-washing-detailing.html


Thanks for the responses


Um, don't wax unless you claybar for one. If you can get the money up and have a truck, get a tank in the back of it and fill it with purified water so you don't have to worry about it airdrying while you do the interior or have to waste time washing tons of clothes that you dry it with. Plus with tank you can get it pressurized and really get the washing part of the outside done in a heartbeat. Rinse quick, soap up and blast it off in under 5 minutes.

Anyway, q-tips work great for airvents.
Good shop vac
Scratchx is spectacular for small scratches, it removes an extremely small layer of clearcoat, generally speaking if you can't catch your fingernail in a scratch, you can pull it out with that stuff. Um, also great for getting very old hardwater remenants off, though I wouldn't recommend doing this often because it does eat away clear coat. When I first detail a car thouroughly I'll go through a half bottle of this stuff to bring back a spectacular shine and remove surface imperfections after claybarring.

Anyway, try the scratch remover on your own car first, im talking about the stuff thats like a cream. Anyway, good luck, you expecting people to come to you or are you driving to their homes?


Thanks for the suggestions. When you say don't wax unless you claybar, I suppose you are referring to the clay that is used to get out all the dirt and small particles that can't be easily seen, right? Do you know where I can find some of that stuff? And to answer your question, we plan on driving to people's homes.


Claybars are available where ever you buy car cleaning supplies.

That adds tons of time to the process though. You may need to offer packages with certain things added. When using a claybar it ends up basically like waxing the car twice. It does make an unbelievable difference though.


yes that claybar. They sell small amounts at autozone and advance auto in that detailing section, walmart has some too. Look online for a bulk buy though because the stuff you buy there is only good for 1-2 washes and is relatively expensive. Also, if your in doubt if you should claybar or not, do the plastic bag test, get a plastic sandwhich bag, put your hand in it, and move slowly across the paint, and you will feel everything on it. No idea why, but it works.

Since your traveling you'll probably use their water if you can't afford the tank I mentioned earlier, do you and them a favor and bring your own hose, with a good spray nozzle on it. I honestly wouldn't recommend mr clean autodry crap, because I think its shitty and doesn't work very well, but some people like it. Anyway, the nozzle will give you pressure to wash, and keep you dry from not having to use your thumb on the end of the hose, and it will save them money for water which they will appreciate.

I'm tossing out some ideas for you, but a lot of this is going to depend on the customer base you can build and your prices, for example I wouldn't claybar someones car for 20 bucks, because you'll be losing money. However for a hundred or more I'd claybar and wax.

Um, after you get a decent customer base, invest in one of those little car/camping tents that fold up. Ideally you should never detail or wash a car in the sun, but I'm sure you don't want to have a high startup cost either, but getting a tent will make you look a lot more professional show that you care about the customers car.

Anyway, just a few thoughts, I used to detail my old bmw biweekly and when I sold cars I picked up a few tricks of the trade by helping the guys detail cars for delivery. Well, good luck on your venture.

quick edit: On a note about up selling, you'll eventually make a price list, and there will be a LOT of people who want to not get the claybar because they don't know about the difference it makes, or the protection it offers over just waxing. At this point upsell the claybar. Read up on it for your knowledge, but claybarring will clean the paint up and prime it for waxing. You can correlate this to Painting a wall without primering it first, in the short term its fine but in the long term you are damaging your paint by not removing the pollutants and then sealing them in under a coat of wax.

excuse me if im rambling...running on little sleep


Haha thanks for the suggestion. Yeah, actually we are thinking of doing like a basic cleaning package, and charging a little bit extra for additional services. We just have to figure out what those services are going to be lol.


Wow thanks a lot for your advice. You've really helped me quite a bit. I appreciate it a ton.


ooo, another idea for making shit fast. Obviously this works for the final touches, after cleaning the and drying the wheels. Get the spray tire shine, the gel is shit IMO, then get cardboard cutouts of common rim sizes, probably 16-20 (24's depending on where you live) then just hold those over the rim or hubcap and quickly spray the tireshine on the tire and move to the next one. Save you a few a couple minutes per wash and tireshine is pretty cheap and makes a HUGE difference. Depending on the owner you might want to even shine the the edge of the tire tread, it isn't exactly needed because it will come off the first time he drives it, but it looks VERY good once its first done.


I tried a clay bar from Mothers after I washed it, and its amazing what dirt still lingers. After the clay bar, the shine looks like glass, you could shave in the reflection.


Clay bars are epic in detailing... if your detailing cars for people that work in factories with lots of contaiminates that land on the car its a life saver... I worked at a foundry for a long time and iron particles would land on and rust on your car, every 2 - 3 months my car would feel like sand paper... one of the guys I worked with told me to get a clay bar and do it, and OMFG did it work great... the biggest trick with a clay bar is lots of lubricant between it and the paint or you will leave small streaks from the bar... a good cleaner wax will remove that though....

When I would detail my car back then, I would: 1) wash / dry... 2) clay bar..3) cleaner wax...4) depends ... either a medium wax and then go to a final wax or go straight to a final wax....

Back then i could get the wax so smooth I couldnt lean against my car without sliding one way or the other.....


Read about optimum no rinse. Almost as good as a clay bar at 1/10th the time.


Edit: That wasn't the best link, but just Google the stuff. Their are Youtube videos, and how to's. It works by encapsuling the dirt, actually lifting it off the clear coat much like a clay bar, leaving a clay bar like shine and feel.


I'm pretty well known among friends for awesome detailing of cars.

You REALLY need to learn wtf you're doing before touching someone elses car. My suggestion is to buy a black car with cheapish paint(think toyota or pontiac), then take care of it.

Get your self a good buffer, porter cable is the industry standard. Then pay even more money for the best pads. Pads are everything when it comes to a polishing. Polishing is everything when it comes to the look of paint.

You're also going to need a shop that's CLEAN. Polishing someone's car while dust is flying around will kill paint.


I had a car detailing business in highschool. "Show Room Shine" haha

It was a good way to spend 3-5hrs and make 50-100 bucks cash!

Make sure you get all the door jams and hood "jams" too. One lady called me out on that.


Thanks for the advice everyone.

How'd that work out for you? Were you inexperienced, and if you were, did you catch on pretty quick? I'm hoping that I can pick up on this stuff pretty quick lol.