Auto Detailing Misconceptions Busted

Auto Detailing Misconceptions

For whatever reason, auto detailing is one of those industries that has many misconceptions. The auto industry, as a whole, is full of them, but we’ll try and focus on the ones that only affect the auto detailing niche. Some are pretty insignificant and others make me absolutely nuts!

You would think since we are in, on and around cars most of our lives, that people would know more about them. I have been into cars, trucks and motorcycles my whole life, so it’s easy for me to say, but I guess if a car is just transportation for you, you could care less.

Auto Detailing Misconception #1: Car Wash or Auto Detailing

For automobile owners, the term “auto detailing” is one of the most widely misused. We hear it everyday when clients want a car wash. “Hey, I want to bring my car in for a detail.” We always clarify, “do you want a “detail” or a “car wash” and 98% of the time they are just looking for a quick wash. They want their car washed and dried on the outside and vacuumed and wet dusted on the inside. That’s it.

I believe this comes from car washes trying to compete with your local auto detailing professionals. They advertise services as detailing, even though it is not even close. It leads people to being confused as to what is just a basic car wash and what is actually auto detailing.

Auto detailing by definition is “the systematic rejuvenation and protection of the various surfaces of a vehicle.”

I recently saw a sign at a local Las Vegas car wash that said, “Complete Detail- $49.95.”

Really!?It’s just NOT POSSIBLE! It’s simply a matter of economics.

Most professional auto detailing professionals will tell you that an average vehicle will take 3-4 hours to complete a full detail. And that is pushing it. So let’s do some math, shall we? A good auto detailer will make around $12 an hour minimum. This is a quote that I just made up, but because I like math, so it works. “The math shall set you free!” If it takes an employee 4 hours at $12 an hour, you get $48.

That’s just the labor cost alone!

This is one of those things that, as a professional detailer, drives me crazy! It is very misleading for people that don’t know any better. Just because they added tire dressing, doesn’t make it a “detail!”

After performing a “complete auto detailing”, most competent auto detailing professionals will have your daily driver looking almost as good as the day it came out of the showroom.

Auto Detailing Misconception #2: Polish or Wax

This is another auto detailing misconception that the average car owner likes to throw around. How many times have you heard, “yeah, I just finished polishing up the Volvo this weekend.”

A lot of people interchange these terms, but they are almost polar opposites. “Polishing” is a process that actually removes a small amount of material from the painted surface. Polishing is done to remove light scratches. Polishing can be done using many methods with a variety of chemicals or other abrasives. “Polish” is normally what the chemical is called that is used for “polishing.” Polish usually comes in a paste or liquid form. Polishing is the final step before applying the wax or sealant.

Waxes or sealants, on the other hand, are the final step in the auto detailing process and in making your vehicle look it’s very best. Waxes and sealants are protective coatings only and have very little if any abrasive qualities at all. Waxes sit on the surface of the paint and sealants chemically bond to the painted surface. Because of this, waxes tend not to last as long as sealants.

Waxes usually offer that “wet look” every automobile enthusiast longs for, but sealant technology is getting better all the time. Many auto detailers use a combination of the two products to get the best of both worlds.

The bottom line? Rubbing a little wax on the ride is a great idea and offers your paint the protection it needs. Polishing is removing a little of your paint and should probably be done by an auto detailing professional or at the very least someone who knows their way around a vehicle.

Auto Detailing Misconception #3: No Wax Paint or Lifetime Paint Sealants

This is one of those auto detailing misconceptions that absolutely pisses me off and affects thousands of car buyers every year. If you are a car dealer and you offer this “service” to your customers you should be ashamed!

I recently had a friend ask me to come detail his Mercedes S600. When I told him the paint looked pretty good, so a light polish and some sealant was all I recommended, he told me he didn’t need the sealant. He told me to just go ahead and polish any scratches, but the dealer sold him “NO WAX PAINT.” I smiled and asked him what he paid for this miracle no wax paint.

Get a load of this…$4,000!!

I proceeded to tell him that no such thing existed and that I think the dealer took him for a ride. He assured me that it was all good and went inside his house. I opened his trunk to remove the articles inside and there it was. A box of PermaPlate. That’s right, paint sealant! This is a horrible misconception on a customer. Of course you don’t NEED to put wax over paint sealant, but you sure as hell can if you want!

What they also failed to tell him is that it needs to be reapplied at regular mileage or time intervals. He asked me “who is supposed to do that? I smiled and told him, “you or the dealership.” “And who pays for that?” I said, “you.” I won’t tell you his response, but I will tell you that he wasn’t happy.

My wife and I recently bought a new car and they offered the “paint protection package.” When I told the lady I owned an auto detailing company she didn’t miss a beat and kept trying to sell their $500 paint treatment. When I told her they are doing their customers a disservice by telling people they don’t have to wax their vehicle anymore, she looked right at me and said, “you don’t!” She then proceeded to tell me it was a “One-time” treatment that would last the life of the vehicle.

PLEASE DO NOT FALL FOR THAT CRAP FOLKS! It is paint sealant, plain and simple. It will NOT last the life of the vehicle. It will NOT last 5 years or even 3 years. If you garage your car, never wash it and never polish it, it may last a year. It HAS TO be reapplied every 6 months minimum and if you live in an extremely hot place like Las Vegas, you’ll probably want to apply it every 3 months.

You must also follow their instructions to make sure your warranty is maintained. Which means buying their “maintenance products” which consists of proprietary car wash soap and more sealant, basically.

I can’t tell you what every dealership charge s for paint protection, but I can tell you that they wanted to charge us $500. You will be able to find a local auto detailing professional that will perform the same service for 50% or less and you can use the money you save to have them do future applications.

As far as NEVER having to “WAX” your vehicle again. You really don’t….but you DO have to put the paint sealant on it. Semantics really.

If you have any other auto detailing misconceptions, please let us know and we’ll post them in a future article.


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