Car Detailing

By Sharon Naylor

August 9, 2012 5 min read

Giving your car a good cleaning isn't just for making it look shiny and new. Top-quality car detailing done by a professional can improve your car's performance, avoid costly repairs and, if you're planning to trade in or sell your car, increase the amount of money you'll get for it.

According to a recent Consumer Reports study, having a dirty car interior can lead to operational problems. Dirt and grime that gets into buttons and switches can cause them to fail. Filmy windows can obscure your vision. Dried-out, corroded rubber seals around window tracks and sunroofs can lead to cracks and leaks inside your car when it rains or snows, with water damage destroying your car's value. And dirty air vents can lead to mildew inside the mechanisms, causing allergens to circulate inside your vehicle when the air conditioner or heat are on.

On the exterior of your vehicle, built-up salt, mud or dead bugs can ruin your car's paint. And your wheel wells can rust if not properly cleaned with expert detailing methods.

While you could set aside an entire weekend day to super-clean your car inside and out, it's advisable to hire a professional car detailing company or take your car to a reputable car wash so that their technicians can use their collection of fine cleaning tools and professional-grade cleaning solutions to detail every crevice and every surface of your car. Professionals trained in vehicle detailing know the secrets of which products to avoid more than you might. For instance, according to the experts at, never use a silicone-based protectant, since those leave oily residues that attract dust and can turn your dashboard yellow.

Vehicle detailing is a meticulous cleaning service that includes an initial vacuuming of upholstery, carpets, crevices, car pockets, visors and more using a special, soft vacuum head that prevents scratching. Shampooing rugs may be an extra-cost service but can remove stains, pollen and ground-in dirt better than vacuuming. Leather trim is cleaned and protected, as are those rubber seals, and says that special "glazes" can be applied to the exterior post-cleaning to protect the surface and eliminate fine imperfections. Some professional detailers also offer pet hair removal and stain eliminators, in addition to standard odor-elimination treatments. Tires, hubcaps and wheel wells also get the detailed treatment, and years' worth of leaf debris will be removed from your car's exterior crevices as well, again preventing corrosion and leaks.

Quality experts will vacuum twice, once at the start to remove debris, and again after fine detailing is completed on your air vents and crevices, which may knock additional debris to your vehicle's floor. Your trunk will be vacuumed -- perhaps shampooed -- and dusted. And experts remove car seats to clean carpeting beneath them. Even seat belt buckles will be polished as one of the finishing touches to the interior.

A fine finishing touch to the exterior, according to, is a pre-wax cleaner that removes countless layers of old wax before applying a fresh, new coat of protective wax on your car's surface and undercarriage. And of course, windows are cleaned spotlessly, and your headlight covers are removed and cleaned inside and out to look like new.

No matter how old your car is, detailing can extend the life of your investment. And it feels wonderful to drive a like-new car, with shiny buttons and dust-free surfaces, with the interior smelling fresh and clean. It's become a new trend to give car detailing services as a gift to a spouse or to a teen who is given your car as his or her own first vehicle. Detailing is done before the holidays so that you can drive relatives around in your spotless car, and after the winter storm season, spring is a wonderful time to have a team of experts remove mud, grime, salt and sand from your car.

Car detailing isn't so pricey as you might think. estimates national average pricing at $58-$89 on the medium scale, and $147-$188-plus on the higher end. Larger vehicles like SUVs will cost more, as will RVs and boats, and additional treatments such as shampooing may be extra, as well. says that engine detailing is available through expert services and may also improve the functionality of your car.

Always work with a reputable car detailing service or carwash offering detailing done by a professional team. Check online reviews and Better Business Bureau reports for complaints. Ask friends about the people they hired. Ask your mechanic for recommendations. And look for coupons and discounts on companies' Facebook pages, on websites and in ValPak or other community coupon mailings to make this essential TLC for your vehicle more affordable.

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