Differences Between Car Washing and Auto Detailing

Most drivers have a pretty good idea that an auto detailing is an in-depth version of a regular cleaning. For the most part, that’s a fair comparison. However, you might not know that each has its own specific purpose and timetable. Keep reading to discover those purposes and schedules.

Car Wash Basics

The primary purpose of a car wash is to wash away dirt, tar, salt, and other environmental debris from the clear coat of your car. You can wash the car yourself at home or at a traditional car wash setup. At the car wash, you choose between hose wash and machine wash. You can also have the car hand washed professionally.

A standard car wash can take as little as 10 to 15 minutes, though a professional hand washing will take longer. If you use a hose to wash your car yourself, the fee is very nominal. That said, even if you have it professionally hand washed, the cost isn’t steep. You should wash your car at least every few weeks so that nothing damages the paint.

Main Car Wash Steps

The foundation of washing your car is basic. You rinse it, soap it up, and rinse it again. Professional hand washers will go into greater detail. They’ll apply soap ahead of time and let it sink in. They’ll then scrub it well before they rinse. Ideally, they get into the nooks and crannies when they wash.

Touchless car washes go through the same steps with automatic brushes, stiff cloths, and powerful sprays. At all traditional car washes, you have add-on services. These include undercarriage wash, wheel cleaning, and spray-on waxes.

Auto Detailing Basics

Auto detailing is far more involved. Its purpose long-term maintenance for that “new car” look throughout its life. It also minimizes wear and tear and boosts the retail value of the car. While you can find do-ityourself guides, auto detailing is typically done by professionals.

In addition to washing, waxing, and vacuuming your car, they also deep clean both the interior and exterior. They can offer other services such as shampooing the carpets and even restoring your headlights.

Auto detailing will take several hours or even the whole day. The cost is significantly more expensive than a standard wash. You really only need to have your car detailed every six months to a year, though it’s good to do seasonal waxing.

Main Auto Detailing Steps

Detailers wash and dry your car just like with a regular cleaning. They also use special brushes and cleaning products to remove the brake dust and other debris from the wheels. Next, they take a clay bar that eliminates debris that’s bonded to your car’s surface. If necessary, they polish and gloss your paint job to eliminate scratches and oxidation.

Detailing also involves the application of a sealant which protects your car from the elements. They wax and buff the car to deliver shine. They apply a similar treatment to the trim. Naturally, they also clean the glass.

Next, they move to the interior of the car. Not only do they clean every crevice, they usually apply a leather conditioner as needed. They’ll shine and treat the other parts of the car. Detailing also includes the engine bay, which is a process that helps maintain the car’s performance.

Car Wash Versus Auto Detailing

The main difference between car washing and auto detailing is how in-depth the cleaning is. A car wash is a surface clean meant to keep environmental debris from harming your car’s clear coat. An auto detailing is a maintenance service that extends the life of most external and some internal components of your car.

Truthfully, both services should be part of an overall car maintenance program. If you start washing your new car every two weeks and get it detailed at least once a year, you’re going to significantly extend its retail value.