What is detailing? Part One

November 10, 2015 William Russell

What is Detailing?

Part One - Washing

Detailing is more than just a term used to describe a niche in the car wash industry. It's much more than just a term used to describe cleaning cars. Detailing is a mindset. A lifestyle. An industry of people who are so neurotic, so obsessed with perfection, that they spend their entire lives to perfecting perfection.
If you've become so obsessed with your vehicle, your spouse or partner has become jealous or concerned that you are genuinely cheating on him or her with it, you might be a detailer. You then might find yourself asking these questions.

  1. What are the steps of detailing?
  2. What is the difference between detailers?
  3. How do I become a detailer?

Let's start slow and just introduce the basics steps of detailing for those who are not already aware.

Step One - Washing

No, this doesn't mean Dawn and a cheap bucket that's been sitting in the garage full of your mothers gardening tools. Step one is the foundation of the entire process to follow. Washing is crucial to ensure a clean and sterile operating surface. You wouldn't want your doctor cutting you open when you're covered in dirt. Just as you wouldn't want your detailer polishing your paint full of dirt, road salt, and grime (did I say they're neurotic yet?).

Washing with the two bucket method

The washing process always includes a minimum of two buckets. To professionals and well educated DIY-ers, this is called the two bucket method (TBM or 2BM). We like to keep things simple, no need for fancy names.  The concept itself is also super simple and actually makes a lot of steps. To perform a proper wash you need:

This delicate process of washing is part of what differentiates detailers from car washers or automated car washes. Cleaning is one thing, but cleaning and minimizing damage is another. A professional detailer's job is to remove all of the dirt, grime, brake dust, bird droppings, and whatever else may have found its way onto your car. But doing all of this, without causing any further damage. That damage is what we call 'swirling' or 'marring'.

What are swirls?

Swirls are not actually round. They are round because of the way lights reflect the scratches back to your eyes. They are scratches that go in all different directions. Swirls can be caused from poor washing methods, wiping down your car, etc. Clear coat is succeptable to scratching fairly easily. Any touching without proper lubrication will cause swirling. Not just excessive rubbing, but any contact at all. This is why many professionals call car washes "swirl-o-matics." Detailer's minimize the chance of swirling through proper wash techniques that take time to master and a mild case of OCD to stick to.

What are swirls?

As you can see, the auto detailing industry is full of terms, techniques, and knowledge. Professional detailer's obsessive with furthering education and learning more about detailing. This is what makes them professionals in their industry. And this entire article covers about .5% of the basics. For the next article, I'll begin to touch further into the stages and steps of detailing. That will be followed by what differentiates detailers and lastly I will cover the topic of become a professional detailer.

Have questions? Comments or something you'd like to add to the discussion? Post below!


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