What the heck is a New Car Detail?
Seen in the comments section of a YouTube video posted by a significantly successful Auto Detailer overseas (by someone who apparently hadn't finished watching the video):
"What the **** is a New Car Detail? Isn't it NEW? Why on earth would anyone pay to detail a NEW car???"
In fact, it's a pretty legitimate question. When you think about buying a brand new car, probably the main word that comes to mind would be 'shiny'. Look at that shiny new car sitting there in front of the showroom waiting to be picked up. Think about driving that shiny new car down the road next to all the run-of-the-mill used cars out there. Cars have recently become the #2 sized purchase someone makes in their lives, right behind their homes. When you're plunking down that kind of money it should be perfect, right? And for the most part, it is. You know you shouldn't have any major mechanical issues, and guess what if you do? You have a warranty. Now, if only the dealers and manufacturers treated their finishes the same way.
To truly understand this we need to understand how a car gets painted and finished on the assembly line, as well as the process it goes through at the dealership.
On the assembly line, cars are typically painted by robots which is great for saving costs, but pretty terrible for detailers. They've perfected painting cars with thinner and thinner layers to get the same coverage. That means less left on there for us to work with when it comes time to remove a scratch or correct some swirl marks. It also means they have to be very careful about how they go about sanding and polishing the paint when it's done. That means they don't get as aggressive with the finishing process as they used to, and even brand new cars leave the factory with only slightly visible clusters of sanding marks, swirls and maybe even holograms.
From there, the vehicle arrives at the dealership. What's the number one priority at a dealership? Speed. Time is money, the faster the car is 'prepped', the faster it goes out on the lot, the faster it can be seen and test driven, and the faster it can be sold. This leads to sub-standard work on the car's finish because they simply don't take the time required to really perfect the car. In fact, most dealerships use a product called a Glaze that's heavy in oils and fillers that is specifically designed to hide defects to the naked eye! The problem is those glazes don't stick around very long, and the first time you take your brand new car through a wash or a rain storm, the swirls and damage will reveal itself and that is one nasty surprise. They make it look 'good enough' to catch the eye, and that's where they stop. And that makes them more money.
Now, god forbid you actually end up buying the car, the myriad of cheapo silicone-based dressings they'll slap on the thing will be blinding! Tire shines, trim dressings, interior dressings (disguised as 'protectants'), leather 'conditioners', any surface of the vehicle will be enough to make you feel like you're at the Jersey Shore in the middle of club Karma in the summer time.
That's where we, as detailers, come in. So, now that you've got the background, allow me to address the question a little more directly:
"What is a new car detail?"
A new car detail is where we take things those few extra steps further than the dealership can. With specialized equipment, Auto Reconditioners can find and remedy all of the ills left behind in the paint such as swirls, sanding marks, holograms, and any randomly placed scratches that surface once the fillers are all gone. Many times this can be done in a single stage paint correction polish, but more severe defects may require a two or three stage process to fully remove. The right combination of product, polishing pad, machine and most importantly investment of time can produce results that are nothing short of mystifying. Paint correction normally is what you think of when detailing a car comes to mind.
But, a new car detail doesn't stop with the paint. Through the wash and decontamination processes prior to the paint correction, we can remove all of those cheapo greasy dressings applied by the dealer, to bring plastic and rubber back to its original condition and color, nice and clean. We can use specialized chemicals to remove stubborn contamination in the form of rail dust (Iron filings) or road film and other forms of fallout from the paint and wheels. We take the time to clean the inaccessible areas of the car such as lock cylinder covers, around edges of badging and emblems, the inner barrels of wheels and even the door jambs, hood and trunk shuts as well as the engine bay itself. Half of the time, unless we point out to you what we've done, it may even be in places you never knew needed to be cleaned!
Now, what good is a squeaky clean and blindingly shiny car if you don't protect it? As detailers we have access to significantly better products to apply to your vehicle than a dealer would provide as part of their typical prep. Your detailer can go for anything from a Carnauba Wax that brings warmth and depth to the paint, up through a synthetic polymer sealant for great finish and more durability, or even a technologically advanced Glass or Ceramic coating that will protect the finish for multiple YEARS, not weeks or months. Vehicle protection technology is evolving so rapidly, that there are now coatings available for every part of your vehicle: paint, trim, light lenses, wheels, tires, glass, leather, and fabrics. As recently as 5 years ago, half of these things didn't even exist or were prohibitively expensive; now they're even available to the do-it-yourselfers! To me, personally, the protection part of a new car detail is where the rubber really meets the road. It's super satisfying to make a car look better than when it came to you and see the customer's reaction when it's done, but it's even better when you get to tell them that as long as they care for it properly, it's going to look this way for years to come.
A new car detail can seem like it might be expensive, but it really doesn't have to be. It's really the responsibility of your detailer to be honest and forthcoming when it comes to what's right for you and your car. If you're the type to run it through the automatic car wash every week or two, or let them do it at the dealer while the car's there for an oil change, I will not sell you an intensive paint correction and coating package. Why? Because in general, cars with highly refined paintwork and advanced coatings require different, more intensive care than what most people are willing to do. In those situations, I'll typically recommend either an All-In-One service, using a quality one step product that provides a light polish with fine abrasives, leaving behind a durable sealant; or I'll recommend a single stage polish and the use of a separate, high quality polymer sealant that will provide a great finish and significantly longer durability than the average wax. The nice thing about packages like these is that they save me time, which saves you money, and if you happen to get the itch to wash the car and run around it with some spray wax on the weekend, it's totally compatible with the protection product I apply.
Now, if someone comes to me with a special interest vehicle, classic car, show car, or weekend toy kind of car, that recommendation is going to be totally different and geared more toward perfecting the appearance than it is standing up to the daily abuses we put our normal vehicles through.
Full blown detailing is not right for everyone, especially after dropping a lot of coin on your brand new car. Lots of people are just fine using the gas station's $6 car wash and coin-op vacuums, and that's perfectly OK. But, if you want to get the most out of your vehicle's finishes, find yourself a quality detailing professional with good reviews in your area and establish a working relationship with them. Getting the car done just a couple times a year can do wonders for its appearance and longevity, and can significantly increase retained resale value when it comes time to move on.
This covers brand new cars, but we certainly don't only work on new ones so look out for some upcoming posts on how we take care of used cars differently than a dealership or even some private sellers do. Comments will always be enabled on these posts, and our contact form is always there as well. We primarily serve Rhode Island, but will happily answer your questions and help guide you whether it's finding a detailer in your area, or even helping you out with advice to DIY it in the driveway. Drop a comment, send an email or catch us on Instagram to see what we've been up to.