Boost your detailing processes and profits with these tips

Dec. 1, 2020
Here’s a look at some of the latest detailing products you should consider both to put a boost in your bottom line and put a bigger smile on the faces of your customers.

What is your shop’s position on detailing? Do you focus on offering a competent job that checks all the right boxes and highlights an already great repair? Do you specialize in detailing and market it regularly to customers? Or do you contract out to a third party?

Shops run their operations a number of different ways, but nowhere are these variances more arguably pronounced than in detailing work, which some shops enthusiastically embrace while others consider simply a necessary part of the job. Regardless of where you stand there are two important factors to keep in mind about this work.

One, it can differentiate you from the competition. An exceptional, professionally-detailed vehicle always stands out and can help attract new or return business. Two, with the possible exception of painting, no other part of your business receives as many, regular product upgrades and opportunities. Product manufacturers roll out arsenals of new products, some professional-grade not available to the general public. While these updates may cost a bit in investment, the added expenses quite often are offset by savings in resources (water, product, time, etc.) that can put more money back in your pockets.

Here’s a look at some of the latest detailing products you should consider both to put a boost in your bottom line and put a bigger smile on the faces of your customers.

A note on safety: With the nation still in the grips of a serious pandemic, it should go without saying that your detailers should be wearing the proper personal protection equipment (PPE). Gloves, masks and the use of disinfectants will protect your employees, customers and their friends and families.

Exterior work

Turn up the pressure. If you’re still using a regular water host to spray down and rinse vehicles, you’re probably wasting lots of water and adding lot of unnecessary time and effort to the job. It’s time to seriously consider a pressure washing system. Pressure washers are the single best solution for removing grime and other contaminants. Since they remove a great bit of the outlying dirt and dust on a vehicle, they’ll save time during the wash. If you have an older model, consider upgrading to something newer that can deliver a better spray, along with other options, such as the ability to apply foamed soap. Tip: Look for models that provide a suitable length of power cord and spraying wand to help you negotiate comfortably around vehicles in your detailing bay.

Get underneath the problem. No doubt as a first-time vehicle owner who did your own detailing at home or in a DIY bay, you bemoaned your inability to effectively spray the underside of a car. In cold weather states, road salt and sand can embed themselves in places that are nearly impossible to reach, as can tar and other contaminants during the summer. Automated car washes responded with undercarriage spraying and cleaning. You can bring this technology into your shop without having to use a lift by investing in an undercarriage cleaner.

These tools, which feature wheels so they can be rolled under a vehicle, connect to your spraying equipment and allow you to fully spray the undercarriage with soap and water. Some even provide spraying pressure over 3000 psi to knock loose even the most stubborn contaminants.

Target the wheels. How would you look if you got decked out in your best new suit and then pulled on a dirty pair of work boots? That’s exactly how a vehicle appears when a beautifully-repaired, shiny exterior sits atop fading, rusting wheels and tires that have gone through a quick cleaning. Even if the tires and wheels are newer, that same quick wash won’t restore them to the same level that a proper detailing job would – the kind of level a professional detailing should feature.

Upgrade your wheel work with a set of wheel brushes that will allow you to scrub throughout the wheel area, even in the small nooks around the lug nuts, and back into the brake calipers. Then, incorporate several other products. Start with your high-pressure washer since it will remove the first level of grime and grease. In fact, these sprayers are arguably the only tools that can provide this level of cleaning.

Next, wash the vehicle with automotive soap and rinse. Then, and this can’t be stressed enough, apply a specialty wheel cleaner designed to remove brake dust and other contaminates. Allow the product to sit as long as the instructions indicate. Use your brushes to thoroughly clean every part of the wheel area.

This is also a good point to apply a specialty tire cleaner. Use a brush to apply and follow the cleaner directions for proper application times.

While you’re cleaning the wheels and tires, don’t forget about the wheel wells. Even if the wheel well area isn’t exposed as it might be on a lifted trucked, it still shows. Beyond that, wheel wells can trap dirt and contaminates that can drip onto a clean tire, along with contributing to corrosion. Clean them as you would the wheels, once again with a brush, sprayer and auto soap.

When the entire wheel area is clean, give it a good final blast with the high-pressure sprayer and apply protectants to the tires, wheels and wheel wells (there are new products engineered specifically for the wells). While this process may seem to entail a lot of extra work, it really doesn’t. The combination of high-pressure spraying, brushes and cleaners can do a phenomenal job while adding just minutes to the work time of each tire. 

Add a foam volcano. Many high-pressure washer systems include accessories for spraying automotive soap. Even if yours does, consider buying a separate foam cannon or gun. These products quickly and efficiently cover a vehicle in a foamy cleaning solution, making it easier to clean with a sponge. Along with that, they drive cleaner into areas and crevices that can’t be reached by brush or hand. They can be a bit pricey, but you’ll get better use out of your soap and cut cleaning times.

Note that there’s a significant difference between the cannon and gun. The cannon, as its name indicates, is far more powerful and typically uses compressed air while the gun usually connects to a water hose and doesn’t produce the same amount of foam. What’s nice about some of these products is that they can be used on interiors as well (more on this shortly).

Invest in a high-quality automotive soap. Detailing has always been an area where shops can be penny wise and pound foolish. Paying for the most affordable auto detailing soap might make some financial sense, but investing a little more or looking into other options can provide significant benefits. Newer soaps help prevent streaks and swirls and are pH balanced so they won’t dry out vinyl and other materials that you otherwise might need to spend extra time restoring.


Detailers can be forgiven if they believe auto designers and consumers are in a never-ending battle with them. Designers continue packing vehicles with every sort of electronic and other accessory that must be cleaned around. Consumers continue “living out” their lives everyway possible in their vehicles, turning them into mobile cafes, coffee shops, work stations, kid zones and pet haulers. OEMs have responded with fabric protectors that do a good job of repelling most spills, but holding back a never-ending wave of coffee, juice, grease, etc. spills is a losing proposition.

Once again, detailing providers have updated their product lines with great solutions that also are quite affordable.

Get the attachments. Shop vacs are fine for sweeping up practically everything that can be dropped onto an interior, but often they need a little help. If your using the same attachment to clean the entire interior, you’re missing a lot of dust and dirt. Instead, purchase a set of attachments and brushes that can fit into all areas, every nook, of the vehicles, especially around vents and electronics where dust can settle. A couple of extra dollars and minutes spent here make a noticeable difference and cut down on the time you’ll spend cleaning up by hand.

Put water to work. Many foam cannon/guns also are designed for interior cleaning. This is a nice extra since the best way to clean carpets and fabrics is with water (particularly hot water) and soap. Foam cannons/guns frequently promise to dry in just seconds after application.

Hot water extractors are great alternatives. In cases where stains are worn in or run deeply into carpeting, they can be the best option. Regardless of how you clean with water, don’t forget to target the pedals and the entire driver foot area. This is where detailers can practically destroy the impression may have so far created. Imagine being a vehicle owner looking into a freshly repaired and detailed vehicle only to notice that above the paper floor mats the gas and brake pedals have dirt ground into them. Use your brushes, water equipment and a little effort to work out this issue. Note that there are now cleaners designed for pedals that will dry without leaving a slick coating.

Knock the smell out. Even after a vehicle interior has been thoroughly cleaned, the interior may not smell clean. Odors from smoke and contaminants spread via the vehicle climate system, along with pet and people smells, along with mold and mildew, can linger after the vehicle has been cleaned. Some shops try to compensate with the traditional hanging air freshener. Don’t be these shops. Turn again to the latest detailing technology – for example, cleaners with deodorizing agents, chlorine dioxide products and odor “bombs.” These products can be applied directly to the interior or, in some cases, circulated through the climate system.

Important to note – don’t wait to address odor issue until after the interior is cleaned. Many of these products should be used as you clean. Some interior cleaners provide deodorizing properties to knock out bad smells as they remove stains. Once these products have done their job and the vehicle smells as great as it looks, then you can turn to a friendly hanging freshener (maybe even one that advertises your shop).

Of course, the benefits provided by any of these products can be upsold to customers as part of detailing packages. That’s the beauty of detailing. It’s a very necessary part of your business that can be incorporated and marketed any number of ways. With detailing companies evolving their offerings every year, you can change, grow and build revenue with them. Appearances matter.

About the Author

Tim Sramcik

Tim Sramcik began writing for ABRN over 20 years ago. He has produced numerous news, technical and feature articles covering virtually every aspect of the collision repair market. In 2004, the American Society of Business Publication Editors recognized his work with two awards. Srmcik also has written extensively for Motor Ageand Aftermarket Business. Connect with Sramcik on LinkedIn and see more of his work on Muck Rack. 

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