A Beginner’s Guide to Car Detailing: What is Car Detailing?

March 11, 2019


Here at Shine Easy, we get asked a lot of questions. There is one question that keeps popping up, however: “What is the difference between car detailing and car washing?”

We realise that for most non-car enthusiasts, the difference probably isn’t very significant. However, all car owners, enthusiasts or not, should look at getting their car fully detailed every so often, and should also perform smaller details regularly to have their car looking at its best all the time.

So, to help our customers understand the many benefits of car detailing, also known as auto-detailing, we are going to outline what you can expect when you choose to have your car detailed. Trust us when we say that you’ll never go back to normal washing!

1.- What is Car Detailing?

Simply put, getting your car detailed means a top-to-bottom thorough cleaning of your vehicle using specialized tools and products. Normally, a detailer will also perform some light cosmetic touch-ups, but the process does not include paintwork re-sprays or body repairs.

Car detailing involves cleaning and reconditioning the interior and exterior of the car. The aim of this is to restore the paintwork by eliminating scratches or swirl marks to make the car look as close to brand new as possible, like it did when you first drove it out of the shop.

A simple car wash gets rid of dirt on the outside of your car, and if you clean the interior you might catch some of the grime with a vacuum, but car detailing takes this process much further. Every car we detail has every last imperfection buffed, polished, or vacuumed out, leaving it fit for display in any showroom.

Since there are no set guidelines, you will see a great variety in terms of the services included in a complete detail. At Shine Easy, our ultimate detail package consists of an exterior detail using decontamination treatments, machine polishers and high-end sealants. We also offer advanced interior cleaning with stain removal and upholstery treatments as well as coating protection on the dashboard.

2.- What is the difference between a Car Wash and a Car Detail?

Now that you know what car detailing is, we are going to quickly outline the differences between a car wash and auto detailing, before going on to talk some more about why car detailing is a seriously good idea.

Aside from cost, which ranges from £5 to £25 for an exterior wash, a typical car wash only covers a fraction of the cleaning that you can get from a detail, and so only achieves a fraction of the result.

Car detailing versus car wash

So what does a car wash include?

Most car washes take between ten and twenty minutes to go from washing to drying. A car wash can be done by hand or by machines (a drive thru car wash) that run bristles, soap, and water to clean your car’s exterior.

A car wash tends to be a superficial cleanse while an auto detail is a lot more thorough and restorative.

3.- What are the steps in Auto Detailing?

A thorough car detailing consists of two main phases: interior detailing and exterior detailing. We are going to break down each phase so you know exactly what to expect when you get your vehicle detailed. Feel free to ask your technician if you have any questions about the process, as most of them love to share their art of detailing with others.

Car detailing process

Exterior Car Detailing

We begin with an exhaustive exterior wash to remove as much dirt as possible using premium microfiber towels. We take advantage of waterless and rinseless technology to lift dirt off the surface. This is achieved by the surfactants and emulsifiers, leaving a scratch-free finish and no run-off of contaminants into stormwater drains.

Depending on the level of service, the entire car is then decontaminated to pull-off any embedded contaminants invisible to the naked eye, leaving the car smooth to touch.

If required, the paint is polished to eliminate any light scratches, oxidation and swirl marks. This can be done by hand or with a polishing machine. Finally, a silica based sealant is applied to give the car an additional protective layer and a brand new shine too!

The remaining exterior surfaces of glass, plastic and rubber are then methodically cleaned, polished and coated to give that showroom finish.

Wheels are washed using specific brushes and wheel cleaning products, the detailer will remove dust and filth from the rims, brake calipers, lug nuts etc. Then the rims are protected with a sealant, making them easier to maintain.

Optionally you may choose to have the engine bay cleaned, which can make identifying any engine problems easier and faster. The engine bay is cleaned by lightly spraying it with a degreaser before rinsing everything clean with our waterless wash formula. Once properly dried, all silicone, plastic and rubber components are properly dressed to protect them from cracking. This is a simple process that ultimately serves to protect the car from everyday problems of wear on rubber and silicone.

We use the most environmentally-friendly products available to us, this means we only opt for biodegradable, pH neutral, VOC compliant, water-based products.

Interior Car Detailing

All of the upholstery inside the car is thoroughly vacuumed and shampooed to remove stains and dirt. If the car has leatherwork, this is often conditioned and scrubbed to remove dirt that is deeply ingrained. If there are any organic stains present (milk spills etc) we use an enzyme based cleaner to breakdown the dirt and an odour remover to leave the interior smelling fresh again.

Once the interior has been cleaned thoroughly we go about applying surface specific protection, this includes leather coatings, fabric coatings and a dashboard coating as well as a dressing on door plastics. This adds a hydrophobic layer to the interior of the vehicle, making any future dirt easier to clean and adding longevity to interior surfaces.

Lastly, the interior glass is also cleaned and protected

4.- What are the benefits of getting your car detailed?

A complete car detail will bring your car to its best condition. You can then perform mini details to keep your car looking as good as new.

Car Value

Keeping your car in good condition will help maintain or restore the value of your car. This is particularly true of older or classic cars, especially if you’re looking to sell your car in the future. You simply cannot get the same results from car washes. A good detailer will bring your car to its original beauty and increase its resale value.

A good detailer will bring your car to its original beauty and increase its resale value. Having a regular exterior and interior detail can increase your car's resale value by 10-15%!


Another benefit of auto detailing is the added protection against the elements. When a protective coat is routinely applied to the exterior painted surface, it protects the finish from contamination and oxidation.

Attention to Detail

Since detailing is an incredibly thorough process, you can expect the detailer to meticulously assess every crevice of your car providing seemingly customized solutions. You will not get this kind of personalized service at a car wash.

5.- How much does a car detail cost?

Mobile Car Detailing Prices

You can expect to pay more for a mobile car detailing service since they come to your location (office or home) at a convenient time. This saves you the trouble of having to drive to a detailing shop and wait around while your car is serviced. An average mobile auto detailing service takes between 2 hours to 8 hours.

For example, at Shine Easy, our detailing packages (Level 3 & Level 4) range from £199 to £299.

6.- How to Choose a Car Detailing Service?

Now that you’ve decided to get your car detailed, and you know roughly how much it’s going to cost you, you will need to do some research to figure out where to take your car. The quality and experience of the detailer makes all the difference here.

Car detailing services

You will also want to study the different packages offered and whether they provide services your car needs. The whole idea of detailing is centered on its bespoke nature. If it doesn’t work for you – your car, your needs, your vision – it doesn’t work at all. Be picky! That’s the point! So, we are going to give away our best-kept secrets to help you find the perfect detailer for your car.

Services Offered

Start by looking for a detailer that offers exactly the kind of services you’re looking for. If you’re looking to get rid of all that dog hair in your car but the company doesn’t offer pet hair removal then you’re not going to get the best results.


Car details can become very expensive quite quickly due to their use of high-quality cleaning products, and you will want to find someone that provides the best bang for your buck. Keep in mind though that a complete detail is worth the short-term investment, because of the long-term value it provides!


These days it is impossible to not look for reviews before making a decision, and it’s always a good idea to search on Google or Facebook to see what other customers have had to say about their experiences.

At Shine Easy, we take pride in our customer satisfaction and we work hard to maintain our five-star rating. There will be times when things don’t go right but our responsiveness in fixing any mistakes goes a long way to proving our commitment to the highest quality service.


We understand that modern life can be incredibly busy and that taking your car to a washer is something that some people simply don’t have time to do. If that’s you, you should keep an eye out for mobile car detailing services. These detailers will come to your location, at home or at work, and provide the same high-quality service you would get by driving to a detailing shop.


While we have only scratched the surface, the world of auto detailing is very exciting and rapidly expanding. There are tons of forums where you can find in-depth guides for all of the different parts of the detailing process, or you can ask other car enthusiasts about car detailing.

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