What Is Car Detailing?: A Complete Guide | Car Supplies Warehouse

If there's one statement about Americans that is not controversial, it's that we love our cars. So much that there are over 276 million registered vehicles in the US, which is almost one per person.

We use cars to drive to work, take road trips, and have fun. Even more, cars become a status symbol for us that work their way into our very identities, which is why we love showing off our new vehicles.

Well, that's why we work so hard to keep them clean and looking like new, and that all starts with proper detailing. So, what is car detailing, how does it work, and why is it so important? Let's talk about that.

What Is Car Detailing?

Professional car detailing is the process of having your vehicle thoroughly washed and/or cleaned by professionals, rather than just driving through a car wash and throwing out some trash. Now, there is the chance to do this at home, but most people generally go to a shop because they lack the at-home equipment.

For example, you probably have a hose, vacuum, and access to some soap, but you may not have a pressure washer or polisher.

Some companies, businesses, or workers have to use detailing services regularly, which adds up to a pretty penny after a few runs. However, there is a possibility for DIY.

While it's great to save money by cleaning your car at home, most people don't think about it when it comes to professional detail services. However, it's easier to start than you think.  First, let's talk about some of the services that are included in professional services.

What Services Are Included?

When you hire professional detailing services, there are several services you should expect. However, it all depends on the company you choose, what services they offer, and the package of your choice.

For example, an Uber driver may need to get their car detailed after someone made a mess in their backseat. They may already have a car wash subscription or do it themselves at home, so they may just choose an interior detailing package. Here's a rough idea of what you should expect.


Over time, our exteriors get worn out by the elements, especially if you don't store your car in a garage. Dirt and debris are always hitting our vehicles as we drive, along with gravel, plenty of objects falling from trees, and more.

During the winter, these effects are even worse.

If you live in a cooler climate, you're probably used to salt, sand, and dirt on the road hammering away at your exterior as you drive. This process rapidly deteriorates your car's paint and undercarriage components.

Unfortunately, when left without being addressed, this could lead to rust. It's a ticking time bomb for your car.

Luckily, most detailing services will also offer both interior and exterior packages, along with various combinations depending on your needs. Most often, they start as a simple exterior wash and dry service, like a car wash.

From there, they may offer other exterior services such as paint decontamination, where they use a clay bar and chemical iron remover to remove any bonded contamination, iron particles, or residue from your vehicle's exterior.

Not only that, but most services will also offer polishing services as well. This uses a slightly abrasive material to even out or remove scratches from your car's clear coat. Often, this will be followed by a paint sealant or ceramic coating to give your car's exterior a protected and glossy shine.

While this is less common, some professional detailing shops may offer varying levels of paint correction, ceramic coating, or paint protection film to help keep your exterior safe for the long haul!


If you spend a lot of time in your car, you know how nice it is to keep the interior clean. Even if you don't spend a lot of time on the road, we all know what it's like to drive a car out of the dealership lot with that famous "new car" feel and pristine interior. This is no different than the interior of your home. Who likes a dirty or messy house? 

Well, this can easily be replicated with detailing services. If you're not ready to buy a new car but you want that same feeling, then these services are right for you, whether or not there was a mess in your vehicle.

Over time, dirt from our shoes, debris from our clothes, leftover food, spills, and dust from our bodies will collect inside our cars. Don't worry, it isn't just you.

However, if you want to present a clean car to your friends, family, or passengers, then you need to clean it out regularly. Also, if you drive a lot, a clean space will even help your mental health, similar to maintaining a clean home.

Unfortunately, clutter and other issues can lead to serious problems within the car. Allergens from dander, mold or mildew, and even driving hazards (obstructed view, pedals, or reaching hazards) can occur when your interior is left uncleaned for too long. For a DEEP dive into cleaning a car interior that needed help, check out this video.

To combat this, interior detailing services will typically include:

  • Vacuuming
  • Steam cleaning
  • Scrubbing and brushing
  • Shampooing upholstery
  • Leather cleaning and conditioning
  • Air deodorizers
  • Glass cleaning

The list goes on, and you may be able to find an even better bundle depending on where you go.

Either way, the interior is where you and your passengers spend most of your time, and dirt and pathogens can accumulate quickly. Like your exterior, this is also particularly challenging in the winter months.

 What is car detailing

Benefits of Car Detailing

We've already established that a clean car is both a happy and safe car, but that's not the only reason you should consider getting your car professionally detailed. So, why is car detailing important? Glad you asked.

Improved Appearance

Whether you're a rideshare driver or a 10-minute commuter, we all want our vehicles to look nice, right? We don't just buy newer vehicles because we like large car payments. It's nice to have a newer car that people turn around to look at again. At Chicago Auto Pro's, our goal is to get our customers to want to keep looking back at their vehicle as they walk away from it!

Well, we can't buy a new car every year, as it simply isn't financially feasible. However, we can keep our cars looking new all the time.

Moreover, with the right detailing services, your car will look new for longer than you may think. If you take care of the interior and exterior after detailing, you won't need another for a while.

Air Quality

When there's mold, mildew, dust, debris, dirt, or plenty of other disturbances in your vehicle, it winds up in your lungs and those of your passengers. When driving, you are essentially in an enclosed box, often with one single filter to recycle the air you breathe.


Maintaining Your Car

While this may not sound like a serious concern at first, there is a lot more to a car than the engine and transmission. There are over 30,000 parts on an average car, many of which cost a pretty penny to replace.

However, the exterior of your car is often just as costly to replace, and if it's left to rust or damage the clear coat, then it will inevitably cause other issues within the car.

Rust acts as a type of "cancer" to vehicles, and when it spreads, it can pose serious safety risks on the road. Maintaining your car's clear coat, especially if you live in a cool climate or frequently drive on dirt roads, should be included in your maintenance checklist.

Also, if interiors grow mold or mildew, which is surprisingly common in warmer climates, you may need to replace your interior. On average, a new interior will cost between $1,000 and $4,000. Compared to the small fee of car detailing, it's similar to spending money on an oil change to avoid needing a new engine.

Remember, it pays to extend a car's lifespan and hold onto it. If you buy into the standard and replace your car every four to six years, then you're always going to have a car payment and you'll always be worried about large down payments. If you take care of your car, it will take care of you!

How to Fully Detail Your Car

Of course, you can pay to get your car fully detailed, and it will cost you a couple hundred each time for interior and exterior. The one major downside of getting your car detailed is spending between $300-600 each time.

However, with the right knowledge, supplies, and a few hours to spare, you can detail your car as often as you like for a fraction of the cost. It's the same logic as changing your own oil!

The best part is that all we need to discuss are the products, as you can easily read the directions on each to see how to best apply them. Here's what you need to start detailing your own car or to start your own detailing business!

Interior Cleaners

The essentials you will need to give your interior a full detail are carpet and upholstery care, regular sanitizing products, conditioner, odor eliminators, air fresheners, and leather care products (if applicable).

Depending on your specific circumstances, you may require a specific type of cleaner, so it's best to do a little research on your car's make and model. A quick glance through the manual should offer some insight into which materials could harm your interior.

While that sounds like a lot, don't worry. A little goes a long way, and you'll have the solutions for next time. In terms of price, buying all of these will pay for themselves after just one detail.

Exterior Care Products

Now, this one is a little different, only because it's so dependent on your needs. If you just want to polish some light scratches around your door handles and apply a paint sealant, then you could do this for a very affordable rate and have plenty left over for next time!

However, if you want to give yourself "the works," then it may cost a little more for an upfront investment, but you'll still be able to reuse materials as much as you want for your car, your family members' cars, or your friends' cars.

Ceramic coatings are very common, and you may want some accessories with them to get the most out of them. Again, the more you get upfront, the more you will save on these services in the future. There's also:

  • Glass cleaner
  • Tire dressings
  • Ceramic detail sprays
  • Car shampoos
  • Drying towels/drying aids
  • Iron removers
  • Pressure washers
  • Wheel and tire brushes
  • Bug removers

From there, just read the instructions and apply these solutions carefully and in the right setting! Once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to keep your car clean for as long as possible. There are also plenty of online videos, so check out Car Supplies Warehouse YouTube channel.

Clean the Machine

Now that we've answered the question "what is car detailing?", there's no time like the present to get your car looking new. The best part is that it's cheaper and easier than ever to keep your car clean!

Stay up to date with our latest car care news, feel free to browse through our shop, and check out our shipping policies for more information on how you can save!

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