The process of getting your car valeted is not one most people know anything about…all we all know is that the car goes in dirty and it comes out clean!
But what goes on behind the scenes? We’re going to take you on a little day trip and show you guys just how much time and effort goes into a full professional valet.
This might get a bit long winded so go make a brew and sit back and enjoy!
As with the majority of jobs taken on, you start by checking the vehicle over, mainly looking for existing damage or bits out of the normal (chewing gum, stains, rips or tears, that sort of stuff)
This example is one of the good ones, the only thing that needed extra attention was handprint marks along the door and roof, probably from suncream.
I arrived at the workshop just before 8am, I was expecting the car and 9 so I had time to get a cuppa and get set up for the day, with the kettle boiling we go about unpacking the washer, cleaning out the buckets and putting in fresh water and shampoo in one and fresh clean water in the other. Making sure all the spray bottles are full, nothing worse than running out of product in the middle of a step. Bring my new captain noodle wash mitt back into the canteen with me I pour myself a cup of tea and leave it brew. While that’s going on mr noodle is getting a bath. After all you cant clean with a dirty mitt, a small bit of fairy washing up liquid making sure to fully rinse it out afterwards. Most important part – the tea is ready!
The car arrived early which is great, the customer went off to work and it’s time for me to start. I Pulled the car into the wash bay, so first things first, pressure washing down the whole car before the pre-rinse softens up dirt, up under the arches to get rid of all the grit and muck. Next port of call is wheels,
They are not the worst wheels, so I use a weaker wheel cleaner mix (I’d rather do them twice than mess them up once) spraying the wheel faces and barrels and un under the arches just for good measure. All four of these done I get the lower sills and exhaust too, the bonnet wing mirrors and everywhere else including the front bumper are treated to a hard working pre-wash.
While this is working its magic, I spray the window felt with a very weak apc solution and agitate it with a toothbrush, they are great for getting into some of the more intricate areas and are available everywhere! So, with the moss loosened, the badges get a once over, same with the fuel filler recess, and the back of the filler flap. Small details add up to the big picture.
Now it’s time to give it the first rinse, starting with the crevices, all along the windscreen, mirrors, roof gutter, window seal, rear window and the fuel filler recess, (there is a knack to not drenching yourself but you’ll learn it fairly quickly once you’ve been soaked a few times), continuing on with the rinsing most of the dirt is gone now, when doing the wheel area do the arches and wells first working from the top down, washing the dirt down and then your wheel barrels and faces and tires I move the car back about two foot and do the wheels again.
Now Mr noodle comes into play, I like to start high and work down the car, so into the shampoo bucket and onto the roof, three full swipes and that’s half of it covered and back over again, into the rinse bucket with the wash mitt quick rinse off and pillars and windows, push the mirror in get all around it and pull it back out again, wash the mitt in the rinse bucket, dunk into the shampoo bucket and onto the bonnet, luckily the Fabia has a short bonnet so it doesn’t take too long, windscreen and scuttle panel get the treatment too wiper blades as well, back into the rinse bucket and a good rinse, into the shampoo bucket and next panel
Repeat until your done basically, this whole process can go from an hour up to two or three hours, anyone can wash a car in ten minutes, what sets this apart is there is minimal chances of damaging paintwork or brightwork. Not introducing swirls or light scratches.
The car is then pulled in and dried completely, windows first then the roof. I’ve recently started using the gnarly autos 1000gsm towels for drying, I’m very happily surprised with how well they work! Lift all the wipers open the boot, fold mirrors and open the doors to get all the trapped water out, while the doors and boot are open the door rubbers and jambs are cleaned and the areas where the hinges are being sprayed with the apc mix I used on the window felt. Continue on with drying the car, this process takes about 20-30 min from start to finish.
The shut crevices are up next, and as they’ve been pre-sprayed with apc mix its mostly a simple wipe, the toothbrush comes out to get into the corners and hard edges. Boot struts and under the boot lid are cleaned too. I generally like to break a car into sections the interior would be 4 sections cockpit, passenger front, the rear compartment and the boot. I try to close off the boot first as then I can put all the personal belongings into the boot close it and move on.
I break the boot down into sections too, so the boot consists of the boot lid, boot lid plastics and then window. The parcel shelf is taken out and both sides are done outside of the car, the plastics are cleaned down, then I start vacuuming seat backs, boot carpet, lift it up and take the spare wheel out and get in there clean as well. So, all of the customers personal belongings are put in a box and put into the boot, parcel shelf goes in and the boot lid is closed, this car wasn’t too bad, so it took between 50 to 60 min
The cockpit is where time is really spent, its generally an hour sitting in the driver seat this is where there is always someone sitting, steering column down and pulled towards you, dust it all down and the dash clocks, the vents are dusted the pointed the opposite direction then dusted and pointed up, then down, making sure no matter where its pointed its as clean as you can get it without disassembling it, base of the wiper and indicator stalks, and centre console, if its easy ill remove the gear knob and gaiter to thoroughly clean them. Now is the disgusting bit for most people, cleaning the dead skin and make up build up behind the stalks and steering wheel, go on and have a look at yours next time your driving, 90% of cars will have some. I use an interior cleaner for this, spray on and leave it soak for a few minutes and look after the sun visor and dash top. The best way is with an interior brush and just lightly scrub the steering wheel and stalks. With that all looked after now it’s the pedals and driver floor and trim plastics, Do not use anything shiny on your pedals or steering wheel as your just gonna have a really bad time, I use the apc mix and the nail brush and dry them off, nice clean and not slippy,
The keys get a scrub too, again little miniscule details that add up
Passenger side is similar but a lot less to do so nice and quick 20 min in there, when I’ve done the front the seats they are slid as far forward as they go and into the back we go.
Back seats usually have kids, which means all kinds of weird and wonderful hidden treasure, so flip up the rear bench and marvel at what lies beneath! There will be more hidden between the front seats and centre console and not to mention the pockets on the back of the seats,
I finish up each section by sorting out the door cards, again with the tooth brush and Mothers interior brush, getting the dirt out of the pocket and the window switch gets a scrub. The carpet gets a brush to loosen dirt and then get vacuumed.
The seats are not the worst, but they will need to be getting shampooed, there are so many different ways to do this, so many different products and tools, steamers, tornadors, even brush attachments for buffers! For me the way that works with out buying a 5 grand steamer is spray the seats with an upholstery detergent and have my fabric brush in a bucket of boiling water, boiling water in my spray extraction machine, breaking up the seats into small sections, spray on the product and take the brush out of the bucket and agitate it, starting with the seat backs then bases. Once a section is done its vac’d this is a job where its as long as it takes really, averaging out the very least 30 min all the way up to 90 min.
At last the final hurdle “finishing” only now do I start at the windows it just gives a better satisfaction looking into a clean car let alone your not running the risk of flicking dirt up on them, I use at least two window cloths per car, one for cleaning and the other for a “dry” wipe afterwards. When the windscreen is done so are the vanity mirrors and rear-view mirrors,
The car in question had handprint marks on a few of the panels so I did a quick hand buff with the poorboys ssr2.5 which made very short work of them! Followed up by a coat of autoglym super resin polish, I love and hate this product at the same time, it is fantastic at hiding light marks on paint work its very easy to use, a car this size takes 30 min start to finish to put it on and take it off, It doesn’t have anywhere near the same life span of harder waxes like the collinite 476 but takes a fraction of the time to apply, bear in mind polish and wax choice is such a wide and subjective topic, but for this customer this is what suited her needs the best,
The finishing stage is usually around an hour, one more check back over the car,
Take a step back and admire 7 ish hours work on a relatively clean car, the best bit is the customers reaction to seeing their car, “I can’t believe it’s the same car, I don’t want to drive it in case I dirty it”
This was just a typical days work, I regularly get “ah sure give it a quick clean” and “surely you wouldn’t need the car for the whole day” but hopefully you can see how much time, care and attention go into just a regular valet, now think of what happens when you book your car in for a “detail” – a valet on steroids is the best analogy I can come up with at this moment!
If you’ve made it to the end of this fair play to you, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did putting it together .
Mirror Image Detailing