Guide To Finding The Right Detailer

Lakeside Custom Polishing would like to earn you as a customer, but we know not all customers have the same needs, not all detailers can meet those needs.  These FAQ's will help you ask the right questions and help you make the decision of who the right detailer is for you . 

How do I find the right mobile detailer for me?  

     First thing I would recommend is to ask friends and family if they have had any of their vehicles detailed, if so, who did they use and how did they like the job/ cost.  Then take a look online, find their website, is it professional looking, is it tacky? Then find them on social media, again, is it professional, is it filled with off the wall memes that don’t relate to detailing or anything automotive?  Call or email the detailer, ask for the detailer to come by and give an estimate, are they punctual? Do they look professional? Is their vehicle presentable? I will say there are a few mobile detailers whos company vehicles are not spotless. That’s not to say they are not professional, nor does it mean they don’t do good work.  It could just mean they are busy with clients vehicles and don’t have time to upkeep their own, but it should appear to have been washed within the last couple weeks at least. Personally, I feel if a mobile detailer comes to my house in his lifted Toyota truck covered in mud, cut off jean shorts, and wife beater top like he just got back from a drunk wheeling trip, he is probably just doing this as a hobby and not a professional. Again, not to say he won’t do a good job, but more than like not licensed or insured, and won’t be able to take care of anything if he causes a problem to the vehicle.  It all boils down to professionalism.

There is such a big difference in pricing between detailers, how do I know who to choose?

     Again, first off, how professional are they (see above).  Whatever you do, don’t make your choice based on price alone!  The cheapest detail will certainly give you the cheapest service, and may not tend to your needs.  But on the flip side, the most expensive person may not do the best job. You need to find a detailer who will do YOUR job, based on YOUR needs, but you have to respect their price.  Detailing is an art, I feel alot of people consider detailing to be a quick wash, vacuum, and “throw a coat of wax on”. Other people think it’s a magic show, and all interior stains disappear, scratches and dents are gone and the car is like new again.  Well, it’s in between. A true detail, to me, is a full interior cleaning, steaming, vacuuming, etc, and the exterior is cleaned, shined and then protected, which on an average size vehicle will take a good 6 or so hours, and will cost you a few hundred dollars.  You will have the “wash n go” guys  who spend an hour to wash and vacuum the car, good service, not a detail, could also count as maintenance wash. You also have the full on paint correction guys who wet sand the car, have multi levels of polishing before protecting the paint, and the paint is flawless.  Again, you need to decide what YOUR needs are and see what detailer will meet those.


I hear the terms wax, sealant, protectant, ceramic, what do these mean?

     Your car has a few steps in the painting process.  You have a “single stage” paint which consists of the vehicle having a primer base, then the paint, nothing else.  This is old technology, most cars these days don’t use that. The vast majority the vehicle today have “base coat/ clear coat” paint, meaning the spray the primer, then spray the paint color and finally a clear coat to protect the paint.  In order to protect the clear coat you apply a sealant or coating of some sort. That could be a carnauba wax, synthetic sealant (polymer) or ceramic. Carnauba wax is a hard wax, and helps protect and give you some gloss, but only last a couple months depending on conditions (weather, how much you wash your vehicle and what soap you use). Polymer sealants are basically a synthetic “wax”, or wax on steroids, again, adds a little gloss, but more protection, these generally will last up to 3-6 months.  Then you have the granddaddy, ceramic coating, this usually give between 3-7 years protection depending on the installer and manufacturer, but to do this right takes a mass amount of prep time and work, expect to pay thousands of dollars, not hundreds. Nowadays there are hybrids out there, spray on “ceramic wax” that claim to give you 6-12 month protection. Again, you need to decide what best suits your needs. Some people do not like the idea of ceramic coatings and think it’s a joke, other people swear by it, and want nothing to do with simple wax.  Personally, I love the looks of properly prepared and executed ceramic process, but I don’t see myself shelling out the money to do it right when I can maintain a good shine and protection with other products. Again, not knocking ceramics, I think they are great, just not for me. They may be right for you and your needs, but maybe a good synthetic sealant or wax would suit you fine.


Why are there different polishing processes?

     Different detailers have different processes, wash n go guys will generally use a spray wax, which really doesn’t give you any protection, it just adds a bit of gloss to the freshly washed ride.  It is a perfect for doing “maintenance washes”, thoses washes done in between your full details when a proper wax/ sealant is already applied. Some detailers use what is referred to as a “one step” , or cleaner wax, which will polish and wax at the same time. Some detailers use a 3 step polishing process which consists of a compound to remove oxidation and scratches in the paint, then a polish to restore the luster and depth to the paint followed by wax or sealant of their choice.  Other detailers specialize in the paint correction process, these guys will wetsand the vehicle with multiple grits of paper to make the paint baby butt smooth, followed by a compound to get rid of the sanding marks, polish and seal. Generally this process is used before a ceramic coating is applied, thus the reason for the high price, this process is measured in days, not hours. For the right vehicle, it’s well worth the investment. Ask your detailer what they recommend based on the condition of your vehicle when they come to look at it.  It is not something that can be answered without looking the paint over.


Why won’t anyone give me a set detail price over the phone?

     That’s easy….  Every vehicle is different!  You may have multiple people call for a price to detail a 2017 Kia Soul, one person may not have washed or cleaned out the car since the day it was purchased, another who takes the car to the local car wash every 2 weeks to have the paint torture brushes scratch it up, another who has had the car professionally detailed twice a year with bi-weekly maintenance washes.  So the conditions of the same car are vastly different and will require different work. Or if you have 3 long haired dogs that ride in your Suburban everywhere you go, most detailers will charge an extra fee for pet hair removal, it doesn’t just vacuum up easily. Your drunk friend puked all over in the backseat after Stacey’s party…. Oooh, the stains, but the smell is horrible, definitely want that out…. Hopefully you get the point by now, because I can go on with MANY scenarios and horror stories, been in the industry for nearly 30 years now.


Some people tell me to get my car detailed before I sell it.  Why would I do that if I’m just getting rid of it?

     Think about it this way…. When you go look at a car to buy, your first impression about the car is based on the looks.  Someone could be selling a car that has 5,000 miles on it and is in perfect mechanical condition, but hasn’t been cleaned since new, driven through wet gravel roads, and is filthy.  Your probably gonna walk away thinking the car was abused, neglected, not maintained, etc. Or you can run across the same car, but with 150,000 miles on it, paint soft and shiney, interior clean and smells good, open the hood, it shines like new, has clean oil in it.  Your first impression is, this was someone’s “baby”, they took real good care of it, so it has to be in great shape. So of course the clean one is automatically “worth more money” because it is in better condition, and the other one is a pile of ….. I HIGHLY recommend a “Pre-Sale Detail”, you will get more money out of the sale than it cost to detail the car.


I just bought a nice clean used car, why should I detail that?  Didn’t the dealer do it?

     The dealership detailers have the job to clean the cars and get them out on the lot so the sales guys can sell them, and they do this as quick as they can, all about production  The dealer mentality is “you can’t sell a car if it’s not out on the lot”. So the dealer detailers have to push the cars through quickly, so they don’t usually get the same treatment a “detail shop” will give it.  They get a wash, vacuum, maybe a wipe down with some high gloss spray to make it shiney, this collects alot of dust though. Engine bays get pressure washed then coated with the slimy silicon stuff, again to make it shiney/ pretty.  Some detail shops, like myself, use a steamer to clean the interior which will kill germs and kill the bacteria that causes some smells. I personally steam clean the steering wheel and shift levers, who knows what was on the hands of the previous owners or the other people test driving the car.  Also the dealerships may wash 20 cars using the same wash bucket and brush which causes scratches in the paint. I have seen countless “factory/ dealer installed” swirl marks and scratches in the brand new cars paint. Many times a detailer can make your brand new zero miles car look better than new.

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