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Difference between car valeting and detailing

Due to the recent increase in popularity in car detailing there has been a big grey area created in the difference between ‘car valeting’ and ‘car detailing’. As far as Wikipedia is concerned, if that’s anything to go by, there is no difference and is simply called different things in different countries, i.e. car valeting in the UK, and car detailing in the USA.

However, the point of this blog post is to help some people who aren’t aware of what some of the differences are from a professional point-of-view but also to explain my point of view, which in no doubt is different to many other people in the industry.

So, what’s car valeting?

Gold Valet
ATG Gold Valet

Car valeting is the process of cleaning, polishing and waxing an auto-mobile in order to achieve an as-new look and enhance the resale value.

This usually includes cleaning the wheels & shuts, washing, polishing and waxing the bodywork, dressing exterior plastics and tyres, polishing brightwork and polishing the glass.

The cleaning process should also include the use of a clay bar to remove unwanted contaminants from the paint such as iron filings, industrial fallout, tar spots and tree sap, which all cause the paint to feel rough and dull the appearance of the paint.

The exterior process includes a variety of chemicals, tools and accessories in order to reach awkward areas, clean off as much soiling as possible and leave the car looking as near to the condition the day it left the showroom as possible.

The interior would be vacuumed in all areas including, dash, centre console, seats, carpets, luggage areas and vents before a variety of chemicals and tools are used to wet clean any soiled areas such as upholstery, trim, carpets and headlinings.

So, what does ‘detailing’ offer?

As you can see, car valeting offers a very extensive method of cleaning for your car and ensures you are left with a car with a higher re-sale value, pleasure to drive and a joy to look at.

So what more can you do? This is where things start to blur.

The main difference from my point of view is the paint rectification/correction process in order to get the paint looking its best i.e. free from swirl marks, scratches and other blemishes ruining the appearance.

These are removed through the use of a machine polisher, usually a fixed rotary polisher but sometimes a Dual Action polisher is used on delicate paint or for the refining stage.

This is combined with a selection of abrasive polishes and pads designed to remove defects, polish the surface and leave a flawless hologram and swirl-free finish.

I also believe car detailing is about cleaning every surface possible on the car, including the removal of certain parts such as wheels, in order to get access to otherwise unreachable areas such as suspension, arch liners and brake components, certain metalwork and access to cleaning the wheels inner rim.

I personally don’t believe that car detailing is simply enough just to have a set routine such as; washing, clay bar, polishing and waxing, but rather cleaning areas not usually cleaned and repairing parts which may be damaged, including paint repair or wheel refurbishment.

This is another area of confusion, as some people think that cleaning the inner rim of the wheel is classed as detailing although I personally clean the inner rim of the wheel on all of my valeting services as I see it part of cleaning a car properly.

The detailing part I would do differently is including removal of the wheel, for example, as this is necessary to reach areas that simply aren’t accessible whilst it remains on the car.

So what’s the confusion?

The main confusion comes when some people see valeting as a completely different service than detailing. In reality, its like anything, there will always be cheaper & inferior quality offerings in all walks of life, and due to car valeting being a popular service these days, there will of course be some people happy to offer a low-quality cheaper alternative.

However, this isn’t to say that all car valeting services are the same, for instance the car valeting I offer includes the same processes, products and techniques as used in my, and many other car detailing services. The term is simply being confused to mean different things.

Final Thoughts

I think many people have come to relate car valeting and car detailing to mean two separate services, when in reality simply due to the bad press of low-quality car valeting services available these days, they are still the same thing and just different terms used by different countries.

I believe some people also class detailing as certain processes, such as snow foam, intricate parts cleaned, inner rim of wheel cleaned, using a clay bar etc, where as I personally see this as part of cleaning/valeting rather than something  that’s defined or refined by a simple term or name change. Again, adding confusion!!

This isn’t to say that some car detailers are ‘just’ car valeters, or car valeters aren’t ‘car detailers’ but rather I see it’s about the attention to detail that differs the two services that have become separated over the last few years offered as opposed to a simple name change, and simply changing the name between the two isn’t and shouldn’t be enough.

but…what do you think..??