Exterior detailing involves cleaning and bringing a shine to the car's paint, chrome trim, windows, wheels, and tires. Different detailers use different products to do this, including detergents, detail clay, waxes, polishes, and a variety of applicators and special cloths.
The three main components of exterior car detailing are cleaning, polishing, and protecting. Cleaning refers to removing all foreign surface particles from exterior surfaces through the use of washing and claying. A clay bar helps to clean contamination/dirt from within the clearcoat that cannot be removed through weekly washing such as bugs, tar, sap, etc. Correcting refers to using mechanical polishes by hand or with a machine and specific polishing pads that remove micrometres of clearcoat from a vehicle to remove fine scratches and swirls from a paint surface produced from improper washing or drying technique. Protecting involves the application of a protective wax (in liquid or paste form) that prevents foreign matter from adhering to the surface of the vehicle, including water, bugs splatter, tar, and dirt. Waxes and sealants provide this barrier against the elements. Waxes are some of the most expensive elements of the detailing process.
Interior detailing involves cleaning the passenger compartment of the car. All of the dash area, panels, windows, and seats are cleaned extensively. Vacuuming is standard, and steam cleaning, liquid cleaners, and brushes may be used to remove stains on upholstery. Some nonporous surfaces may also be polished. Some detailers remove seats to provide the most thorough clean possible.
Some detailers may offer engine detailing, in which steam, high pressure water, degreasers and all-purpose cleaners are used to clean under the hood of the car. Detailing does not include body work, painting, mechanical or upholstery repair.