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What is car detailing and what does it include?

You say “car detailing” and I say “car valeting”

Car detailing is an American term which has found its way across the pond. More commonly in the UK, this process is called car valeting. It is a kind of car care which involves more than the average wash and wax on Sunday morning. Since we love to keep cars in tip-top condition at ChipsAway, we thought it would be good to share an overview of what car detailing is.

Like car valeting, car detailing is a top-to-bottom, deep clean of your car from inside to out, which aims to restore the car to factory finish standards, or as close to a factory finish as possible. Although there are different levels of car valeting available, the general process covers all the intricate, hard to reach areas of your car (the “details”!) and can require serious equipment. For the best results, we would recommend using a professional service.

What do car detailing services include?

The components of your service will vary according to how much you want to pay and the depth of the detail. However, a comprehensive package would cover the following, in this order:


  • Carpets and mats – including repairing tears or cigarette burns. Full use of carpet shampoo to remove all stains
  • Air vents – using compressed air and brushes to remove particles and moisture which can build up and leave a stale smell blowing through the air conditioning
  • Window seals, dials
  • Upholstery, including leather protection
  • Air freshening – to help recreate that “new car” smell
  • Some detailing will also include improving the appearance under the bonnet


  • Alloy wheels – using special cleaners or pressure washers to polish and degrease where necessary. Baked-on grime can be one of the biggest detractors from a car’s flawless finish
  • Tyres – restoring the colour
  • Hand washing the panels – specialist cleaning solutions and cloths will be used with a meticulous attention to detail.
  • Removing “contaminants” – microscopic particles that can be removed from the car surface using cleaning wax
  • Polishing – often using a rotating polishing machine. This removes the fine lines on the paint surface which build up over time to create a cobweb effect
  • Waxing – once the treatment to the paint is complete, wax is essential protection to repel minor marks from the paintwork
  • Windows – cleaning these last removes any trace of product from the previous steps and is essential for a sparkling finish

Car detailing does not include car body repairs, so if you need a bumper or car scratch repair it's best to get in contact with technicians like the ones at ChipsAway.

If reading the above has inspired you to give your car a clean at home we recommend keeping it to a simple wash and rinse – using the wrong cleaning products on different areas of the car will reduce the appearance rather than enhancing it. Ensure that you use specific car cleaning solution on the panels, rather than dishwashing solution, which will degrease and strip off wax. Rotating polishing machines should only be used by people qualified to use them, as damage could easily be inflicted onto paintwork.

How much does it cost to detail a car?

As mentioned above, car detailing prices vary from company to company and according to the depth of the service you require. A very basic interior clean and exterior wash may only set you back £35-60.  However, a top of the range service that covers the items described above and removes the cobwebbing on the paintwork is more likely to be in the range of £250-500.

We hope this overview of car detailing has been useful for you and explains the different options available. If your car has undergone some damage recently that will take more than a valet to put right, make an enquiry through the form on the left.

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