Updated: Mar 22
How do you know who is a competent and skilled detailer and who is, for lack of a better word, a hack? We’ll review some questions to ask and answers you should be looking for. Ultimately, it needs to come down to your gut, who you click with and who is giving you excellent customer service. Because let’s face it, if you found the absolute highest skilled detailer in the state but he has arrogant bed side manners your car is best serviced elsewhere. You do not pay good money to get treated poorly.
You do want to verify his skills. One sure fire way to establish his skills and commitment to excellent practices is to find an IDA certified detailer. IDA is the International Detailers Association. They are tested to confirm that they are using safest best cleaning methods. If your detailer has CD, SV after their name you are in the very best hands. CD stands for certified detailer so they passed the paper and pen test and SV means Skills Verified. These detailers took a day long hands-on test that covers every aspect of detailing a vehicle and were graded in person on their techniques.
What if there are no IDA detailers in your city? Now it depends on what your concerns are. If you want the paint polished and brightened up, I recommend asking how the detailer avoids getting hologram marks on the paint. If they say it’s inevitable and the mark of a polished car, walk away immediately. They should be able to explain their cutting and polishing method.
Ask if they have and use both a DA (dual action) polisher and a rotary buffer. You might not need both on your car. Many newer, younger detailers can’t use a rotary buffer and that’s ok if your vehicle has only spiderwebbing (light circular patterned scratches) on it. But if you have a moderate amount of scratches that your finger nail can catch you need someone adept at using a rotary buffer as well.
If your concern is interior cleaning, you need to be concerned with cleaning methods that won’t attract more dirt afterwards. Improper methods include leaving shampoo in the carpet and leaving an acidic cleaner residue on your carpet and seats without neutralizing it with an alkaline solution. So I recommend asking what kind of cleaner they use. Don’t be shy about writing it down and googling it or checking it out on Amazon. It takes a few extra minutes of research, but it could mean the difference between a fabulously clean car or carpet that never quits suddsing up when wet.
We know of detailers who use degreaser inside and out on a car. I’d also ask how they clean stains off of the headliner. You should get an answer like “I avoid using aggressive methods and will opt to leave slight stains if it won’t come off easily.” If you are told, “I promise I can get anything out,” walk away. They will make good on their promise; and you will be buying a new headliner in a year or two when it starts sagging.
They should be concerned with your preferences. If you like mat tire finish and they like them all glossed up they should be happy to accommodate your preference. Don’t be shy about describing your preferences. It makes it so much easier for us to deliver and meet your expectations. One challenging experience that we have is when a customer gives us a car and promises that they don’t want much and aren’t picky. So we give them a package that fits their description and naturally has a lower price. But upon delivery, it turns out not to be true. And we could have met their expectations with a more exhaustive, but higher priced, detail. It is a disservice to you the customer when you say that, but then inspect the finished product with a fine tooth comb.
We all have spots that make us happy when properly cleaned. For some guys it’s a pristine engine. For me it’s cleaned out gear shift area and the recess area where your grab your door (that spot that we throw a little change and used straw wrappers). So let your detailer know and they’ll be sure to get your sweet spots done just right. We aim to please and we want to keep your car in great shape for the length of your owning it. A humble service oriented detailer will not view your wish list with disdain, but rather as a priority list.