Detailing is the systematic cleaning, rejuvenating and protecting of the exterior painted surfaces of a vehicle. The primary purpose for paint detailing is to retain the appearance of newer vehicles or to revitalize older neglected vehicles.
Cleaning is a preparatory step intended to remove dirt, dust, and other loose contaminants in order to allow full inspection of current paint conditions. Rejuvenation refers to the processes used to return a vehicle to its original showroom condition. The extent of rejuvenation is dependent on the customer’s expectations. Protection refers to the maintenance processes such as waxing that are used to keep the vehicle looking new for as long as possible after detailing.
Simple washing and waxing will not remove many types of surface paint damage; a rejuvenation step (polishing with an orbit or more effective high speed polisher) is added before the waxing step. When rejuvenation is required, detailers often polish the top clear coat layer of automotive paints to remove surface damage such as fine scratches, scuffs, swirl marks, oxidation, stains, paint overspray, tar, tree sap, acid rain or water spots. This polishing process is often referred to as finessing. Extensive paint problems may require the use of several sanding and buffing steps to bring the paint back closer to its original beauty.
Automotive manufacturers typically use one of two main types of paint systems in their vehicles. The most common used today is a clear coat system in which a thin layer of color is applied, followed by multiple layers of clear non-pigmented paint. Used less frequently today is a single-stage paint system that consists of the application of multiple layers of pigmented paint. Since most detailing chemicals are designed to work on both paint systems, the paint detailing process does not significantly change based upon the type of paint system.
Swirl marks before and after: