Learning the Real Art of Car Detailing

Preparing a SAAB 93 for detailing by masking off unpainted surfaces
Remember the last time you saw a supercar on a dealer forecourt? The depth of shine on them is usually so deep that you feel you could dive in and swim about in the colour.

It’s something even more than a ‘factory fresh’ look, so how on earth do they get them looking that good? I had an invitation to go on a detailing training course run by some of the best in the business, and was about to find out!

North East Detailing have joined forces with Parc Fermé, one of the most respected and experienced detailing companies in the world, to provide one of their new premier detailing schools. I was told that training would be given using the very best techniques and products available in a ‘relaxed and friendly atmosphere’.

Having seen a few concours-winning cars at shows before, and experienced the level of care and attention they receive pre-show, I wanted to know just how it was achieved.

Snow Foam: A different method of washing a car

Hence, I found myself bound for Country Durham, the home of North East Detailing, to receive my training.

Having been ill, I’d missed half of the first day of the course and I naturally thought that I’d have to spend an extra day doing the course another time.

It wasn’t to be the case however. When I arrived for the afternoon session, dishevelled and tired from my bout of sickness, I expected to be immediately set onto the training as quickly as possible, so that I could catch up quickly. Again, this wasn’t the case and instead I was warmly welcomed by David, the director of North East Detailing and Craig, the director of Parc Fermé and they were both genuinely concerned for my welfare.

Detailing a SAAB 93 engine on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course
Detailing a SAAB 93 engine on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course
Craig would be the one taking me through the course, and after I’d sat down and been given a coffee, we chatted casually for a while about the background of Parc Fermé and the world of detailing, but I was also asked about my background and what I wanted to get out of the 3 days that I would be there. So the course had already proved it was taken in a relaxed atmosphere.

There was no rushing me around, and skipping parts to catch up either. We took it at a steady pace, and as I was still feeling pretty bad, Craig took that into consideration and made sure that I took the knowledge in fully, at my own speed. What I got from chatting was that these guys are seriously anal and thorough in what they do with a customers car.

To give you an idea of the difference between getting a car cleaned for a small amount of money by one of the many ‘valeters’ out there and it being detailed professionally, here’s few things that set the detailers apart.

These guys will go as far as taking the leather bound service manual out of the car in question, and use leather cleaner and feeder on it, so it keeps the leather looking original but also now protected. Another example is of them taking out one of those old roll-up tool kits you have in classic cars, cleaning and polishing every tool in it, again cleaning and feeding the leather and as a final touch, tying the leather laces up into a nice bow, like a present.

One final example of finishing touches is of a case I heard about where one of Parc Ferme’s detailers was tidying up the boot of a car and came across all the customers ties thrown into the boot randomly. Instead of taking them out, tidying up and just placing them back in, they were individually rolled up and placed in a row neatly. What you have to understand about detailers is that to them, the world of cars and detailing is a real passion and love, and they have genuine pride in what they do. A customers car is not just another job and the passion and love for it all go hand in hand.

In this article I won’t go into detail (no pun intended) about the training as I can’t do the course full justice by just writing it down. It’s necessary that you are there for that.

Detailing a SAAB 93 on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course. Taped and Covered, Ready For The Compound Process
Onto the first part of the course now, which is classroom based. For my three days on the course I had chosen the subjects that I was about to tackle, as these interested me the most. I was first taught in theory how to wash a car properly, clean and detail an engine bay, and how to go about paint correction. They all involved advice on what equipment and products are best for which process.

It’s not a case of, ‘we recommend this product because we supply it’. Instead they encourage you to use what you are comfortable with or already know, only offering advice from their wealth of experience.

After finishing the theory side, It was onto the actual washing of the engine bay and then the bodywork. The engine bay is washed first as it usually causes dirt to be splattered onto the rest of the bodywork, plus you arn’t leaning onto a wet panel if the body is washed last, preventing your clothes from becoming soaked through.

The Three Stages of Paint Correction. Detailing a SAAB 93 on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course.

The Three Stages of Paint Correction. Using a DA (dual action) polishing machine with different grades of pads and polishing compounds

The car was then driven into the detailing bay and left to dry. We then started on the first stage of the paint correction process – clay bar treatment. Using some soft detailing clay and lube, the clay is gently rubbed onto the paintwork, picking up contaminates which could be anything from tar or birds mess to carbon monoxide deposits. The ‘claying’ itself seems unnatural, as it sounds like it is scratching the paint when being used. Of course, it could potentially do that if not used properly.

After fully drying it out, the engine was detailed, turning it back to having a nice factory-fresh ‘satin’ finish to it. The next step was to tape up and cover all plastic, rubber and glass, ready for the paint correction process.

So ended the first day. It had been a fairly packed day and I was looking forward to the next part of the course.

Day two.

Firstly, most importantly, coffee. A must-have for those of us that aren’t morning people. After my brain had been kicked out of bed, grumpy and complaining, and had a good dose of caffeine it was time for more theory.

No more swirls after the three stages of car paint correction are complete.

No more swirls after the three stages of car paint correction are complete on the Saab 93

This time we would learn about thepaint correction process and how to use the right tools and products. This was a bit of a worrier for me, as I’d seen what can happen when the rotary tool is used in the wrong way. Burns and heavy swirls can occur easily, and if you takeyour eye off the job for even a moment, it’s good-bye Ferrari paint, hello £20,000 bill for the respray. However, I shouldn’t have been worried, as the teaching is so professional and well explained. You really do get help every step of the way through this whole course, and if you really are worried, just ask for advice and it’s there. It gives you a huge confidence boost when you are taught in this manner.

After the three stage compound process, the paintwork on the car was renewed and reinvigorated, and all previous swirl marks (which can be from not washing a car correctly, or from going to a car wash) and light scratches had gone.

Once we had finished this, the day was at an end.

After Cleaning and Feeding the Leather. Detailing a SAAB 93

After Cleaning and Feeding the Leather. Detailing a SAAB 93

The Highly Involved Interior Detail involves getting every nook and cranny spotlessly clean.

The Highly Involved Interior Detail involves getting every nook and cranny spotlessly clean.

Final day.

We got straight on with the car, removing all the tape and coverings from the plastic, rubber and glass. It wastime to give all the those bits of the car a good clean and shine. When we had done this, which was quite time consuming, we moved onto the wheels and the lips of the wheel arches. We had already used a clay bar on these on the first day of the course and they were now ready for waxing.  The tires walls were also treated with special non-greasy tyre shine.

The interior of the car was also cleaned meticulously, and no part of the trim was left untouched.

Final Detail After Using a Detailing Brush. Detailing a SAAB 93 on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course.

Final Detail After Using a Detailing Brush not the Saab badge

Final Detail After Using a Detailing Brush.

We then were taught about how to clean and feed the leather, to keep it supple. You see some cars where the leather seats have cracked over time from anything from wear and tear to the suns heat or spilled food and drink on them. The cracking can be prevented if the leather is regularly cleansed and treated properly, hence making your car worth more when it comes to re-sale time.

After doing this, the cars main panels were given a final wax using a quick detailer product.

Final Detail After Using a Detailing Brush. Detailing a SAAB 93 on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course.

After doing this, the cars main panels were given a final wax using a quick detailer product.

The final stage was being taught how to really go that step further than usual in finding the bits that needed taking care of, using a soft detailing brush with quick detailer product. These are the places people don’t usually bother looking closely at. A couple of examples of this can be taking off the fuel cap and cleaning and detailing the cap and area around it and then leaving the cap with the manufacturers symbol the right way up or brushing around the digits, wording and edges of the vehicles badges, or cleaning behind removable panels in the boot of the car.

When the car was finished, there is a quick written test to make sure that you have taken all the information in and know how to apply that knowledge in the real world. It’s not a hard test, and if you have listened there shouldn’t be a problem.

All in all, the course was hugely informative, well put across and easy to take in thanks to the excellent way you are taught.

Mirror Finish - The Amazing Final Result! Detailing a SAAB 93 on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course.

There are more parts to the course and mine was just the parts that I wanted to learn, but you may want to consider learning more if you are going to do this professionally.

Whatever reason you have, you may want to become a part of the detailing world by opening up your own detailing kingdom, or you have a car worth more than most peoples houses or just because you’re plain-old interested in how it’s done, doing this course means you have just been trained to the very highest standards in the world.
Mirror Finish - The Amazing Final Result! Detailing a SAAB 93 on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course.

Scratches and Swirls Now Paint Corrected

Scratches and Swirls Now Paint Corrected

The Final Result - Inside the Detailing Bay

The Final Result – Stunning and flawless glossy paint work that will turn heads.

dsc_2338Mirror Finish paint work after paint correction - The Amazing Final Result! Detailing a SAAB 93 on Parc Ferme Zymol detailing course.

Mirror Finish paint work after paint correction – The Amazing Final Result!

6 responses to “Learning the Real Art of Car Detailing”

  1. Badass

    Nice Job….

    Shame about the car

  2. jdm engines

    Very well put together article. I generally don’t put that much work in to detailing my car, but the results are very obvious in these pictures.

  3. Chris

    Hi. Thanks for the comment. We’re glad you liked the article and hope you’re maybe a bit more inspired to put more time into detailing your car.
    Go on, it’ll love you for it 😉
    Chris (Admin)

  4. James

    Fantastic work there mate, you must have really enjoyed it 🙂 I admire the amount of work gone in and i try and do the same myself, although i may have the passion and some of the gear, i sometimes lack the knowledge .There’s something to be said about a nice proper shine to a car. Well done mate 🙂

  5. Chris

    Hi James, thanks for reading and the comment. Yes there’s something about seeing a car with no swirl marks or imperfections in the paint.
    It’s almost like looking at coloured glass! You’ve really got to admire the guys that do this for a living and get cars looking like that every day.
    Chris (Admin)

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