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My Detailing Story – Part 1: How It All Began


This is part 1 of a 4 part series, where Zach McGovern will share his personal detailing story. Zach will cover his love for detailing, his own shop, a growing business and ultimately, where all of this led. To see all of the articles in this series after they post, click here.

Detailing was a hobby of mine, a hobby that grew into an obsession.  It was only by chance that my obsession turned into a small business.  I never could have imagined how that small business would change my outlook on so many things.

Let me start by sharing a bit of my background.  I have always enjoyed having a clean car.  My dad was the kind of guy who would wash the cars regularly, clay bar and wax them several times a year, and would break out the old Porter Cable to buff them once and a while.  This is how I got started… just going through the motions in the garage with my dad.

Old Car Wash

At the time, we washed the cars with a single bucket, and dried them with old bath towels.  The phrase “two bucket method” was not something we had ever heard.  Wheels were cleaned after washing the paint using the same bucket and sponge that was used on the paint.  Cars were buffed without inspection lighting or paint gauges.  Wax was applied by hand in the karate kid fashion.  Tires were shined with Armor All gel.  In my eyes, my car always looked outstanding.  Things were simple.  Ignorance can be bliss, after all.

When I was in college, I stumbled upon some automotive detailing forums and blogs, including this very blog, and my world was rocked.  My obsession kicked into overdrive and I became entranced while reading through the in-depth write ups showing off proper paint correction, explaining the reasons to perform each step, and showing off the incredible transformations.  I couldn’t tell you how many hours I put into researching and learning as much as I could from the online community (a large part of why I love giving back and helping as many people as I can now).  I loved understanding the “why” just as much as the “how”.  Needless to say, I now had a new appreciation for proper detailing, and my idea of a clean car was forever changed.

Fast forward a bit to after I had graduated.  I packed my bags and moved a few hours away from my home to start my career as a mechanical engineer.  I was in a new city, at a new job, without much to keep me busy aside from golf, my growing passion for photography, and my enthusiasm for cars & motorcycles.

Old Products

A co-worker, and fellow car guy, had told me about a local car forum where I could find other car guys, follow projects/builds, and other general car related discussions.  Shortly after joining the forum, I found someone seeking advice on detailing.  He was specifically looking for help with paint correction, which I was familiar with.

At this time, I was armed with a Porter Cable 7424XP, a small collection of pads, Meguiar’s M105 and M205, a poor selection of towels, and an assortment of basic products.  I had a one stall garage at my apartment to work in.  I had done all the research and read all of the articles.  I had experimented on my own vehicle, and vehicles of friends and family members.  In the grand scheme of things, my hands-on experience was quite minimal, but I felt like I knew more than enough to do a good job, so I offered to help.  This is when I was caught off guard by the question “how much do you charge?”… I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was the unplanned start of my professional detailing journey…

first car

Zach McGovern
Attention To Detailing Peoria
Peoria, IL

3 comments on My Detailing Story – Part 1: How It All Began

  1. Ken says:

    Great start… looking forward to reading the next in your series.
    I have utmost respect for someone who can turn their passion into a
    successful business.

  2. Jeramie says:

    I also love detailing. Trying to get started myself. Not sure how so I’m just jumping in!! I go to homes or work from my garage. Any tips on how to entice potential clients or maybe how to price?

    • Hi Jeramie – that is a loaded question. Your pricing should be dependent upon the type of services you are offering, so there is no real answer here as everyone has their own idea of what services should be available to their clients. As far as how to gain some potential clients, it takes a bit of hustle. Reach out to local car clubs/car enthusiasts. You will be able to charge more for your work once you have proven yourself and have a good reputation within the community. Take the time to build a quality website and to document your work to share on social media to show potential customers what exactly you are capable of.

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