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Tips to Improve Your Detailing Efficiency


The task of completing a thorough detailing project which includes an in depth exterior cleaning, decontamination, multi-step paint correction, paint coating application, and all of the other smaller odds and ends that go into making a car look like new is a very time consuming process.  As a business owner, saving time means saving money.  Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to save time without sacrificing the quality of your work?  It is easier than you might imagine.

Think back to the very first time you went through the complete detailing process… now think about the tenth time you went through the process.  I am willing to bet the tenth time went quicker than the first, but why?  With practice, you were able to identify inefficiencies in your work that led to a slower process.  This initial increase in efficiency often requires no real planning or thought.  As you became more familiar with the process from start to finish, and you became better at handling the products and tools associated with it, you become more efficient.  However, if you take a step back and go through your workflow from start to finish, you will probably be able to identify several more areas which can be optimized to increase your efficiency even more, therefore minimizing your time spent on a project, and maximizing your profits.  This article will feature just a few tips to help you think through your work with the intention of improving your efficiency.

ATD | Efficiency - Foam on Audi

Develop a Process

It is common to have various packages ranging from more routine cleaning to very in-depth services.  Develop a specific process for each service that will enable you to complete the job with as little wasted time as possible.  Consider every step of the process and organize them so that you are not repeating steps or causing yourself more work than you need to.  For instance, if you’re cleaning an interior, you wouldn’t want to clean your glass before applying UV dressing to plastic and vinyl surfaces (such as the dash) as the chances of you getting some product onto the glass is relatively high, meaning you would then need to clean the glass again.  I like to make a check list for each service with the order of operations laid out exactly as they should be.  Eventually this will become habit and you will no longer need to reference the list.

ATD | Efficiency - Polishing Audi on lift

Limit Your Movement

Throughout the detailing process, you will find yourself using many different tools and chemicals.  You will waste a lot of time walking to and from your cabinet each time you need to get something.  I recommend setting up a detailing cart that you can load up with all the products you need for a given task and move it around with you as you work.  Now your tools are always at your side.  This may save you more time than you realize!

ATD | Efficiency - Detailing cart with products

Stay Clean and Organized

Know where everything is without having to look for it.  It sounds simple, but surely we have all had that rare occasion when you just can’t find that brush or spray bottle that you need.  You’re sure you put it back on the shelf, but now it just isn’t there!  Create a designated spot for every item.  Our cabinets are organized by category – Interior products go on one shelf, paint correction products on another, wheel & tire products on another, and so on.

We take the time to clean up the shop after each day and put tools and chemicals back where they belong so we can always find them when we need them.

ATD | Efficiency - Split view, polishing

Have the Right Tools for the Job

From wheel brushes to buffers, you want to make sure you have all of the right tools to do your job to the best of your ability.  The worst feeling is getting into a situation where you have to scramble for ideas on how to complete a task with tools that aren’t meant for what you are doing.  Not only does this waste time, but it might also lead to poor results, so don’t take the risk!

Another way to be efficient with your tools is to have more than one when it makes sense.  For instance, we have many polishers fitted with various sized backing plates so there is no need to stop, remove a backing plate, install a backing plate, get a new pad, polish an area, reinstall the other backing plate… you get the idea.  You’re in the business of detailing vehicles, and you will maximize your income by doing so in a timely manner, so don’t be afraid to spend a little on additional tools if it will be helpful for your situation.

These are just a few ideas to help maximize your results in an efficient manner.  Do you have something specific that has changed the way you detail cars?  Do you have any other suggestions to improve other common detailing inefficiencies?  Please feel free to share them in the comments below!

Zach McGovern
Attention To Detailing Peoria
Peoria, IL

18 comments on Tips to Improve Your Detailing Efficiency

  1. Chris Deacy says:

    Where did you get the racks that screw into the side of your detailing cart? I checked to see if DI carried them and they suggested asking you since they do not carry them. Thanks

  2. Bob says:

    iPhone tracks my steps, 5-6 hours polishing was crazy to see my steps. I don’t recall the exact number, but most of it was walking to get supplies from a table. Add that time adds up over a few weeks and it is very appreciable. You have the Zach inspection lights, time for the Zach detailing cart mod. Not nearly as genius as the lights, but still useful adding hooks.

  3. Fritz Caudle says:

    I wear cargo shorts when detailing….spray bottles fit nicely into the deep bottom pockets, wipe on rags in a top pocket, wipe off microfiber in other top pocket, final detail towel in back pocket, detailing brush in another pocket, etc. You get the idea. That way I can keep moving without wasted time/steps to get what I need.

  4. Don Pavlica says:

    Neat article Zac. We sometimes need the vision and planning of a surgeon and their team. They have plenty of professionals involved in the surgical process. We are a team of one however. We observe the challenge of the moment, organize all of our needed supplies, then start , finish , wash up, and approve. Being that we do it all we should be paid more than the surgeons, right ?

  5. Samuel Lopez says:

    If you dont mind me asking what step do u use when doing a full interior Thanks

    • Hi Sam – this is a bit of a loaded question as it will depend on the condition of the vehicle. Perhaps I can do a more in-depth article regarding interior cleaning at some point in the future.

  6. Ron Ayotte says:

    Improving your efficiency when detailing starts with the prep before you start! I always refill any detailing chemicals that I use in spray bottles after I am done for the day so it can be ready first thing in the morning.

    I fill the steam cleaner with distilled water, empty the vacuum cleaner and the extractor. then sweep the floors in my garage (I work out of my residence)

    I wash the microfibers I use in three loads; the wax and polish removal microfibers in one load, glass in another and what I call the “grunge” microfibers in the third, then dry each load on the low temp/delicate setting (I have the old washer and dryer in the basement that I use for this). I then put them away in their appropriate bins.

    Doing this prep doesn’t take that long (other than the washing and drying of microfibers) ad makes the start of the day go easier

  7. Ronnie Buck says:

    I live in Maine, do you charge extra to clay bar a car and if so how much would you charge?

    • Hi Ronnie – you should charge accordingly for all of your services. We considered using a clay bar for surface decontamination to be a mandatory step for all vehicles undergoing a paint correction process, therefore the cost of the cleaning and decontamination was built into the cost of all of our enhancement services. If you consider the use of a clay bar to be a required part of your services, simply do the same. Build it into the overall cost of your package. The actual amount is up to you… charge as much for your services as your market can support.

  8. Anthony Asbury says:

    I’ve been detailing for years without the proper equipment but I’m finally able to purchase what I need….. What size generator and pressure washer would you recommend

    • I can’t really weigh in on the generator as I’ve never been mobile. As far as pressure washers go, you do not need much. I use a very inexpensive Ryobi electric pressure washer and it works very nice. For extended use I would recommend a commercial grade unit with a fully serviceable / rebuildable pump.

  9. DetailBoy40 says:

    I feel like it would be a lot faster to be able to polish an entire panel and then wipe off the polish. I know this is probably bot possible with some polishes that dry and become hard to remove but what about some of these new polishes? Meguiars new 210 polish actually says in the directions to do a whole panel then wipe.

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