Just like me and Robbie, you can run your own car detailing business. It's not as expensive to get started as you might think because a lot of the materials you need can be found around the house. Just make sure you get good quality polish, wax and dressing products. These are essential and well worth the money you will have to spend. Have a look in your car accessory shop. Meguiars, Mothers and Dodo Juice are just three companies that make excellent car-care products.
Once you have your equipment, you need just three things: Energy, good workmanship and CUSTOMERS.
A car that is poorly or only partially detailed can actually look worse that one that has never been touched! If you've read Super-Twins, you'll already know that good detailing is hard work and that you must have exceptional attention to detail. You're a teenage boy and are, therefore, capable of achieving just about anything so this shouldn't be a problem to you! Just make sure you set aside enough time to complete the entire job in one session. Adults like to see results - not half finished jobs. A full detailing may take three to five hours.
Okay, so you're right with the energy and good workmanship stuff, all you need now is a guinea-pi... err... I mean a customer. Rob and I started off doing jobs for family members. Have you ever come across a Dad, Mum, Aunt or Uncle who didn't want their car washed for them? Now, take a hint from someone who knows: You'll really turn people off if you ask for money up front! Let's face it, we know you're going to do a brilliant job, but they don't - so give them a chance to find out: offer to do it for nothing. When they see the excellent job you've done they might then offer you some money but, even if they don't, that's fine because your work will be advertised to everyone who sees the car and the next time it needs doing you can ask for money.
Think broader than family members, too. Remember that most neighbours, teachers and friends' parents also own cars. With a bit of luck, you'll soon have more work than you can handle, just like me and Rob. Here's some stuff you're going to need and a few tips that we've learnt along the way. Good luck:
You'll need 8-12 good-sized clean rags to do the the job.
Only use cotton rags. Old towels and T-shirts are excellent. One or two
will be used to dry the vehicle off, others for polishing, and still more for
the interior windows etc.
Brushes. Long handled soft
brush for washing exterior and wheels -
you can buy these in car accessory shops but if your budget is tight,
the type that are normally used with a dustpan are fine.
Paint brushes for engine bay cleaning.
Large, stiff art brushes (or an old toothbrush or nail brush)
for the interior and fine art brushes for paint touch-up.
Big wash bucket.
Spray bottle (fill them with glass cleaners, vinyl dressings, etc)
Synthetic chamois for washing and drying.
Sponges. Household ones for supermarkets are fine.
Vacuum cleaner. Wet and dry if you
can get one. The stronger the better.
Use Mum's if she'll let you!!
Vinyl and rubber dressing
Glass cleaner or methylated spirits.
Car wash detergent (use mild dish washing liquid if on a budget).
Steel wool (from supermarket)
for cleaning and shining metal engine parts and chrome.
(Rob and I bought some of this stuff after we'd saved up some of
our earnings. It's not essential, but it makes life a lot easier).
Steam cleaner. Can be used on engine bays and carpets.
Cotton wash mitts (from car accessory stores).
Bug/tar remover (use kerosene if you can't afford this).
Furniture polish for cars with genuine wooden dashes and door cappings.
Detailing the Engine
Engines can be tough to clean, especially today's cars with all their computer systems and hoses and stuff. It can be really hard to get in there with your hands!
Before your get started, cover any sensitive equipment with heavy-duty aluminium foil or plastic bags with rubber bands round them. If you're using a pressure washer don't spray them directly, you might blow them right off or blow a hole in the foil!
For at-home cleaning a pressure washer may help but isn't necessarily needed, a hose will do just fine. If you don't have a heavy duty degreaser, use kerosene. With the engine warm (not hot!) apply the kerosene to stubborn grease deposits before you wet it down - water will dilute the mix and reduce the cleaning strength. Use a pointy brush to get any hard deposits off the valve covers, etc... You may want to repeat this step a couple times.
Once you're satisfied with the degreasing and have rinsed well, start up the motor and let it run for a while with the bonnet down. The heat will evaporate a lot of the water. Use your vacuum cleaner or compressed air to blow off any remaining water. Use a rag to degrease the parts you covered earlier.
Use steel wool to clean and polish metal parts and vinyl/rubber dressing or tyre blackener for rubber hoses and plastic parts.
Washing the Car
Use a soft, CLEAN wash mitt, sponge or a very soft brush and a mild detergent. Don't use anything harsh!
First, hose the car down to remove the worst of the dirt and mud. Also remove any bug grime at this time using tar and bug remover or kerosene with a sponge. Clean greasy door locks with kerosene and a tooth brush and rinse off carefully.
The rims and under the wheel arches should be done first. The rims collect brake dust very easily so you'll need a small brush and a mild cleaner.
When washing the body, start from the top and work your way down. Rinse the vehicle a couple times as you work your way down. Always wash/detail a car in the shade and to a cool surface!
When drying the vehicle off, you can use a synthetic chamois to get the bulk of the water, but finish it off with soft cotton towels. You don't have to do a perfect drying job if you're planning to do the interior as well, it'll be dry by the time you're done. you just want to avoid any water beads from damaging the paint surface - especially of you have hard water.
When you're done washing and the car is mostly dry, apply rubber dressings or blackener to the tyres and bumpers. You can also treat plastic parts with vinyl dressing now.
Vacuuming The Interior
The interior is really where you make or break a detailing job. It has to be great looking. Most people don't realise how many nooks and crannies there are where dirt can build up!
If you're doing a full detail, wash and dry the car first, then move to the interior. This way the exterior is fully dried when you finish up the interior and ready to polish/seal/wax.
To start, you'll need to vacuum the car out. Get anything that's not a fixture out of the car, floor mats etc. A good wet/dry vacuum is ideal. While you're vaccuming have a pointy semi-firm brush at hand to get the gunk out of awkward spots. A firm bristled brush is good for stirring up the carpet matt so you can get most of the dirt out of the carpet. Don't worry about getting absolutely everything at first, you'll be vacuuming again after the shampoo.
Once you've vacuumed out the vehicle, use an all-purpose interior cleaner to get the stubborn stains off the vinyl etc ... Don't forget the steering wheel, this is where lot's of gunk builds up! Use the cleaner sprayed on a rag, or carpet shampoo, to get the headlining clean.
Shampooing The Interior
Once the car has been vacuumed, you're ready to shampoo. Ordinary household carpet shampoos work well in cars. Also, a stiff brush (e.g. toothbrush or nailbrush) is needed here as well. Mix in the shampoo with water, you'll want a lot of nice foam. The foam is what you'll use. Using the foam, start with the carpets on the driver's side, then the seats and don't forget to do any floor mats that you took out earlier, too. If the carpet isn't too dirty you don't have to scrub every square inch, just do the dirty areas. Also, you can buy fabric dyes that can be mixed with water in a spray bottle. For carpets that are sun faded, dyes can bring back some life.
With the shampooing complete, you have two options. One, you can vacuum up the shampoo residue which will pull up the dirt, or you can use a steam cleaner. Steam cleaners really pull up the gunk that's been imbedded in the fabric, but they'll leave the carpet slightly damp for a short while.
Applying The Vinyl and Leather Preservative
With the carpeting cleaned, it's time for the leather and vinyl. Use good quality vinyl and leather conditioner products and make sure you follow the instructions on the label carefully. Some vinyl conditioners will mark paintwork, cloth and clear lenses so be sure to apply using a rag, NOT a spray.
Cleaning The Windows - Streak Free!
Next, the windows. This is straight forward. You can use a commercial glass cleaner or methylated spirits. Don't spray directly on the window, but onto a rag. All the little droplets will mess up the nice shiny dash! Have a dry cloth ready to wipe it dry. Coat the windows thoroughly with cleaner. You can even use newspaper to wipe it dry, the abrasiveness acts like a polish and it won't leave any streaks.
You only need to do this if the paint is oxidised (lost its shine) or hasn't been waxed for a long time. Polish removes oxidation, but can also be used to remove minor grazes, marks and blemishes from the paintwork. We had to do this the first time we detailed Robbie's Mini.
A minor scratch that you can't feel with your fingernail can usually be polished out, but you should never polish too hard in one spot as you may cut through the paint and make the problem worse. Older cars, like the Mini are painted with acrylic paint and this can oxidise quite badly. Newer cars are usually painted with two-pack, which adds a clear coat over the colour coat. These don't lose their shine so easily but if you do need to polish one, make sure you use a polish that is suitable for clear-coat.
When polishing work on a small area at a time, using a circular motion.
The car will look lovely and shiny when you have finished using polish, but polish does nothing to protect the paint or maintain the shine. For this you need a good quality wax sealant.
Large scratches and paint damage should be attended to only by a professional spray-painter, but you can buy touch-up paints for most car colours in accessory shops and these are ideal for repairing minor stone chips and scratches (the car will have a plate somewhere - usually under the bonnet - that lists the paint colour). Spray a little paint into the lid of the can and use a toothpick or fine art brush to apply to the chip or scratch. Build up the paint to the surrounding level by doing this several times. When the final layer is dry and hard, give it a good polish.
You can also spray the paint onto out-of the way areas such as wheels, valances, sills and under wheel arches, but be very careful if you do this: Always try to spray the entire panel or a "join" will probably be visible in the paint surface. You will probably also need to use a special abrasive polish (cutting compound) to give your spray work a shiny finish like the rest of the car.
A wax sealant will seal the paintwork from moisture damage, protect it and make it shiny. It is all you need to do to keep paintwork in good condition. Only apply wax to a cool surface. A hot surface causes rapid evaporation of the wax and cause it to bond to paint leaving nasty streak marks. Pre-dampen your applicator pad or rag before waxing and smear the wax on thinly using a circular motion. Don't leave the wax on for too long before buffing (polishing) it off. You need a soft cotton cloth for buffing - an old t-shirt is perfect. You can also buy a lambs-wool buff that fits a power drill. This may help you to finish the job more quickly, but hand buffing is just as effective. If you get some streak marks, go over the surface with a damp cloth before buffing it.
Tips And Tricks
Most newer cars can get by with a high-quality one step wax, but cars that haven't been waxed in a while need much more TLC.
Remove any excess wax or polish from cracks and emblems using stiff paint or art brush.
Avoid detailing in the sun, especially on a hot surface.
You can wax the side and rear windows if you want (NOT the windscreen), and don't forget door jambs/surrounds and the underside of the bonnet.
Break the car down into 6-8 equal sections. Apply the polish/sealer/wax to one section at a time before moving on to the next. This let's you concentrate your efforts on small areas at a time. Also, make certain you're doing all this in the shade to a cool surface, the same goes for washing.
Chrome polish can be purchased from accessory stores, if you need it, but cleaning with steel wool, followed by waxing and buffing usually does the job just as well.
A commercial dusting brush is EXCELLENT for getting off the dust that some products leave behind, not to mention very minor normal dust settlement. Don't use it instead of washing the car, though - you'll only ruin the duster and scratch the paint.