Detailing - November 2001

Out of Sight...
Keep Inconspicuous Areas in Mind
by Jeffrey Stevens

Just how "detailed" should a detail be? When someone finally decides to make the investment to have his or her vehicle detailed, what exactly does that individual expect? What does detailed mean to him or her - or better yet, to you?

The answers to these questions are going to vary from customer to customer and from detail shop to detail shop. Each individual may have a different vision of what a car or truck should look like when it's ready to be picked up at the end of the day.

Likewise, every detail shop will have its vision. Hopefully these visions, if not the same, are at least similar. Be sure to explain your services in detail to customers before they leave the store to head off any problems that may arise when they pick up the finished product.


On a general detail, a good power wash, rub/wax, interior shampoo, vinyl leather cleaning, and window cleaning is a minimum standard. If a customer appears to be demanding and asks endless questions, it usually suggests that a second visit out to their vehicle is appropriate. Bring a pen, pad, and the customer. Explain to the customer what is included with your regular services but inform him that you can go to any lengths he desires. This is a great time to up-sell or sell extra services. Look at this situation as an opportunity, not a picky customer. Start writing down the extras he wants to include. Once finished, let him know you would be happy to meet his needs but since it will involve extra time and materials, there will obviously be an extra charge.


There are many inconspicuous and sometimes forgotten areas that the customer might add to his wish list. Some of these areas, in fact, deserve the attention of the detailer regardless of whether the customer makes a special request. A list of such areas could be endless but may include the following:

Glove Box
Wipe out the glove box and dress the vinyl. Put personal and important papers in a plastic bag. Many shops will have plastic bags with their business name and logo imprinted on it to remind customers where to return for their future car care needs. It doesn't hurt to drop a business card or company brochure in the bag either!

Door Jambs/Trunk Gutter
While most of us power wash these areas, you might, in addition, try some rubber tire dressing on the rubber boot inside the door, the trunk rubber seal, as well as the protective boot cover on the pin switch. Be sure to wax the gutter area in the trunk. It will provide an added professional touch.

Under Door Handles
These areas often go unnoticed but they are often the most abused. Simply opening and closing the car doors several times a day will cause massive scratching. A little polishing compound and a towel will wipe them right out.

Heater/Air Vents
This, again, is an area we all regularly clean. Be sure, however, to slide the vents from side to side and up and down, cleaning after every adjustment. If you don't follow this procedure, the first time the customer adjusts them back to his or her personal preference, the areas you missed will be clearly visible. The use of a steamer works miracles in these areas.

Steering Wheel
Yes, I know you clean this area, too. But how about moving it up and down? If you don't do this as you clean and dress this area, the difference between clean and dressed section and the area you missed will jump out the moment the customer adjusts the steering wheel to a preferred position.

Spare Tire
Do you really want to surprise a customer? Clean the spare tire well - and even dress it! This is something they may never expect and might not even see until the day they use the spare.

Gas Cap
Power wash and, when dry, spray on some rubber tire dressing.

Door Seals
Rubber tire dressing really adds to the appearance of this area and will make a favorable impression on the customer when the door is opened. Something as simple as a rubber door seal, when cleaned and dressed, says "quality job."

Back Seats
Pulling out the back seat on most vehicles is a quick and simple operation. Just a simple push in on the bottom of the seat or removing one or two bolts will allow you to lift the seat right out. Once removed, it will allow a more even detail of areas such as carpets and side vinyl. You may also find the source of a bad odor!

Sunvisors and Armrests
On many vehicles, these items have slide out or drop down plastic areas that will need to be cleaned and dressed. These could include slide-out cup holders, holders for sunglasses, garage-door openers, etc.

License Plate
If you are already removing and cleaning behind the vehicle's license plate, you are definitely a dedicated and service-minded detailer who takes pride in a professional job done well. It's an obscure spot to be sure, but high-end detailers will make performing this procedure a rule rather than an exception,

Cigarette Lighter
Pull the lighter out and tap it lightly to dislodge built up tobacco residue. Place the vac over the dash-side of the opening to pull up any debris that may be lying inside the bottom. Never put any metal object or cleaner in the opening as these can place a dead short across the
contacts, blowing a fuse or causing possible electrical damage.

These are a few of the areas that from time to time may be neglected in a detail. Sometimes you'll have
customers requesting attention to such out-of-the-norm areas that it makes you wonder what in the world they are thinking. One customer we came across was upset because we didn't extract and shampoo the
two baby seats that were in the car. And we thought we were being considerate when we vacuumed and wiped them down!

Let us know of the strangest customer request you've encountered or complaint you've heard because of an obscure or strange area that wasn't detailed. We'll award one each of our famous "detailing dog" beer mugs and wineglasses for the most unusual anecdote we receive. E-mail yours to

Jeff Stevens is founder and president of Stevens Auto Glaze and Security Inc. and Stevens Car Care Products Inc., which manufactures, distributes, and sells detailing equipment and supplies as well as auto security systems. You can visit these companies at

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