To begin with, a full, proper, and genuine exterior detail starts with a wash to remove dirt, debris, and other large contaminates on the vehicle. To do this, a pH-neutral soap is used in conjunction with proper technique to avoid additional scratching or marring of the vehicle’s paint. A foam-cannon is sometimes used in a pre-wash procedure to aid in preventing additional damage to the vehicle. If the vehicle is going to be polished, any existing waxes or sealants are removed during this process.
After the vehicle has been completely washed, the next process in a proper detail is to clay the paint. Claying the paint removes contaminates that a wash cannot and that would otherwise affect the results of polishing or waxing the paint. When you run a hand over paint that has been clayed, it feels smooth like glass instead of gritty and rough. A light wash follows a clay job to remove any clay residues or lubricant. This leaves the paint ready for polishing or waxing.
Now that the paint is completely clean it can be polished to remove scratches and imperfections and buffed to a high gloss finish. This procedure can have multiple steps using different polishes, depending on the condition of the paint. Different polishes can be used to control the amount of gloss or the amount of depth to the shine of the paint, depending on the type of paint (i.e. pearl, candy, tri-coats, etc.) and the color. This is typically the most time-intensive process (5-50 man hours) of a proper detail, and the area where professional training and experience have the greatest influence on results.