My pretty quick detail process


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Hey all, 

I'd like to share my updated detail process, may be of use to some of you. I'm a professional detailer and love efficiency. I work for a used car dealer, so I need to be quick to earn some money! Luckily, it doesn't have to be perfect, but it does need to look nice! After listening to Yvan Lacroix ALOT, I lost a lot of time in my process:

I start off with walking around and spraying any glue, tar and sap with T.AR. Remover. Then I take a blowgun and a damp ONR/OPP mix towel and use that combo on buttons, emblems, cracks, vents and such. First you lay the towel over a vent for example, blow with the gun into the towel, remove towel and blow again. I then remove the matt and blow under and besided the seat and the carpet. The matts and carpet I hit with the Dyson V15 detect. After this it's time for the wash.

I spray Optimum Power Clean 1:2 on the wheels and wheel wells, trim, engine bay, badges, sills, hinges and window frames. If needed, the rims get acid or a fallout remover. Also if needed, I brush the wheels and the engine bay. I then pressure wash everything, starting with the engine bay and avoid the Power Clean drying anywhere. After that, I wash the car with ONR and, if needed, follow by claying with a fallout remover.

After this, I proceed on the interior again. Starting off with an Upholstery clean on all seats using the Nathan Flannal Rotary Seat Cleaning Method. I use a DeWalt Rotary, Optimum Power Clean 1:6 on stains, and foam Optimum Carpet & Fabric Clean & Protect 1:6 on everything. I wipe the seats and any overspray off with a TRC Double Twistress. Then, with the damp ONR/OPP towel from before, I wipe everything down and vacuum with a brush attachment. Where needed I use a crevice attachment. I dry the sills with another towel. Perform these steps one seat/boot at the time, starting at the front passenger's seat and ending at the driver's. I rarely use Power Clean on hard interior surfaces anymore.

Then it's time to start polishing. I basically only use the Rupes Blue Wool pads on a Zentool 21e2. I might use Intensive/Hyper Polish for a one step, or Hyper Compound followed by Hyper Polish for a 2-step. Most of the time I 2-step the hood and 1-step the rest. After polishing, I dress exterior plastics with Optimum Protect plus with a towel (and a sponge) and dress the tires. Then I wipe off the polish residue with a ONR damp towel and dry with Car Wax.

Final step is glass and glossy interior surfaces. Use a TRC FTW towel damp from ONR and follow up with a dry one (or waffle weave) .

That's how I currently detail cars! It takes me around 2-2.5 hours and am hoping to get that further down still!

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  • 4 months later...
  • 2 weeks later...

For someone who is just starting out this is very helpful.

Currently I'm doing basic ONR and Opti-Seal work for a variety of friends and family relying on tips to help pay for more equipment. It's going really well and is so simple once you get a basic understanding of the product and how to use it.

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@BlackLabelDetail great to hear it's of use. In the meantime I've updated my process a bit, so maybe it would be fun to update here soon. I think it's pretty similar to Optimum's recommended process now.

Basically: Blow down interior, Wheel Cleaner on rims, power Clean on hinges, tires and gas cap, Power Clean 10:1 everywhere, brush wheels and engine bay, then rinse off. In less then 10 minutes, I ONR wash and clay with ferrex and Ultra clay towel. Rinse and let it try inside. In most instances, I don't get noticeable marring, except for some repaintes panels. Always polishes out easily and leaves a smooth paint.

Then just a wipedown with ONR damp towel and the blow gun trick. Dry sills and clean seats with Optimum Carpet 1:3, a Microfiber Scrub mitt in a bucket of water and dry with a towel. Anything ONR didn't get, I hit with the scrub mitt and Power Clean 5:1. The a quick vacuum with a very powerfull vacuum, with the Tornador Velocity vac if needed.

Polishing still with Zentool 21e2, Rupes Blue Wool and Intensive or Hyper Polish (preferably, NO dusting EVER) on speed 4 (5 if I need to hit a tight curve on an angle). Deep scratches get a quick hit with 2000 grit. It takes about 3 sprays of polish per panel and I clean the pad with a qouple sprays of Power Clean and Lake Country 4000 Pad washer filled with ONR. Wipe off with ONR wet towel and  Sonax BSD as a drying aid. Opti-Bond gun on tires and wheel wells, clean glass with ONR damp towel and dry with Double Twistress.

I think the biggest cheatcode is Optimum's polishes. The amount of correction in such a short amount of time, with an impecable finish, is absolutely incredible. Cleans up trim and never stains it probably the biggest advantage to competitors. And the fact it's a spray saves me a lot of time and effort. ONR saves me an incredible amount of time as well, easy and awesome results on glass, always. Quick but very effective interior cleaner, saves a bit of time in washing while being saver and getting better results, and makes polish removal easier. Then the way I clean seats as mentioned above was also a game-changer for me. Easy, fast and awesome results.


I detailed this 2015 Focus station yesterday. Completely neglected and weathered on the exterioir, interior pretty dirty. Took me 2.5 hours, and polishing with Hyper Polish gave a (near perfect result). Maybe the slightest bit of haze, but no micro-marring.

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Oh and regarding speed;

Yvan Lacroix claims one-step polishing exterior detail would take his business around an hour. For a wash, clay and wax it's 20 minutes. After about 300 cars experience, I'm at 1.5 hours for washing, claying and polishing, and 30 minutes for wash, clay and wax. That does include engine bay and door sills, which I'm unsure Yvan Laxroix includes.

So I've got some more optimization to do! 

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  • 2 months later...

I shot a quick demo of my polishing process. I guess it's pretty close to the Optimum way. Using the Zentool 21e2, orange waffle pad, Hyper Polish and the Lake Country Pad Washer. I'm getting pretty close to the 1-hour mark for an exterior detail. Maybe this is of use to someone, or maybe someone can give some tips! 

The space I'm working in is very limited, the floor is rough and I was tired. Normally I use a rac-a-tac, but I can't here. The car was already beautiful and these passenger doors were recently repainted, but the car definitely benefitted A LOT from this quick polishing. The owner was ecstatic and so was I.

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I like it.  Not analysed the video but just looking at the front passenger door, you appeared to move past it about 4 or 5 times.  By processes and efficiency standards this is quite high.  Have a look for spaghetti diagrams as a tool for recording motion to help visualise the amount of physical motion.   You don't need anything fancy, pen and paper works very well but do it for every aspect of the exterior detail and you may be surprised at how often you have walked around the car.  Excessive motion is considered to be a waste, i.e. it does not add value and should try to be kept to a minimum. 

It is extremely common for people to think that moving around is productive work but it is often not the case .

The less walking you do, the quicker the polishing will be 

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Hey @Lowejackson, thanks for the reply! I've read your posts on LEAN processing with great interest, so very nice to have you commenting on this post. You are very correct in that I walk around a lot, which I should minimize. It doesn't help that this cramped garage isn't my normal workspace and I threw my tools and products wherever there was space haha. I need to have a trolley so I can keep everything with me. It would be fun, and probably most efficient to, like you said, complete a panel at a time.

For interior detailing this is the same. Right now I'm at going around the car at least three times for the interior, which should be two.

Thanks for the advice on spaghetti diagrams, I'll have a look into that! Once I fine-tuned the process some more, I'll upload a new video. Would be fun to compare the two processes side-to-side.

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There can be a lot of useful lessons in working in a small space, it forces someone to think about where things are and how easy (or not) they are to reach and use.  I find it fascinating the number of detailers who want to move to larger premises as they think they have have run out of room when all they need to do is organise the work space more efficiently.  Having lots of space just means someone has to walk further to get to anything.

Small tweaks can make a huge difference, save 10 minutes a day with some tweaks and this will equate to an extra free week a year.

It is a brilliant idea to make a new video and compare it to the old one.

Just a quick clarification on my point about adding value.  Adding value is defined as all the moments someone is actively transforming the product eg washing or polishing, all the moments not doing this are non value added time.  It is a little more complex than this but is a useful definition to demonstrate how much of what we do does not add value.

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I missed your point of adding value in the first post @Lowejackson, but that totally alligns with my ideals. I want my processes to be as efficient as possible to guarantee the best value for money for my customers and maximizing profits. That's why I love Optimum's polishing process. Just one pad, easy and very quick pad washing, and the spray polishes save me at least 10 seconds every time I use them. Right now it doesn't get much more efficient, unless some new polishing technology comes around, or I get a robotic arm to the polishing for me! Also, saving 10 minutes a day equaling a free week a year is astounding.

I'll have a think about making the most of this workspace I have. It is possible to park most cars (this CX-5 was a snug fit) and still walk around it and open all the doors. So it should be adequate. It's a good idea to make the most out of what I already have. And if I can make it work here, I can probably make it work anywhere! Maybe I do need to even out the floor a bit haha.

Thanks so much for the response and advice! Really helps me a lot.

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