Building on from last weeks instalment, I am writing the second part of the July Detailing Digest to include a product review, another case study and some anecdotal thoughts of a man who spends too much time thinking. I intend to structure the blog as a monthly review, split into several parts written throughout the month. So let's get on with the product review.
This week saw me do a much needed stock refresh from various suppliers. Here's my order from Liquid Elements UK, there is something to be said about new full bottles of products. A nice little carry case features to help move around the car with my paint depth guage, scangrip lights and other polishing paraphernalia.
I am forever researching the latest and greatest products in car care in order to continually increase the quality of my workmanship. If you are not moving forwards you might as well make a conscious effort to go backwards. There is an old tale that Enzo Ferrari told the press that it was the driver who was to thank for their Formula 1 success, but behind closed doors stated that it was the car that takes the credit. My personal opinion where detailing is concerned is that it is both the professional and the inventory that lend to a job well done; a good set of products are useless in the hands of someone who does not know what they are doing, and even the world's best detailer would need decent apparatus to do his or her thing at their very best.
You may be expecting my first review to be about a polishing compound or a wax, or even a coating. But no actually, this review is indeed for Krystal Kleen Detail's new product Kleenthru. What does it Kleen thru, you ask? It fills the gap in the market for a maintenance product that prevents snow foam lances from becoming clogged up with detergent build up and limescale.
I must admit that I am fairly harsh with my foam lances, I run bodywork protective shampoo's and rinse aid products through them as well as simple snow foams, which have evidently coated the internals of my lance. To make things worse, I run stronger concentrations of snow foam to get round this as a shortcut to dismantling them and giving a thorough clean, a negative spiral so to speak. The resulting ailment is that I no longer cover cars in excitement, and a white dribble limps out the end of my pipe instead. This hasn't mattered too much, as I was using the Gilmour Foamaster hose attachment as a back up.
Following instructions I filled an inch or so in the bottle with Kleenthru, and ran it through the lance until empty. This didn't really achieve much, but consulting with the instructions lead me to leave a 10:1 mixture with water in a bucket and leave the lance to dwell overnight. On carrying this out, I still found the lance to be no better. This perhaps, was not the blue pill for my neglected lance afterall.
However, I have a second, not-so neglected lance that I tried this on and it managed to bring it back to life. It takes patience, but it does work. See image below.
The lesson to be learned here is that prevention is better than cure, just like defects in paint, and that this product should be used as intended to flush through once a week or so to prevent the lance becoming totally fubar'd. Would I buy this product again? Yes. I still have some left, and for my new lance, I shall certainly use this to ensure that it does not fall into disrepair like the two good servants of the cause that preceded it.
Case Study #2.
July's second case study isn't actually about a car, I shall do that for part three. Instead, I thought I would post the results of a survey I published online asking people seven questions about the valeting and detailing industry. The survey was shared by other professionals around the UK to ensure a good spread of data from around the country.
A quick debreif.
Q1. Most people who answered had already had a service, perhaps owing to a more informed answer for the following question.
Q2 and Q3. The majority were prepared to pay around £30 for a service that is percieved to take 1 hour.
Q4. A full day of paintwork detailing happily commands over £200 from most of the participants. How much they may be prepared to pay may depend on their location in the country and if this is a mobile or premises business. Suprisingly, people from Glasgow were happier to pay more than Londoners, which contradicts common preconception. Also, those who were happier to pay more liked a mobile service just as much as a premises one.
Q5. The strong majority for higher prices is lost slightly where messy cars are concerned. Strangely enough, these types of jobs are more difficult and less pleasant to take on.
Q6. Without giving away too much, the correct answer here is in the minority.
Q7. People like both; a result as close as Brexit.
Aside from being out there and doing the job, one has to consider the possibility of any given situation presenting itself. Working on a mobile basis out in the public domain, the occurence of being approached by passersby is relatively high. Their approach is usually one of intrigue into what you are doing, followed by an eerily predictable "excuse me mate, what do you charge?". Whilst meaning well, I can't help but imagine some kind of Terminator scenario where they await in multitude somewhere in another dimension waiting to spawn near an unsuspecting vehicle detailer. I don't mean to sound brash, as there are some potential customers out there. My reason for approaching this subject of how to answer said question is one of thinking outside the box, for three reasons.
Firstly, the likelyhood is that the inquistor has only just seen you, so they won't be aware of how long you have been working on your customer's car, or have much understanding of what process you have gone through. They may just be walking past to notice you giving the paintwork a final wipe down for presentation with a finishing spray product thinking that is all you have done, not fully aware of the hours of decon and machine polishing you have worked to arrive at the shiny car they are looking at. This creates a rift in the inquistor's expectation of what they think you might "charge" compared to what you, ahem, "charge". PS I hate that word. Giving a headline figure of the price for the job you are working on often results in unpleasant surprise and impolite remarks which then escalates into bad feeling for both sides. Any chance of them wanting to book their car in are now diminished as they struggle to comprehend how a such a simple "wash and polish" could cost three figures. The key to this one is to get the inquisitor to understand the process and benefits of what exactly you have done to the car, and give them chance to shy away if they can conclude that it may be a bit more specialist than they might feel comfortable with.
Secondly, the inquisitor may not even be interested in having their car done, but simply are your customer's nosey neighbor who wants to pry on what amount of money your customer is spending. This is none of the inquisitor's business, and it is a professional's duty of care to uphold customer confidentiality in high regard. A similar scenario is being approached in the pub whilst I am enjoying myself a pint, it is purely for gossip.
The third reason is perhaps the most sinister in nature. I cast my mind back to a job carried out last year, in a housing estate of inhabitants with questionable quality of good hearted demeanor, shall we say. My customer was lovely though. However, she noticed me being approached by hooded passersby asking the catchphrase "excuse me mate, how much do you charge?" and called me to one side. She said "I hope you haven't told them" to which I hadn't. Further explaination for her concern was that it was not out of character for some of the local youths to pry on tradespeople, knowing full well that they are about to be paid at the end of the day, follow them down the road into some kind of road trap and mug them. Charming.
So how do you approach these propositions? I came up with a simple answer that saves face, keeps customer confidentiality in check, and hopefully stops me from getting mugged or again hearing "yow'm the expensive car washa ay ya" in the pub.
I like to give a business card, stating that the website has different service packages and whatever service I have done for my customer may not be the right one for them. Asking them to look online gets people to engage, think about what kind of care their vehicle needs and possibly choose a service to suit their budget. An interesting note to finish part two on, is that my website hosting app tells me where visitors are directed from, and very little have typed out the url so far this month; so I've been approached by nosey neighbors.
Rather than continue to spam social media with pictures of valeting and detailing work, I've decided to collate everything into monthly blog post instalments with an itinery of new tools and gadgets, product reviews, case studies and my thoughts on the detailing profession and how business is going.
After a much needed break at the end of June on the back of working 16 days in a row with almost as many 8-9pm finishes, it was time to get back to work for all the jobs booked in throughout July. Perhaps though, I made a mistake in going back to work the day after landing, as jet lag soon crept up on me - by the following Tuesday I was feeling dizzy, sick and exhausted which caused me to reschedule the second job of the day! Something that I would otherwise never do. Lesson learned; don't overdo it, no matter how much customers don't want to wait that little bit longer for an appointment.
In an ongoing attempt to constantly improve the quality of the services, and trim down wasted time to ensure that I work smart and consistently achieve my target hourly rate, I am always looking to add new tools to the inventory. This month, I gained the Flex PE 14-2 rotary machine polisher to add to the roster of polishing machines, as well as a water purifier system.
The Flex PE 14-2 has filled the void in my toolset for a machine that is fast, efficient and has excellent cutting and finishing abilities, as well as offering minimal user fatigue with it's lightweight and ergonomical design. Don't get me wrong, the Flex VRG 3401 forced drive dual action has been a priceless servant over the years being my go-to machine for pretty much everything, and still is, but there are some jobs where you need to "mow down" heavy defects productively, and also jewel the paint with a fine finishing polish. By "jewelling", I am talking about the method used in my Gloss Boost service package, or the final step in a Show Car Correction. This is the action of using a soft finishing pad, and a fine grade polish, setting the machine to slow speed, exerting no extra pressure onto the panel besides the weight of the machine and working the section slowly. This method produces a deep, lustrous shine. The Flex VRG can just about do these things, but this new rotary does it better whilst minimising user fatigue. Gone are the days of being shaken to pieces every day with the rough action of the VRG, resulting in constant back ache and tiredness. The VRG still has it's place though. Where Enhancements are concerned in which you need a 'proper' single step machine polish where the amount of cut and gloss achieved are in equilibrium without the risk of inflicting holograms like a rotary would in this method. So it is paramount to have an inventory of polishing machines that all have their strengths for different situations, as a pro detailer will face different types of paintwork (soft or hard, sticky or otherwise) and degree of paintwork defect severity. I would go into my smaller, more fiddly machines, but I had better stop here before I start waffling on too much and produce a polishing machine inventory review long enough to challenge "War and Peace"... Despite what people may say, I'm not a detailing anorak I assure you.
Anyway, moving onto the second new doohicky, it's a Spectrum Water DI unit. In other words, it connects inline to the hose pipe before the pressure washer or end attachment, to remove calcium deposits from the water. In the West Midlands we have high calcium content in the water, which leave water spots and etching if left to dry on paint and glass. The time spent air drying or buffing cars dry where calcium is present is wasteful, and also an increased risk of paintwork marring is accelerated if the little particles are forced across and into the paint when wiping. This device saves time in the way that perfectly pure water can in theory be left to dry on it's own, enabling time to be spent on other tasks on the car. The main downside, or trade-off, is that this is now another ongoing cost as the resin filter medium needs to be changed every 1000 litres or so, as well as taking up extra space in the van.
Case Study #1.
One of the works carried out this month was this BMW X5, I had last worked on this vehicle in October 2016. The customer booked in stating that whatever the car needed, to just do it. Of course, I never carry out extra work before breifing the customer, and always give an option in these cases incase payment issues arrise when a higher invoice is produced than expected. I have chosen this one as a case study as I have a strong suspicion that this car had not been washed since my last visit. The resulting issue was brake dust that had quite literally baked itself onto the alloys presenting as a cakey, corroded and sticky hot mess that required multiple strong product applications and aggitations, with clay barring - and that was just the wheels!
The bodywork suffered similarly, so after a pre-wash using Meguiars D101 and a good jet wash down, I used the Gilmour Foamaster II foam gun to lather a panel at a time with Code Clean Decontaminate foam; a product with a bit of bite whilst lubricating the panel during wash mitt contact to reduce surface marring from contact. Such cases like this can can easily end up in swirls and scratches if washed incorrectly as the dirt grinds into the paint.
After cleaning in this method, the paint and glass still felt very rough. Sounding like sandpaper when wiped. This is the result of fallout and polution becoming encrusted into the surface which can happen when a vehicle is subject to long wash intervals. Further decontamination including clay barring the paintwork, wheels and glass left a clean surface ready for polishing. Despite being "clean" the effects of the contaminants had left the finish lacking lustre, so consulting with the customer gave me the go ahead to spend a couple of hours with the new Flex rotary tool mentioned earlier jewelling the paint to restore gloss levels. Koch Chemie P2 featured, a polish with a built in wax, and Liquid Elements Paint Freezer added to the pad to boost up the P2 wax, before finishing off with Feynlab QD for added protection. The interior was addressed and a quick go over of the engine bay finished the job.
A common misconception amoungst the public is that a succinctly (and borderline offensively) worded "wash and polish" only takes a couple of hours. This visit taken nearly 11 hours, and being as before and after pictures do not quite tell the true story of the hard work, blood, sweat and tears - I often cut my hands on sharp fittings and my eyes water as I approach exhaustion - involved I thought I would point this out during your perusal of the finished article.
We lead busy lives, and washing the car can often become the last thing on the agenda, as the customer has even admitted, though I really hope the car will get the odd wash now and then to prevent the necessity of such invasive procedures being carried out again sooner than they need to be.
Enjoy the pictures, and stay tuned for pt.2
Here is a case study of an Enhancement recently undertaken on a BMW 635d. On the morning of my arrival the customer informed me that it had gone without any proper polishing for a long time, and had made frequent visits to the roadside car wash; oh dear!
The first thing to do on any service is to talk to the customer (they can reveal many clues about the vehicle, and of course their expectations) and follow to inspect the car's condition. You can see by the below pictures that the vehicle lacked gloss, in fact it almost looked Charcoal in colour rather than Black. A quick look at the paint under my Scangrip Sunmatch 2 inspection light revealed all manner of wash marring, scratches and blurring.
Before contemplating polishing, a thorough decontamination must first occur. This will include the usual pre-wash, cleaning of wheels, little brushes in doorshuts, snow foam, two bucket wash method, iron and tar removal, and clay barring amoungst others!
Now almost ready to machine polish, a final paintwork inspection is done before taking paintwork depth measurements to indentify if a) there are any thin areas to be cautious of and b) indentify any resprayed areas which are generally thicker than the rest of the paint. Handy tip: the word "polish" comes from the Latin word "polire" which means "to make smooth".
A single stage machine polish is carried out with machines suitable for the various contours and curves of the vehicle. Isopropanol is used to wipe away any residues to reveal the true extent of the polishing work. The aim is to make use of precious time in one day to remove defects to a 70% correction rate, and bring out a deep gloss. To achieve as close to a 90-100% correction rate it requires days, not hours, of various grade polishing processes and it is imperative to be carried out indoors. The Enhancement is the perfect "detail on your driveway" for those on a budget and can't be without the car for more than one day.
You can see by the pictures that a dramatic difference is made, and once standing back to look at the car it is clear to see a marked improvement over the beginning picture. The paintwork is then protected with a Ceramic based detailing spray sealant to give around 3 months protection, with all other areas of the exterior addressed appropriately. An interior clean is completed to finish the job. We now have one car that is the best part of a decade old, looking shinier than most 3 year old cars on the road!
Having spoken to fellow Professional Valeters & Detailers in the local area as of late, we are seeing an influx of calls for "end of lease" valeting to cars due to go back to dealership on very short notice, of which we are finding hard to fit in. Potential customers are being batted back and forth between ourselves in the hopes that one of us has a cancellation slot in one or two days time.
Considering that spring is upon us and we will be hitting peak demand for our time, most good valeters or detailers will have diary lead times of at least 3 or 4 weeks in advance. I would like to point out the only solution is to plan ahead. If you have a lease car that you know is heading back next month, it's best to book in now rather than face the frustration of not being able to find someone last minute.
Imagine planning for your child's birthday - hopefully you wouldn't leave purchasing the presents, cards and cake to the evening before!
This also applies to weddings, car shows and so forth - get yourself the peace of mind that you are in someone's schedule sooner rather than later! If you choose to book with myself, all prices can be found at www.detailedbyandrew.com/services
I thought I'd go back over this post to update on real life situations planning ahead for professional car detailing.
Last year, August turned out to be the busiest month for my business - at this point I had a waiting list of around 4 weeks with absolutely no chance of fitting any other bookings in unless somebody else cancelled.
One phrase I hear a lot is "we'll phone you when the weather picks up", but when that time comes around, everyone else will have phoned and booked already, leaving little availability in my diary.
Planning ahead was effective for one particular customer. Knowing that he and his fiancé were getting married in August, he pre-booked in March (5 months in advance!) for his Jaguar XF-S to have an Enhancement Detail carried out the day before the big day. This particular car was covered in swirls and defects leaving it with a dull appearance in the sun - this just wasn't going to be good enough to feature as a bridesmaids' car! Had this been left to the last minute to arrange, it wouldn't have been Detailed By Andrew getting the car ready for the wedding, that's for sure. Getting these things planned and booked in advance can take away a little bit of the stress from life's situations where there is already enough to think about.
Recently, I received a phone call at 7pm on a Friday night from somebody in desperate need of valeting/detailing work to be done the next day. Sadly they had no luck with a number of other companies they had tried to ring, and even offered to pay me over the odds if I cancelled my pre-booked customers to accommodate them. This was never going to happen and just would not have been fair to my customers who had booked in advance fair and square, so sadly the despair and search for a solution continued with further phone calls to other pro detailers.
So, am I trying to cause panic and make you book? Not at all, but I do advise that you take into consideration that as soon as the weather is a little less baltic, people in my trade are going to be receiving bookings thick and fast with waiting times for an appointment going into weeks rather than days, and I don't want anybody to be faced with dilemmas going unsolved such as weddings, end-of-lease car returns, pre(or post)-holiday dirty cars, cars that are up for sale - ad nauseum...
One thing I am encouraging with existing customers on the care plan (that is Service Cleans between the initial Enhancement/Correction and the next Maintenance Detail spruce up) is to pre-book the next 2 or 3 visits whilst I am there. That way, they are never left out.
Why your car needs regular upkeep to maintain it's condition.
If I were to show you two gardens side by side, one with luscious green grass and the other withered away with brown grass, which one would you water and treat?
After some contemplation, you might decide that the brown grass needs to be watered. Your reasoning is that it may be to bring it back to life again.
However, what happens if you fail to water the healthy garden? It will no doubt wither away like the brown grass.
Put simply, both would need the correct treatment. And the same is relevant to a cars physical condition and appearance. When you go to a valeter or a detailer to bring your car back to A1 condition, intensive work will be undertaken to get it looking so. Then, it will need interim re-visits to keep it looking that way - otherwise it will end up looking like the withered garden further down the line.
Whatever your car's condition may be, be sure to get in touch to see what can be done for you.