The state of the vehicle detailing art

by David Milloy

Cleaning a car is easy, isn’t it? After all, it only takes a bucket of water, some shampoo, a sponge and a bit of elbow grease and the job’s a good ‘un.

Or is it?

The reality is, of course, that getting a car to looks its absolute best takes rather more than throwing a bucket of water over it and then giving it a quick polish. In fact, there’s so much to it that it’s even possible to obtain a City & Guilds Qualification in Vehicle Detailing.

As it happens, Andrew Duff, owner of Ayr-based Studio 16, has the highest level (5) City & Guilds qualification in the subject: “I was the first person to gain this qualification, and as far as I know I’m still the only person to have done so. It’s an involved course and took me 18 months to complete.”

For Andrew, the journey towards becoming a professional detailer began when he was 17.

“I’ve always been a petrolhead,” he says. “I started out by looking after my own car as a teenager. I was keen to have it looking its best, particularly when I started taking it to shows. In time, this led to me starting my own business, initially as a mobile detailer and then as a high-end detailer working from my own premises.”

Having reached the top of his profession, Andrew is keen to pass on his knowledge and skills to others. As he puts it, “Anyone with a van and some basic equipment can set up a vehicle detailing business. Unfortunately, this means that standards are highly variable. I’m very passionate about what I do, and I’m keen to do my bit to raise standards by training others to become detailers.”

Andrew specialises in paint correction, a process which removes swirls and minor scratches and revives tired paintwork. It starts with washing and drying the car before treating it with a clay bar to remove dirt and contamination from the paintwork. After that, the depth of the paint is then assessed, and once armed with that knowledge Andrew is able to select the machines and products which are most appropriate for the task.

It’s not the work of a moment, usually taking at least two days but can take longer, depending on the size and state of the car. Having seen the results of Andrew’s work for ourselves, it’s fair to say that we were more than a little impressed by the way in which he’s able to transform a vehicle’s appearance.

The other main service that Andrew provides is ceramic coating, a process offered by few companies. It involves applying a glass-like, self-healing coating to paintwork, which can last anywhere from two to ten years, depending on which product is used. Its main benefit is that it adds a protective layer to paint, enabling it to retain a high-gloss finish and meaning that dirt washes off very easily indeed. And with modern car paint being softer than in the past, and thus more susceptible to scratches and marks, the protection afforded by ceramic coating is a valuable ally to have in the battle to not only keep your car looking good but also to maximise its value.

Studio 16, 16 Whitfield Dr, Heathfield Industrial Estate, Ayr
Tel: (01292) 264494