- Buyer's Guide
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Many detailers ponder whether they should add other cosmetic car care services to their business. The lure of additional revenues is attractive, but care must be taken when evaluating which ones to offer.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all extra services are the same. Some are easy to perform and some more complicated. Some systems are inexpensive to purchase and some are very expensive.
Windshield chip and crack repair
This is a relatively simple service to perform and there is no reason for a detailer not to have such a system. Chip repairs can be made in 30 minutes and this includes a lot of waiting time. Crack repairs, while somewhat more complicated, are also simple to do, but they take more time. It is recommended that crack repairs be limited to cracks of no more than 6 inches. Anyone can master this repair process in a matter of one hour. Most systems come with both instruction videos and manuals that make the process “idiot proof” to learn.
However, choosing a system for a novice is not so easy. There are several choices available on the market, from very expensive to very reasonable. Systems will range in price from $299 to $6,000.
While the price range is dramatic, the ability to make repairs is not. In short, a low-priced system will make as good of a repair as a high-priced system. Some companies even offer a money back guarantee.
Every detailer that is considering a windshield repair system should purchase a low-priced system for two reasons: First, to see if they want to offer the service and second, to see if the system works. If the result is positive on both counts, you have saved yourself a lot of money. If you decide you do want to offer the service but do not like the system, you will have some experience for choosing a more expensive system.
Carpet dye systems
A new concept of an old service, except the new concept does not use paint. Instead, it utilizes the same water-based dyes used by the manufacturers of carpets. This service leaves the carpets soft, plush and like new. Varieties of these systems are available that offer liquid or powder dyes. Some require you to mix and match color and others have dyes that are color matched to common automotive carpet colors.
It is a skill that can be learned on your own, and a good system comes with thorough manuals and the availability of a toll-free service line. The secret is to choose the right person to do the work.
Systems are priced from about $500 to $4,000, depending on what you receive. Before purchasing, evaluate the company, what is included in the system, the training, training materials, etc.
24 karat gold plating systems
This is a very, very simple service to perform and one that a detailer can offer if there is a demand in his area. The retail market for gold plating is not very strong today, however, some dealers are in need of gold plating, such as Cadillac, Lexus, Toyota and Infiniti.
Be cautious when purchasing a system. There are systems on the market for a few hundred dollars. Beware. These are not what you want. You should have a completely automatic system with sufficient power output to get the job done in a fast and efficient manner. Some of the less expensive systems are not automatic, have a low output and do not apply the gold properly.
Look for a system that offers these features:
- Completely automatic, where you set the two dials, turn on the machine and begin plating;
- Individual plating anodes and plugs for the processes of chrome stripping, nickel activating and gold plating;
- Portable cart that has the power unit, chemical beakers and all other supplies right on it;
- A plating power unit that puts out a minimum of 15 watts and utilizes the linear pulse-plating technology, which is the best available;
- All the chemicals, supplies and accessories needed to do plating;
- A minimum of eight ounces of gold solution; and
- “One Step Gold” — a gold solution that eliminates the need to chrome strip, which is the most difficult of the three steps in gold plating. With this gold, you make plating a two-step process.
With consumer detailing, there is a huge market for eliminating severe odors on the interior of a vehicle. This includes mold problems from the air conditioning system, water leaks that cause mold in and under carpets, cigarette/cigar smoke odors, spills, pet stains and others.
Odors cannot always be removed by shampooing; a more professional approach to odor removal is sometimes needed. There are a number of methods that can be used, including biological odor eliminators, fogger systems and ozone generators.
Auto dealers have always been a great market for deodorizing, but, as always, they do not want to pay as much as a retail customer will pay. If you can convince them of your ability to rid a used car of odors, then you can command a fair price.
The costs can range from $20 to $25 for a gallon of chemical to $700 for a commercial grade ozone generator.
Whatever system you use, be sure it works and promote it to your retail customers, auto dealers and the public.
With the advent of polycarbonate headlights, a new and extremely profitable cosmetic car service has evolved: Headlight restoration.
After a few years, especially in hot, sunny climates, the polycarbonate headlight will dull, yellow and oxidize. And, like the single-stage systems of old, you have to grind off the oxidation then polish and protect.
For the dealer, the headlight is currently on a used car, and they will pay up to $50 per headlight to have them restored. Not bad, $100 for an hour’s work.
For the same reason, a consumer will pay even more because the cost of headlight replacement is several hundred dollars. As well, yellowed, dull and oxidized headlights are dangerous. They will reduce illumination by as much as 50 percent. This is a great sales tool when pitching the service to a customer.
There are two options available on the market. One is good while the other is a cosmetic, band-aid fix.
The proper and permanent way to restore a headlight is to grind off the oxidation with varying grits of sand paper, then polish to remove scratches and create a high shine and protection. Such systems will cost about $200 to $300 with a buffing tool, sanding discs, polishing pads and protectant.
The not-so-good systems are nothing more than a chemical that coats the oxidation and gives a good cosmetic appearance. As soon as the chemical coating wears away, the dulling, yellowing and oxidation are back. Such an approach is not recommended.
Body side molding and pin striping
If you do a good amount of dealer work, it would be viable for you to stock the more common vinyl side molding and vinyl pin stripping sizes and colors. Dealerships are usually receptive to having these either repaired or added to their vehicles.
For the retail customer, this service is hit and miss and not worth stocking inventory for a periodic sale.
What you can do is make contact with a local warehouse distributor or body shop supplier who stock these items and get a few demonstration samples. Then, when you have a retail customer in need or interested, make the sale and just order what you need.
It is obvious from this list that a number of additional services are available for customers’ vehicles. While this list of offerings could certainly be much longer, one thing all of the extra services above have in common is that they are easy to perform. Also, the costs for the added systems or materials are not very expensive. Heading into 2013, attentive detailers can call upon these services to generate additional revenue in the new year.