More than ever, you need to help your customers do a better job of caring for their cars. 

The average age of cars and trucks on U.S. highways is 11.8 years old, according to IHS Markit. Better technology and other improvements have made it possible for drivers to hold onto their vehicles for more than a decade, in many cases, and for the vehicles to last longer.

But, car aficionados have to wonder: How does that 10- to 12-year-old car look?

If you’re like most car enthusiasts, you want your car to always look great. By giving your car the attention it needs, that is possible. But, as carwashers and detailers, you need to go the extra step and make your customers’ cars look great.

Because you are in the car care business, it’s up to you to educate your customers about how they can keep their vehicles looking good for the full life of the car. Using quality products and tools and educating your customers about the best products for their cars will pay dividends for your business. 

In the field

A longtime owner of several Images Auto Spa carwashes, Jeff Bonynge of Orlando, Florida, says his businesses have thrived since he built a detailing and car care supplies store adjacent to one of his carwashes. The store’s selection of high-quality car care products has attracted new customers and spurred conversations among customers about how to do a better job of caring for their vehicles. It’s also provided opportunities to educate customers about regular maintenance and the best products to use on their vehicles.

The climate in Central Florida presents a huge challenge for car owners.

“Florida weather can be brutal on cars,” Bonynge says. “It rains every day. The sun is beating down. We have nasty love bugs that come out a couple of times every year and that can do permanent damage to your vehicle if they aren’t cleaned off within 48 hours. Imagine what your skin would look like if you just sat outside all day, every day, with no protection. It’s the same with your car.”

No matter where you live and what the challenges are in keeping your car clean, he adds, there are products and tools that can help. You will be doing your customers a big favor by pointing them in the right direction and selling those products that will help them protect their vehicles.

Keeping it clean

Sometimes you might see a car that’s been driven thousands of miles without being cleaned — and it shows. Cleaning the car involves a lot more than soap and water, of course. It is actually less about the washing than about keeping the car free of large dirt particles, bug guts and more that can do quite a bit of damage — both by letting them sit on the finish too long and in the process of removing them. That’s why we recommend a dirt trap in the bottom of a bucket: It filters out the dirt so you don’t put it back on the car and scratch it.

Ideally, your customers would protect their cars by washing, claying, sealing, polishing and then waxing. 

Using a clay bar removes contaminants from the paint that washing alone cannot. If you wash the car and the paint feels rough to your hand, it’s time to clay. Anyone who loves his or her vehicle loves it more after claying. 

After you clay the car, you need to seal it. A spray ceramic sealant will put a clear layer over the paint and protect the finish. Use the strongest sealant you can find to fend off damage from heat, UV rays, environmental contaminants and harsh detergents. 

Use polish next to correct flaws in the paint. And finally, wax to enhance and protect the polished surface. 

A decent sealant and wax will make the car stay much cleaner in between washing and detailing. If you tell your customers to take these steps, their cars will look good longer and be protected for a longer period of time. 

The right tools

Whether you have an automated carwash or a detailing business, one thing you can do to help your customers is to offer quality products for sale at your business. Sell good microfiber cloths and towels so that people can dry their cars properly. Sell sealants that they can spray on after a wash. Teach customers that they can damage their vehicles by washing or drying improperly. 

You also should offer water-based (not oil-based) dressings to clean interior plastic; oils will break down the plastic over time. 

Related: Solvent-based vs. water-based tire dressings

There are instances in which the right tools might not be the ones you have at your business. Discourage customers from going through your automatic carwash when their vehicles are matte-wrapped, for instance. The equipment would destroy what the customers just paid to put on. Point them toward products made especially for matte wraps instead; they will appreciate that you warned them before they damaged their wraps. They’ll probably bring you their other cars to wash or detail, and they’ll be more likely to recommend you to friends. 

As a professional in the car cleaning industry, it’s up to you to help your customers keep their vehicles looking great for years to come. That means offering customers advice and providing products that are right for their vehicles, their climates and their lifestyles. Giving customers what they need to properly care for their cars will keep them happy, and happy customers are return customers.  


Chad Zani is director of franchising at Detail Garage, the leading franchise system for detailing supplies and car care products. He previously served as director of sales and marketing for Envi – Detailing on Demand and CEO of Smartwax Australia. Founded in California in 2016 by the owners of Chemical Guys, Detail Garage has grown rapidly to more than 50 locations across the country. Contact [email protected] for more information.