Car detailing is like football punditry nowadays with everybody seemingly an ‘expert’. But, it’s surprising just how many ‘detailers’ really are nothing more than a valeter at best. The difference between valeting and detailing is comparable to the difference between a generic fast food meal and a Michelin star crafted restaurant experience. The difference of course is the extra effort made to ‘detail’ a car, rather than to clean a car. But, can the extra effort actually reap benefits when it comes to helping reduce the likelihood of a car break down?

We first need to start with what detailing really is. It originates initially in the States where the famous saying “a $30 car wash adds $300 dollars to the car” rings true. Whereas a wash or valet would involve washing and drying the car in 2 or 3 stages, a detail involves sometimes up to 10 or so stages and can take a couple of days to complete.

Generally speaking, a detail would mean a car being pre-washed, washed used a special method, dried, possibly ‘barred’ (clay), polished (possibly a couple of times with different gradient polish), sealed, and waxed (possibly up to 3 coats). Surfaces like glass and rubbers will probably be masked. The interior would have it’s own routine possibly to include deep cleaning seats and carpets and other panels, whilst the wheels would most probably be removed and attended to off of the car. But, the engine would also have a degree of time afforded to it, or least the engine bay.

But, a clean car doesn’t necessarily mean a reliable car? Though, say that to a F1 or BTCC team and you’ll probably have some disgreement. A clean car does give some immediate advantages over a dirty car though in terms of breakdown provention. Not least in that a clean car makes any failing part far easier to identify. If you detail your own vehicle, you will also get to know every inch of the car, including where every car park ding resides, to which wheelarch collects the largest volume of debris.

This intimate knowledge of your car allows you to spot and attend to anything mechanical before it becomes an issue. One would also argue that those who spend time and money keeping their vehicles looking nice, also probably invest in ensuring their vehicle drives nicely, and reliably too.

And finally, there are the dangers that a build of of dirt and grime can bring to reliability. As brakes accumulate grease and dirt, they can become more ineffective. Mud under the arches which is left to harden can be rust traps allowing the dreaded tin worm to work away unseen at the car and the cars mechanical components including suspension and chassis. Particulary dirty cars can attract dirt to areas where there should be lubrication; cables and pulleys for example. And you really don’t want dirt being sucked into a car’s intake (though manufacturers obviously do add filters to help with this).

Generally, a clean car gives owners more pride. And in theory, a car that is regulary looked after by the same person is likely to be noticed if it starts to fail or degrade. So, can a detail help with prevention of a car breakdown? In theory, we believe possibly so, yes.