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Washing, Detailing, Valeting, Grooming, Reconditioning?

What is the difference between washing, detailing, valeting, grooming, reconditioning? what is in a name anyway?

Perceptions about what we do are important to us at Clean Image - lets us make it clear, we are not a car wash. We are not being snobs about it, we don't think we are better than anybody else... it's just that the way we are set up to do the things we do do, we can't wash your car for a competitive price.

Some people think that 'valeting' is just a posh word for having your car washed. This is not the case, Valeting, or Detailing, or Reconditioning, involves far more than a quick wash. Your car may need washing every week (and it DOES require washing, people who wash cars provide a vital service), but it won't need valeting anywhere near as regular as this.

We do on occasions get asked to provide a 'quick wash and wax', and when we do, we send these customers on to another company in town who specialize in this kind of work.

Essentially, because of the low price to the customer of having a car washed, an auto wash company requires high volume and a fast turn around of cars. While we carry out labour intensive specialist services, we require a car for many hours and may need you to book ahead to ensure that all our services can be fitted in to the time we have your vehicle.

So what is Car Valeting

The word 'valet' probably comes from 'vassal' meaning a servant, later this became 'Vaslet' meaning 'son of a vassal'. Another derivative is the 15th century french word, 'Varlet'. A varlet was a Knights Page... but it also came to mean a menial servant, and later a rouge or scoundrel. As centuries passed by, both 'Vaslet' and 'Varlet' were in fairly common usage to mean a rascal, rogue, scallywag or knave, ('knave' is also means a servant) if you think of the character Baldric you are probably thinking along the right lines. Somewhere out of all this came the word 'valet', although these personal servants prefer the term 'Gentleman's gentleman' and are a step up from the Baldric type charater.

It's unlikely that the word 'valet' comes to our trade directly from this source as before there were cars, horses had valets to groom them. It's likely that when the first rich people traded in their horses for cars, they had the grooms look after them.

Either way it's a terrible name. It says nothing about what we actually do and rather gives the wrong impression. We aren't here to clean cars for the rich, we are here to maintain and restore that value of vehicles for anyone... a service which is all the more important to those who have not got money to throw around. Far from being a luxury, valeting is an investment that we believe nobody can do without.

Car Grooming

Grooming is exactly the same thing as valeting, just another name for it. I have found companies that call themselves 'car grooms' in the UK, US, Australia and Singapore.

Auto Detailing

Again, Auto Detailing is pretty much the same thing as Car Valeting, but this phrase comes from the US and reflects the different emphasis they have on the work. Wherever you go, the market will dictate the emphasis that we have to place on the work we do. For example, in Scandinavia customers tend to keep the interiors of their cars very clean and tidy themselves, and so go to visit valeters/detailers to take care of their exterior paintwork. In Spain, customers like the valeters/detailers to get their interiors into immaculate condition, but they tend not to worry about the exterior condition of the car at all. In America, the market dictates that valeters clean the car in minute detail and the name of the trade reflects this.

Valeting/detailing/grooming is very time consuming and so as much as we might like, we can only base our services on what the market demands and what the customer expects, or in our case what the customer actually needs to raise the value of their vehicle. But regardless what the emphasis might be, whether, interior, exterior, engine bay of super glossy paint work... car care professionals are capable of doing the same work and for the most-part, have the same skill set.

What is involved in this work?

Apart from the obvious cleaning part of the job, valeters/detailers are also able to correct paintwork problems such as scratches, fading and oxidization. They can also remove odours and spillages which couldn't normally be removed with cleaning products - we can also handle specialist jobs such as flood and fire damage. Valeters/detailers can also offer a wide range of products which both protect your vehicle's paintwork and upholstery and keep it looking new and fresh.

But all that is just the nuts and bolts of the matter... the difference between a valeter/detailer and a car cleaner/washer, is what they set out to accomplish. A car cleaner is going to get your car clean, while a valeter sets out to raise and/or maintain the value of your vehicle. Of course, this means knowing what work will actually increase the value and what will be cost effective.


Auto Reconditioning

This is a relatively new phrase, and it's different to 'auto restoration' which usually involves stripping down a classic car to the bare metalwork and building it back up piece-by-piece which is hardly ever cost effective (it usually costs more to restore a car than the car is actually worth). By combining the skills of a valeter with the skills of SMART repair technicians, and some other trades such as connollising, trimming, and panel beater/painters, it is possible to recondition a car so that it is almost like new. Because the methods used are very cost effective, it is possible to raise the value of a vehicle by 2-3 times the cost of the reconditioning.

Over the last few years, more and more valeters have expanded their skills to include Smart repair, or formed alliances with other skilled professionals to provide this kind of service. This kind of service has been offered to the motor trade for years, and more recently the general public has made use of it to increase the resale value of their own vehicles. As the valeting and smart repair industry has gone from strength-to-strength, new markets have emerged for the service such as scheduled fleet management and lease return.

So now you know the difference between washing, detailing and reconditioning. And if you can think of a better name than 'valeting' or 'grooming', please drop us a line, we would be ever so grateful!

DannyDanny Argent ~ 08/09/06




This page was last updated on Sat, 19 October, 2013
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