Starting A Detail Business

Step 1: Choosing Detailing Tools and Equipment

It can be very frustrating when you start a car detail and as you move from one step to the next you realize you are missing a piece of equipment or a supply. Often times there is a substitute, for me personally that substitute will get the job done but not usually as well as the product or tool I typically use. 

There are a plethora of tools and products that are used in the detailing business, from a simple garden hose to extractors and waste water removal setups. As you grow in experience you will come across various products and tools that you prefer over others. My only advice here is to TEST. There are so many great detailing tools that you can use and some work better for others. You will not know what works best for you until you start testing, but we can definitely eliminate some of the tools you should not be using as well. 

I have managed to build a quality mobile detail business using tools that fit in my 5.5' long bed space on my truck. This is my goal with this course. For you to start and grow a detailing business that is fully mobile, requires minimal overhead, which includes not wasting money on overstocking tools and products. 

Basic Tool Setup

Detailing tools you will need to get started. 

1. Pressure washer-A pressure washer is vital for ensuring that the vehicle is cleaned properly and it will speed up your overall detail time. You do not need a heavy duty gas pressure washer or one that puts out 3500 psi. In fact, professional detailers recommend a PSI rated pressure washer above 1600 psi and below 2500 psi. This allows enough pressure to remove dirt and heavier contamination build up as well as pressure wash the undercarriage of a vehicle. Using anything over 2500 psi may get you in trouble with older vehicles where they have paint chips. If the blade of water has enough pressure and catches a chip end of paint it can rip off additional paint creating unnecessary damage. Check out this Article on the Top 12 Electric Pressure washers of 2019, to better assist you in a decision. Electric is the way to go as it is more versatile, produces less noise, and the parts tend to last much longer then gas. 

2. Vacuum-A good shop vac is the perfect tool for getting the interior of a car cleaned properly. Vacuums can get extensive. I prefer any Rigid Shop Vac. The 5 HP, 4 Gallon Rigid shop Vac works perfect for my mobile detailing business. It has great suction power and takes up very little space and is easy to move around. You can add a couple accessories to help give you better flexibility in the line and micro tools for getting around tight spots and crevices that are filled with dirt. 

Rigid Hose Kit

Micro Cleaning Accessory for Shop Vacs​​​

Final note: Grab a Wet Vac filter from the store or off amazon. You want to keep your dry and wet filters for separate use, such as normal vacuuming and cleaning stains where water will be used on the carpets. This will be useful as well when we go over how to build your own extraction system.

3. Water and Power- I personally do not carry a water and power system. This usually requires a unique setup and takes up a lot of bed space. Since I focus on paint correction I carry more tools focused on paint correction and restoration and thus I do not have the space and prefer to not carry a trailer around. The work around to carrying water and power is to simply ask your customer at the time of scheduling if they have water and power hookups. 98% of the time they will have water and power. If you wish to serve commercial and apartment type locations you may want to look into having a water and power source but it is not necessary getting started. ​​​​

Detail Kings offers several different options for trailer water and power setups. You can find setups locally if you do some research but this will help get you pointed in the right direction. My advice, find used!

**After tripping some customers lower amp circuit breakers I will carry a small generator when running multiple tools, such as while one guy is polishing and the other is using a vac or steamer on the interior. Not sure what type of generator to get, check out this Generator Buying Guide. 

4. Polishers-There are multiple types of polishers that serve different purposes when it comes to product application and paint correction. If you would like to know more about the different types I recommend reading The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Car Polishers.

Rotary Polisher-Necessary for removing heavier defects such as scratches and sanding marks. This is not a final polish tool and should predominately be used for cutting/compounding. 

Dual Action Polisher- Used for refining paint after a heavy cut or as a quick detail to remove swirls from the paint. 

Mini Dual Action Polisher-1-3" polisher head tool that allows you to reach tight spaces around door handles, bumpers, mirrors, pillars, and anywhere that your normal 4-6" polisher pad will be to large. 

Two places I purchase polishers from are Shine Supply and Auto Geek. 

I prefer a 5-inch polisher head or a 15 mm throw polisher as it gives me more control. The larger 21 mm throw polishers are great for larger areas such as a hood or roof panel, however the 15 mm will give you greater control and correction. 

My recommendation is to start with the lower cost Torq polishers. They offer great power, low vibrations, and you can easily swap out backing plates to give you a variety of size options when using pads. They are much more cost efficient when starting up and work very well for paint correction. Around $600 will get you a Rotary, 15 mm throw, and a mini which will cover everything you need when it comes to cutting and polishing paint. 

If you have used a polisher before and are more comfortable with the higher end pricing you can check out Shine Supply's List of Rupes Polishers

5. Supplies

This topic can become very in-depth. Outside of needing water and a Vacuum, your supplies are the bread and butter of your business. Now I am not going to talk about actual products here because we are going to go over in-depth each product, how to use it, what secondary or tertiary purpose it can serve, as we cover each section. 

For now lets go over organization. 

Remember in the beginning when I wrote on realizing you are missing a product. Being organized is a great key when it comes to detailing and it is also the most important aspect of being a detailer if you want to produce quality work. In tis section lets cover what supplies will help keep your products organized so you can easily take inventory and ensure you are headed out to each job with the desired products and tools. 

Storage Container

I have gone through several different options and since I keep everything in the back of my truck I chose to go with the Milwaukee Packout.

Milwaukee Packout

Here is what I love about this setup. 

1. Large heavy duty storage compartments for keeping bottles upright during transport

2. Mid-size compartment for pads and detail brushes

3. Smaller compartment for Clay bars, sanding paper, backing plates, and polisher tools. 

4. Interchangeable boxes. You can stack up to 4 comfortably and you can choose what sizes you want. You can purchase as you see here or separate sizes. The base has the wheels and is the only standard size you have to get first. I have two of these boxes and they fit all of my tools and free up a lot of space in my truck bed. 

5. Heavy duty wheels for easy rolling in and out of truck and up and down paths to get to vehicle location. 


You are going to use a lot of spray bottles. I recommend investing in some high quality spray bottles that have quality nozzles and will allow you to refill them with larger quantity stock items. This saves on wasting plastic and allows you to label bottles and re-use them. Typically you can get through an entire year with the same set of bottles. You will go through a lot of product so buying gallons when possible saves you a lot on overhead and saves the planet some plastic waste. 

Follow this link to check out a couple spray bottle options as well as some other brush accessories that you will come in handy. 

We will get into the subject of towels, chemicals, pads, sanding paper, detail brushes, and more as we move forward. As stated in the beginning this section is to just give you an idea of the larger bulk items you will need so you can get your vehicle organized whether that is a SUV, Truck, or even if you are working out of a car. My setup has been refined to allow you to offer a full mobile detailing service from a variety of vehicle sizes or a small cargo trailer. 

Now lets get into the actual subject of detailing starting with the Wash.