Essential Buyer's Guide to Auto Detailing Equipment and Machines

auto detailing machines, car detailing equipment


Auto detailing professionals face a unique cleaning challenge: removing the toughest kinds of dirt and gunk from delicate vehicle surfaces. Moreover, environmental legislation regulating the use of water and hazardous chemicals further adds to the challenges for car detailing professionals.

But choosing the right cleaning tools and chemicals can make all the difference. This guide discusses choosing the best products for cleaning interiors (upholstery cleaners, steam cleaners) and exteriors (properly-configured pressure washers).

Auto Detailing Machines for Interiors

Carpet Cleaners for Upholstery and Carpet

carpet upholstery cleaners

Specialized carpet extractors for auto detailing, inject and simultaneously extract a cleaning solution using compact 4-inch wands designed for tight spaces. For best results, pre spray with a non-toxic carpet solution, such as Daimer's Eco-Green® Carpet Care, described below.

Daimer® ships two gallons of the solution free with each new auto detailing upholstery cleaner.

Key Features


A maneuverable, mobile machine on wheels will save aggravation and floor space for busy auto detailing operations.

Cleaning Power:

Pressure levels of 120 psi and up will handle the toughest jobs. For suction power, look for systems with 2 stage motors offering airflow of 100 to 200 cfm and water lift of 100 to 150 inches.

Using heated water or steam improves cleaning power. If you're in the market for an unheated system, look for models, like XTreme Power® XPC-5700U or 9200U that will accept hot tap water of up to 140ºF.

Heated machines that generate steam offer additional cleaning power. Daimer offers four models, XTreme Power® XPH-5800TU, XTreme Power® XPH-5900IU and XTreme Power® XPH 9300U, which provide steam heat of up to 210ºF, depending on the machine.

Please note: These machines are also available in 50 Hz configurations and can be shipped to customers outside of North America.

Low Flow Technology:

This technology reduces water waste, prevents mold and mildew, and speeds drying times -- a key consideration for busy auto detailing businesses.

For more on purchasing carpet and upholstery cleaners, see the Essential Guide to Carpet Cleaners.

Steam Cleaners for Other Interior Surfaces

After purchasing an upholster carpet cleaner, consider buying a steam cleaner for cleaning leather, vinyl, door jambs and other interior hard surfaces. These machines can eliminate allergens, mold, and are ideal for sanitizing applications. Steam cleaners are also useful for spot-cleaning tough stains on carpet and upholstery.

Note: Before buying a steam cleaner for auto detailing, read "The Three Biggest Myths about Using Steam Cleaners for Vehicle Applications" below. Click here to jump to this article below.

Key Features


Steam cleaners for auto detailing applications range in size from those about the size of a square-foot cube to units that are about twice that size. Small units, like the KleenJet® Pro Plus 200S, weigh as little as 23 pounds. Even a large unit, like the KleenJet® Ultra 5000CV, can weigh as little as 80 pounds. All machines should be on wheels.

Cleaning Power:

Steam cleaners clean with dry, vapor steam. Ideal machines for auto detailing will offer pressure levels ranging from 75 psi to 125 psi and steam temperatures just over 369ºF.

steam cleaners

Continuous Operation:

High-volume auto detailing operations should consider machines with features such as large boilers and continuous refill tanks, which maximize productivity by increasing time between water refills.

Wet Dry Vacuums:

Machines with this capability, empty their contents automatically into extraction tanks. Wet vacuums save time because operators can clean without the use of towels. Non-vacuum steam cleaners require the use of a towel to wipe up residue.

With the combination of high steam temperatures, continuous operation, and a wet dry vacuum, the KleenJet® Mega 1000CV is one of the most popular models amongst auto detailers. To disinfect surfaces as well as clean them, opt for machines with ATIS® anti-bacterial technology, like the KleenJet® Mega 1000CVP.

For more on purchasing steam cleaners, see the Essential Guide to Steam Cleaners.

Auto Detailing Machines for Exteriors

Pressure Washers Engineered for Cleaning Vehicles

pressure washers

Specially configured pressure washers offer auto detailing professionals a new set of options for cleaning engines, vehicle exteriors, wheels, and other exterior surfaces. These Super Max™ steam car wash machines clean with moderate pressure and are safe for vehicles surfaces. In addition, they use less water and require smaller amounts of cleaning chemicals.

Key Features


Pressure washers include electric motors and pressurizing machinery, so they tend to be heavy. Choose machines mounted on wheels or stationary machines with long hoses.

Low Flow:

Conventional pressure washers can have flow rates of up to 5 GPM, which can waste water and damaged car finishes. Auto detailing pressure washers, like the Super Max™ 6120SCW have flow rates as low as .5 GPM.

Optimal Cleaning Power:

To remove tough dirt and grime, pick a pressure washer offering pressure levels between 1000 and 1500 psi to avoid damage to vehicle paint and other delicate surfaces.

Cold or Hot:

These pressure washers are usually configured to produce steam with temperatures of up to 250ºF. The use of steam maximizes productivity and enhances speed while decreasing use of water and cleaning chemicals.

Power Sources:

To use these machines indoors or near buildings, as is the case in most auto detailing applications, opt for units powered by electricity and heated by a safe fuel, like propane. Electric powered machines are beneficial in these situations, as they generate no exhaust.

Conventional Pressure Washers for Auto Detailing

Standard pressure washers can also be used to clean auto exteriors -- if they are configured properly.

Key Features

Low Flow:

Machines should generate flow rates of less than 5 GPM. This ensures optimal cleaning power without damaging vehicle exteriors or creating excess water waste. The Super Max™ 7000, for example, is ideal for cleaning automobiles, with a flow rate of 2.5 GPM.

Optimal Cleaning Power:

As noted above, stick to machines offering pressure levels between 1000 psi and 1500 psi. In addition to the Super Max™ 7000 discussed above, other models that meet these requirements for auto detailing include the Super Max™ 9000, Super Max™ 12800, Super Max™ 12820, select stationary pressure washers with pressure levels at or below 1500 psi, and select cold water pressure washers with pressure levels at or below 1500 psi.

pressure washers

Cold or Hot:

Though a steam machine will clean more efficiently, cold water equipment can also be effective.

Power Sources:

If the machine will be used outdoors away from a source of electricity, a gasoline, propane, or diesel machine will be adequate. Another option is to run the unit outdoors and attach a long hose for use indoors.

Otherwise, electric powered units will be the best option. Again, electric powered machines offered enhanced convenience as often times electricity is a readily available power source. In addition, these units do not generate exhaust.

For heating a steam power cleaner used indoors, propane and natural gas offer the best options. Electricity can not be used to both power and heat the machine, as electric heated systems can only reach hot water temperatures. For top steam temperatures, additional fuel for heating is required.

Green Chemicals for Vehicle Interiors

To avoid EPA fines, satisfy finicky customers and reduce employee exposure to hazardous cleaning chemicals, auto detailing companies can purchase a non-toxic green cleaning formulation for carpets and upholstery cleaners.

Key Features


Avoid cleaning preparations that include: volatile organic compounds (VOCs), chlorine, benzene, triclosan, nonylphenol and nonylphenol ethoxylates, alkylphenolethoxylates (APEs), synthetics, terpenes, petroleum distillates, glycol ethers, caustics, builders and reagents. Look for products that have all zero values in the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) hazard diamond.


Opt for plant-based chemicals designated as Readily Biodegradable, which means the products biodegrade by more than 90% within 28 days.


Cleaning without harmful formulations requires a unique chemical technology. Some products use a nano-technology that employs tiny particles, 1/80,000 the thickness of human hair. The small size allows the particles to breakup the carbon bonds of dirt, stains and buildup. The particles are then easier to remove.

"The Three Biggest Myths about
Using Steam Cleaners for Vehicle Applications"

Companies that sell only steam cleaners often recommend that customers use the machines for cleaning upholstery and vehicle interiors. This is incorrect and a waste of money. Daimer® sells a range of cleaning systems, including steam cleaners, carpet cleaners and pressure washers. As a result, we can recommend the right equipment for the right applications. Here is a sampling of what a vendor that sells only steam cleaners may tell and you and why it is incorrect:

1) Steam cleaners can clean car exteriors. False. Steam cleaners do not generate adequate pressure and water flow for removing grease, muck and ground-in dirt from vehicle and truck surfaces. Even the most advanced steam cleaners produce maximum pressure levels of 150 psi. A pressure washer for vehicles can produce 1500 psi -- ten times as much pressure without damaging a vehicle surface. Steam cleaners use super dry steam that is typically 5 percent water vapor. Auto detailing pressure washers use a direct water feed and are available in configurations that can generate flow rates of up to 5 gallons per minute.

2) Steam cleaners can clean carpet upholstery. False. Steam cleaners are designed for surface cleaning and not deep cleaning. Auto detailing carpet cleaners are engineered for deep cleaning. These carpet extractor systems inject cleaning fluid deep into a surface and then extract the fluid, dirt and stains. Steam cleaners do not produce enough moisture for deep cleaning. Steam cleaners are designed for spot cleaning and cleaning hard surfaces such as plastics and vinyl.

3) Companies that sell only steam cleaners offer objective advice about carpet cleaners and pressure washers. False. A company that sells only steam cleaners has a vested interest in selling only steam cleaners. Daimer® sells more than 600 different cleaning systems ranging from tile cleaning machines to gum removal systems to carpet cleaners to pressure washers. Daimer®'s only interest is selling you the right machine for your unique application. Daimer® has been serving the auto detailing industry for more than 10 years. Daimer® knows what works and what does not.

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