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  1. #1

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    Question Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    I have been at this for 16 years, part time. I currently left my full time job and have been insanely busy for the last 4 months. I am thinking about continuing to operate through the winter.

    I would like to buy a blow up tent, generator, heater, and my own water supply backpack. I am currently using (and always have) a sedan that fits all my supplies. I am not investing in a van or a truck. I also have a 10 by 10 canopy that fits in the trunk and helps me detail in the sun and rain.

    Being in Syracuse NY, the winters can get pretty brutal.

    I am looking for a recommendations for a tent, generator, water supply backpack and a website to buy supplies. I have been buying them from Walmart but am finding myself blowing through them. It has never really been an issue but being as busy as I have, it is now. I prefer to use products like Mothers and other popular brands. I am open to suggestions on where to get my supplies.

    Links to personal sites have been removed. You may bring info from your sites to this forum.

  2. #2
    tom p.'s Avatar
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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Marty, I am in the Northeast as well, and I see the local detailing shops basically close up and cease operation during the cold months. Do you believe you can sustain a going business in Syracuse during the winter months?

  3. #3

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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    I believe I can. I surveyed my existing customers and so far 24 people said they would use me.

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  4. #4

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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Being in Buffalo, I also know what you go through with winters. I`m not looking forward to that season at all. Are you trying to set up a tent or shelter that you can still wash in at the customer`s location? I`m sure it can be done, but it seems like it would be a lot of time that goes into setting things up and waiting for the heat to kick in. Nothing is worse than having your wash solution freeze right on the paint. Maybe it`s time to look for a shop to set up in?

  5. #5

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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Quote Originally Posted by Britsdaddy View Post
    Being in Buffalo, I also know what you go through with winters. I`m not looking forward to that season at all. Are you trying to set up a tent or shelter that you can still wash in at the customer`s location? I`m sure it can be done, but it seems like it would be a lot of time that goes into setting things up and waiting for the heat to kick in. Nothing is worse than having your wash solution freeze right on the paint. Maybe it`s time to look for a shop to set up in?
    Maybe next year I`ll do the shop. I looked into a blow up tent and heater. Also want to have a water backpack i can fill up with hot water and wash it at the customers location. I also have waterless spray or car wash wax I plan to use.

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  6. #6
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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Hot wash water doesn`t help anything once you dip below 28. It all freezes on the surface of the car. Been there done that. I`d rather work at Walmart for $15/hour.

    I don`t see how you can heat a tent and make it all worthwhile. I`d search out a seasonal business that essentially shuts down in the winter and ask if you can rent space and help keep an eye on things.

  7. #7

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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    Hot wash water doesn`t help anything once you dip below 28. It all freezes on the surface of the car. Been there done that. I`d rather work at Walmart for $15/hour.

    I don`t see how you can heat a tent and make it all worthwhile. I`d search out a seasonal business that essentially shuts down in the winter and ask if you can rent space and help keep an eye on things.
    You don`t think I can heat a tent with a propane heater?

    Tell me about your experience trying to Detail on wintertime. I`ve washed cars with a kerosene heater with the garage doors open when I worked for Saturn. I only plan to rinse the car and pull it in to warm up in the tent. I`ll probably focus on interior details


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  8. #8
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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Quote Originally Posted by Martyk1313 View Post
    You don`t think I can heat a tent with a propane heater?

    Tell me about your experience trying to Detail on wintertime. I`ve washed cars with a kerosene heater with the garage doors open when I worked for Saturn. I only plan to rinse the car and pull it in to warm up in the tent. I`ll probably focus on interior details


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    You`ll need a huge tent (big enough for the car, your equipment and room so that the heater doesn`t light things on fire) and a big heater to heat all that. Unless you set them in a fixed spot, you`ll spend as much time setting up the tent as you do washing the car. Then you`ll have to pay for the fuel for all that. Add a windy day, which it usually is windy during the winter, at least around me. But you seem really intent on it, I`m sure you can make it work, will it make sense though.

    If you want to make lots of money in the winter, get a job with a plowing company. I have a friend that does that and he gets great pay, only trouble according to him is just wayyyy too many hours.

  9. #9

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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    You`ll need a huge tent (big enough for the car, your equipment and room so that the heater doesn`t light things on fire) and a big heater to heat all that. Unless you set them in a fixed spot, you`ll spend as much time setting up the tent as you do washing the car. Then you`ll have to pay for the fuel for all that. Add a windy day, which it usually is windy during the winter, at least around me. But you seem really intent on it, I`m sure you can make it work, will it make sense though.

    If you want to make lots of money in the winter, get a job with a plowing company. I have a friend that does that and he gets great pay, only trouble according to him is just wayyyy too many hours.
    Yea I`ve considered all those factors and am going to Detail only for existing customers. I`m also going to get a part time job that pays around 15 an hour.

    You still didn`t tell me about your winter detailing experience..

    GORILLASPRO Inflatable Paint Booth, 26x15x11Ft Portable Paint Booth with One Blower(1100W), Inflatable Spray Booth with Filter System, Car Polishing, Waxing, Paint Coating Job Tent Amazon.com

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  10. #10
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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Quote Originally Posted by Martyk1313 View Post
    You still didn`t tell me about your winter detailing experience..
    Was I under some sort of obligation to? Take my advice for exactly what you paid for it. The fact that you are ignoring that most pros with brick and mortar shops close up when it gets real cold should be telling enough. The part time job to cover you during the off season is a step in the right direction.

  11. #11

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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Quote Originally Posted by Dan View Post
    Was I under some sort of obligation to? Take my advice for exactly what you paid for it. The fact that you are ignoring that most pros with brick and mortar shops close up when it gets real cold should be telling enough. The part time job to cover you during the off season is a step in the right direction.
    Ok dude. I think I have the right to call myself a professional after 16 years of detailing. If you can`t site personal experience to back up your opinion makes it just an opinion and not a fact. I`ll take my chances. I have the clientele to support me through the winter months.

    If you have nothing useful to say please do me a favor and stop replying to this thread. The purpose of this thread is for me to look for recommendations not opinions on what I should not be doing.

    Thanks in advance.

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  12. #12
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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Quote Originally Posted by Martyk1313 View Post
    Ok dude. I think I have the right to call myself a professional after 16 years of detailing. If you can`t site personal experience to back up your opinion makes it just an opinion and not a fact. I`ll take my chances. I have the clientele to support me through the winter months.

    If you have nothing useful to say please do me a favor and stop replying to this thread. The purpose of this thread is for me to look for recommendations not opinions on what I should not be doing.

    Thanks in advance.

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    I`d cite (with a C) my experience but I`m not sure it`ll make a difference. It`s all opinion BTW. Check out some ice fishing gloves. They work well past when the water freezes. And make sure you don`t create ice puddles that later become a safety issue. That`s if you can convince someone to turn on their winterized hose bibs. Good luck man. It`s miserable work.
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  13. #13
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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    I’ve stayed open thru the winter in Michigan the past 3 years, working from my home garage (I’m mobile most of the year) which I did my best to setup for detailing. That being said, I’m shutting it down this year. Not worth the struggle to get things done properly. I’m not sure if you do any interior work but even in my heated garage (which I can comfortably get to 70 degrees and work in a t shirt), I have a hell of a time getting anything to really dry out. I could do more to make it possible including getting a few fans but it’s just that much more work having to move them around.

    if you’re looking to do just exteriors, reading your posts, there’s a few things of concern. First off, heating with propane. I wouldn’t ignore the risk of carbon monoxide. Is this an enclosed tent or spray booth type thing you’re setting up? I wouldn’t even consider heating an enclosed space with anything but electric or a vented gas heater. This could not only be a risk to yourself, but your client as well. If you’re going the propane route but it’s not enclosed, how are you planning to actually keep anything warm? The slightest breeze will pull away pretty much all the heat, and without insulation, you’ll lose it all very quickly even on a calm day. You also may want to think about how long it could take to warm a car up from frozen. This could take hours depending on how much heat you can surround it with.

    Have you tried applying any waxes or sealants in colder weather? They do not setup properly at all and can freeze on the surface before even having a chance to properly bond.

    Do you have a plan for being able to pressure wash anything? Rinseless washes and waterless washes are great, but your typical vehicle driven in the winter, covered in salt spray and dirt if FAR beyond being able to safely do a rinseless wash. I don’t have a drain in my garage so when I was asked to do an exterior detail in the winter I had to pull the car out and do any rinsing in the driveway while the pressure washer stayed inside (door closed, hose ram under the door). I had to keep a HEAVY layer of salt on my driveway to combat the ice which sets up almost instantly on concrete. The water also froze on the car almost instantly as well.

    You sound pretty set on wanting to make this happen, and by all means give it a go if you think you can do it. Just weigh wether or not the juice is worth the squeeze. I’ve been running my business for 7 years, the last 3 I tried staying open thru the winter WITH a heated space to work, and decided it’s too much trouble and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Really take some time to thing about your entire process and how the cold will effect everything. Once you start getting below freezing it’s an entirely different game.

  14. #14

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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Quote Originally Posted by ShaneB View Post
    I’ve stayed open thru the winter in Michigan the past 3 years, working from my home garage (I’m mobile most of the year) which I did my best to setup for detailing. That being said, I’m shutting it down this year. Not worth the struggle to get things done properly. I’m not sure if you do any interior work but even in my heated garage (which I can comfortably get to 70 degrees and work in a t shirt), I have a hell of a time getting anything to really dry out. I could do more to make it possible including getting a few fans but it’s just that much more work having to move them around.

    if you’re looking to do just exteriors, reading your posts, there’s a few things of concern. First off, heating with propane. I wouldn’t ignore the risk of carbon monoxide. Is this an enclosed tent or spray booth type thing you’re setting up? I wouldn’t even consider heating an enclosed space with anything but electric or a vented gas heater. This could not only be a risk to yourself, but your client as well. If you’re going the propane route but it’s not enclosed, how are you planning to actually keep anything warm? The slightest breeze will pull away pretty much all the heat, and without insulation, you’ll lose it all very quickly even on a calm day. You also may want to think about how long it could take to warm a car up from frozen. This could take hours depending on how much heat you can surround it with.

    Have you tried applying any waxes or sealants in colder weather? They do not setup properly at all and can freeze on the surface before even having a chance to properly bond.

    Do you have a plan for being able to pressure wash anything? Rinseless washes and waterless washes are great, but your typical vehicle driven in the winter, covered in salt spray and dirt if FAR beyond being able to safely do a rinseless wash. I don’t have a drain in my garage so when I was asked to do an exterior detail in the winter I had to pull the car out and do any rinsing in the driveway while the pressure washer stayed inside (door closed, hose ram under the door). I had to keep a HEAVY layer of salt on my driveway to combat the ice which sets up almost instantly on concrete. The water also froze on the car almost instantly as well.

    You sound pretty set on wanting to make this happen, and by all means give it a go if you think you can do it. Just weigh wether or not the juice is worth the squeeze. I’ve been running my business for 7 years, the last 3 I tried staying open thru the winter WITH a heated space to work, and decided it’s too much trouble and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Really take some time to thing about your entire process and how the cold will effect everything. Once you start getting below freezing it’s an entirely different game.

    Thank you for your input and sharing you experience!

    I plan on buying a blow up tent that is used for painting. It has ventilation so fumes aren`t a concern.

    I know that applying wax in too hot or too cold weather can be challenging if not impossible.
    I guess waterless is out the question. I was planning to rinse the car and then pull it in and let it warm up.
    So far I have at least 3 customers signed up for year round detailing. I will change them the same amount each month and go to them. One of them is a contractor and wants the exterior of his trucks washed and waxed.

  15. #15
    ShaneB's Avatar
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    Re: Winter Mobile Car Detailing in the Northeast

    Glad to hear you’ve considered ventilation. Just remember, that means bad air out, fresh air in, whatever that ambient temp may be. So keeping things warm will be your biggest challenge.

    I hope it works out for you. I tried it and after awhile I had enough of the challenge and decided it’s best not to even bother. My happiness comes first
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