If you think you can use a bucket of soap and water and a dry vac to clean your vehicle after a long winter in the Highlands, think again.

Louis Laurcella has been detailing vehicles for 40 years, starting in Toronto where he was one of few who offered the service.

The popularity of the industry has grown, he said, and more people are opting for professional car clean ups.

His business, Louie’s Car Care just outside of Haliburton Village, is booking two weeks out as people look at their rides this spring and realize they’re a bit of a mess.

He said with COVID, a lot of people were busy working from home and their children were at home for long learn-from-home stretches so it was hard to find time to give their vehicles much attention. We’ve also emerged from a long, cold, snowy and icy winter.

Laurcella said sand from area roads, and salt from outside roads, has done a number on people’s floor mats and carpets.

He said hard salt stains are difficult to clean up at home. They use a special salt remover that brings it out so it can be vacuumed and then shampooed.

Vacuums for home use don’t have the suction power to really get upholstery cleaned, he said. They have a tool called the Tornado. In addition, he said they don’t just vacuum, Tornado, and shampoo once, but sometimes four or five times so the carpet comes out “brand spanking new.”

He said detailers offer a range of services depending on people’s budgets.

“Here in Haliburton County, some people don’t have the money to spend on their vehicles. We try and be reasonable,” he said. Laurcella added he’s conscious that seniors in particular are on fixed incomes and budgets.

He said in Toronto, people can pay $75 for a basic exterior car wash and $300 to $400 for interior cleanups alone.

Louie’s and other details have basic, medium and higher-end packages. “It all depends what people want.”

For exteriors, they can wash, polish, wax, apply ceramic coating and remove minor scratches.

This time of year, Laurcella suggests people do at least a basic package at a detailer. This usually involves washing the outside, including under the wheel wells, exterior windows, then inside upholstery, vinyl and windows. A basic service can take three hours.

Laurcella said a lot of people think they can do the job at home, or the local car wash, but “there’s a lot more work involved. People don’t really know how much work is involved.” He added detailers have tools for every stage of the process.

“People think a bucket and soap is all you need, but that’s not true. If you want to keep the value of the vehicle, I recommend getting it detailed once a year. It brings back the life of the vehicle.”

Laurcella added detailers take pride in their work.

“If I was paying the money for this vehicle to get done, I would want a good job … so I look at it that way.”