The Craft of Auto Care With The Wash and Detail Co

Tucked into the parking garage of The Alexander in Edgewater, NJ, is a nondescript garage. There is no sign announcing the business hidden here, except for small, clean lettering on the concrete wall inside: The Wash and Detail Co. On any given day, you may see a BMW or a Jeep parked beside the bay door, but there is only ever one car at a time inside being detailed.

The owner, and only full-time worker of The Wash and Detail Co, is Vicente-Alexander Medina. He began The Wash and Detail Co three years ago with one principle in mind — to provide a high level of service to quality conscious clients. So far, Medina is succeeding. Just over a year ago the owners of The Alexander, the palatial apartment complex overlooking the Hudson River, reached out to him with a proposal: they had a garage unit, and plenty of residents with luxury vehicles. They wanted Medina to move his business into their building.

VUE has been wishing to speak with Medina for a while now, and we finally had our chance earlier this week. We spent well over an hour picking Medina for tips, advice, and information about The Wash and Detail Co. What follows are excerpts from that conversation, edited for length and clarity

VUE: When a luxury apartment building with a view of Manhattan asks a business to relocate, it speaks volumes about that business. So what is it exactly that sets The Wash and Detail Co apart from others?    

The Wash and Detail Co.

Photo/ Austin White

Vicente Medina: When you go to a regular car wash, they’re working on a volume principle. The principle there is to wash 500 cars a day. They don’t really pay attention to a lot of the details. I would rather wash five cars a day. In that way, The Wash and Detail Co is geared towards the quality conscious customer. With my basic wash service [The Wash], I don’t want to see you in two weeks because that means I didn’t do a good job. I want to see you once a month. Even in our basic washes your whole rim, wheel well, and actual tire gets cleaned. Even at high-end detail places, they barely ever clean the tire.

VUE: Winter is easily the worst time of year to drive. I know a lot of people who prefer to keep their cars inside for the season. Do you offer any services specific to the winter, or have some advice for caring for a car this time of year?

VM: Wash it once a month. Even if you don’t want to get the whole thing washed, just bring it in and get the outside washed.

For winter, I like to do these sealants which are pretty contemporary. Once the sealant kicks-in the polymers are going to minimize the salt and other elements from this time of year from bonding and adhering to the paint. It’s also going to be a lot easier to clean because the sealant is hydrophobic. The secondary effect of these sealants is they enhance the depth of the paint. So you get two positives — you’re getting enhanced protection with enhanced look.

For safety purposes, for visibility, always coat the windshield. You can use glass wax, and you can use sealants on the glass as well. When your windshield repels water better, your visibility is going to be a lot better. And not to mention the cosmetic aspect of it — you won’t get hard-water spots on the windshield, which is a huge common problem. They’re almost inevitable unless you coat the glass.

The Wash and Detail Co.

Photo/ Austin White

VUE: You definitely sound like an advocate of sealants. But glass coatings, for example, are a lot stronger. Why should someone bother with sealants?

VM: People don’t realize that a car, just like everything else, is porous. These contemporary methods [glass coatings and protective films] haven’t been studied long enough and are closing the pores in the car. Imagine putting a layer on a piece of skin that can’t breathe for 10 years. It’s going to crack. Versus traditional methods where you get your car waxed, compound polished; or my specialty which is sealants. Sealants won’t close off the pores to the car, and they still give you protection and high gloss.

The films and glass coatings are at the top as the most expensive, and also the best protection and gloss. I prefer the sealants for price. As far as the glass coatings and paint protection film, if you have a Lambo and you just bought it, I’m not going to tell you not to do that. You would want to do that because you don’t want rock chips on the front of your Lambo. Whereas a person driving a BMW as a daily driver, as long as they’re not OCD, I think a sealant is a lot better for you. It’s the right choice for the right price point and for the right level of protection for a daily used or moderately used car.

We have personal relations with like 90 percent of our clients. I get information about how the car is being used, then assess that and apply the correct service. It’s pointless, for example, if you have a garage car you use once a year, to put a glass coating on it.

VUE: From everything I’m hearing, you sound far more interested in doing the best job possible, with a big eye for the small details. It’s refreshing.

Photo/ Austin White

Photo/ Austin White

VM: When you come to me your car doesn’t get dried by towels, unless you ask. Your car gets dried by air [commercial hot-air hoses] because that minimizes the swirl marks.

You’re getting a complete vacuum. The front seats are moved all the way forward and up to get the whole vacuum under the seat. Then each panel and each seat is cleaned with the appropriate cleaner. Then you also have the optional conditioner, too. For any type of rubber components on the inside that we can take out, we clean those thoroughly as well. And we clean each one of your vents, deeply and thoroughly. So it’s not like you look at the vents and they’re still dirty, and when it blows back into the car your whole black inside is dusty. For an optional service on the inside, there are certain cleaners and dressings that are anti-static — for both inside and outside, so it’s good for garage cars. The labels say anti-static but it’s impossible to completely reduce any dust that’s settling on the car, but it minimizes that.

We can also do paint corrections, but it’s not something I push onto a lot of people. I’m very honest with my clients — I will only do paint corrections on a car if they sign a membership agreeing they’re going to wash the car with me. I don’t want to put the customer or myself in the predicament where I’m putting in a lot of time and effort into my craft, for them to take it to Skippy Lube’s Car Wash [not a real place] next month, and all those scratches are right back in. Then I feel like shit because I spent two days on it, and he probably feels like shit because he spent $1,000 correcting the paint.

VUE: Not only did you just refer to detailing as a craft, but you said you will basically turn down potential customers if they don’t show enough care.

VM: It’s like a craft. Even the basic car wash we offer, we treat it like a craft. For me, I feel like I’m a craftsman. I wear gloves, I set up my surgical table for whatever car comes in, like I already know.

I learned a long time ago that being a craftsman means sometimes you work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week. When you start loving what you do, the definition of a job becomes so much more than somewhere you clock in and clock out. At some point this became loving my craft; a science… and just that mindset alone is going to drive you on a daily basis.

My craft in itself gears me up every single day to become better and better and better every day at the craft that I do, and when I see the final product and I see the results and the reactions of the clients that I have it just becomes a completely rewarding experience.

The Wash and Detail Co is by appointment only. To schedule an appointment you can call or text (201)-328-5983. They are located in the lower level of the parking garage at The Alexander, at 100 Alexander Way, Edgewater, NJ (along River Road).

Vicente-Alexander Medina would like to thank Fred Daibes and the Daibes family for allowing him this great opportunity. His two part-time workers are his good friends Julian Diaz and Adrian Lorenzo — thank you, papa.

The Wash and Detail Co.

Photo/ Austin White