Jonathan Blaney cleans a vehicle at the Detail Depot car detailing business on Shallowford Road.
People are pigs. I can tell you that. They're so nasty."

Chris Wilson and his crew at Detail Depot are accustomed to finding loose change in the cars they get scrupulously clean both inside and out. But a few coins are nothing compared to the bag of cash one worker found under the spare tire of a Cadillac.

"This guy brought in a white Cadillac and my guy came over and said he'd found $600 underneath the spare tire," Wilson says. "We clean from bumper to bumper, so one guy might spend six hours hours on one car. He really didn't notice the bag until he was putting things back.

Auto detailing costs

The national average for a full detailing -- which includes cleaning the interior and exterior of the car -- is $192, with a range between $150 and $225.
Source: Angie's List

"When I told the customer, he said he'd had no idea. It was his mother's car and she had recently passed away. The nice thing is he split the money with my guy. I thought that was really cool."

It was way cooler than the lady who brought in a car with a horrible odor that she could not track down. Turns out she'd forgotten about a grocery bag with a frozen chicken. It was wedged back in a hard-to-see part of the trunk.

"I mean it was bad," Wilson says.

They had to use an ozone machine -- needed to rescue clothes that have serious smoke damage after a fire -- to get the smell out, he says.

People leave all kinds of things in their cars, and detailers like Wilson often find them. What customers leave is rarely as glamorous as a big wad of cash, however. Usually it's garbage like dropped food, especially French fries, food wrappers, cigarette butts, candy wrappers, baby bottles and receipts.

"I've been waiting for someone to leave a nice set of used golf clubs," says David Pullen of Pullen Auto Sales and Detail Shop in Cleveland, Tenn.

some text
Chris Wilson is owner of the Detail Depot, a car detailing business.

Most people who lose something of value, like a piece of jewelry -- or even drugs (hey, they cost a lot) -- will search high and low for it, so those things rarely show up in a car that someone has planned ahead to have detailed, Pullen says.

"I haven't found any guns or drugs. It's mostly trash and food. People are pigs. I can tell you that. They're so nasty. I have found cockroaches and ants."

Steve Rheal, who co-owns Pro Mobile Detail on Cummings Highway along with his brother Odis, says that, since they come to homes or businesses to do the detailing, customers generally clean out their cars, at least of valuables, before Pro Mobile gets there. Kind of like cleaning up your house before the maid gets there.

"We won't even go into the glove compartment or console if they haven't cleaned it out," he says.

However, before starting their detailing business, the brothers did car repossession work and those cars were not tidied up before they crawled in.

"We'd find CDs, needles, drugs and even guns, but also diapers that really should have gone to the garbage," says Rheal, who once pulled 14 bags of trash out of one repo.

some text
Michael Perry does wet sanding on a vehicle door at the Detail Depot.

"I'm kind of glad those days are over," he says.

Wilson also did repo work in the past and says "repos are usually just trash."

"It's not their car anymore and they know it," he says. "They don't respect anything so the cars are full of trash and clutter."

Rheal's brother Odis also drove a tow truck for a time and the items found in those cars that were towed were a different story, especially following an accident.

"I've seen people come in the next day or so not to get the car, but to get what was in it. Usually drugs."

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.