VIEWS: 8 PAGES: 24 POSTED ON: 11/12/2011
OK, here it is, the "how does Kevin maintain his own car" post, I will try to keep it relatively short and easy to understand. I will also link autopia a lot (since they have great how to's). First, this post assumes you have a PC; but not that you know how to use it. The first thing you want to do is evaluate your paints condition. The best way to do this is to put it in full direct sun and take a look at it. If you see swirls and scratches you need to *compound*. Compounding is the process of removing paint to level off scratches and leave the paint smooth. If the paint is already smooth (no swirls or scratches), then you don't need to compound, however a light polish may still help. This guide will assume you need a moderate level compounding. Swirls like this: http://gtaindetail.com/pics/575M062006/photo2.jpg http://gtaindetail.com/pics/04g35c042506/photo2.jpg ...are what I am talking about. Most people would look at those cars and either say "it's clean" or "those are just light swirls", they aren't - there about 5-6/10 on the picus "swirl scale", meaning you will need at least two polishing steps via a PC to get rid of them. So, where to start? First, wash and clay the car. Now I am going to skip these for now; I will cover wash and clay in my "how do I maintain my car" section. OK, so the car has been washed and clayed, time to polish. First, always start with a less aggressive combination of pad and polish than you think you'll need. I am going to continue this by refering to Menzerna polishing, however for reference Menzerna polishes are generally interchangale with poorboys or optimum in the following ways: Menzerna PG = Poorboys SSR3 = Optiumum OHC Menzerna IP = SSR2.5 = Optimum Compound Menzerna FPII = SSR1/2 = Optimum Polish Also, I use lake county pads, so I will refer to them as yellow, orange, white, and grey. They stack up like this: Yellow = heavy vut Orange = light cut White = polishing (or very light cut) grey = finishing So let's start with a fairly mild combo, say, FPII (or SSR1 or 2) on a white pad. Put a couple dabs of the product on the pad (which is on the PC), then dab the pad on to the paint in a small area with the PC off; so put the PC on the paint and make sure it's set to speed 2-3, turn it on. It will be spinning slowly, apply no pressure at this point and move it over the area you intend to cover. A 2x2 foot area is normally ideal. At this point you're just spreading the product, not polishing. When the product is spead (only takes 10-15 seconds), turn the PC to speed 5 or 6 and apply pressure. How much? Just enough so that the PC does not bog at all (so the pad still spins freely), but if you apply any more it will bog. I hope that make sense. Now, most important; MOVE THE PC *SLOWLY* over the intended area. I can not stress how important SLOWLY is, I mean 1/2 inch per second *max*, it is a slow process. MOve in overlapping passes like you're cutting your lawn. How do you know when to stop? All polishing "flash", that's the term for when all the abrasives in them have broken down. Most polishes do one of two things when flashed; they either turn clear or start to dust. Turning clear is obvious, so is dust (dust literally forms and starts to come out of the pad), when you see the polish go clear or dust, you're done. Turn the PC off and wipe away the reside then evaluate. Now, this first pass is kind of a test to see what combo you'll need. If you have achieved no results, or very little, you need to move up in abrasion (or you're doing something wrong). On most cases you will need a stronger combo to remove even moderate swirls, so lets try something stronger. Try IP (ssr2.5) on an orange pad, same process. Now, this should remove up to moderate swirls (5/10) with ease. If you're still seeing no results you're moving too fast or not applying enough pressure. You will notice as you use a more abrasive pad you will be able to apply more pressure before the PC bogs due to the density of the pad. Repeat the combo that works over the entire car. Do small areas, work slowly, take breaks, wipe away residue thoroughly. Other tips: Switch pads as they get gummed up/saturated. Why? They become less effective and residue begins to become harder to remove. This is why I recommend two or even threeof each pad. If you run out, wash one (soap and water), dry it by putting it on the PC, putting the PC in a bucket/recycle bin etc, and spin it up to speed 6; the water will flyout into the bucket. Some more important notes: As you start to use more aggressive combos you may notice *hazing*. Hazing is basically millions of smaller less deep scratches caused by the abrasives in more aggressive compounds. By removing more paint they leave the surface rugged; this is why we follow up with a finishing polish on a less aggressive pad. That's why you'll often see me list my process like this: Meznerna IP, orange pad Menzerna FPII, white pad. IP on an orange (or ssr2.5/OHC) can leave hazing, so it is important to follow up with a less aggressive combo. If you notice the hazing is persisting even after the less aggressive combo, try polishing a little differently; often times I will use a grey pad instead of a white (even less aggressive), and will only polish at speed 4 with little to no pressure. Here is a good "how to" on autopia: http://www.autopia-carcare.com/inf-pc7424.html It's less detailed and assumes the reader is a total novice; that's fine. I know you guys aren't dumb so I may not explain everything in detail. If you have questions let me know. OK, so I am done polishing, what now? First, wipedown the car with isa:water. What's that? It's rubbing alcohol (store bought, 70%) mixed with water in a spray bottle 50:50, spray one squirt on a panel and wipe off. This helps remove any leftover polish residue. You *do not* want polish residue left on the car because if you seal or wax over it you'll be left with a gross oily stain that is hard to remove. It also effects the durabilty of your LSP (for future reference, LSP = last step product, so a sealant or wax). When you're done this it's time to seal/wax. Which you pick is up to you. *Generally* sealants last longer than waxes, some people prefer the look of waxes. I think there is a right product for each car, no best. It's a personal decision. Remember, prep is 95%; the sealant/wax is for protection and some added aesthetic, but proper clay and polish is what makes a car look good. So spend time prepping rather than worrying overly about the best wax. Here is my car after an isa wipedown, no LSP. http://rockpaperpixels.com/pics/car1.jpg See what I mean? It's all about prep, not wax/sealant. Those are for protection. So pick your sealant and wax and apply as directed. Now, I normally apply liquids with the PC on a grey pad. Why? I find it applies them more uniformly and much faster. You will use more product this way. I just do it on speed 1. Paste waxes I apply by hand. Each sealant/wax requires you to buff it off differently, some require you let them haze, some require you wipe them off wet; use as directed. __________________ http://gtaindetail.com OK, so maintenance. Now this is even more important that polishing. Why? Proper maintenance means less polishing is required over the life of the car. You want to wash and seal/wax in ways that DO NOT scratch the car, thus eliminating the need for polishing. So, the most important part of car care: how do I wash? I wash in two ways, either the regular bucket + hose way, or with a rinseless wash. I will go over both. First, bucket and hose. OK, products I use: One or two buckets, both with grit guards. You can get them at CT (red, $15.99) At *least* 2 sheepskin wash mitts. Why 2 or more? you'll see. A good automotive soap. What's good? Most are; Meguiars deep crystal is cheap, locally available, and good. JUST DONT USE TOO MUCH OR IT WILL STRIP WAX. Use the quantity directed, don't just pour a bunch in the bucket. Remember, as nice as suds are, too many = too much detergent. 2-3 good microfiber drying towels. 5+ good microfiber clothes. A good all purpose cleaner and/or bug remover. I like poorboys apc 2:1 with water or bug squash 3:1 with water. A wheel cleaner and sealant So, so let's start: First, the wheels. I only use a wheel cleaner if there is a significant amount of brake dust. What wheel cleaners do I like? The best, imo, locally available are Eagle One All Wheel & Tire Cleaner (caustic), or for less acidic/caustic, their aluminum wheel cleaner. A lot of you have P21S cleaner; use it when needed, it's great stuff. Put the car in the shade. This is important. If you're using two buckets, fill one with soap and water and the other with just water. If the wheels are dirty go to step 1, if not, step 3: 1) Hose wheels off (make sure they are not hot). Spray wheel cleaner on wheels and let dwell. Agitate with a brush (a wheel brush, not a tooth brush or a carpet bursh) or an old wash mitt, or an old mf cloth. Something soft basically. 2) Hose off, if there is still dust repeat. Go to step 4 3) Wash with soap and water (the automotive soap) and an old mitt. 4) If you washed with your bucket water, dump it out and re-pour it. Wheel dust in the water = don't put it on the paint, EVER. 5) Soak one mitt in first bucket with soap. Not all of them. 6) Rinse the car. If it's very dirty/buggy, apply liberal amounts of diluted APC/bug remover to effected areas and let sit. 7) Get the mit and start washing. Use almost nopressure, start at the top and move down. So roof, front and rear window, side windows, upper side panels and fenders, hood, rear deck lid, trunk, lower side panels and fenders, and finally rockers. Why? The lower part of the car is almost always dirtier, you don't want to use the mitt on them then move it to the cleaner areas. Now, don't do this all at once. Do it like this: 8) Wash roof and front and rear window. Put the mitt in the clean water bucket and thoroughly rinse it out. Put it back in the soapy bucket and wash the side windows and upper side panels (doors, fenders), then back into the water only bucket, rinse... see the pattern? Dirt gets rinsed out. As the mitt gets more and more dirty put it aside and USE A NEW ONE. I use 3 per wash almost always. One for roof, windows, upper side panels, one for hood, read decklid and trunk, and one for lower side panels and rockers. 9) if its hot, rinse the car often; keep it wet at all times. 9.5) Put the hose over the roof and let the water flow freely over the car. This will "sheet" water off and make for about 80% less water on the car to dry. 10) Now dry. How to dry? Take one towel and spread it on the roof then slowly move it the same way you washed (top to bottom), DO NOT worry about getting the car dry at this point, you want to remove most of the water but leave it damp. 11) get towel two and finish any areas you missed, then re-dry the entire car to clean up the dampness left behind by towe one. You will be amazed how much easier this makes drying. 12) Now, if your waxing or sealing, do it. 13) Dress trim while wax/sealant is hazing, also dress wheel wells, tires, dry wheels, polish chrome, and clean door jambs. 14) If you're using a spray wax/sealant for maintenance (highly recommended) then go from step 11 to this step and spray seal/wax, then do #13. Ok here it is. Sorry for the delay; this week from hell seemed to come to a head today. OK, so claying. Why clay, and how do I do it? Why - you clay to remove bonded contaminants from the surface of your paint. Now you might be thinking, eh? Washing does that right? Well, no; they're bonded, meaning stuck, meaning in the paint. You can see some of them and can't see others; you can sure feel them though. Want to feel them? Get a plastic bag and put your hand in it then run the tips of your fingers over the paint lightly. Feel the sandpaper-y texture? That's crap. That's rail dust, fallout, brake dust, etc; it's bad for your paint and it feels bad, makes the paint rough and gross. You can't get it out by washing, it's stuck; which is why we clay. Clay removed these contaminants, you can tell it works with the bag trick; after clay the paint should feel smooth (it will, trust me). How do I clay? It's easy, and I mean easy. Get a bar of clay and some lubricant (I like a quick detailer cut 2:1 with water), cut the clay bar in half or in thirds, you don't need it all unless the car is really in rough shape. Also if you drop it, toss it, so if you use the whole bar and drop it... you lose. Lubricate an area of paint *well* (lots of lube), then rub the clay over the paint lightly, almost no pressure. Just move it back and forth in overlapping motions, lubricate more as you go. Top to bottom, never in circles, always the way the wind flows over the car (which is almost always back and forth from the front to the back). After each panel re-mold the clay in your hand to get the crud off it's surface. Again, if you drop it (you will the first time), throw it away. THROW IT AWAY. If you put it back on your paint you will scratch the paint, period. CLay is also awesome at removing overspray, product sling, tar, bug guts, etc.. it's really great stuff. You should clay once per year. White cars or cars in heavily railed areas, twice. (why? white cars you can SEE the rail dust (little orange dots), it looks bad, so do it 2x if needed). Clay will also remove your wax and sealant (obviously), so you can use it to strip waxes/sealants, and you need to re-wax or seal afterwards. You can clay your wheels too! Next time you have them off clay them, you'll go "WOW" when you see what it does. Next, waxes, sealants, lions, tigers, and tire dressing. So what's all this sealant and waxing business, wtf? Sealants and waxes are two very different products which are intended to serve the same purpose; the protection of your paint. They protect from UV damage, bird bomb etchings, acid rain damage, water spots, and make the car easier to clean in general. As a side benefit they also enhance gloss, slickness, wetness, depth, etc... So which is the best? I hate this question; I will only say this once: THERE IS NO BEST. This is like saying "So I'm golfing tomorrow and only want to bring one club, which is the best?" or "which is the best wine?". It doesn't work that way. I can tell you what the differences are and some attributes of popular ones. Let's start with waxes. Waxes have been around forever; its wax. Today’s waxes are actually only 1-10% wax (most of them), the rest is oils, silicone, etc... Generally waxes will last on a car 2-6 weeks, so you need to re-wax pretty often. Waxes TEND to give a more subtle "carnauba glow" type look; wet, deep, darken color... They can also mute metallic flake and tend to make the paint look soft, like water. Waxes come in liquids and pastes; neither is better, just different. They are mostly applied in the shade by hand, you let most of them haze then wipe off. Sealants are synthetic polymers which do the same thing as a wax, but longer (generally). Sealants are always liquids, and last normally between 3-6 months. In general sealants give a more reflective "harsher" look, they make your clear coat look thicker, and they are intense and very glossy. Some people like this, others describe it as "wrapping the car in saran wrap". I took some wax off Peter "G-Force's" car today and put on a sealant, we both commented how the car looked incredibly slick and glossy, the metallic flake was absolutely popping, but the blue color was a little lighter looking, almost lost in the intense reflections. Which is better? Neither. It's which is better *for you*. If you don't want to wax or seal often, then sealants tend to be a good choice. If you like the way sealants look, then again, good choice. If you don't mind waxing every 4-6 weeks and like the look of a wax, go with a wax. Make sense, right? If you want an easy to maintain protection sealants are generally easier because you apply them less AND there are many spray sealant boosters that are incredibly easy to apply. Now, you can combine them, you can put a wax over a sealant and get the best of both worlds; however your wax will still fade after 4-6 weeks. You will still have the protection of the sealant but will need to re- apply wax for the "wax look", also, you can not apply a wax over a sealant, so when it comes time to re- apply it all you will need to start from scratch (no big deal). What do *I* think about them on different colors? Well here is a little rundown. Remember, this is MY OPINION ONLY. Non-metallic dark colors (black, blue, green). On black I like waxes, period. I find sealants take away too much of the black color; they make it looks grey-ish from a distance because they are so reflective. Which waxes? Nattys Blue is a great $20 wax, easy to apply, easy to buff off, looks very wet, glossy, and deep. Another is Clearkote Carnauba; less wet, more depth and deep dark black color. Another is Souveran, it's expensive, and lasts only 2-4 weeks, but it looks incredible. Another option here is to add a glaze to the mix (next section). If I went with a sealant on black it would be Z5 pro or Poorboys EX. Z5 pro sealant looks the most like a carnauba and gives 6 months of protection and fills minor marring. It can also be "boosted" easily with the spray sealant, Z8. EX actually has carnauba in it so it looks very much like a wax, and can be applied in full sun. Non-metallic red: Again, I like waxes. Nattys Blue looks absolutely awesome on red, especially over a glaze (next section). So does Souveran (it's made for red), but it's pricey. For sealants on red I would go with Z5pro if you have some marring, or FMJ + HGAS if you don't. FMJ + HGAS are incredibly wet, reflective, and glossy, plus it's easy to maintain and it looks very wet on red. Metallics, all of them but silver/white: I like sealants here. Why? You don't loose as much color as dark colors, so the added reflectively and metallic "pop" is nice. Waxes tend to mute flake. Which one? Z2pro with Z8, Jeffs Werkstatt Acrylic Jett (which AJ trigger) or FMJ with HGAS, all these are liquid sealants with their respective spray booster. All last 4-6 months, all look incredible and are easy to maintain. If I went with a wax on metallics it'd be P21S, since I find it's the "clearest" wax. Silver/White (metallic or non). Either 4* UPP or Acrylic Jett, period. Why? I don't know; both of these just look awesome on silver and white, so wet, so glossy - something about them just works on these two colors, IMO. OK, up next, a quicky on glazes. Alright, so what the heck is a glaze? Glaze is an often mis-used term because it tends to apply to a lot of products. Generally a glaze is a product that provides no protection AND no corrective abilty, but is purely aesthetic. These are often filled with oils and deepen and darken paint, their primary function is often filling marring (filling, NOT removing). They work best in conjunction with waxes, not sealants. Sealants do not like bonding over glazes (though some will). When do you use a glaze? Before waxing, after your isa rubdown (the alcohol will strip it, so polish, isa, glaze, wax). I don't use glazes a ton, but do sometimes. Here is when I do: 1) I am going to use a wax ont he car for sure. 2) The owner doesn't care about durabilty, glaze + wax usually means 4 weeks or less. 3) The car spends a lot of time in a garage *OR* lastly: 4) The car is a black or dark daily driver and has marring that is un-fixable. Now some guys use glazes a lot to fill marring. I like fixing marring, so I don't use them to fill often, but in some cases it's just unreasonable to expect to remove all marring, so they have their place. Which glaze you use depends on what you're trying to accompolish, for example: My favorite glaze is Clearkote Red Moose (or machine) glaze. It's sister product, Vanilla Moose, is a light polish and glaze that is also wonderful. Neither of them fill a lot of marring, but both do some filling. What they do best is make paint much deeper and darker. The first time you apply RMG to black you *will* notice a difference, it makes it look like black, liquid, oil. It's great. RMG is also laughably easy to use (as is VM), apply and remove wet or dry, super easy to buff off. On the other hand if I need more filling, I often use Menzerna Final Touch Glaze. This has more fillers but less deepening/darkening, it's also very pily and much tougher to remove. The same goes for Megs #7 show car glaze, it's great, but hard to use. Should you use a glaze? Well, if you intended on re-glazing and waxing every 4 weeks, then sure. It will make a difference, but it's a comminitment (basically). I glaze my car because I wax it every couple of weeks (and re-glaze every month), also because I like it to look crazy good, and also because it's a black daily driver that was abused for 2 years and it does have some marring which will never be fixed... I use RMG and top it with Souveran or Nattys Blue. This combo is disgustingly good looking, but it's at the expense of durabilty. What else? Oh, dressings, tires, trim, etc.. I'll do that next quickly. OK, so trim. Trim is funny; I have a lot of it on my car so I've gone through a lot of dressings/products to restore and maintain it. Surprisingly there are very few I actually like. A couple things before we restore/dress trim. First, clean it well with alcohol and water. (same as the stuff you used before), if it's dirty any dressing will not penetrate it, so make sure it's clean. Now, if it's stained or dry/greyish you need to restore first before dressing. A couple product I like are: Poorboys Trim Restorer Einszett Tiefenpfleger (yes, that's what it's called). Leatherique Trim Dye Now the first two are basically oily restorers that re-hydrate dried trim, they are oily and can be a pain to use, they are hard to clean off paint so be careful. Just apply them with a mf cloth, let them sit, then wipe any residue off after 10 minutes. Now you may notice the trim looks the same after 10 minutes, that's because it's dry and is sucking the stuff up. When I got my car I used almost half a bottle of TR on my front trim peice before it stayed black. Leatherique Trim Dye is an actual dye, I like it, but be very careful as it literally dyes trim. Use these products only when needed, not to maintain. Now dressings. Use these to maintain after every couple washes (or every wash). I like: Poorboys Natural Look (silicone based) Meguiars #40 (silicone) Mothers Back to Black (water) Aerospace 303 (water). Now the silicone dressings last longer by virtue of their silicone content, they are also messier and harder to apply. They steak more too, so apply them then wipe away right away with a clean mf to prevent streaking. The water based ones are easy to use, but will only last 1-2 washes. All of them will protect from UV. Before I sign off; where do I get my stuff? Well, I get what I can at Canadian Tire, stuff you can get there off the top of my head that is good: Buckets Aerospace 303 Some Megairs products (#26 yellow wax, #40 trim dressing, #7 show car glaze) Mothers Back to Black Nevr Dull Metal Polish Megs Deep Crystal soap Foam Applicators Quick Detailers Clay I think that's it. Don't buy their mf's or mitts, they are suck. I also use eshine.ca (Chris is a great guy, ships fast), and carcaresmart.com. Chris carries almost all the poorboys stuff, good mf cloths, but crummy mitts (imo), carcaresmart has AWESOME sheepskin mitts. They also have some Menzerna products. Zaino I get from the Barbers Chair (they dont have Z5pro yet), I got that from the states, but it'll be in the barbers chair soon. Lastly, I get a lot of my stuff from George at detailedimage.com. He's in NY state, however he will ship USPS to avoid customs and is a great guy, AND ships quick AND has good prices. If you ever need a product reco, let me know. Alright, so I'm pretty much only doing winter preps right now, so here is what I basically do, and recommend everyone do prior to winter (right around the time they put their winters on). 1) First, if you're changing your tires, let's do that first. Get the summers off and put the winters on, before you put the winters on make sure to clean them well and if you have it, use some Wheel Sealant, Wheel Wax, or a paint sealant on the mags/wheels/alloys. Put the summers aside for now, more on those later. 2) Wash the car really well. We all know how to wash, there are FAQs on this forum how to do it. I suggest really getting down and dirty, use a fine brush to clean out body panels, door jambs, polish your exhaust and use a sealant on it, open the hood and trunk and clean the water gutter areas. 2) Strip whatever sealant/wax you have on the car, you can do this a few ways so here come the options. - If you have some marring you want removed, skip to #3 - If you do not have marring but will be using a chemical cleaner, skip to #4 - If you do not have marring and will not be using a chemical cleaner, skip to #5. 3) Polish the car. Hopefully you don't have much marring, so lets assume you're using a light polish, there are FAQs on polishing, so if you're doing that read this. Now if you're using a chemical cleaner next go to step #4, if not, go to step #5. 4) Wipe the car down with alcohol and water. Assuming you polished and/or are using a chemical cleaner I will assume you know how to do this. 50/50 alcohol/water, regular 70% off the counter isa alcohol. Apply your chemical cleaner (Klasse AIO, Werkstatt Prime, etc.), I very highly recommend these before winter for a few reasons. One, they will remove most waterspots you have from the summer/fall, they will really help "deep clean" the paint, and best of all they add a sealant base for your sealant, which will only help it last even longer. Buff off when ready (most are apply to a panel, remove). Go to step #6. 5) If you're not using a chemical cleaner you're going to want to use alcohol/water liberally to strip your old sealant/wax, clean your trim and windows, and remove any polish residue (if you polished). 50/50 rubbing alcohol/water, regular 70% off the counter isa alcohol. 6) Apply your sealant. What do I recommend? Well, we want to use something long lasting, there are quite a few you can choose from. A sampling of the ones I like: Zaino Z2pro/Z5pro, Werkstatt Acrylic Jett, Poorboys EX-P, Klasse HGSG. How you apply and remove the sealant depends on which you use. Almost all of them are apply, let haze, remove *except* HGSG, which you want to wipe on/wipe off. Apply over entire car, including windows. #7) As the sealant is hazing, do little peripheral jobs, polish exhaust, clean and dress trim, Clean/wax door jambs and hood/trunk jambs, clean and dress wheel wells. #8) Buff off the sealant however you choose (some dry buff, some buff w/quick detailer, some buff w/spray sealant). #9) Dress tires if you like that! #10) If you're not too tired go clean your summer wheels. I like trying to use soap/water first, but if that doesn't do it move to a highly diluted APC or non-acid wheel cleaner. If that doesn't do it you can try acid, but make sure you know how to use it. DO NOT use acid or apc on aluminum lips. Use a metal polish or soap and water. Seal them, cover, and put away. Any one of the sealants above will last 4-6 months, longer with a sealant base and even longer if you maintain with a spray sealant. Now for maintaining through winter you have a couple options, I get questions on "how to winter wash" all the time. Here is how I answer. If you're lucky enough to have a garage that is heated and you can spray a hose, wash normally. Now most of us don't have that, so if you insist on washing in the winter I highly recommend rinseless washes, like QEW or ONR (more info on them in the FAQs), do this in a garage only. If you do not have a garage and insist on washing you can find a decent local coin-op and bring your bucket/mitts/soap/towels. Try not to use auto washes, ok? I know it's hard, but it *so* isn't worth the marring you'll have come spring. Me? I wash occasionally with rinseless washes, but mostly I do this - when I am back from a long ride and I have a lot of salt, I will go to a local coin op, put in $2 and spray the snot out of my wheels, wheel wells, and undercarriage, I will also spray the paint and windows *lightly*, to remove any loose salt/junk. That's it, no actual touching. Remember, washing = marring, and also remember its winter, so washing is largely pointless if you use your car. ALSO remember salt will ONLY react with paint when it's over 0c/32f, so if you park in a garage or its warm, so just make sure to get it off when you can. If you NEED the car clean, use rinseless, or use your own stuff in a coin op. If someone puts a gun to your head you can go to a touchless, but don't blame me when I am polishing your car come spring. Why do all this? Well, the obvious reasons (keep it looking good), UV protection, bird poop, acid rain, also sealing windows WILL improve visibility, make it easier to wipe them on the highway, and make it much easier to remove snow from the car (I promise), it'll also help mitigate salt damage. How to Properly Wash Your Car What is the best product to use as a car wash? The correct answer is use what you like the best. There are some drawbacks to certain products and advantages to others. Dish detergents (Ivory Liquid, etc.) may be used, but realize that these products are designed to remove animal or vegetable fat from fired ceramic. They look at your nice coat of wax with the same hungry eyes. If you enjoy washing and rewaxing weekly, then dish detergent is for you. Wax retailers love people who use Ivory Liquid (they send the Ivory Company Christmas Cards every year). If you prefer to have your wax last a lot longer, you may consider using a product that is specifically designed for automotive use. The quality products are based upon detergents instead of soaps. Most soaps are manufactured from rendered animal byproducts (the stuff the dog food people reject). They contain trace elements that can actually damage your paint. These trace elements are the same goodies that leave a ring in your bathtub. The exception is soaps manufactured from plant fats. (These leave mold in your tub - just Kidding) Quality car washes/shampoos (same thing - most cars don't have hair) are usually pH controlled, contain gloss enhancers and some even have small amounts of water-soluble wax for good measure. Use only enough car wash to break the electrostatic/ionic bond between the dirt and your car. Start with a clean large bucket (preferably plastic - if you kick the metal bucket, Mr. Paint Chip rears his ugly head); add a small amount of the car wash and fill with cool water. Avoid hot water, as it will soften the wax. Read the directions on the car wash bottle and try reducing the recommended amount by half. I use less than a cap full in 5 gallons. The more car wash, the more wax you remove. Try to avoid powder car washes as the undissolved granules can lodge under your sponge or wash mitt and scratch the paint surface. Make sure that your car is in the shade and the paint surface is relatively cool. Rule of thumb #1: If you can comfortably hold your hand on the hood, you can wash/wax the car. Spray the car with a gentle spray to thoroughly wet the surface. Don't use a 200 P.S.I. fire hydrant spray, it isn't needed and may grind the surface grime into the paint and cause scratches. Some of the concours purists will not use a nozzle on the hose at all. Start at the top of the car and work down. Rewet the top; gently wash the top and then rinse. Move onto another section, such as the trunk or hood. Rewet this area, wash and rinse. Continue on down the car, completing a section at a time. This way, the car wash does not dry on the paint. You may use a wash mitt, wash pad or sponge to wash your car. I prefer a wash mitt, as the grit tends to work up into the long fibers and not scratch the paint. When I redip the mitt into the wash bucket, I give it a swirl to release the grit and every so often hold the top open, allowing it to fill with water. I then lift straight up and as the water runs out, it "back flushes" the trapped dirt out of the mitt. The flat surface of a sponge can sometimes catch dirt and act like sandpaper. The purist will use two wash mitts, one for the top half of the car (the cleanest) and one for below the trim line and wheels/wheel wells. You should dry the car as soon as possible. There are several methods to accomplish this. Lots of towels are a great drying medium. They should be 100% cotton. Check any towels carefully as most towels contain polymer fibers that scratch like hundreds of hypodermic needles. Do not assume that the 100% cotton label on the towel is telling the truth. The only way to check is to actually set fire to a rolled up corner of the towel. If you get a clean flame like a candlewick then it is 100% cotton. If you see black smoke and melted fibers, then you got one of the non 100%, anxiously waiting to scratch your paint type of towels. One person checked 130 towels all marked 100% cotton and discovered that 12 actually were. I love truth in advertising. Start at the top, lay the towel on the top and then GENTLY blot up the water from the surface. Change to a dry towel and blot any remaining water. Move to the hood or trunk and repeat. Dry the sides last, as the water will usually take care of itself on these surfaces. Another method is to use a chamois. There are two types, natural and synthetic. The natural leather chamois contain acids, primarily tannic, that strip wax. Most synthetic towels don't seem to do a satisfactory job. One exception is the P21S Super Absorbing Drying Towel. I have stopped using towels after trying this goodie and I used to be a "dyed in the wool" towel man. Driving the car to dry it may be fun, but you are re-depositing dirt on the wet surface and allowing the resulting "mud" to dry on the paint. Bird presents are one of the most damaging "natural" disasters that attack our paint. (I have never seen a Yugo attacked by a bird, but just wait till your brand new pride and joy leaves the garage, they swoop in like someone rang the free birdseed bell.) I don't know what we are feeding the birds, but what comes out of the south end of a northbound bird is highly acidic. The longer we leave these psychedelic bird presents on our paint, the more damage they will cause. The acids tend to etch a microscopic pond shaped depression in the paint. Removal as soon as possible will help minimize the damage. Instead of carrying a hose and bucket in your car, carry a bottle of no salt seltzer water. No salt seltzer water is nothing more than water and carbon dioxide which will not harm your paint. When needed, take off the cap, place your thumb over the top, shake well and you have a fire hydrant that will wash the worst of the bird's thoughtful gift from your paint. Try to rub this area as little as possible. Birds use gravel to digest their food and grit is one of the major components of their presents. If you try and rub off the solids, you may scratch the paint. Once you have gotten home and had a chance to wash the area with car wash, rinsed thoroughly and dried, use a little Meguiar #34 or One Grand Show Off to help remove any leftover acids. When you have the time, give the area a coat of wax. If the acids have left a slight mark in the paint, see the article on cleaning your paint. 3M Imperial Hand Glaze will usually remove all traces. How to Protect Your Cars Paint Finish A coat of wax is nothing more than a clear, sacrificial protectant for the painted, clear coated, polished, chromed and almost all other areas of your car except the rubber parts. It is far better to have ultraviolet rays, ozone, acid rain, tree sap, road tar, and all the other road hazards attack a coat of wax than attack your paint. The wax can be refreshed with little effort and cost, whereas replacing paint can be somewhat financially painful. A good coat of wax will also add "depth of shine" and reflective gloss to the finish, but cannot transform a neglected or abused finish from a pile of rubble into a Pebble Beach Concours winner. For a wax to be effective, it must be applied to a clean surface, as it will enhance the gloss as well as the defects of the surface. Carnauba wax is the protective coating of the leaves of the tropical Carnauba plant. Pure Carnauba wax is the consistency of a brick. To be useful as a car wax, solvents, lubricants and numerous other additives must be blended with the wax. If you see a wax advertised to be 100% Carnauba wax, they are really saying that whatever wax there may be in the can is 100% Carnauba (one advertised "100%" brand that comes to mind is actually 5.3% Carnauba wax and 94.7% who knows what). There are also numerous grades of Carnauba, and the top grades are expensive, so a high content percentage may not tell the whole story. The top grades are #1 white and # 1 yellow (no, it does not come in blue). Some of the better waxes on the market are about 25% to 35% #1 Carnauba. Carnauba will produce, in my humble opinion, the best depth of shine of any type of wax on the market. You may also apply several coats of a quality Carnauba wax over a period of time without getting "wax buildup". The downside is that Carnauba is somewhat sensitive to excess car wash. A very strong solution of car wash or the use of dish detergent will tend to strip the wax. The use of the minimal amount of car wash in your wash solution will help your wax last a lot longer. There are two forms of wax, paste and liquid. They differ basically in the amount of solvents. Rock hard Carnauba is diluted with solvents to either the paste form or further diluted to the liquid form. When you apply a paste wax, the friction of application helps melt the wax and evaporate the solvents. A liquid wax usually contains more volatile solvents that evaporate out when the wax is applied. The excess wax, left over lubricants, excess bonding agents, solvent residues and whatever else is left forms the "haze" that is buffed out to reveal the wax. The polymer-based waxes tend to last longer, yet do not seem to give the same depth of shine, as do the Carnauba waxes. As a general rule, depth of shine and longevity are opposite ends of the same scale. Polymer waxes are also usually less sensitive to excess car wash. They do seem to be somewhat more hydroscopic (absorb water and become cloudy) than the organic waxes. If you are using a polymer based wax on a German paint and have hazing or clouding of the wax, about the only thing that will work is to strip the polymer wax and rewax with a Carnauba based wax. German paints hate polymer-based waxes. I have spoken to paint chemists, the Glazurit people, Porsche, BMW and M/B people and to date have not gotten a viable reason for this. I have gotten a lot of mumbling and shuffling of feet, but no hard and fast answers. The American and Japanese paints can tolerate polymer waxes. The German paints just don't seem to react well with most of these products. There are also highly advertised Teflon based products on the market. It is my understanding that it requires a 600 plus degree environment to bond Teflon to your paint. So, unless you are applying it with a flamethrower, you may not be getting all you paid for. (In the same vein, just be glad you are not getting all the government you are paying for). The polymer-based products will also tend to build up with several applications and this buildup may turn off color over time. The solution to this problem is to strip everything off and start again. Prior to applying any wax, thoroughly wash the car with a quality car wash to remove any grime, bugs and tar spots. If washing does not remove all the flora and fauna, then a stronger cleaning agent may be necessary. There are several quality citrus degreasers or bug and tar removers on the market. Some of my favorites are P21S Total Auto Wash (a citrus degreaser), Wurth Citrus Degreaser, Wurth Tar Remover, Sonax Tar Remover and One Grand Tar, Wax and Gum Remover. I have found that the citrus degreasers work better on the organic type contaminants such as 100 M.P.H. bug trophies and tree sap splotches. If you have parked under a tree and found a coating of very, very small hardened dots on your car, this may not be tree sap. It may be in fact the result of aphids and other little varmints in the trees making anal statements. Try removing these aphid presents with a strong car wash solution. If this does not work, try using a degreaser on the remaining spots. The tar removers seem to work better at removing road tar spots. Rewash and rinse any areas you have cleaned with solvents thoroughly to remove all traces of the solvents. If you have "tar spots" on your wheels, they may not in fact be tar, but are probably brake dust residue. This is a residue from the polymer matrix of the brake pads that has melted and re-polymerized on your wheels. Tar removers may help remove them, if not, Oil Flo Safety Solvent is usually effective. Well, it's time to wax your pride and joy. "Honey where is the Pledge? I want to wax the car". Just kidding, unless you own a '34 Cord Laminated Beachwood Boat Tail Speedster, I would stick with a quality car wax. One of the keys to applying car wax is to apply it sparingly. Assuming that the finish has just been washed and dried and is free of grit and does not need glazing/polishing, then apply the wax with a small piece of 100% cotton cloth or a terry cloth covered sponge or a foam type applicator pad. An even better method of application for a paste wax is to use your fingers. Hold your fingers together to form an "applicator". Rub the wax thoroughly into the surface. Your fingers will give you the tactile feedback to let you know when the wax has been worked into the surface. The heat of your body will also melt the wax and help it flow onto the surface. This is NOT a situation where a little is good, so a lot must be better. Your paint will only accept X amount of wax. If you apply 100 times X then you will have to remove 99X in the form of dried powder. It will make waxing more difficult, require more buffing and create clouds of white dust. Make sure the paint surface is cool. Rule of thumb #1, if you can hold your hand comfortably on the paint, then it is cool enough to wax. Work in the shade, preferably in a garage. Open your can of wax, get a small amount on your fingers (or cloth/pad) and recover the can (this keeps dirt out of the can). Apply to the paint surface, rubbing in a linear motion. Work into the paint in a front-to- back, back-to-front motion (the way the air flows over the car). Don't go around in circles the way dear old dad taught you. If you are using a pad and airborne grit gets under the pad, you have made sandpaper. If you are working in a circle, you have made a 360-degree scratch (or swirl mark). Since a scratch or swirl mark is most visible from a 90 degree viewing angle, a circular scratch is visible anywhere. If you work in a linear motion, and scratch the surface, the linear scratch is only visible from a small viewing angle. Using only your fingers to apply wax will give you the tactile feedback to know when surface grit is about to scratch your paint. Work the small amount of wax into the surface until all that remains is slight haze. Use of your fingers will also tell you when the wax has been thoroughly worked into the paint and will help prevent you from using too much wax. Most waxes work best when this slight haze is allowed to dry. Complete the application on one section of the car such as the hood, trunk, fender, etc. Buff this section and then move onto another section. There are some waxes that require you to buff immediately after applying to a small 12" X 12" section. Zymol or P21S are classic examples of this type of wax. If you allow Zymol/P21S to dry before buffing, you will need a belt sander to remove them. Read the directions on the can to determine the proper method. Buff out the slight haze with a soft 100% cotton cloth. Buff a small section; shake out the cloth to remove any grit and rebuff with a new section. Keep using new sections of and change cloths frequently. I use old flannel sheets. They are super soft and produce a brilliant shine. Move onto another section of the car. Repeat the application and buffing procedures. When the car has been completed, return to the first section completed and rebuff with another clean cloth. The wax has had time to harden off and this extra buffing will bring out a rich, deep shine. If there are areas that are hazy or cloudy, and you are using a Carnauba based wax, the wax has become hydroscopic and has absorbed a little water. Mist the cloudy areas with a small amount of water (a plant mister works well) and rebuff. This should remove the clouding. In certain very high humidity situations, the wax may not dry properly. The cure for this problem is to allow the car to bake in the sun for a day or so and then rebuff. The heat of the sun will usually dry the excess moisture and the buffing will bring out a deep shine. Another trick to buff out any cloudy areas is to mist the area with One Grand Show Off or Meguiar #34 Final Inspection and buff out. This will usually remove all traces of trapped water and produce a deep rich shine. These two products are also handy to remove water spots from well- waxed surfaces. Make sure the surface is clean and free of grit, spray on and buff out. The gloss enhancers and liquid wax ingredients will restore the deep shine, All cloths you use on your car should be 100% cotton and should be washed in the washing machine using only detergent. Do not add any fabric softener to the water. Dry them in the dryer and DO NOT use a dryer anti-static towel (I think that's what they are called). These dryer towels contain coatings that are transferred to your car cloths and may cause streaks. If you have ever had your wax streak and you could not figure out why, your dryer towel was probably the culprit. You will remove a giant ball of cloths and static electricity from your dryer, but will not have mysterious streaks. These are some of my favorite waxes. There are positive and negative attributes to each one. There is no such thing as the "right" wax. If your car is a daily driver and is left out in the mud, rain and sun all day, then you may consider Blitz Wax. If on the other hand you have a "garage queen" that sees sunlight on weekends only, you may consider either the new P21S or Zymol waxes. BLITZ WAX...A quality Carnauba wax that produces a deep, durable shine and protects against the harmful elements. Contains no cleaners or abrasives. Easy to apply and easy to remove; yet long lasting. This is my favorite wax for most applications. HARLY PASTE WAX...Made from the highest grade of Number One Yellow Carnauba, the worlds hardest and finest wax. Relatively easy to apply, a little difficult to remove. Contains no extenders, cleaners, admixtures or abrasives. This is a purist's wax. 3M SHOW CAR PASTE WAX...Shines and protects new and like new paint finishes, producing a high gloss, durable "wet look" finish. Contains both carnauba wax and fluropolymers to produce a durable finish. For best results, apply to a small area and immediately buff out; otherwise the wax residue may be somewhat difficult to remove. May cause slight clouding on certain German finishes. MEGUIAR #26 HI-TECH YELLOW WAX...A blend of premium yellow Carnauba wax, polymers and other waxes to provide maximum high gloss protection while enhancing depth of color. Will not streak or chalk on any previously cleaned and polished finishes. Available in paste or liquid. This wax will last on daily driver cars, but does not give quite the shine of Blitz. May cause clouding on certain German finishes. MEGUIAR #34 FINAL INSPECTION...A lubricating gloss enhancing spray that adds shine, slickness, depth of color and protection in one step. Great for spot cleaning and maintaining a high gloss shine between waxings. MEGUIAR MEDALLION FOR ALL PAINT...The polymer cationic bonding system produces a super slick finish. A blend of paint nutrients and conditioners, that lasts much longer and reduces static so finish is not a "dirt magnet". Some German finishes have had hydroscopic reactions (clouding) with this product. A great product for very dusty climates. ONE GRAND SHOWOFF QUICK DETAILER...A solution of liquid waxes and gloss enhancers to give you car that "just waxed" look. Mist on and buff out for a brilliant shine between waxings or to remove "water spots" after washing. P21S CONCOURS LOOK CARNAUBA WAX...A new wax developed to compete directly with Zymol. Produces, in my humble opinion, the best depth of shine of any wax on the market and lasts a little longer than Zymol. We are not talking quantum leaps, but has a slight edge. Does not offer the pina colada experience. My favorite wax for a "garage queen" or a frequently waxed car. SONAX HARD WAX SPRAY...Same hard wax as the liquid in a pump can. Great for wheels, wheel wells and other difficult to reach areas that need a coat of wax. Does not chalk or turn white. ZYMOL CARBON /CREME WAX...Carbon formula is for dark colors. A totally abrasive free wax containing nutritive oils, enzymes and pure Carnauba to replenish both new and older finishes. Can be used on chrome, alloy wheels, rubber or plastic trim and Plexiglas with no chalk residue or staining. This is the "pina colada" experience in a can. Produces arguably one of the best depth of shine on the market, but does not last. Some have said it lasts about as long as it takes to apply it. How to Properly Care for the Leather Surfaces in Your Cars Interior The care and feeding of the leather and the vinyl components of your automotive interior are two very different processes. If you are using one product on both, that is somewhat like using gasoline as a lubricant. It will work, but not for long. I will cover the care and feeding of leather and vinyl separately. Leather having once been used to keep the insides of a cow from falling out was designed to pass moisture through tiny pores. These tiny pores absorb human perspiration and as the water evaporates, salts contained therein remain to absorb the essential oils in the leather. This accumulation of salts and other grunge should be cleaned from the leather about twice a year (more often if the seats get more than their fair share of your leftover sweat). The loss of oils within the leather is the first step to hardening, cracking and shrinkage. Leather dashes are very prone to this problem. Your dash is subjected to the destructive UV rays and heat concentrated by the windshield. The leather (or vinyl) of your dash rests upon a metal backing that acts like a frying pan. This "frying" drives the essential oils from the leather causing premature shrinkage, cracking and hardening. Thus a dash should be treated more often than the seats or door panels. Cleaning leather may be accomplished by using a mild soap and water, or specifically designed leather cleaner. Of all the products I have tried, I still like Lexol pH Cleaner. It is pH balanced, and gentle. All cleaners will rehydrate the leftover salts and grime and wash them from the leather fibers. Use only leather products on leather, do not use vinyl cleaners, as these products tend to be much harsher and may not be that beneficial to the leather. Any cleaner should be rinsed thoroughly from the leather. I have tried spraying off with a hose, but that just seemed to fill the car with soapy water (a hole drilled in the floor was needed to drain it out - just kidding). I went back to using a damp cloth and repeatedly wiping down the leather. Once the leather is clean, a conditioner should be used to restore lost oils and emollients. Envision leather as a sponge. When the leather is new, the "sponge" is full of oil and soft and pliable. Body salts, UV, heat and other factors drive the oil from the "sponge", allowing the leather to shrink and become brittle. A quality leather conditioner will help maintain the oil in the leather. There are several conditioners on the market. My favorite over the years is Lexol Leather Conditioner. It seems to be the most easily absorbed into the leather fibers and tends to leave a relatively less "greasy" finish than any of the other products I have tried. Another good product is Connolly Hide Food. This product is made from rendered animal parts and will turn rancid in about two years. This and the distinctive "cow" smell removes it from my top two list (I spent too much time milking the south end of a north pointing cow, so am not a fan of cow smells). Zymol makes a product called "Leather Treat". It does not, in my humble opinion, do any better job than the much less expensive Lexol. One Grand Leather Conditioner is a petroleum-based conditioner that seems to work better on the American and Japanese leathers. Again, do not use a vinyl product as a conditioner on leather and above all try to avoid raw silicone oil based products. The silicone oil will dissolve out the leather's natural oils and tend to make the leather sticky. Silicone oil has a very high electrostatic attraction, so will invite every dust particle within miles to set up camp in your interior. Apply the conditioner to a soft cloth and work into the leather, allow to be absorbed into the fibers and then buff off the excess. You may condition the leather as often as you wish. As a rule, condition your leather 3 to 4 times a year. The leather will tell you if you apply too much or apply to often. The leather fibers will just not absorb the excess. If your leather has hardened or needs some intensive softening, there is a really nifty product called "Surflex Leather Soffener". This product is made from natural and synthetic oils that restore the natural softness to neglected leather. Clean the leather and then apply a liberal coat of Soffener and cover with plastic. Allow to penetrate the leather for at least 72 hours. Wipe off the excess. If it needs an additional application, repeat the above. For really bad areas, cover with plastic and allow to sit for a few days. Once the leather is sufficiently softened, allow to "cure" for another 24 hours and buff off any excess. You are done. I jokingly say this product will turn a dog's rawhide chew into a kid glove. I have had some luck with leather dashes with this method. Once the leather has softened, I have been able to gently tuck it back under the edges of the trim and windshield clips. This is a lot cheaper than a new dash and may be worth a try before spending a ton of money. If your leather or vinyl has scuffmarks, scratches or areas that the surface color has been removed, you may refinish it yourself. Most German seats are famous for scuffing on the left bolster of the driver's seat. This is usually caused by your belt loops as you get in and out of the seat. The key is another Surflex product. The Surflex Colorant & Finish for Flexible Surfaces may be matched to the exact color required. Any interior leather or vinyl surface may be refinished. It is not recommended to spot finish any area. If your seat bolsters have belt loop scuff marks, you should refinish the entire front of the seat. I usually do from welting to welting. This provides a visual break that does not make the non-refinished areas appear quite as shabby. But then why not do the whole seat, dash, or door panel? Start by conditioning the leather to insure that the leather is fully hydrated with oils. Once the leather is fully conditioned or softened, if needed, then clean the area(s) to be refinished with a suitable Organic Solvent. I prefer P21S Total Auto Wash or Wurth Citrus Degreaser. Prior to usage, test all solvents on an area that does not show. I use the excess on the underside of the seat to test the colorfastness of the finish. Spray the solvent on a soft lint free cloth, and then wipe down the surface(s). Repeat after a few minutes. Rinse several times with a sponge or cloth and a couple of buckets of clear water and allow to dry thoroughly (at least 24 hours). The manufacturer of Surflex says to strip the old finish off using lacquer thinner, commercial paint remover or C-P Stripper. I don't, because most interiors are not in that bad a shape and I have never found it necessary (They also recommend lightly sanding the area prior to usage, I don't do that either - no guts). Mix the Surflex completely and apply with brush, spray it on or use it like a wood stain. I prefer to use a small piece of lint free cloth and work the Surflex into the leather or vinyl just as if I were staining wood. Once the desired color of finish is achieved, allow to dry undisturbed for at least 24 hours. I allow the surface to "harden off" for about 6 weeks before applying any conditioners to leather or vinyl protectants to vinyl parts. I have not had a lot of luck refinishing dark leather to a significantly lighter color. The old color tends to show through in small "cracks" and the whole panel seems to be "muddy". Maybe if you strip off all the old finish, it would look better. Someday, I will get an old seat and give it a try. The Surflex Black Colorant works great on black bumpers, black spoilers or black rubber/vinyl trim that has been severely scratched or badly scuffed and is beyond the help of Black Again. Clean the entire part thoroughly with P21S Total Auto Wash or Wurth Citrus Degreaser, rinse and dry thoroughly. Mask off the paint and then stain the area with the Colorant and allow to dry. It will look like new. After about 3 weeks hardening off, coat with a protective coating of Black Again or One Grand Exterior Rubber. Small cuts, cracks or holes in leather may be partially repaired using another Surflex product called Flex-Fill. This is a semi-flexible cosmetic filling material. You use it like a Spackle compound. It will take the Surflex colorant similar to leather or vinyl. I have been able to repair several damaged areas and hide them so they are not visible to the casual observer. Will it make a three-inch crack in your dash look like new? No, but it may help hide it so that it isn't quite so obvious. I have found that forcing Flex-Fill under the repaired area and forming an inverted T patch works best. Once the patch is dry, sand lightly to blend in with the leather or vinyl. Clean the area thoroughly and refinish with the Surflex Colorant. This is a learned skill, so you should practice on a test piece of leather or vinyl. Perfect your techniques before you tackle your expensive interior. How to Properly Clean Your Cars Paintwork Cleaning your paint does not mean washing your car, it means removing oxidation and contaminants, adding emollient oils back into the paint and smoothing out the surface of the paint. There are several products on the market that will accomplish one, two or all three of these functions. In fact, there are so many products by so many names, that the correct choice may be confusing. Before we start, let's define some broad categories of products. CLEANER: A cleaning agent may be either friction or chemical. A friction cleaner is usually either a silicate or clay particulate. If you examine your paint through a microscope, it would look like a mountain range with peaks and valleys. The friction or abrasive (don't get nervous at the word abrasive) type cleaner will clip the tops of these mountains off and help fill in the valleys, to approach the optimum smooth plane that offers the greatest depth of shine. Friction cleaners are usually described as fine, medium or heavy cut. When in doubt, use the least aggressive product. A chemical cleaner will usually strip equal amounts of hill and dale and thus not help smooth the paint. A cleaner should also remove old wax and other contaminants in the paint. Chemical type cleaners are usually more effective in removing the remains of 100 M.P.H. bugs, stains, tree sap and tars. Avoid silicone-based products as they are not beneficial to paint and can cause problems down the road. Ask any professional car painter their thoughts on silicone products, and you will usually get a 30-minute tirade. GLAZE: A glaze usually denotes a superfine friction type of cleaning agent, usually with essential emollients and lubricating oils and may even contain some mild chemical cleaners. Glazes will usually remove mild swirl marks, scratches, refresh the paint with oils and smooth out the finish. POLISH: A polish is normally a non-abrasive product based on a nutrient oil matrix and may or may not have a chemical cleaner as part of the package. Most polishes use fillers to help cover swirl marks. COMPOUND: A compound is the "coarse sandpaper" of the paint-cleaning world. This should be used only if the paint is in serious trouble and all else has failed. If you are one step away from 1- 800-NEW-PAINT, then you may consider a compound. CLAY: Literally a plasticene/abrasive mixture used to smooth new paint and remove over spray. This type of product must be used with lots of lubricant. The technique of using a clay is a learned skill. Use too little lubricant, or get contaminants in the clay, and you have moved into scratch city. This is one product that is the fast lane to trouble if not used with extreme care. I do not recommend this product as a general paint cleaner. You literally grind off a layer of paint. Should be used as was intended, to remove paint over spray. CLEANER/WAX: A combination, one-step chemical cleaner and a wax. I am not a fan of these types of products, as they are required to perform two very diverse functions simultaneously. A cleaner should remove old wax, so how does it simultaneously apply a coat of new wax? You may wish to use this type of product only in emergency situations or on your Yugo. WAX: There are two broad categories of wax, organic and polymer based. The organic waxes may be derived from plants such as Carnauba, or varmints, such as bee's wax or some of the K- Mart specials contain paraffin refined from dead dinosaurs. The polymer-based waxes are usually collected from specially trained robotic bees that gather the polymer nectar from plastic flowers (or it may be made in chemical factories). DEGREASERS/TAR/BUG REMOVERS: These types of products are normally solvents designed to dissolve surface contaminants such as road tar or bugs. There are two broad classifications of solvents, petroleum distillates and citrus based. The quality citrus products tend to be gentler on the paint. Any degreaser/tar/bug remover will remove wax. So after you have rid your car of the remains of Billy bee, you will have to rewax the area. (What is the last thing that goes through a bee's mind as he slams into your windshield at 60 mph? ......His stinger.) Be aware that many of the popular over the counter tar removers are based on kerosene and may cause long-term damage to paint. How often should you clean the paint? The correct answer is based upon several factors. If your car is a "garage queen" and only sees the light of day once a week or so, then once a year is usually often enough. If it is a daily driver, and sits out in the elements day after day, then twice maybe three times a year may be required. Your paint will tell you when it needs to be cleaned. It may scream at the top of its little lungs or it may be more subtle and simply lose its luster and look dull (you know your paint better than I do). If the finish is subjected to acid rain, and the effects of highly acidic bird offerings, then you may have to clean specific areas of the finish a little more often. If someone tells you to clean the paint each time you wax, then they are either trying to sell you another paint job or have an excess of cleaner they are trying to unload. Power tools and fine finishes, in my humble opinion, do not mix. There is nothing that a power buffer can do, that you cannot do by hand. The advantage of power is speed. This also applies to getting yourself into trouble. The edges of your body panels and raised/creased areas of the sheet metal have the thinnest layer of paint. When the body is painted, the liquid paint will tend to flow away from these raised areas. A power buffer will concentrate its energy on the thin paint of these high points. This is another way of saying hello to your primer or as the professionals say, "burning an edge". If you must use a power buffer, use only closed cell foam pads and use one pad for each product. Do not use lambs wool type of pads, as they are swirl marks waiting to happen. Most importantly, use only a cleaner/glaze/polish type product that is specifically formulated for use with a power buffer. The frictional heat of a buffer will cause some product's abrasives to flocculate or clump together and make your hood look like a newly plowed cornfield. Most people do not appreciate this look. I have defined some of the major types of cleaners, but realize that the numberless manufacturers do not all conform to the defined nomenclature. I personally prefer a glaze to a polish to clean and prepare the paint for wax. The difference is that a glaze uses a superfine abrasive cleaning agent, whereas a polish usually uses a chemical cleaner. The glazes tend to smooth out the paint more effectively than the polishes. If the paint does not have any imperfections, then a polish should be enough. As a rule, if you have swirls or light scratches, then use a glaze. If you don't then use a polish. The first step to your cleaning/waxing regimen is to wash your car with a quality car wash and dry thoroughly. The benefits of a clean surface cannot be over emphasized, unless you are a fan of swirl marks and feel that hairline scratches are attractive, wash thoroughly before starting. Pick a section of the car such as the hood, door, top or whatever. Glaze/polish this section of your car completely, redoing any section(s) that need additional help. The glaze/polish should produce the deep gloss that you desire. Once this section dazzles you with it's brilliance, then and only then, apply a coat of wax to this section. Realize that the wax is nothing more than a clear protectant and will not remove or hide scratches or swirl marks. Once this section of your car has been completed, move onto another section and begin the glaze/polish and wax process again. If your paint has swirl marks, acid rain marks or faint scratches, then you may wish to use a glaze. The definition of a faint scratch is one that you can see but not feel. If you can feel the scratch with your fingernail, then it is beyond the scope of this article and should be treated as a paint chip. Rule #1: Use the least aggressive product/technique to get the job done! It is very easy to repeat an application of a mild product to achieve a result, but is very expensive to replace paint when you have gotten too aggressive. If your paint does not have swirl marks/scratches, but has lost some of it's luster, then you may consider using a polish. I usually prefer glazes to polishes, but that is somewhat subjective and very dependent upon the condition of the finish. Any cloths you use on your car should be 100% cotton and should be washed in the washing machine using only detergent. Do not add any fabric softener to the water. Dry them in the dryer and DO NOT use a dryer anti-static towel (I think that's what they are called). These dryer towels contain coatings that are transferred to your car cloths and may cause streaks. If you have ever had your wax streak and you could not figure out why, your dryer towel was probably the culprit. You will remove a giant ball of cloths and static electricity from your dryer, but will not have mysterious streaks. All glazes/polishes should be applied to a cool surface and in the shade. Never wash, clean or wax your car in the hot sun. Rule #1, if you can hold your hand comfortably on the surface of the paint, then you can clean and/or wax your car. Apply with your choice of a soft 100% cotton cloth, applicator pad, or closed cell foam pad. Squirt a small amount onto your pad/cloth and then apply to the paint surface. Do not apply any product directly onto the surface, as you will tend to use too much and may wind up with an uneven result. Work into the surface with a linear motion, front to back, back to front, the way the air flows over the car. Do not go around in circles. If a piece of grit lodges under your pad, you have made sandpaper and a circular motion will produce a 360- degree swirl mark. All scratches are most visible at a 90 degree viewing angle, so a circular swirl is visible from any vantage point. A linear type scratch is only noticeable from a very narrow viewing angle. Work the glaze/polish into the surface using moderate pressure until all that is left is a slight haze. (Read the directions on the bottle to determine the manufacturer's recommended method.) Buff out the slight haze with a soft 100% cotton cloth. Buff out a small section, shake out the cloth (away from the car) to remove any grit and rebuff with a new section. Keep using new sections of cloth and change cloths frequently. I use my wife's old flannel sheets. They are super soft and produce a brilliant shine. (Try not "borrowing" the sheets from the marital bed, as this may lead to some spousal discontent.) When the chosen section of the car has been completed, rebuff with another clean cloth. If you are happy with the shine and deep gloss of the section, apply a coat of your favorite wax. I have outlined the types and usage of glazes and polishes, now I will list several quality paint cleaning agents and give a brief synopsis of each. The most important caveat is "use the least aggressive product to accomplish the task". It is easy to redo an area with a gentle product; it is rather costly to replace paint once you have gotten enthusiastic with a very aggressive product. The list is alphabetical, so infer nothing by the order. You may read between the lines to determine my personal favorites. CLEANERS: 3M IMPERIAL HAND GLAZE: This is my personal favorite (how is that for between the lines?). I have tried just about every product on the market, and keep coming back to 3M Hand Glaze. It is gentle on the paint, produces, in my humble opinion, the deepest gloss, yet is aggressive enough to remove fine swirl marks and scratches. It also "feeds" the paint with emollient oils. If an area needs a little more aggressive cleaning, soak your pad in the 3M and add a small amount (about the size of your pinkie nail) of P21S Multi Finish Restorer Polish (don't you just love the translation of German names?), mix the two together on the pad and then rub out the area using a linear motion. Buff out and repeat if necessary. This combo works very well on swirl marks and scratches that can be seen but not detected with your fingernail. Once the blemish has been removed, follow with an application of straight Hand Glaze to restore the deep shine and then wax. The recess behind the door handles is a classic area that responds well to this combination. HARLY PRE-WAX CLEANER: A mild chemical cleaner and polish that does a decent job on oxidized paint, but doesn't remove scratches that well. It does work very well on oxidized chrome. MEGUIAR #01 MEDIUM CUT CLEANER: A moderately abrasive cleaner to remove surface defects including harsh swirl marks, oxidation, water marks, and wet sanding marks. Follow with a fine glaze (3M or #7) and a coat of wax. This is the "medium sandpaper " of the abrasive cleaner set, so use only if your regular glaze will not do the job. MEGUIAR #02 FINE CUT CLEANER: A mildly abrasive cleaner for fine swirl marks, water spots, and fine defects. Follow with a fine glaze and a coat of wax. The "fine sandpaper" in the abrasive cleaner family. MEGUIAR #04 HEAVY CUT CLEANER: A heavy-duty abrasive cleaner for paint that is one step away for 1-800-NEW-PAINT. This is slightly safer to use than compounds. Should be followed by an application of #02 and then a fine glaze and a coat of wax. Use with extreme care, or you will make some body shop person very happy. MEGUIAR #06 CLEANER/WAX: A one step chemical cleaner with a liquid wax. Use for spot application when your favorite cleaning/wax regimen is not practical, or use on your Yugo. MEGUIAR #07 SHOWCAR GLAZE: A hand applied glaze to remove fine swirls and water spots also adds emollient oils back into the paint. Follow with a coat of quality wax. MEGUIAR #09 SWIRL REMOVER: This is a polish (chemical cleaner with an emollient oil matrix) that works well on clear coat finishes that are in reasonably good shape. MEGUIAR MEDALLION PAINT CLEANER: Another chemical cleaner that contains a fair amount of polymers. This may not work well with some German finishes. Designed for use with the Medallion cationic bonding system. ONE GRAND CLEAN & WAX: A one step chemical cleaner, filler and liquid wax. Will hide minor swirl marks and apply a coat of wax in one operation. Another spot repair or daily "beater car" type of product. FINISHES: ONE GRAND OMEGA GLAZE: A fine water based abrasive glaze. Leaves a nice finish. Seems to work better on American/Japanese finishes than German paints. P21S GLOSS ENHANCING PAINTWORK CLEANSER: (another translation from German): A thick, rich, creamy polish that leaves a deep rich shine. Developed by a German company with the German finishes in mind. Our favorite product for finishes that do not have scratches. (Did you read between the lines again?). Produces the best deep gloss finish of any product I have ever tried. SONAX POLISH & WAX: A high gloss liquid wax that protects against road salts, acid rain, air pollution, etc. Easy to apply and easy to buff out. Use whenever you want quick protection. Some consider this liquid cleaner/wax to be the best-kept secret of single step waxes. ZYMOL HD CLEANSE: Zymol offers the "pina colada" experience for those who enjoy the olfactory stimulation while cleaning their paint. A touch aggressive and a touch expensive for my taste but defended to the death by Zymol addicts. Be aware of a new line of Zymol products that are made by Turtle Wax and sold under the Zymol label. If you find Zymol in K-Mart, it is really Zurtle Wax. Check the back of the bottle; if it says Chicago, IL, then it's Zurtle.
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