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Exterior Detailing

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On: Thu, Sep 15, 2011 at 2:23PM | By: Peter C Sessler


Exterior Detailing

There’s nothing like putting the shine back in your car’s paint. Not only does the car look better, but you feel better about it and it probably runs better, too. It can be a time-consuming process, but when it’s done correctly, your car will look great and the wax or polish that you use will protect the paint as well.

Most cars today have a two-step paint finish—the base color coat and a protective clearcoat paint. The clearcoat gives the paint depth and a higher gloss, but is a very thin layer. When the clearcoat gets damaged, the color coat underneath doesn’t shine through very clearly. But just like any other paint, clear is just as susceptible to oxidation, staining and, of course, scratches. Acid rain is particularly bad for paint.

Ever notice that most new cars shipped from the factory to the dealer’s lot now have a white plastic covering on the hood and other horizontal surface areas? The reason is acid rain, which can quickly etch spots and stains into the finish, and these spots can be very difficult to remove. Although the paint on a brand new car is "dry," it doesn’t fully cure until many months have passed.

The traditional method for removing imperfections is to use an abrasive rubbing compound (there are some waxes that have abrasive qualities as well—these are cleaner-type waxes) but you really have to be careful with clearcoats because they are so thin. It’s possible to remove the clearcoat layer if you use a rubbing compound. Light scratches should be removable with just a very mild polishing compound. Whatever product you use, make sure it says that it’s formulated for clearcoat paints. You can’t buff out scratches that go through the clearcoat, but you may be able to get good results with clear touch-up paint.

The only way to discover the condition of your car’s paint is to give it a thorough wash. Most "authorities" recommend using a car wash-type product, but if you’re going to wax the car, I’d recommend using a dish-type detergent.

Detergents will strip away any old wax on the surface, which is what you want, anyway. Use the car wash-type products to wash the car after it has been waxed, as it won’t remove wax. Then I would use some clay. The clay will remove any detritus.

If the lower areas of the body have residue that the detergent won’t remove, you can use one of those tar remover products that smell like kerosene. In fact, that’s the main ingredient, so you might as well just use straight kerosene. Rinse the car thoroughly after washing and dry the car with thick-nap towels.

Inspect the paint after washing. Use touch-up paint on paint chips and deep scratches; stains and light scratches can be removed with a car cleaner-type wax or polish. Always start off with the mildest product—remember, you don’t want to remove the clearcoat layer.

Good auto detailers can remove chips and scratches by filling in the affected area with touch-up paint, making sure that the paint forms a slight bubble over the area. After about an hour or so, the bubble of paint is dry enough to be buffed down to match the rest of the paint.

The next step is waxing the paint. Work in a shaded area, doing a section at a time. Don’t put too much wax on the paint—use just enough to cover the paint.

Don’t forget to wax the areas behind the bumpers and the door jambs as well. For the best possible results, the finish should be buffed out with an orbital-type buffer. It is possible to burn through the paint if you aren’t careful. The plastic chrome used on today’s cars should be treated as though it were paint.

Be careful not to get any wax on flat, black plastic or rubber areas. If you do, use a mild spray-type cleaner. To remove excess wax on emblems and moldings, use a toothbrush or cotton swabs.

Use special wheel cleaner products to clean the wheels and make sure to treat the tires with tire dressing. You now have your choice of using a product that leaves the tires shiny or less shiny.

The job would not be complete without cleaning the windows, inside and out. There are plenty of glass cleaners, but I’ve found that Windex works just fine and usually better than most of the cheaper store-type brands. Don’t forget to roll down each window slightly to get the area that fits into the door frame.

That’s about does it. If your car is painted in a dark color, you might notice that there is some wax dust residue left on the paint. Giving the car a quick rinse usually takes care of that.

Now you can go out and drive your "new" car!




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