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How to Detail Your Car's Exterior Like a Pro

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On: Mon, Jul 15, 2013 at 6:22PM | By: Elizabeth Puckett


How to Detail Your Car's Exterior Like a Pro

Back when I first got my Pontiac Formula, it was in showroom condition—despite already being six-years old at the time. The car was very well taken care of and it showed; it had obviously been babied those first 20,000 miles. When the 17-year-old version of myself got it ten years ago, that all changed; within three months I started racing it at the track. It got rough, and quick! I was ashamed when I took a minute to notice that I had aged this car 10 years in a little less than six months. So that’s when I started spending six hours a week dedicated to fully detailing my car, and soon moved on to helping friends beautify their muscle cars as well. Here’s what I learned about waxing that eventually allowed me to cut that time in half and still produce the same results as a professional.

Wash Throughly and Dry Throughly Before Waxing
I’ve seen a lot of people make this rookie mistake and their car shows it. Don’t skimp on wash and dry times. Contaminants left on the car, including water, will make your wax look awful and will even compromise the clearcoat.

Waxes are NOT One-Size-Fits-All!
When I first started waxing my car, I used this stuff my dad had in the garage because he swore that it was the best. Although my dad had been using it since he was a teenager on his sports cars, it didn’t do so well on mine. That’s because my car was filthy. I needed a cleaner wax, at least at first. Once I got my clearcoat back up to showroom quality, I started using a wax with teflon in it and it shone like the sun!

Timing Matters with Wax
Anyone who’s ever waxed a car by hand knows the pain of removing the wax. You have to wait until just the perfect time to get it off. Don't wax the whole car and then go back to remove it all at once. Try waxing two areas and removing the wax right away before moving on to the next spots.

Power Tools Make Your Life Much Easier...
It just occurred to me one day that I could probably use a buffing pad attachment and an impact and it’d probably take the wax off quicker—I was dead on! Not only did it take it off quicker, but the finish was stunning. You’ll need to use the lowest speed and softest pad to avoid swirls and damage to the clearcoat.

Products are Awesome
There’s virtually a product out there for any paint situation you can think of; I commonly had burnt rubber on my rear quarter panels so I frequently used a product known as clay bar to get it off. Other problems I’ve had include road tar sticking to my rocker panels, small scratches in the clearcoat, and general dulling because of the sun and time. I have an arsenal of products for every different situation and they weren’t hard to find. I got most of them from my local auto parts store. Just read the label to find products to tackle the current problems that are keeping your car from looking it’s best.

After You Remove the Wax, Remove the Residue
Wax leaves a horrible residue no matter what kind you use. Go over the whole car with a soft towel to remove any residue that could bake into the finish if left behind. After that, go over the vehicle with a buffing mitt (I use sheepskin) for a perfect shine every time.

This whole process won’t take you that long once you get into the groove. Just watch your elements and pick a good day, meaning don’t try to detail in direct sunlight or on a windy day. All in all, detailing your car should be fun; it’s time for you to bond with your car, and thank it for being so cool.




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