Car Care Secrets
For years we have been working on quality vehicles and time and time and again we are asked for advice on how to properly look after and retain the vehicles finish, So collected below are some hints and tips on how best to keep your vehicle looking its best. Click on the section name below:
Use a quality Car Wash or Shampoo, as these are usually pH balanced, contain gloss enhancers and some even have small amounts of water-soluble wax for protection. Read the directions on the car wash bottle.
Start with a clean large bucket and add a small amount of the car wash and fill with cool water. Avoid hot water, as it will soften the wax.
Make sure that your car is in the shade and the vehicle surface is relatively cool. Generally, if you can comfortably hold your hand on the hood, you can wash/wax the car.
Thoroughly wet the surface of the vehicle, start at the top of the car and work down. This will loosen any excess grit and grime and will help minimize any minor scratching that this grime may cause during the wash process.
Re-wet then gently wash and then rinse the top then work your way around the vehicle in sections. Rewet each area, wash and rinse. This way, the car wash does not dry and leave a soapy residue on the paint.
Use a wash mitt or car wash sponge to wash your car as these are designed to gently loosen and remove dirt and grime up and away from the paint surface with a minimum of scratching. Make sure you rinse them regularly to ensure they are free from contaminants. You may want to use a separate sponge or mitt for the wheels and other more grimy areas.
Remember to use a steady stream of water at low pressure for your final rinse; this will sheet off better than spraying water everywhere.
You should dry the car as soon as possible as this will help minimize any water marking or spotting. You can use an Ezydry or a damp towel to remove excess water then a chamois to dry off the remainder. There are two types of chamois, natural and synthetic but we recommend synthetic, as they are easier to look after and don’t tend to smell bad like natural ones. 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.
Remember - Dishwashing liquid is not safe to use as car wash, detergents are formulated to strip everything off of the surface, leaving it squeaky clean. A squeaky paint finish tells you that it has no protection. With repeated use, dishwashing detergents remove everything from your paint finish including waxes, silicones and polymers. Once this is accomplished, they then proceed to remove the life giving oils in your paint finish.
Washing Engine Bays
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Polishing and Cleaning Paintwork
We recommend the Meguiar’s range of car care products to help keep you car in tip-top condition; their range has every possible detailing product that you may need. Visit their online store www.meguiar.co.nz to find a car care product to suit your requirements.
How often should you wax and polish your car? – Often, many manufacturers will say that you only need to polish or wax about once every 12 months or so but we believe that wax is a bit like sunscreen for your car, and that more is better in the long run. The general rule of thumb is that you need to re-polish or re-wax when water doesn’t sheet cleanly from the surface any more or if the paintwork has lost its lusture.
Cleaning and waxing are two different things:
Cleaning: 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. The correct answer to how often you should do this is based upon several factors.
If your car 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 several times a year may be required. Your paint will indicate when it needs to be cleaned and simply lose its luster and look dull or feel slightly rough to the touch if you gently run your hand over it. 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.
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. When in doubt, use the least aggressive product as 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.
Avoid silicone-based products as they are not beneficial to paint and could cause problems down the track. Ask any professional car painter their thoughts on silicone based products, and be prepared for an ear bashing.
If your Vehicle is dusty rather than dirty or if you are pushed for time, then you can use a spray detailer such as Meguiar’s Final Inspection to clean the exterior surfaces. These mist on wipe off products usually contain gloss enhancers and protective properties that will provide a quick and easy clean.
Mist the product on and wipe over with a soft towel (Microfibre is best for this), once the product hazes off slightly your cloth will bring up a good gloss. The main thing to remember is that this is not a method to use on seriously dirty vehicles as the grit and grime on dirtier vehicles will just scratch the surface.
Application of Protectants
Spray or pour a small amount onto a clean, soft, applicator. Wipe on a thin even coating and allow it to penetrate for a 10-15 minutes and then buff off the excess with another clean soft cotton cloth. Never spray product directly onto the surface as the overspray will land on the paint or wheel or whatever. Applying with a cloth will help avoid uneven coats and splotches. Protectant products will not usually damage the paint or wheels but you have to spend a lot of time to remove the overspray. It is easier to avoid the problem by simply using a cloth.
Power tools or in particular Rotary Polishers are a very effective tool for repairing the shine and finish on paintwork, however they are best used by professionals who are trained in their proper use as they can do all sorts of damage in a short time if used incorrectly.
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 and can cut through this quite quickly. If you must use a rotary polisher, use a closed cell foam pads and use one pad for each product. Do not use lambs wool type of pads, as they are particularly aggressive and require experience to use properly.
Most importantly, use only a 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 this can be harmful to your paint finish.
That being said even novices can quickly master the use of a dual action polisher or orbital buffer with little risk of burning the paint finish. These buffers oscillate back and forth while spinning and will yield a more even application of cleaners, polishes and waxes, provide deeper cleaning and safely remove swirls. Because they rotate at quite a slow speed they are great for the home car care fanatic to use to keep their pride and joy looking fantastic.
Our Final Touch operators are all well trained in the proper use of machine polishers.
Cleaning Vinyl and Rubber
Most rubber/vinyl protectants will gently clean the trim or tires as they protect. If you have dirt or grime that car wash or your favorite rubber/vinyl protectant will not remove, you may want to try a stronger cleaner such as Meguiar’s Heavy Duty Vinyl Cleaner. Spray or pour a small amount of the cleaner on a clean, soft, 100% cotton terry cloth and gently rub the dirty areas with the saturated section of the cloth. It may take a couple of applications to remove the dirt and grime.
Once you have removed all traces of the dirt, wash the trim and surrounding areas thoroughly with car wash. Rinse the area completely with water to remove any traces of solvent and then dry. Finally, apply a protective coating of your favorite rubber protectant and you are done.
Cleaning White Wax Residue Stains on Trim: One of the more common problems is white wax residue stain on your exterior rubber or vinyl trim. To remove these stains, simply dampen a small spot of a clean, soft cloth with a wax solvent or degreaser. I use a piece of cotton terry cloth toweling or an old cutting pad because the texture helps remove the wax residue from the millions of tiny depressions in the pebble surface. Rub the white stained area carefully with the solvent saturated section of the cloth to dissolve the wax residue.
Repeat as necessary, as it may take several applications of solvent to remove significant amounts of wax residue. If the cloth does not get down into the bottom of these tiny depressions, then you may have to resort to a soft brush. Dampen the stained area with the solvent and gently brush the residue with a soft brush to dig out the remaining residue. Use the brush carefully, as it may scratch your paint. Once you have removed all traces of the residue, wash the trim and surrounding areas thoroughly with car wash.
Rinse the area completely with water to remove any traces of solvent and then dry. Finally, apply a protective coating of your favorite rubber protectant and you are done. To help minimize wax residue stains on your rubber trim, try applying a coating of rubber protectant before you wax. This coating will help prevent the wax from adhering to the rubber or vinyl trim and any that does sneak onto the trim may usually be removed with the application of a little more rubber protectant.
Bird droppings are one of the most damaging “natural” disasters that attack our paint, what comes out of the downward end of a bird is highly acidic and the longer we leave it on our paint, the more damage it will cause. 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 droppings. 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 Polish or Paint Cleaner 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 a gentle hand polish with a mild abrasive polish should remove the damage, if it is more serious give Final Touch a call. We have seen instances where bird droppings have eaten through the topcoat of expensive European cars over one weekend so it pays to remove it as soon as possible after it appears.
These are usually caused by newly surfaced roads or melted tar on hot days splashing onto the paint and they can be removed with kerosene or specialty wax and tar removal products. You should only use these occasionally and be prepared to polish and wax the car afterwards, as kero will strip the wax and dull the paint. Be careful when removing tar as sometimes it is full of grit and this could cause all sorts of scratches and damage. The safest method is to thoroughly saturate the tar in Kerosene then leave it a few minutes to soak in before going over it again to remove it, this will soften it enough that it comes off with a minimum of scratching.
Those nasty little blighters that we hit at night make the vehicle look terrible and can be quite acidic; wash the car or use a quick detailing product to remove the droppings. Where possible remove the bugs within 48 hours or they will become very difficult to remove and they can eat into and destroy the topcoat. In Bad cases you may want to resort to using a bug sponge with plenty of lubricant to scrub away the bugs but you should be very careful not to cause extra damage to the paint surface. In the unlikely event that a bug-sponge was to scratch the paint a good polish should restore the finish easily.
We often come across vehicles that have been parked under trees and need the resulting bubbles of tree sap cleaned off, a by-product of the active Kiwi outdoors lifestyle. The best solution for removing tree sap is Methylated spirits, soaking a piece of cotton wool or a soft cloth in meths then gently rubbing off the sap should do the trick. Many other methods will just spread it around and cause more damage. Once removed the sap is likely to leave a mark on the paint particularly if it has been sitting on there for a long time- sometimes it will cause the clearcoat to raise slightly, this can be removed with a polish and wax.
There are two basic types of watermarks. First very fine marks, which occur after washing a car, this is caused by product being left on the car or small amounts of water that capture minute dust or dirt particles and can usually be removed with a damp chamois. The other kind of watermark is not a watermark at all but “acid rain” damage.
These types of “watermarks” are caused by chemicals in water, for example, acid rain or “hard” tap water that is high in mineral content. The water sits on the paint and the chemicals are deposited, over time the chemicals build up and when combined with water “eat” into the paintwork; this often affects vehicles from regions with high geothermal activity or lots of heavy industry. Do not underestimate the damage that this can cause.
The problem is that the damage is over large areas requiring a great deal of effort to remove: for example, the bonnet, roof and boot lid even the glass. Prevention or early detection will save time and money and regular washing with a quality car wash combined with a regular polish and wax are the best way to prevent watermarks and damage caused by acid rain. Finishing with a quick detailer will also remove water spots. If that is all a bit much then a regular polish and wax will prevent it from occurring in most cases. Where the paintwork is already damaged the solution is harder. Fine watermarks will come out by using paint cleaner and a good polish; you may also need a mild cutting compound. If that fails the paintwork may need to be cut back.
Before cutting back try giving your car an “acid bath”- Wash your car in the normal way. Then take distilled vinegar and wipe it on with a sponge and rub it in. Work one section at a time and let it sit 30 to 60 seconds before rinsing the vinegar off. Then wash the car again with car shampoo. The vinegar will remove your wax so be prepared to polish and wax your car afterwards. If that still does not solve the problem the paint must be cut back and it is best to get the professionals at Final Touch in to do this for you.
"Teflon" based products
According to G.R. Ansul of DuPont’s Car Care Products, Specialty Products Division, “The addition of a Teflon¨ flouropolymer resin does nothing to enhance the properties of a car wax. We have no data that indicates the use of Teflon¨ fluoropolymer resins is beneficial in car waxes, and we have not seen data from other people that supports this position.” Ansul also notes that, “Unless Teflon¨ is applied at 700 degrees F, it is not a viable ingredient, and is 100 percent useless in protecting the paint’s finish.” (Source: Grisanti, Stephen, “The Truth About Teflon¨”, Professional Carwashing & Detailing, January, 1989.)