Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dummies guide to car detailing - Part 2

surface preparation \ pre-wax cleaning

From the moment your car leaves the paint booth, the car surface gets affected by the pollution.
When the car leaves the paint booth, the paint is at its impenetrable best. It is like a smooth sheet without any pores. As the time goes by, the pollution in air, the regular contamination the car come across in daily life, daily wash with hard water etc open up micro pores on the paint and these contamination gets deposited and some times, a mild oxidation layer gets formed. Most of the times, a regular was is not enough to remove these contamination.

Before we start steps to enhance the shine of car paint, we need to clean the surface first. The cleaner the surface, the better the results are.
Usually paint cleaners are mildly abrasive in nature. The locally available rubbing compounds are a kind of paint cleaners, but personally, I prefer to call them paint killers.
It is very important to clean the paint from all the bonded surface contamination, oxidation layer, surface imperfections,stains,soot etc and a paint cleaner is one way of doing it, if the contamination level is high. How ever, please do keep in mind that the paint cleaner is abrasive in nature and should be used very carefully and sparingly.

If surface contamination is not much, but you feel that car already have wax coating, use good Pre-wax cleaners to strip off all the wax.

If the surface imperfection is not much, use clay bar to clean the surface. Clay bar is neither a substitute for any process nor a one-in-all solution for polishing\waxing. Clay bar is a tool which helps you to remove surface contamination easily and quickly.
It is not at all abrasive and is one of the most preferred method to condition the paint surface.

Let us Clay

Clay bar is a rectangular shaped bar, and is used after lubing it.

Clay is useful to remove metal contamination, paint contamination, soot, embedded micro contamination in the pores and is a very good glass cleaner.

How does the clay cleans the paint?
Now, that is an interesting question. Clay is an abrasive cleaner - but used properly, it is not abrasive to the car paint, but to the contamination. That is why we need to lube the clay before we apply it.

How do you know when it is time to clay your car?
Claying is preferred once or twice a year, unless the car gathers heavy contamination. Once you wash the car, gently slide your hand over the surface - if it is smooth, you are done - no need to do any thing further. If you feel teh surface is rough,grainy or bumpy, clay it.

Apply the lube and gently rub the paint using clay. Do not use much force - clay cleans the contamination by aberration, so you do not want it to do the same on your paint surface. Once the claying is done, you can see a thin film of dirt of it - you will not see dirt particles. that is because clay do not magically lift off the contamination, but cleans it by grinding it mildly.

Remember - Paint cleaners and clay are not your every month cleaning products. They are designed to clean aberrations and are mildly abrasive in nature. Compared to paint cleaner, we can safely say clay is not abrasive, but improper use of clay will mar the surface finish.

Pre-Wax Cleaners
Before we go to next step, let me add a bit more info on pre-wax cleaners.

Many people thinks clay bar is a replacement for pre-wax cleaners, but it is far from truth.
Clay removes surface contamination, while pre-wax cleaners strip old layers of wax, embedded stains and even gives surface a mild correction. They are a mixture of light polishing agents and cleaning solvents, but the cleaning ability is given by cleaning solvents - not by polishing agents. That is why you can use pre-wax cleaners almost monthly, with out affecting the paint thickness in a measurable level.
Claying should ideally followed by pre-wax cleaning so that the surface is ready for the next level of treatment.
I am not going deep into different kind of pre-wax cleaners.

Some points to remember:

Always work under a shade. A hot car surface is not a good place to do any detailing work.
Work on a small area, and buff off residues as you go. Pre wax cleaners usually do not need to dry before you can buff them off.

You can use micro fiber or soft cotton cloth folded like a pad to apply these pre-wax cleaners, but the best applicator is a foam applicator. Use a foam based applicator and use microfiber cloth to buff off. Do not use lot of pre-wax cleaner - a small amount is all you need.

Once you finish Paint cleaning \ claying \ Pre-wax cleaning, your paint surface should be smooth and should be clear of all contamination. Now, the car is ready for the next step.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dummies guide to car detailing - Part 1

This is a series of posts I wrote in TFI - India's one of the best Fiat forum.

I am not a detailing hobbyist or enthusiast, but I thought i will share what little knowledge I have here.

While many people are happy with giving the car to their GDW (gaadi Dhone Waala - term courtesy to my friend Guderian in another forum) for daily wash, there are some people who are not happy with the disdain these people having in handling our cars shining paint surface. If you are one of those and want to do some DIY to keep yuor car shining like new, read on.

What is car detailing?

It is not just washing your car with any available substance and pat srying it, but a rigors process of cleaning your car, washing the car with good care, cleaning the surface aberrations, polishing the paint to restore the finish, waxing the paint to form a protective barrier so that the paint is not affected and using quick detailers\spray waxes to keep the car shining like new.

Washing your car

Now, what is the big deal in washing? Let us take a hose, shower the car with water, soap the car with some shampoo and hose down the leather and pat dry the car. We are done - right? Wrong.

Few things always we need to keep in mind for a good wash:

Wash the car is shade. Never wash the car under hot sun.
Wash the wheels first. Wheels are dirt accumulating magnet and clean them first.
What matters is not the form, but the quality of the car was shampoo
Say no to scrubbers\local sponges
Use 2 bucket technique or use a bucket with a grit guard
Different cloths for different purpose - there is no One size fits for all.
Do not let the car dry in sun.
Sheet of water lets the water run off easily from car.
Use soft cotton or much preferably - micro fiber for drying the car

Let us go a bit deep into washing process.

The common tools we need is a good shady area, good length of hose to water wash the car, 2 buckets, a brush to clean tyre, a good car wash concentrate, wash clothes (preferably wash mitts) and a good quality soft cloths for drying the car.

After parking the car under a shade, apply water liberally on the tyres. After that, use a good cleaning agent of your choice - I prefer car shampoo - and use a mild brush to brush down the tyre to clean all the mud deposited. If you are really particular, you can even jack up and clean the stones which have got lodged in the grooves.
Brush down vigorously and follow it up by again water washing the tyres - use plenty of water and make sure that there is no soapy residue left.

When you are done with tyres, start clean your alloys\wheel caps. Dip a rag in the foam and wipe down the alloys\wheel caps throughly and then wash them thoroughly with water.

After thoroughly cleaning with water, wipe down the tyres with cotton waste. If you are particular about tyre shine or want to keep the tyres looking like new, you can apply tyre cleaners.

You can use alloy wheel cleaners \ break dust repellents or as a lesser effective substitute, you can use good wax on the alloys.

Once you are done with tyre and alloys, start hosing down the car with plenty of water. If the water you use is hard water, you can use some softening agents (like ONR in preferred dilution). Use plenty of water to loosen the dirt, but do not use a cloth to drag the dirt - dirt particles may get lodged in teh cloth \ sponge and may introduce micro scars. While hosing the car with water, do not use much pressure - this can make the grit drag over the surface which in turn will results in micro scratches.

After this, take some water in one bucket and add a good car shampoo to it. Car shampoos are usually pH controlled, and are based on detergents - not on soaps. Soap based cleaners may contain trace elements which can damage the paint. Use a wash mitt or a microfiber cloth or a good soft cotton cloth to apply the form on the car surface. general purpose Sponges are less preferred since they have cavities which can entrap dirt particles which can streak the surface.

Use small motions instead of long sweeping motion and make sure that every time the cloth\mitt picks up dirt, rinse it in the water in the other bucket. This technique of using two buckets - one to dip and wash and other to rise clean the cloth - is called two bucket technique. An alternative is to use a bucket with grit guard.

A grit guard is a plastic guard which sits inside the bucket which traps the grit to the bottom of the water.

make sure that you rinse the cloth frequently so that the cloth remains dirt free every time you use it on the car to apply foam. Foam the car thoroughly - it is advised to have different cloths to foam the lower side of the car and upper side of the car. Dirt accumulation are more on the lower half usually.

When choosing a good car wash liquid \ shampoo, do not choose one which contains trace elements of wax -wax is a sealant and when you wash, you want the paint to open up - not seal close.

Once you are done with applying foam and loosening all the dirt, apply water again. Use plenty of water and make sure that you hose down all the foam from the surface.

When apply the foam and water down your car, please make sure that the car never dries under natural heat.

Apply water in sheet like instead of sprinkling it since sheet will remove most water from the surface.

When the car have been properly cleaned using water, use soft cotton towel or micro fiber to pat dry the car. There are special high capacity towels available which can absorb lot of water - one substitute you can look at is a really soft pet towel with lot of water absorption capacity.

Never apply much pressure, and while pat drying, if you come across any dirt particles, do not try to force them off.

Once you finish pat drying your car, evaluate the paint surface. If the car have been waxed recently and you used a wash\shampoo which will not affect the wax, and if the paint is in generally good shape, you can follow up the wash with a quick wax or even with spray wax.

On the other hand, if your paint needs rejuvenating or you stripped all the previous wax layers and you have surface contamination you need to go for surface preparation \ pre-wax cleaning