Proper care of your car’s exterior finish is the one of the single most important lessons to learn about ownership, regardless of the cars age. Your car’s paint job is one of the most obvious features and expensive to replace and repair. We can say with absolute certainty that taking the time to learn which products to use and when to use them, will add years to the life and luster of your car’s paint.
Time Required: A Good Part of Your Day
- Always start by properly washing your car using the proper tools. Get a cotton or paint-safe microfiber washing mitt, a 5 gallon bucket and good cleaning products specifically designed for automotive use - Mothers, Meguiars or Stoner would be our suggestions. These companies offer products that are pH balanced, non-detergent formulas that won’t strip off wax, and combine them with lubrication to prevent scratching and conditioners to maintain the shine protection. They are usually gentle on all painted finishes as well as rubber, vinyl, and plastic components.
- Never skip drying! Drying your vehicle after washing is necessary to prevent water spots – those pesky mineral deposits that etch the outline of a drop of water into your vehicle’s paint. Auto detailing professionals advise using 100% cotton detailing cloths or sheepskin chamois to dry your car - polyester and microfiber can scratch your paint surface. If you want to get more high-tech, many car care product lines have “paint safe” drying towels that are super absorbent and claim to be lint and scratch free. Two products that we like are the P21S Super Absorbing Drying Towel and the Sonus Der Wunder Drying Towel.
- If a good wash wasn't enough to get off all the road grime, bug residue, pollution or tree sap, the next step would be to use an Auto Detailing Clay Bar because it "pulls" contamination off the surface without abrasion or scratching. Detailing clay usually comes in a kit with a lubricating spray to protect your paint. You just spray the area to be cleaned, and then glide the clay along the surface of your paint - it will grab anything that protrudes from the surface. Detailing clay is not designed to remove paint scratches or swirl marks. Heavy tar or insect deposits may need to be removed using a specialty solvent.
- But the paint still looks dull! At this point, you have one problem with three solutions. The problem is old oxidized paint and the solution is either car polish, cleaner or rubbing compound. All three remove unwanted dull paint, but in varying degrees of aggressiveness. Polish removes the least amount of paint for a given application, while rubbing compounds remove the most and cleaners are somewhere in the middle. We recommend starting with an application of polish first before moving on to a cleaner. Rubbing compound is a very aggressive abrasive and you should talk to a professional before giving that a try.
- Can I wax my car now? Waxing is the most important thing you can do to protect your car’s paint and an absolute “must” if you have just used a polish or cleaner. We suggest a carnauba wax or a paint sealant. Carnauba car wax produces a deep, healthy shine that you can’t attain with a sealant, but only has the longevity of eight to twelve weeks. Paint sealants give you longer lasting protection and will not melt, wash off or wear away for about six months. If you have the time and money, use a paint sealant like Wolfgang Deep Gloss Paint Sealant and then wax with a product like P21S Concours Carnauba Car Wax.
- Always start your project with the car out of direct sunlight. Make sure the paint is cool to the touch before applying any cleaning product or wax.
- Spray your car with ample amounts of water before washing. Use the water to spray off dirt and other contaminates that will scratch your car if you immediately start using a sponge and water first.
- Be sure to wash and rinse in sections so the car wash soap doesn’t dry before being washed off.
- Read the manufacturer’s directions on all car care products prior to use.