Ahhhh yes, summer . . . the warm nights, lazy days of scopin' the scenery down at the beach (or lakes if you're inland), and the time of year when it's time to break out the wheels from hibernation. But first, lo and behold, your rides covered in dust, dirt, grime, and any other residue build up from the winter months. Well, if any of you are like me, the last thing I wanna do is drop down on my hands and knees and get to washin' and waxin'. But it's all part of the shtick of owning a cool ride. But if you're gonna go into the business of detailing, you might as well do it the right way. To get an "inside look" at the proper way to detail and protect your car we visited with Craig Burnett, better known as Mr. Chemist, down at Mother's Polishes Waxes Cleaners. Of course, we didn't go to Mr. Chemist with the thoughts of visiting the almighty oracle with all the answers. Instead we went to clear up some misconceptions and get some tips on going about detailing your car.
What we found, first and foremost, was to take in the situation at hand. Put it like this: if someone was to come and ask you, "How often should I take a shower, shave, brush my teeth, etc.?" you'd probably say whenever you need to. The same principle applies to your ride. Before you run out and buy all the latest and greatest products (by the way, any 1-step mo, blow, and go product probably isn't the best investment, sorry you're gonna have to get dirty!), take a look at what needs to be done, and get to work. If it only needs a wash, wash it. If it needs claying, clay it. I think you get the picture. But how do you tell what needs to be done? For the most part, it's pretty obvious, but there are a few cloudy subjects. For that reason we asked Craig to help us clear the air, and figure out what product does what and how often it needs to be used.
Polishes, Sealer/Glaze, and Waxes
Some might think that polishes, glazes/sealers, and waxes are the same thing, but they couldn't be more wrong; each is unique in its own way. Take polishes for instance. Polishes, or pre-wax cleaners, are designed to be the first line of defense in a thorough three-step wax job. The polish is applied first which removes oxidation, old wax buildup, water spots, bird droppings, and other contaminants. A polish also removes any minor defects that the eye can see by replacing the larger scratches, which can be seen, with minute scratches that aren't visible to the naked eye. Basically, they remove scratches with little ones that don't reflect light and make themselves visible. Unlike using a true wax, polishes are typically applied twice a year, but once again use as needed.The second step in a thorough wax job is applying a sealer/glaze. Sealer/glaze picks up where the polish left off. Sealer/glaze removes and hides imperfections by acting as a gap filler. They also contain a super-fine polish that further improves the quality of the paint. Sealer/glaze is ideal for removing and hiding minor swirls and cobwebs. Unlike a polish a sealer/glaze is used much more often. It can be used without repolishing the surface and applied over prior coats of wax, which really benefits darker cars. Darker paints have a higher reflective index, meaning more light reflects, which means they show more imperfections in the paint. When using sealer/glaze on a dark car it brings out the depth and luster of the paint. On the other hand, sealer/glaze works just as well on light colored cars.
Lastly, it's step three of the job--waxing. First and foremost, wax acts as a protective barrier to the outside elements, provides lasting shine, and perception. On top of that, wax is a sealer to the sealer/glaze. When choosing a wax, there are several options. For starters, you can choose a paste wax, liquid wax, or spray wax. Although the wax is in a different form, all waxes are designed to protect, shine, and add perception. What it really comes down to is a preference of delivery. All three will generally last 8-12 weeks. So yes, plan on waxing your ride every three months! The next choice is going with a carnauba, synthetic, or blended wax. All are made from different materials. Mother's carnauba wax is made from Brazilian #1 yellow carnauba. It's designed to give the perception of a deep, rich, and ultra shiny look. Synthetic waxes offer up more of a luxurious factor. They leave the paint feeling smooth and sleek, almost slippery to the touch. Last is a blended wax, such as the Mother's Reflections line. This wax combines the best of both the carnauba and synthetic world. New advancements in liquid polymer technologies allow Mother's to blend mild cleaners with high gloss polymers. Which ever you choose is a solid choice. Waxes are like trying different beers, each has their unique characteristics, but in the end they're all beer. One thing to keep in mind is when spreading wax around be sure to cover the entire area. Whether your style is circular, side to side, or up and down it doesn't matter. Good coverage is key to a good wax job.
One of the best kept secrets, although not intentionally kept, is a clay bar. Although most people know what a clay bar is, most don't have a clue to why they are an important part of detailing. In a nutshell, using clay bars is like shaving. You need a razor and cream to remove hairs that washing can't, which is the case with claying. Over time particles (such as grains of metal, tree sap, airborne environmental deposits, paint overspray) embed themselves in paint. Normal polishing, waxing, and washing isn't strong enough to remove the particles. By sliding a clay bar over the paint, it pulls out and shears off embedded particles. When using a clay bar simply spray some instant detailer, which acts like shaving cream, then slide the clay bar over the area. When using the clay bar you must kneed the bar occasionally to expose clean material to the surface of the vehicle. A typical bar will last through three clayings. One important thing to remember about claying is, only do it if you plan to wax afterwards. When using a clay bar it strips wax off the paint, which leaves the paint exposed to the elements. For that reason a protective barrier, wax, needs to be applied. It may seem like a lot of work, but when you run your hand over your rides finish and feel nothing but a smooth surface, you'll see that claying is definitely worth it!
One misconception about tires is that people assume when their tires start turning brown, something's wrong. In a way the answer is yes and no. Tires are made to wick. When a tire wicks, it is releasing compounds to keep the tire supple and soft, which keeps the tire from cracking. Tires naturally wick, however when tires are turning brown, it means the tires are not being cared for properly, and excessive wicking is occurring. Although the tire is doing what it's designed to, unfortunately it leaves something more to be desired of the tire's appearance. To help the longevity of your tires, and to keep them from turning brown, clean them regularly. Use a good tire and rubber cleaner to scrub the tires clean. It's a good idea to start with tires before any other washing, due to the fact tires can kick up grease and grime. Once the tires are washed, use a tire treatment dressing. Tire dressings help protect the tire from UV exposure, cracking, fading, and turning brown. When picking a tire dressing, avoid solvent-based tire and rubber protectants, such as distilled petrochemicals. They will only decrease the tire's lasting life. Another good rule of thumb is when using a dressing, apply the it to an applicator, spread the dressing, and then let it sit for a minute or two. Afterward, wipe the excess dressing off the tire; this will help keep your car from looking like an ink splatter.
Wheels. What else can you say other than get ready to wrap a cloth around a few fingers and meticulously scrub, splash, and pull any and all-road buildup off? How about an all-wheel cleaner for starters. Did you know that sometimes it's as simple as spraying an all-wheel cleaner on, letting it sit, and then washing it off? Well, now ya do. Mother's products will remove grime, grease, brake dust, and dirt without even having to pick up a sponge. It's also safe to use on clearcoated, anodized, polished, color-coated, modular, and factory-treated wheels. Can I get a hallelujah? Afterward, if you want your rims to shine even more, it's up to you. When working with a mag or billet rim, use the appropriate polish. Once again, mag polish removes scratches and polishes. A billet polish takes things even further, due to the fact that billet polish is specifically designed to work on billet. When it comes to chrome you can't really polish it. Chrome is a plating, which mean means the plating is hard and not malleable. What a chrome polish is designed to do is give the chrome a "deep cleaning" that brings out that show and shine in chrome. One of those off the wall cool facts about mag polish is you can use it to clear up plastic headlights and taillights.
I used to think you only need three things to get through life: barbecue sauce, duct tape, and Tide. I mean seriously, is there anything that one of those things doesn't work on? As it turns out, there is one. Tide isn't exactly the greatest choice for washin' cars. Tide, Dawn, Cascade, and any other type of detergent is designed to remove grease, grime, and other contaminants. Well, when used on a car's surface, it does what it's designed to do--remove grease, which is similar to wax. Car wash solutions have been balanced to remove contaminants associated with the automotive world, and yet be gentle on wax. So be sure to use an appropriate solution.
Odds and Ends
Under the hot sun, your ride will begin to show its age. Usually, the first things to crack, fade, and go south are vinyl and leather. Be sure to use some sort of protectant on dashes, seats, etc. By using a one that blocks the harsh UV rays, you can prolong the life of your interior. As for vinyl trim, bumpers, moldings, wiper arms, and more you can use Mother's Back-to-Black. Back-to-Black restores those sunburnt items. Remember to make trim detailing a regular part of your routine.
As you can see, there are really no secrets to detailing your ride. The only real secret is knowing what each product does, and how often it should be used. But then again, there's really no set amount of how often to detail your ride. What it comes down to is how often your car needs it, and how far you want to go with it. It's kind of like one of those "Weather Permitting" events. It will happen if the weather's good, but if it's not, adios. Detailing your ride is the same concept; if the conditions are present, its time to detail. Oh yeah, there's one last thing you're going to need. Grab a few cold ones at the end of the day, stand back, and watch your baby glow while you bask in your glory. It's cool, you can thank me later.