Detailing 101: Common Question and Answers, What and Where to buy stuff + Technique
Since Max has a size limit on posts, I will break this 101 up into multiple posts.
I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL DETAILER, NOR DO I CONSIDER MYSELF ONE. I AM SOLELY A DETAILING HOBBYIST WHO IS CONSTANTLY PURSUING THE PERFECT SHINE. I IN NO WAY CAN OR WILL BE HELD RESPONSIBLE (MONETARILY OR OTHERWISE) FOR ANY DAMAGE YOU POTENTIALLY CAUSE TO YOUR CAR BY TAKING THE ADVICE GIVEN BY MYSELF IN THIS THREAD. IF YOU USE MY SUGGESTIONS YOU ARE DOING IT AT YOUR OWN RISK!
Detailing Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is involved in performing an exterior detail?
A: In order to detail your car you should; wash with a quality car wash soap (not Dawn), clay, polish out swirls (if necessary), use a mild polish to bring out the gloss in the paint, and then protect the rejuvenated finish with a quality sealant and/or wax.
Q: What is the correct order to perform the various detailing steps?
A: As stated above: wash, clay, polish, mild polish, seal and/or wax.
Q: How often should I perform a full exterior detail?
A: Two times a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.
Q: I heard that dawn dish soap is good to use if I want to strip old wax from my car. Is this true?
A: Depending on how fresh your coat of wax is, dawn may not remove all the wax.
Q: Is Dawn bad for my paint?
A: This is a very debateable question. I personally think that since Dawn was designed to remove grease from dishes, it should not be used more than once or twice a year. There are others who argue that Dawn is no more harsh than some shampoos specifically designed for automotive paint finishes.
Q: How did the dawn phenomenon start?
A: I think a lot of it had to do with Zaino's recommendation to use Dawn prior to starting the Zaino process. They claimed this was to remove any oils and old wax present on the paint. These things needed to be removed in order for the Zaino to bond properly to the surface. Zainos philosophy is that once you Zaino, you should never leave the Zaino system, thus negating any need to ever re-wash your car with dawn. In the zaino world, dawn is a one-time thing. But people being people, they automatically assumed that dawn was the best way to ‘clean’ their paint, and they began doing it very often regardless of whether they were Zainoing. Believe me when I tell you that claying, and polishing will do a MUCH better job of stripping your car down than dawn ever will.
Q: What is the purpose of claying?
A: The purpose of claying is to remove any imbedded contamination from the surface of your paint, contamination that washing alone cannot remove.
Q: How do I know if I have any imbedded contamination in my paint?
A: You’ll know if your paint feels sandy/gritty when you run you fingers across it.
Q: How does clay work?
A: It works by grinding away the contamination and lifting it into the clay. Claying will leave a clean smooth surface behind.
Q: What is the proper technique for claying?
A: See the below article titled "How to Properly Clay your Car"
Q: Is claying safe?
A: Yes. The only pitfall of claying is the potential for creating minor surface swirl marks from rubbing a contaminated piece of clay into your clear coat. BUT, if you follow my claying article word for word you should have no problems with this at all.
Q: What is the purpose of polishing?
A: The purpose of Polishing is to remove swirl marks from your paint (using a heavier cut polish), and to bring out the full gloss of your paint (using a milder pre wax/sealant polish).
Q: What are swirl marks?
A: Swirl marks are very fine scratches in the surface of your paint that cannot be felt with your fingernail. These scratches are mostly visible in direct sunlight and other high intensity lighting.
Q: What if I have scratches that I can feel with my fingernail. How do I go about removing them?
A: You’ll need to fill the scratch in with touch up paint and wet sand the blob down using a particular grit of automotive sand paper. Once that is complete you’ll need to polish out the sanding marks with a finer polish.
Q: How do I fix stone chips?
A: Wet sanding is one option. Another is langka. I have never used it, but some people have had great success with it. For more information try Langka .
Q: Is it possible to polish out swirl marks by hand?
A: No. Unless you are superman, then you will have no luck whatsoever in removing your swirl marks by hand.
Q: If I can’t remove my swirl marks by hand, then what should I use?
A: You should purchase a Porter Cable Random Orbital Polisher (PC). Purchase either a 7424 or 7336 model.
Q: I heard that using machines to polish isn’t safe. Someone told me that I could burn a hole in my paint. Is this true?
A: It depends on the machine. Rotaries can definitely burn a hole in paint even when used by an experienced professional. A random orbital polisher like the PC is completely safe even for a total beginner.
Q: What is the difference between a rotary and an orbital? Why is one safe and the other isn’t?
A: Rotaries spin in a consistent circle. If you leave it on the same spot for too long then the heat generated by the consistent motion can burn a hole in your paint. Conversely, an orbital does not spin in a consistent circle, but rather a random spinning motion. This randomness makes the polisher safe (regardless of how long it is left in the same spot) because it does not generate anywhere near the same amount of heat as a rotary.
Q: I already have a craftsman (or other brand that’s not a PC) orbital. Is this ok to use instead?
A: No. Most other orbitals are one speed (the PC is six) and their motors bog down as soon as they touch your paint rendering them useless. The biggest advantages of the PC are it’s variable speeds and strong motor.
Q: Can I use the foam pad that came with the PC for polishing?
A: I personally wouldn’t. Get yourself some quality foam pads made by lake country and a velcro backing plate.
Q: What is the difference between the 7424 and 7336 models?
A: The 7424 comes packaged with a 5” counterweight while the 7336 comes with a 6“ counterweight.
Q: Why should I care about this?
A: The purpose of the weight is to minimize the vibration of the machine when using it with different size backing plates. You should always match backing plate diameter with counterweight size. For example, 6” plate with a 6” counter weight, and so on.
Q: How is the PC so much better than my hand if it does not generate a lot of heat?
A: True, the PC may be safe and produce minimal heat. But it does have the ability to produce more even and uniform results that are not achievable by hand. The PC may not produce the heat of a rotary, but it still does an excellent job of breaking down the abrasives in medium to fine polishes. Your hand will have a hard time breaking down any abrasive in any polish.
Q: What abrasive polish do you recommend for removing swirl marks?
A: Menzerna Intensive Polish or Zaino ZPC used with a cutting pad for heavy swirls. For minor swirls, haze removal, and final polishing, Zaino ZPC with a polishing pad will do a great job.
Q: Why do you like Menzerna IP and Zaino ZPC?
A: The products are both very user friendly, have no filler, and produce excellent results.
Q: You recommend polishing with a finer polish to remove the haze caused by the more abrasive polish. Why does the more abrasive polish haze to begin with? Is this a defect?
A: No. The more abrasive polishes are supposed to work this way. They will remove the bigger swirls with diminishing abrasives that will level some clear off your car. The abrasives won’t break down enough to leave a totally uniform finish, thus producing a hazy look. To remove the haze you will need to step up to a finer polish and pad combination.
Continued in post #2
Boston Green Metallic with Beige cloth interior
15" Steel Wheels with Plastic Hubcaps
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