The Ultimate Detailing Guide

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lawrence
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The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby lawrence » Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:49 am

I thought it would be a good idea to try and develop a guide to what detailing is all about. The below is not totally comprehensive and I may have obtained some information from various sources without always referencing them - my apologies in advance for that.

My hope is that this will give you all a better understanding of paint maintenance.

Paint types

Single Stage Paint

Up to about the mid 80’s manufacturers painted their cars with single stage paint. There was no clear coat on top, and as a result, the bulk of the problems associated with single stage paints are around oxidation. This is the process whereby the sun’s UV rays break down the pigment in the paint. This was most easily noticed on red cars, which ultimately turned pink. When the top (oxidised) layer of paint is removed (through polishing), it exposes a fresh layer of paint, thus restoring the original look. These types of paint also react well to having their lost oils replaced, thus rejuvenating its appearance.

The Mohs Scale of Hardness

"In 1822, an Austrian scientist by the name of Fredrick Mohs created a scale from 1 to 10, for measuring and determining hardness. Hardness refers to the measure of resistance a surfaces has to abrasion. Talc is rated at 1 while a diamond is rated at 10.

Titanium dioxide, the substance used as pigmentation in white paint, is rated at 7 on the Mohs scale. As far as pigments go, titanium dioxide is very hard. By contrast, black paints are soft. The pigment used to make paint black is Carbon black, which has a Mohs hardness rating of 2.

While some will argue the Mohs Hardness Scale isn't the best way to explain paint hardness, in this example I'm only using it as an indicator of the hardness of different substances used as pigments or colorants used in automotive paints to show that generally speaking black paint is soft.

Modern Clear Coat paints:

Manufacturers then decided to change to the modern base/clear system whereby, for example once the primer has been sprayed, a coat of the base color (e.g. red) would be sprayed, followed by a coat of clear paint. It is this clear paint that acts as a sacrificial barrier between the elements and the base coat, thus preventing the dreaded oxidation. The flip side to this coin though is that these clear coats are what is known as ‘scratch sensitive’ – that is, they scratch easily. It is these scratches (see paint defect below) that cause the paint on modern cars to appear dull and lifeless.
As many different manufacturers use different paints and different painting and curing methodologies, no 2 cars have the same paint. Bear in mind that even if you have 2 cars made in the same factory, the paint may be different given that they may have changed paint type or processes from 1 vehicle to the next.
These manufacturers also spray the paint in varying thicknesses and as such there is no ‘1-size fits all’ solution when dealing with the restoration of these paints.
It would be remiss to categorically define certain vehicle types as have a certain type of paint, however experience has shown that some generalizations can be made.

Soft paints: Porsche, Subaru, Honda,
Medium: Toyota
Hard: VAG, BMW, Audi
Extremely hard: Ceramic clears

Ceramic clears are a relatively new development and are found on a lot of high-end vehicles. After the "cerami"clear top coat is sprayed, the nano particles of Fumed Silica (SiO2), which are synthetically engineered, migrate to the top 0.2 mils of the clear coat as it is curing. This forms an extremenly hard surfaces which is less prone to being scratches, marred or corroded. However, if during polishing you remove this portion of the clear layer of paint, the paint under it will be much softer and will not polish out or react the same way the nano particle portion did or would. You will at some level have compromised the finish on the car

Paint Damage

Water spots
Water spots are caused when water that contains impurities is allowed to dry on the surface of the vehicle. The sun may evaporate the water itself, but the impurities remain behind on the paint. There are generally 2 types:

Type I Water Spots:
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These are usually topical only and can usually be removed by using something like a spray on water spot remover or white vinegar (effectively acetic acid) which will break down the mineral content of the water spot, enabling you to remove it without having to polishing the paint.

Type II Water Spots:
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This is where the minerals or other impurities (often a combination of calcium/magnesium aka lime scale) have combined to form a corrosive material. This corrosive mixture then ‘eats into’ or etches, the paint. In the above picture off a car I detailed, you can clearly see the crater that has formed. In these cases the only way to remove the water spot is to remove the surrounding portion of clear (i.e. polish the paint) until you are at the lowest level of the water spot. The problem with this though is that generally, these water spots etch deep into the clear, and thus trying to remove them can severely compromise your clear, or even worse, lead to a burn through.

How quickly and how deep it etches into the paint is based on a few variables. One needs to be very careful when deciding if a defect (water spot/bird dropping etching/deep scratch) is actually worth trying to remove, because you can quite easily remove too much clear chasing perfection.

If neither of the above are working, it probably means that the etching is already quite deep, and will invariably require some compounding/polishing to remove - it is at this point that I would seriously consider the benefit/reward of attempting to remove them, and if I decided to go ahead, would only use the services of a trusted detailer.

Bird Droppings
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In exactly the same way as the minerals in water can form a corrosive mixture the etches into the paint, bird droppings can do the same thing. This is due to the uric acid found in their droppings.

Paint Chips
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Swirls
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These are thousands of fine scratches, invariably caused by dragging dirt across the paint when washing or drying incorrectly. These scratches appear to be circular in nature by this illusion is only created by the light radiating out from its source across the paint and highlighting the scratches. They in fact lay in all different directions and generally also straight in nature.

Let’s define a ‘scratch’. Effectively if you were to take a cross section of the paint you will see a V where the scratch is. In the below diagram you will see swirls (a lot of shallower scratches), etching and RIDS (deep scratches – the type the most people refer to as a scratch, sometimes deep enough to expose the primer or body panel below)

RIDS (Random, Isolated, Deep scratches)
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These could be caused by anything from parking lot trolley bashings, to people leaning against your paint with metal studs, or jacket zippers – they are basically what the average Joe refers to a ‘scratches’. These are generally a lot deeper than swirls and thus it is not always possible to safely remove these without compromising the clear coat.

Holograms/Buffer Trails
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These are tiny scratches caused when polishing paint using a rotary machine and poor technique and or incorrect products. These can be removed through an additional refining polish using a dual action polisher, however all too often, these are simply filled in using a ‘glaze’ to mask them, creating the illusion of perfect paint. Once the glaze washes off though, the holograms will re-appear.

Tick marks/Pigtails
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These can be the result of the person performing the polishing and not ensuring that that their pads and the paint they are working on is absolutely clean and contamination free. A hard particle (such as a grain of dirt) gets trapped between the polishing pad and paint, and is systematically worked across the paint leading to thousands of small defects. This could also be indicative of using a polish/pad combo that is too aggressive for the paint (i.e. the paint may be soft – see paint types above) and it is actually the (too) abrasive particles grinding into the paint. These below surface defects can be very deep, depending on what the hard particle was that was worked across the paint.

How to maintain paint

For most of us, paint maintenance involves washing the car every weekend. A few may even wax it. Why do we wash our cars? Well because we want them to look clean obviously. Some of us want our cars to be clean all the time because we think that clean equates to shiny - and yes on some level obviously it does, but shine really comes from level paint, but more on that later.

So what are you actually doing when you wash the car. Well you are trying to get the dirt – which may any combination of bird droppings, dust, industrial fall out, road grime, overspray etc – off the car. Some of this ‘dirt’ is more stubborn than others and so we reach for stronger cleaners or apply more force when washing. Most will use the age old sponge and chamois combo along with a bucket of soapy water. Few think about which parts of the car are washed first and last.

The problem with this methodology, invariably handed down from father to son, is that modern clear coats differ widely from the cars our fathers drove and the old ways now do more damage than harm.

Swirl marks are caused from dirt being trapped between the wash medium (i.e. the dreaded sponge) and the paint. You want to avoid these because the only way to remove them, is to remove paint off your car (see Polishing).

So how do you do prevent them. Well to totally prevent them over the life of the vehicle will be impossible if the car is a daily driver. Some things are out of your control. But there are plenty simple changes one can make to their washing process to dramatically reduce the chances of inflicting them.

If we now know that it is the dragging of a hard particle (dirt) across the paint that causes swirls, it stands to reason that by preventing the dirt from being trapped between your paint and something, this will reduce the chance of the swirls.
Let’s try and break up the term ‘washing’ into its components.

Pre-Rinsing
Some of us jump right in and dip our sponges in the wash solution and get straight to work on washing the dry paint. Worse still, this often happens on a nice sunny day with hot paint, leading to the wash solution rapidly drying on the paint. This is all wrong.

Firstly when ‘washing’ the car you want to be in the shade and with the paint cool - rinsing will help cool the paint if it is at all warm. Furthermore it will flush dirt off the paint, meaning there will now be less of it to potentially trap between your wash medium and your paint. It will also aid in softening up the remaining dirt that is still ‘stuck’ to your paint. A HP washer can be used to provide additional force to blast dirt off the paint, but remember to spray at an angle and not perpendicular to the paint. The force can blast dirt into the paint, and can dislodge stickers etc. Use it with caution. Rinse from the top of the car down, and don’t forget to rinse the tires, wheels and wheel arches.

Pre-Foaming
With some of the original dirt now gone (without having touched the paint) you can now spray a product onto the paint which will begin working at softening up the remaining dirt even more. If you are able to get a foam cannon that produces thick foam, you are able to extend the dwell time, and the longer the product sits there, the longer it can soften the dirt. Less effective but cheaper alternatives include a foam gun and a handheld pump sprayer – they are able to get the product on the paint, but not as thick and therefore the dwell time is reduced.

Before the ‘foam’ has dried on the car, rinse it off with a HP washer. You could then repeat this step if desired, or when there is a lot of dirt on the car – remember you are trying to prevent contact with the paint.

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Washing
Let’s start off with the worst possible scenario. You take your car to the corner car wash and join the queue behind a nice dirty SUV that has been off-roading. You progressively get closer to either a fully automated car wash, where those brushes simply generate hundreds of swirls marks in the process of moving loose dirt off your paint, or in the more common scenario, you arrive at ‘Mr car wash guy’ who, even if you are lucky enough to receive a pre-foam and rinse from, reaches into one single bucket with his rag and begins washing your car.

Actually what he is doing is grinding the dirt that came off the SUV in front of you, into your paint. Or maybe he went from washing your wheels straight to washing the car (and ground some brake dust [containing minute particles of metal brake pad shavings] into your paint) to washing your paint. And you are paying him to do it. And will have to pay someone else to remove it (by polishing it), and you will pay in the lost clear coat you can never recover.

The stuff of nightmares I tell you!

So what should we be doing….

Well for starters get rid of the rag or sponge you are using. A relatively cheap solution is to then get 3 chenille wash mitts. Keep one for the wheels only. Never again must it touch your paint. The other will only be used to wash the lower (more dirty) half of the car, and will be relegated down to your ‘wheels’ mitt once your ‘wheels’ mitt is no longer in good enough condition to use on the wheels. The last one only touches the top half of your car, and is relegated to ‘middle’ duty when needed, and replaced with a new mitt. This cycle keeps repeating itself adinfinitum.

Before even commencing with the previous step (rinsing) get your washing equipment ready
• Get 3 clean buckets
• In one mix up some wash solution (at the correct dilution ratio) and use this only for your wheels (usually around half a bucket)
• Fill another with wash solution (at the correct dilution ratio) and use this only for your car (usually around a full bucket)
• Fill the other with clean water for rinsing
• If your budget allows, it is preferable to insert a grit guard, or possibly 2 into your rinse bucket. The grit guard prevents the water at the bottom of the bucket from swirling around and thus limits how much of the dirt that settles in the bottom of the rinse bucket, is agitated back into the portion above the grit guard(s) where the rinse water is still relatively clean. This means when you rinse your mitt in the rinse bucket (more on that later) there is less chance of dirt settling back on your mitt. All these steps help limit the amount of swirls introduced into the paint.

Washing Wheels
Now before you dive in and start washing, think about where the car is the dirtiest. Probably your wheels. So let’s get them out the way first. In this way, and dirty solution that will invariably splash back onto the paint, will be landing on paint that still has to be washed. No point in creating more work for yourself, or ‘working backwards’.

There is wide variety of wheels, made from various substances and not all dedicated wheel or tire cleaners are safe on all wheels. You MUST therefore read the labels carefully. Some brake calipers do not react well to certain cleaners neither do some brake rotors, like the carbon ceramic ones found on some high performance vehicles. So after selecting the appropriate tire and wheel cleaner, let’s begin.

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Washing Tires
Too often we simply continue to re-apply tire dressing on top of dirty tires. Furthermore, a phenomenon known as blooming occurs, and this along with a buildup of road grim means that tires need to be properly cleaned, especially if you want your new tire dressing to properly bond and therefore last longer. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and you a quality tire brush to scrub them clean. I have found most work better on a dry to semi dry tire, or they tend to dilute or run on contact with wet rubber. Take care not to allow the stiff bristles to make contact with the sensitive finish of the wheels and then rinse with the HP washer. Be careful not to get the tire cleaner onto your wheels, brake calipers or rotors, especially if the rotors are carbon ceramic.

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Tire Blooming Explained
Modern rubber formulas used by tire manufactures contain an ingredient called Antiozonant. An antiozonant is a chemical that tire manufacturers add to the tire rubber to help prevent rubber degradation (cracking, splitting, oxidizing, and overall deterioration) due to the rubber’s interaction with ozone (an odorless gas that is part of the air we breathe).

Quite interesting is the fact that tire rubber is designed to constantly work the antiozonant to the outside of the tire as it rolls – in this way, the outside surface of the tire is continually replenished with fresh antiozonant. This process provides the positive result of ozone protection, but the negative result of tire browning – once the antiozonant gets exposed to the ozone in the air, it turns brown due to oxidation.

The technical term for this effect is blooming. Every time you drive your car, the antiozonant migrates its way to the outside of the tires. One thing you might be aware of is the fact that vehicles that sit for extended periods of time (months or years) often have tires that show evidence of cracking and drying (dry rot). This cracking occurs due to the fact that there is no opportunity for the tires’ antiozonant to migrate to the surface to provide protection.

Dressing Tires
Dressing of the tires should only be done once they, along with the rest of the vehicle have been cleaned and dried.

There are two types of tire dressings you will find on the market: water-based and solvent based. Water-based dressings, often a milky-white liquid, should not harm rubber over time. Water-based dressings are typically a combination of naturally occurring oils and synthetic polymers that provide a very nice non-greasy, satin-like finish – very similar to the look of a new tire. Some water-based tire dressings also contain UV blocking agents to help keep tires from cracking, fading and hardening. As an added bonus, most, if not all, water-based dressings are friendly to the environment.

Solvent-based silicone dressings, often a clear, greasy, sticky liquid, leave a wet, glossy film on the tire surface. Be careful, some solvent-based dressings contain petroleum distillate solvents that, over time, may lead to premature drying and cracking of the tire surface. The difference between water- and solvent-based dressings is simply in the ‘carrier’ system used. Solvent-based products use a hydrocarbon silicone to suspend the product whereas water-based products use water. When you apply these products, the carrier evaporates leaving behind the intended protectant – silicone oil; this oil is not friendly to the environment and may harm the tire. In addition, solvent-based silicone dressings have the tendency to sling off the tire onto the paint

While application of a tire dressing is quite easy, there are a few points to keep in mind. First, don’t apply too much dressing. Simply apply some dressing to a dedicated MF towel or foam applicator and wipe the dressing on the tire to provide a nice, even coverage. Be careful not to get the dressing on the car or the wheel – particularly when using an aerosol spray. Third, a few minutes after you apply the dressing, wipe the tire with a clean rag or towel to remove any residue. And fourth, try to keep the tire dressing off of the tire tread. Tire dressing, either water- or solvent-based, will make the tire tread slippery.

Washing the vehicle
Get the bucket containing your wash solution and your rinse bucket, along with your 3 wash mitts. Begin by rinsing the vehicle. I will assume we are working on an average family hatch back. You want to be in the shade and the paint cool. During the washing process it is important not to let the wash solution dry on the car, so keep re-wetting as is needed.

In order not to flush dirty water over a section you have already cleaned, washing will always be done from the top down. This also ensures that the dirtiest (bottom) section of the car is washed last. This means that the amount of dirt being added to the rinse bucket progressively increases as you move through the process of washing the car in the order I will describe below – no point adding a whole lot of dirt to the rinse bucket right in the beginning and having dirtier rinse water from the outset. If need be (on a very dirty car) you can refill your rinse bucket with fresh water at any point.

What you are doing when you wash a car: Removing the stuff on your paint (that will come off and is not bonded TO your paint or embedded IN your paint) such as bird droppings, dust/dirt and road grime.

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1. Dip your ‘top’ wash mitt into the wash solution and wash half of the driver’s side of the roof, flip the mitt over and wash the remaining half of the driver’s side of the roof. Remember to wash in straight lines. This will ensure that any swirls that you do inflict all run in one direction making them only visible in when you line up and look in that one direction. If you wash in multiple directions, the swirls run in multiple directions, meaning no matter which angle you look at the car from, you will see them. Do not use a lot of pressure as this increases the chance of inflicting swirls.
2. Now go to your rinse bucket, dip the mitt in there are actively try and work off as much of the dirt as you can.
3. With your mitt now freed from most of the dirt that came off your roof, you can now go and dip you mitt into the wash solution and repeat steps 2 and 3 on the passenger side of the roof.
4. Now you will wash from where the side windows meet the doors back up to the roof and. Start on the driver’s side and wash from the back of the car (which will probably include a bit of the rear quarter panel) to the B pillar, flip the mitt and wash the front window and mirror.
5. The rinse your mitt in the rinse bucket.
6. Dip your mitt in the wash solution and repeat on the passenger side of the vehicle.
7. The rinse your mitt in the rinse bucket.
8. Dip your mitt in the wash solution and do the bonnet, first the driver’s side (flipping your mitt halfway), rinse the mitt, then do the passenger side.
9. Put your ‘top’ mitt once side and get your ‘bottom’ mitt

Do you see the pattern developing…. Wash a small section (so that the mitt doesn’t become too contaminated), flip it over to the clean side, wash next section, rinse, repeat

You will now use the same technique to wash from the line where the side windows meet the door, down to the bottom of the doors, from the front to the back of the car. Wash a small section, flip it over to the clean side, wash next section, rinse, repeat…

10. Do the driver’s side of the car first, but from the back of the car to the front, and only go half way down the doors – it is the lower half of the doors that gather the most dirt, predominantly sprayed up by the wheels.
11. Then do the passenger side
12. Then come back to the driver’s side and do the lower half from back to front
13. Then do the passenger side
14. Then do the front end
15. Then the back end, working from the top down.

As a last tip, pay attention to the areas you normally wouldn’t, such as:
• Door shuts
• Boot shut
• Inside the fuel flap (take care not to allow any water to get into the fuel tank!)
• In and around badges and emblems
• In between panel gaps and seams etc.

If neglected during regular maintenance washes, the grime builds up (especially in the corners of badges) and it becomes very difficult and time consuming to clean, even for a detailer. Furthermore it will detract from the overall look of the vehicle.

Post-Rinse
With the car fully washed you now want to remove the wash solution, which also contains encapsulated dirt, off the vehicle. As with the pre-rinse you will want to rinse from the top of the vehicle down, and don’t forget to rinse the tires, wheels and wheel arches.
Start of using some form of pressure like a spray nozzle connected to a hosepipe to blast the dirty wash solution out from the all crevices. Once you have got all of the wash solution off, you can then use the ‘sheeting method’ to help dry the car.

Having properly prepared paint will improve the effectiveness of this method because if your paint is smooth (no swirls) and has a hydrophobic substance on it like a wax or sealant which repels water, then it is easier for the water to sheet off the car. Remove any connections from the hosepipe and ensure you have a nice steady flow (err on the gentle side) of water coming out. Again working from the top down, allow the stream of water to create a sheet, which enables the water to roll almost on itself off the paint.

A YouTube search would yield a far better explanation that my words can but if you were to hold the end of the hosepipe close to the vehicle and move it along the top of the glass on the of the rear window, from one side of the car to the other, the water would simply roll down the back window leaving it 95% dry. As each car’s shape is different, it is a technique you need to master with some practice on your specific vehicle.

The steady stream will also flush whatever remnants of dirt and or wash solution off the vehicle.

Drying
Once your post rinsing is completed you will want to dry off the remaining water. Start with the windows, as water spots tend to form quicker on glass than paint. With the windows now dry you can commence drying from the top of the vehicle down.
I would recommend at least 2 drying towels…. One to be used on glass and painted surfaces and the other reserved for drying the wheels and door shuts. This way you do not run the risk of contaminating your ‘paint’ drying towel with any possible dirt that may still existing in the door shuts or on the wheels.

3 Main methods exist for drying – the first is the pat method, where your drying towel is laid across the wet panel and you gently pat dry, thereby ensuring there is no movement of the drying towel across the paint, which could lead to swirls. The second involves actually dragging the towel across the paint itself and is more likely to cause damage.

The third involves the use of a high powered blower to blow the water off the car, thereby totally preventing contact with the paint. This is obviously the safest way to dry a vehicle.

Decontamination
As mentioned, washing will only remove stuff that is not bonded TO your paint or embedded IN your paint. Examples of this ‘stuff’ are:
• Brake dust
• Industrial fall out
• Tree Sap
• Road Tar
• Overspray

The diagram below shows what would happen if you were to remove these contaminants.

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The problem with these contaminants, besides the obvious aesthetics, is that they make it much harder for any protective coating you apply to the paint, to bond to the paint. Furthermore, you now have to look at the paint THROUGH this contamination…. Not so easy to do, and thus (assuming your paint had no swirls or scratches or etching [i.e. BELOW surface defects]) the shine you would otherwise see is now hidden from your eyes. Liken it to looking at your reflection in a mirror with minute particles of gunk all over it….
And lastly, allowing substances like brake dust (which contain metal particles from the brake pads) to sit on your paint indefinitely will only speed up the onset of rust.

As a side note, if whoever may polish your vehicle does not remove this contamination properly BEFORE polishing, there is a real risk of dislodging a hard piece of contamination and dragging it across your paint leading to more serious defects such as pigtails/tick marks.

The most common method used to remove contamination is detailer’s clay. Most over the counter clays are the fine grade version. An ultrafine (for very soft paint or very light contamination) and a medium grade (for very heavy contamination removal) also exist.

These different grades of clay (effectively very fine abrasive particles in some form of Kaolin base) have varying levels of aggressiveness and as such this risk of marring the paint (in the picture below the marring is on the right of the light reflection) increases. This marring will have to be polished out. But when used correctly, most paint systems will not mar with a ultra-fine or fine grade clay, but almost all will with a medium grade clay.

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The process involves using a lubricating spray to prevent the clay from ‘grabbing’ onto the paint whilst at the same time allowing it grab onto the contamination. Insufficient lubrication will increase the chance of marring. The clay is then folded often to expose a clean working surface which prevents working the dirty surface of the clay against the paint which could lead to swirls.
If the clay is dropped it must be thrown away as it will pick up dirt off the floor which could lead to deep RIDS if dragged across the paint.
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Remember too that some of the contamination is not only bonded to your paint, but embedded IN your paint and so there are also other methods which can be used, and which in my opinion should be used, to thoroughly remove this embedded contamination.
The first is a tar remover. This paint safe solvent can be used to dissolve tar deposits which can then easily be wiped off with a clean MF Towel. By doing this you don’t have all that tar deposited in your clay and thus again reduce the chance of marring the paint.

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The second method involves using an iron-remover to dissolve any ferrous compounds (think brake dust, rail dust, and industrial fall out) off the paint. They will usually turn purple in color on contact and can then be rinsed off using a HP washer, followed by a very thorough rinsing of around 10 minutes with a spray nozzle on the hosepipe, followed by a full flooding. This is necessary because these products, if allowed to dry on the paint, will cause stains. If any remnants are not properly flushed out, they could run during the next rain, dry on the car when the rain stops, and your paint is stained.

The added advantage of these products though is that they will also dissolve any particles embedded IN the paint, which not only again reduces potential marring, but also ensures that you do not then ‘seal in’ any of these ferrous particles which will accelerate the onset of rust).
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How to correct damaged paint

Once you paint has been washed and decontaminated, you will see any number of BELOW SURFACE defects, such as:
• Chips
• Etching (from water spots or bird droppings)
• Swirls
• RIDS
• Holograms
• Tick Marks

Paint chips usually are very deep and can be repaired through the addition of touch up paint. For the purpose of this article it is not something I will go in to in much detail; suffice to say that if not done correctly, the results will not be very pleasing. Below is a close up of a deep scratch that was obviously just painted with the brush that the touch up paint comes with. The proper method is to carefully fill the chip with a few layers of paint, allowing each to dry properly. This would be followed with wet-sanding, compounding and polishing, all of which would need to be done by a trusted detailer.

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Some very deep RIDS, could in theory be fixed the same way.
However for all the remaining types of below surface defects, the only way to remove the defect is to remove the paint surrounding the defect, so that it is at the lowest level of the defect, thus recreating perfectly smooth paint.

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This is done by abrading away the top layer of the paint, much in the same way as you would sand-paper defects out of a block of wood to smooth the surface. The deeper the damage, the deeper you would have to abrade away into the clear coat to remove it.
Now think about the fact that the whole paint job (primer/base/clear) on most OEM paint jobs is roughly 150 microns and that the clear portion contains UV blockers to help prevent the sun's UV Rays from breaking down the pigment in your base coat [it is for this reason that single stage paints - those with no clear as used mostly pre mid 80's - will oxidize i.e. the red paint slowly goes pink then eventually white.

You therefore do not want to remove any more clear coat than is necessary as you not only reduce the amount of UV blocking ability through the actual removal of the paint, but also increase the risk of clear coat failure, the only fix for which is a re-spray.
Knowing how much clear can safely be removed along with the best way to perform the removal of as little as possible whilst still ensuring glossy paint, is best left to a proven and trusted detailer. It is all too easy to get it wrong and the consequences can be extremely costly.

This article is not intended to equip you with the skills to polish paint, rather a basic understanding of the process so that you can see the benefit in NOT having to polish often. And the only way to ensure minimal polishing is through proper maintenance. In other words if you do all you can to minimize below surface defects, you will not need to polish them out as often.

So why do we want to remove these defects at all…. Well primarily to have what people refer to as ‘shiny paint’; you want your car to look good.

If the paint is not perfectly level, then the light hitting the uneven surface is no longer travelling through the clear coat and bouncing back directly to your eyes giving you a perfect reflection (like looking into a mirror), but is instead bouncing off the angles of the below surface defects and is scattering everywhere then some goes through the clear and bounces back through the clear, only to scatter some more, and eventually falls back into your eyes. What you therefore see is dull paint and wherever the sharp edges are of the ‘V’ you see the bright light reflected back to you as a ‘scratch’.

So by leveling the paint you will maximize the ‘shine’.

The concept of polishing paint is much like when you are sanding a rough block of wood and progress from an aggressive sandpaper (low grit) incrementally to a fine sandpaper (high grit). The low grit polish (think aggressive liquid sandpaper) easily removes a decent portion of the paint (and thus for example swirls marks) but will invariably leave behind its own very fine sanding marks in the paint.
This often needs to be followed by a refining polish (think very fine liquid sandpaper) to remove the ‘sanding marks’ from the previous polishing step – this depends on how aggressive the initial polish is, along with paint type. All too often scrupulous establishments will simply apply a glaze to fill these fine sanding marks, creating the illusion of perfectly refined paint. When the glaze washes off though, the true condition of the paint will once again be revealed.

Here you can see I have corrected the LHS using a compound (aggressive polish) only.... and whilst it has removed the swirls, you can see how the paint actually looks less black than the uncorrected side.... this is the micro-marring from the compound.

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Now in this pic, I corrected using the same compound and then did a final polish using a much finer polish. Notice now how the gloss has been restored and the corrected side is a lot blacker than the uncorrected side.

Image

An Alternative To Paint Correction

Instead of actually correcting the paint to create a smooth surface, you can fill the surface imperfections to create the illusion of perfectly smooth paint.

Imagine if you pour enough water over a concrete floor (full of tiny imperfections) so that the floor was covered in 1mm of water. The water would have followed the shape of the imperfections in the floor and but the top surface of the water would appear perfectly smooth - as if there were no imperfections

Glazes act in much the same way and so when your paint is glazed, the swirls are filled creating the illusion of defect free paint. Some glazes also have protection properties; although durability is not usually at the top of the list, and they cannot hide everything though so do not expect that deep scratch from a parking lot trolley bashing to miraculously disappear.

That said, I do not advocate the polishing of paint often over the life of a vehicle, as the constant abrading away of the clear (this is what polishing is) will thin out the clear, to the point that clear coat failure is a real possibility. Even if there is no immediate clear coat failure, the reduced clear layer means less UV protection on offer, which is why the clear is there in the first place - to protect the base coat from oxidation.

So glazes are a way of temporarily improving the appearance of the paint by masking the defects. This can be a good way of keeping your car looking good without having to remove paint to do so, but durability of the glaze is not very good.
Most can be topped with some form of more durable protection, however certain brands do not bond well, if at all, with other brands and so it would be important to ensure compatibility before use.

How To Protect Paint

Think of LSP's (Last Step Protection) like sunscreen for your skin. Also, they will form a protective barrier that makes it harder for dirt and contaminants to stick to your paint

Waxes

These usually contain carnuba (a naturally occurring product) and a blend of various oils and other exotic ingredients which provide a warmer glowing type look to the paint.

Durability: from a couple of weeks to possible a couple of months

Price Ranges from R100 to R1000's bottle/pot

pplication: Wheels, Headlights, Taillights, Paint


Sealants
These are the results of men in labs in little white coats. The chemists are able to create a product that offers superior durability to a conventional wax. These are said to add a more clinical glassy look to the paint.

Durability: 1 to 6 months

Price: Ranges from R100 to many R100’s per bottle

Application: Wheels, Headlights, Taillights, Paint

Coatings
Coatings take things to a whole new level. They offer much improved durability, improved hydrophobic properties (the ability to repel water) and have increased protection from exposure to the elements. Some can be thought of as clear coat in a bottle, which once cured is often harder than the original OEM paint

Durability: from 2 to 4 years

Price: Contact your detailer for pricing. Remember that the paint will first need to be FULLY corrected and cleaned of all oils and
residues, not only to aid proper bonding but also due to the fact that whatever condition the paint is in, will be the condition the paint remains in for the life of the coating. The coating will also need time to properly cure before it can be exposed to the elements and this needs to all be factored in when determining the length and price of the detail.

Application: Wheels, headlights, Glass, Paint


Beading vs. Sheeting
Source – Autopia [posted by TOGW)

Water beads are convex beads that have a small, tight symmetrical shape due to cohesion
Although you cannot equate a products beading ability to protection and durability, if an applied product continues to `bead' water, one wash after another, then that would prove that whatever it is that is causing high surface tension is not washing off.
How can you tell when a paint surface protection has diminished to a point that it is no longer being protected?

Scientific explanation

• Water (H2O) is a polar molecule, composed of two hydrogen (H2) atoms bonded to a single oxygen (O2) atom. Water molecules adhere to each other, this is called cohesion.
• Water molecules also can be attracted to other substances, such as metal or dirt, especially if they have some static charge on them, this is called adhesion.
• Some substances are not attracted to water, and even repel it. These include oils, fats and waxes; these are called non-polar substances.
• When water falls on an un-waxed paint surface, the forces of adhesion and cohesion are almost in equilibrium, and the water spreads out

A wax or sealant, when applied properly to a clean paint surface, fills in the larger surface fissures and layers the whole surface. The chemical structure of the wax prevents water from penetrating to the surface of the car. Because the wax itself is hydrophobic (literally repels water), the forces of adhesion are much less than the forces of cohesion. So, water is more likely to bead higher and rounder than on a surface without wax / sealant

Non-scientific explanation

• If the paint surface feels dry (your hand or a cloth drags), it’s an indication that there’s nothing left between you and the paint finish. Glazes, waxes and polymers create a finish with less friction (surface tension) than the paint itself.
• Indications that the products durability may be diminishing- (contact angle varies) when the water beads become noticeably larger in diameter with a flat, concave or an irregular shape usually indicate that the surface tension of the wax or sealant is diminishing. Or when dust, dirt or bug residue becomes more difficult to wipe off with a quick detailing spray are indications that it may be time to renew the protection
• Slickness- slide a micro fibre towel across a horizontal surface to see how much resistance there is, if there has been a significant reduction from what you experienced previously the durability is probably diminishing
• Sheeting or water beading- the self-cleaning (sheeting) ability of the hydrophilic polymer seems to be much better than the hydrophobic organic wax (beading) effect, as it may accelerate the oxidation when drying after rain.
• Conclusion- water beading is indicative but not conclusive proof of protection

There are some disadvantages to water beading (hydrophobic) as opposed to the sheeting effect (hydrophilic) of a polymer, when they are dried by ambient temperature they cause water spots (if the rain contains calcium it will leave a white residue) The other is there could be over a pint of liquid trapped within the beads over the paint film surface area, if they contain acid from industrial fall out this could increase the time the acidic solution remains on the paint surface compared to water sheeting?.

The beads have a very small surface area, so the sun will increase the surface temperature very rapidly; many chemical compounds react to slight heating and an oxidizing process. Now you have acid + water + oxygen + ozone + heat; all of which equates to a highly concentrated acidic solution, which causes a concave indentation (acid etching) to the paint surface.

Any product can be reformulated by a Chemist or product formulator with active surface agents surfactants) either ionic (sheeting) or non-ionic (beading) that alters the surface tension and causes water to sheet or bead to satisfy consumer demand. But if a product beads on initial application and after a period of time starts to sheet water (or vice-versa) it is normally indicative that the wax/sealant protection has diminished. Note- Dust and road soil will also have a negative impact on water beading. This is often mistaken as wax / sealant failure

Which one is for me

The biggest factor for me is HOW the owner intends on maintaining the vehicle afterwards and by this I mean, if I were to apply a high end carnuba wax [which in theory does add a little something to the paint] to a vehicle that was going to be left outside and washed at the garage, the benefit of the few % improvement in looks will soon be negated by the exposure to elements which will strip it off. Alternatively an owner may actually enjoy the experience of waxing their car, and therefore for they choose this route partly for personal satisfaction.

Conversely, someone who does not enjoy waxing often may look at a sealant to reduce the amount of times they have to apply protection. Someone with really soft paint (which is very susceptible to damage – even the softest MF Towels can inflict damage when used incorrectly [too much pressure for example]) may look at a coating, which not only provides protection, but also increases the scratch resistance of the paint itself (the coating is harder than the original clear coat).
Then the next factor to consider is the actual type of paint itself and what the vehicle is to be used for (e.g. daily duty, compete in a car show, collector’s item etc.).

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Sparkz0629 » Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:51 am

Holy moly.... epic dude!!! well done..

Its always good to get information like this from someone that is respected in the detailing sector.

Thanks Laurence, keep it up.
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Belix » Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:26 am

great write up, appreciate the time and effort.
Learnt a few things
One question, why not squeeze the wash mit out after going over the vehicle and before rinsing it in the clean water? It gets rid of a lot of muck and reduces what gets into the rinse water. Can be in the garden away from the vehicle or in a fourth bucket (Getting heavy on the buckets).
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby lawrence » Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:39 am

Belix wrote:great right up, appreciate the time and effort.
Learnt a few things
One question, why not squeeze the wash mit out after going over the vehicle and before rinsing it in the clean water? It gets rid of a lot of muck and reduces what gets into the rinse water. Can be in the garden away from the vehicle or in a fourth bucket (Getting heavy on the buckets).


Thanks buddy

Yeah squeezing out the mitt prior to rinsing it will help. Another variation is to spray the mitt as clean as you can with the hosepipe before dipping into the rinse bucket. More than anything the principal of washing with a clean mitt and clean wash solution is what should be at the forefront of your mind - how exactly you achieve this up to you.

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby DINODENASH » Fri Nov 22, 2013 10:42 am

Awsome !!

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Zydo6 » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:02 am

you are a legend!!!!

I love washing my own car and spend hours cleaning it
Thanks for this,it will help me maintain my car so much better!!
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby AlexTDi » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:03 am

Great write up Lawrence :hurray: You going to turn us all into detailers soon :lol:

For you to actually share the knowledge you have acquired over the years show's true passion for not only detailing but cars too, Huge respect for educating the "normal" car enthusiast on how to protect their paint and actually not need the help of a detailler, It's kind of bad for business but we can see that you're not focused on making money but rather making us self-sustainable.

You sir deserve a Nobel peace prize!
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby lawrence » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:14 am

Zydo6 wrote:you are a legend!!!!

I love washing my own car and spend hours cleaning it
Thanks for this,it will help me maintain my car so much better!!

Glad it will help you bud :hug:

1.9TurboVw wrote:Great write up Lawrence :hurray: You going to turn us all into detailers soon :lol:

For you to actually share the knowledge you have acquired over the years show's true passion for not only detailing but cars too, Huge respect for educating the "normal" car enthusiast on how to protect their paint and actually not need the help of a detailler, It's kind of bad for business but we can see that you're not focused on making money but rather making us self-sustainable.

You sir deserve a Nobel peace prize!

Thanks bud :oops:

The reality is that this article is aimed at educating people on how to maintain their ride, which is really NOT what I do, but is something every car owner should be doing.

In my opinion the only things that you should NOT be doing yourself is decontamination and polishing steps, as things can go horribly wrong here, so I do not see sharing my knowledge as bad for business. Even if you were to maintain your car properly, it will still need periodic decontamination and polishing, which is where someone like me would come in.

The reality is every detail I do starts off with a thorough cleaning (which, if the vehicle was properly maintained would actually be a little easier for me), then decontamination (paint can be cocked up here - think clay marring, incorrect of products leading to stains etc so only a trusted person for this), paint correction (do not trust just anyone to do this for you) and then protection (which anyone can do).

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Unobeat » Fri Nov 22, 2013 11:28 am

1.9TurboVw wrote:Great write up Lawrence :hurray: You going to turn us all into detailers soon :lol:

For you to actually share the knowledge you have acquired over the years show's true passion for not only detailing but cars too, Huge respect for educating the "normal" car enthusiast on how to protect their paint and actually not need the help of a detailler, It's kind of bad for business but we can see that you're not focused on making money but rather making us self-sustainable.

You sir deserve a Nobel peace prize!


:iagree: :iagree:

What an awesome write. :smile: :smile: :smile: :smile: :grin:
I love and enjoy washing my car with this write up it will help me taking care of it better.

I started using the 2 bucket method and it works beautifully :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:
I always look forward to read your detailing threads, they are very informative and i appreciate all the detailed information that you share.
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby killerpunk » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:22 pm

Thanks Lawrence!
I always look forward to your posts for some inspiration and best practices.
Epic write-up... Well done!
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby MeanTdi » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:31 pm

:hurray: :hurray: :hurray:

Thank you!!
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Deranged_9n3 » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:21 pm

Great write-up once again from your side !! Thanx Lawrence
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby BADBOY » Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:41 pm

Thanks !
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby lawrence » Mon Nov 25, 2013 3:09 pm

Cool - hope it helps you guys! :hug:

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Trixsta V » Mon Nov 25, 2013 3:39 pm

:hurray: Well done learnt alot here!!!
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Avish » Wed Nov 27, 2013 2:37 pm

After reading that, i want to go wash my car...the correct way. Thank you Sir. That was extremely educational.

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby lawrence » Wed Nov 27, 2013 2:38 pm

Trixsta V wrote::hurray: Well done learnt alot here!!!


Avish wrote:After reading that, i want to go wash my car...the correct way. Thank you Sir. That was extremely educational.


:hurray: :hurray:

Pleasure guys - glad it helped

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby MarshallGTi » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:28 pm

Legend...
It is an ingenius solution to a problem that should have never existed in the 1st place...

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby lawrence » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:29 pm

MarshallGTi wrote:Legend...


wait for it....
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dary

:troll:

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Kyle » Wed Nov 27, 2013 3:48 pm

Incredible write up :thumbup:

Will be sending this link to all my colleagues
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Tre » Thu Nov 28, 2013 12:50 pm

thats top info lawrence...like trade secrets...to be honest i would love to see you do the work in real time
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby lawrence » Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:13 pm

Tre wrote:thats top info lawrence...like trade secrets...to be honest i would love to see you do the work in real time

Thanks bud

Well make a booking and bring you car, and you can watch it being done :troll: Not sure how far into the detail your boredom would set it in though :lol:

On a serious note though, you are welcome to pop in when I am detailing if you really want to check it out :thumbup:

As for it being trade secrets, I don't look at it like that -what I have shared above is the type of info that all car owners should be armed with, but because of the complete lack of understanding of proper paint care not only from the manufacturers, but also the dealers and in fact pretty much everyone out there is clueless. It is the kind of stuff I encourage people to DIY because it is what is best for their cars. And I do actually care about people's cars - it is why I do this in the first place.

What I do see as a 'trade secret' is that actual art of polishing the paint (and decontaminating it, to some degree - think about clay marring etc) - It is specifically this that I will not share with everyone, not only because it is what separates me from the rest, but also because there is simply so much to learn that I would not have the time itself to teach you how to SAFELY polish paint via text. It has taken me years of research and practice, and with the risks involved, it would not be prudent of me to try and teach you how to do it over a forum.

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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Tre » Thu Nov 28, 2013 1:35 pm

lawrence wrote:
Tre wrote:thats top info lawrence...like trade secrets...to be honest i would love to see you do the work in real time

Thanks bud

Well make a booking and bring you car, and you can watch it being done :troll: Not sure how far into the detail your boredom would set it in though :lol:

On a serious note though, you are welcome to pop in when I am detailing if you really want to check it out :thumbup:

As for it being trade secrets, I don't look at it like that -what I have shared above is the type of info that all car owners should be armed with, but because of the complete lack of understanding of proper paint care not only from the manufacturers, but also the dealers and in fact pretty much everyone out there is clueless. It is the kind of stuff I encourage people to DIY because it is what is best for their cars. And I do actually care about people's cars - it is why I do this in the first place.

What I do see as a 'trade secret' is that actual art of polishing the paint (and decontaminating it, to some degree - think about clay marring etc) - It is specifically this that I will not share with everyone, not only because it is what separates me from the rest, but also because there is simply so much to learn that I would not have the time itself to teach you how to SAFELY polish paint via text. It has taken me years of research and practice, and with the risks involved, it would not be prudent of me to try and teach you how to do it over a forum.

you sir are a champion..good work...keep it up :hurray:
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby 16vnut » Tue Dec 24, 2013 3:24 pm

Thanks Lawrence... Awesome advice to all of us.. :hug:
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Re: The Ultimate Detailing Guide

Postby Ulqui101 » Fri Jan 03, 2014 12:08 pm

Bookmarked :D awesome write up

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