Guides > How to wash and dry your car safely and

Transcription

Guides > How to wash and dry your car safely and
Guides > How to wash and dry your car safely and effectively
Washing is the process of removing loosely bonded surface contaminants, such as dust, dirt, flies and road salt,
from the exterior surfaces of your car. There are no golden rules about how often washing needs to be done, but
a weekly routine will usually enable you to stay on top of the dirt and grime and keep your car looking good most
of the time.
The most important thing to remember about washing is that more often than not you are working on dirty
surfaces. Your choice of products and technique is therefore very important, as you want to be able to gently lift
away dirt and grime without damaging the underlying surfaces or stripping away existing wax or sealant
protection. For this reason, we recommend the use of a lambswool wash mitt in place of a traditional sponge,
and the use of a gentle shampoo in conjunction with the two bucket method.
If you examine traditional sponges and think about the washing process, it should become obvious to you that
they are poorly suited to the task. This is because they provide no means of lifting particles of dirt safely away
from the surfaces being washed. Instead, dirt particles are trapped against the face of the sponge and moved
around over the underlying surfaces, creating fine scratches that are commonly referred to as swirl marks. The
potential for inflicting such damage is greater during the winter months, when coarser particles of grit and road
salt tend to accumulate on the exterior surfaces of your car in between washes.
In contrast to sponges, lambswool wash mitts feature a deep pile that enables particles of dirt to be drawn safely
away from the surfaces being washed. Moreover, because the pile is fairly loose, particles of dirt can easily be
rinsed out. These benefits can be reinforced by using the two bucket method, in which the first bucket is filled
with suds and the second with rinse water. The idea behind this method is to load the mitt with suds, wash one
panel of the car and then rinse the mitt thoroughly in the second bucket to release any trapped particles of dirt,
before reloading the mitt with suds and moving on to the next panel.
The only downside of using lambswool wash mitts is that they are fairly delicate, and can easily be damaged by
harsh use and snagging. For this reason, we recommend switching to a microfibre wash mitt when washing
wheels and the insides of wheel arches. These areas tend to suffer from significant accumulations of gritty
particles, and also tend to have a greater number of potential snags. However, because microfibre mitts have a
shorter pile than lambswool mitts, extra care should be taken to rinse them regularly, in order to minimise the
risk of marking delicate alloy rims. This risk can be further minimised by pre-washing wheels and the insides of
wheel arches with a soft tipped scrubbing brush.
In order to generate a bucket of suds, you will need to add 1-2 oz of shampoo to an empty bucket and then fill it
with lukewarm water. Your choice of shampoo is important, as it needs to be tough enough to dissolve dirt and
grime, but at the same time not so aggressive as to strip or degrade existing wax or sealant protection. Many
shampoos on sale in high street stores are actually quite aggressive, and thus best avoided - if you wash and
protect your car regularly a gentle shampoo will suffice, as any dirt and grime will be loosely bonded and easy to
remove. Many good quality shampoos also contain natural or synthetic oils, which encapsulate particles of dirt,
further reducing the risk of inflicting swirl marks.
When it actually comes to the washing process, the first thing you should do is rinse as much dirt and grime off
your car as possible using a hose or a pressure washer. If you opt for the latter use an RCD safety device and
don't be too aggressive with the power setting - high pressure jets can strip paint from sharp edges (around
wheel arches for example) and knock sticky balancing weights off alloy rims. It is worthwhile taking the time to
thoroughly rinse the wheels and the insides of the wheel arches at this stage, as it makes later work with the
microfibre wash mitt easier and less mucky.
After initial rinsing, the next thing you should do is wash all of the exterior surfaces bar the wheels and the
insides of the wheel arches using a lambswool wash mitt in conjunction with a gentle shampoo and the two
bucket method. Start with the roof, and then work down, washing the windows, the bonnet, the boot, the upper
halves of the sides, the lower halves of the sides and finally the front and rear bumpers and the sills. Rinse the
mitt thoroughly after every panel, and don't be stingy with the suds - make up another bucket if necessary. The
same goes for the rinse bucket - the rinse water can get dirty very quickly, so keep an eye on it and replace it if
necessary.
When using the mitt, try to follow the lines of the car and use only back and forth or side to side motions circular motions will only make swirl marks more pronounced if you are unlucky enough to inflict any. It is better
to wash your car in the shade if you can, so as to prevent the suds from drying out before rinsing off. If this is not
possible, you should begin rinsing off sooner, panel by panel on really hot days. When rinsing off, we
recommend using a hose with all of the end attachments removed - this encourages the rinse water to sheet off
the panels, making drying easier.
With the bodywork and the windows now washed, the next thing you should do is swap to the microfibre wash
mitt and tackle the wheels. If they are particularly dirty you can scrub them first with a soft tipped scrubbing
brush. Be particularly generous with the suds, and take the time to get into all of the nooks and crannies and
remove all of the brake dust (if you continually miss some wash after wash it will become more firmly bonded,
making later removal more difficult). After washing all of the wheels, finish the process by washing the insides of
the wheel arches, rinsing the mitt regularly. Finally, rinse everything off with the hose, including the bodywork
again if it has dried off during the intervening period.
The penultimate step in the washing process is to dry all of the exterior surfaces. This is important, because
leaving your car to dry off naturally can lead to the formation of unsightly water spots, which can actually
damage painted surfaces if not removed. Although you are now working on clean surfaces, you still want to
minimise the risk of inflicting swirl marks when drying off. For this reason, we recommend the use of a
heavyweight waffle weave microfibre towel in place of a traditional chamois leather.
In contrast to traditional chamois leathers, heavyweight waffle weave microfibre towels are capable of absorbing
many times their own weight in water, meaning that you can dry most cars without wringing out once. In
addition, the ultra soft fibres and waffle weave design significantly reduce the chances of marking any exterior
surfaces when drying off. A further benefit is that heavyweight waffle weave microfibre towels are considerably
easier to clean and maintain than traditional chamois leathers.
The final step in the washing process is to pack away all of the tools you have used, making sure everything is
clean and ready for the next use. Firstly, you should thoroughly rinse out your buckets, and then store them
upside down until they are next required. Secondly, you should rinse out any scrubbing brushes and then leave
them to dry out naturally. Finally, you should rinse out your wash mitts and drying towel and then wash them all
in a washing machine at a low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders
and detergents containing bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing everything to dry out naturally.
Guides > How to clean your paint in preparation for polishing or protection
Cleaning is the process of exfoliating firmly bonded surface contaminants, such as tar spots, bug remains, and
old wax or sealant residues, which cannot be removed from your paint by normal washing. By far the most
common types of bonded surface contaminants are tar spots and baked on bug remains. However, brake dust
and industrial fallout can also become bonded to exterior surfaces over time. It is important to remove such
contaminants periodically, because if they are allowed to remain in place for a long period of time they can etch
and discolour underlying surfaces.
Removing such contaminants requires a special technique. Normal washing doesn't remove them. All purpose
cleaners may partially remove them when used full strength, but are often unable to fully dissolve larger
particles. Aggressive polishing would almost certainly remove such contamination, but isn't the best solution for
two reasons. Firstly, such contaminants often need to be removed 2-3 times a year, and aggressive polishing
shouldn't be done as often as this, as it results in the removal of some of the clear coat covering the paint, and
this can only be done a certain number of times before the clear coat becomes worn through. What is really
required is a product capable of removing such contaminants without damaging the underlying or surrounding
surfaces. Such a product exists, and is known as a clay bar.
The clay used in a clay bar isn't really clay at all, but a mixture of a soft plastic resin (polybutene) and various
grades of abrasive particles. Think of it in this way - the soft plastic resin is effectively an applicator pad, which
enables you to move abrasive particles over your paint using consistent force and pressure. Because bonded
surface contaminants sit above the surface of the paint, they are subject to greater abrasive forces than the
surrounding surfaces when a clay bar is rubbed over them. As a result, they are exfoliated and removed by the
clay bar. You may be questioning at this point why the abrasives in the clay don't affect the surrounding paint?
The answer is they would, if they were allowed to. You have to stop them from doing so, by using a suitable
lubricant.
Clay lubricants come in a variety of guises, but most are effectively quick detailing products. These spray on
wipe off products contain lubricating oils (which enable dust and grime to be wiped off exterior surfaces safely
without inflicting damage to the underlying surfaces) and are well suited to use with a clay bar. In addition,
heavier duty waterless wash products are also ideal in this respect, as they contain an even greater
concentration of lubricating oils. If you do not have any of these products, a very rich suds mixture made up
using a normal shampoo can suffice, but extra care should be taken to keep the work area well lubricated.
To determine whether your paint has firmly bonded surface contaminants, and thus requires claying, you should
wash and dry your car thoroughly, and then run your fingertips over the major panels. Clean paint should feel as
smooth as glass. If you're fingertips aren't very sensitive you can magnify your sense of touch by putting you
hand inside a plastic sandwich bag first. If you can feel rough spots or a gritty texture, you need to clay your
paint. If you have a light coloured car, you may also be able to see such contaminants, particularly tar spots.
When it actually comes to claying your paint, the first thing you should do is check that the clay bar you intend to
use is soft enough to work with. This is a bit of a judgement call, but ideally you should be able to mould the clay
into a ball and roll it into a sausage shape with only a little effort. If it feels harder than this, you should place it in
a tub of warm water for 5 minutes and then try it again (it is okay to get clay wet). In the summer months, clay
bars are usually okay to use straight out of the wrapper, but in the winter months they nearly always need to go
into warm water for 5 minutes first. Using a clay bar that is too hard is the number one reason why many people
have a bad experience with clay and end up damaging their paint.
Once soft enough to work with, the next thing you should do is give the clay bar a quick spray with the lubricant
you have chosen, in order to help prevent it sticking to your hands. The next step is to work from the top of your
car down, panel by panel. Working on an area of no more than 2 ft x 2 ft at a time, spray the work area
thoroughly with the lubricant and then using moderate pressure and pace rub the clay backwards and forwards
across the surface of the panel, following the lines of the car. Using insufficient lubricant is the second reason
why many people have a bad experience with clay and end up damaging their paint - be generous with it, it
doesn't matter if it runs everywhere, it won't do anything any harm.
If the paint is relatively clean the clay will glide across very easily; if it is heavily contaminated the clay will be
much harder to move around. Usually, between 10-20 passes will be enough to clean the work area, but in time
you will become able to judge whether all of the contaminants have been removed by the way the clay moves
over the surface. Another way to tell is to run your fingertips over the panel when you think you are done - it
should be as smooth as glass. If it isn't, repeat the process. Once the work area is clean, wipe up any residual
lubricant using a heavyweight waffle weave microfibre towel, and then move on to the next area or panel.
As you progress, remould the clay bar into a new bar shape after every panel. This helps to keep the face of the
bar in contact with the paint relatively clean. If after doing the first area you realise you are working on a heavily
contaminated surface, remould the clay more frequently. Some people prefer to mould the clay into a round
shape to work with. We say do whatever feels most natural to you, just ensure that it is an even thickness (in
order to ensure you apply even force and pressure). As your confidence grows, you will find that it is often easier
to work on really stubborn tar spots using a thinner piece of clay and more pressure, but don't rush this - get
some experience first. The final golden rule for using clay safely and effectively is always throw it away if you
accidentally drop it on the floor. Continuing to use it after doing so is a recipe for disaster and major damage.
According to clay bar manufacturers, claying should completely strip existing wax or sealant protection.
However, in our experience, some of the latest sealants on the market seem to be able to withstand claying.
Thus, if your intention was to completely remove your existing wax or sealant protection in order to apply a
different last step product, you may need to conduct another removal step. To do this, you have two choices.
The first is to apply a full strength all purpose cleaner to the exterior surfaces of your car, leave it to work for 1015 minutes, then rinse and dry off thoroughly before applying an alternative last step product. The second option
is to polish your paint by hand or machine - this will also remove all traces of existing wax or sealant protection.
The final step in the cleaning process is to pack away all of the tools you have used, making sure everything is
clean and ready for the next use. Check the condition of the clay bar - if it is totally soiled discard it, if it is only
partially soiled place it in a zip lock freezer bag and save it for future use on your wheels or your windows (we
recommend that you always use a brand new clay bar on your paint). Finally, wash any towels you have used in
a washing machine at a low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders and
detergents containing bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing them to dry out naturally.
Guides > How to safely polish your paint by hand or machine
Preparation, preparation, preparation... is the key to amazing car care results. No matter how good your last
step product is, or how many coats of it you apply, you will not achieve a perfect finish unless you prepare your
paint properly. Preparation usually involves two steps. In the first, firmly bonded surface contaminants are
removed using a clay bar and a lubricant. In the second, sub-surface defects such as swirl marks and scratches
are removed by polishing, which is a broad term for a range of processes that remove or mask defects and
enhance surface gloss in preparation for the addition of protection.
The polishing step is often skipped by many car care enthusiasts. This may be because they do not fully
understand what purpose it serves, or because they are not confident enough to try it, or because they believe it
requires special tools. As a result, many are left dissatisfied with the appearance of their paint. In this guide, we
will attempt to shed some light on the subject of polishing by (i) illustrating common sub-surface paint defects, (ii)
describing the different types of polish available on the market, (iii) demonstrating how to polish paint by hand
and (iv) demonstrating how to polish paint by machine.
What do we mean by sub-surface defects? Sub-surface defects are any form of damage that penetrates the top
layer of paint on your car, and include swirl marks, scratches, stone chips, water spots and etching caused by
bug remains and bird droppings. By far the most common form of sub-surface defect are stone chips,
particularly on bonnets and wings. However, many paint finishes also suffer from swirl marks and etching, and
scratches are almost guaranteed if you park in supermarket car parks on a regular basis. Another less common
form of defect are buffer trails, which are lines of swirl marks inflicted by poor machine polishing technique. All of
the common forms of defects are shown in the images below.
Stone chips and scratches are obvious types of defect whose cause is clear, but what about swirl marks, water
spots and etching? What are they, and how are they caused? Swirl marks are circular patterns of very fine
scratches that resemble the form of cobwebs (they are often referred to as cobwebbing). They are nearly always
the result of poor washing technique, and are virtually guaranteed to be inflicted if you use automatic car washes
(those rotating bristles aren't as soft and gentle as they look). The other classic cause of swirl marks are
traditional yellow sponges, as they provide no means of lifting particles of dirt safely away from painted surfaces
when they are being washed. Instead, dirt particles are held on the face of the sponge and moved around over
the underlying surfaces, creating fine scratches.
Water spots may form on painted surfaces when tap water is used to rinse off suds and then left to dry off
naturally. The spots themselves comprise calcium carbonate, or limescale as it is more commonly known, and
other salts. If such deposits are left on painted surfaces for any significant length of time, they can harden to the
point where they become difficult to remove, even by machine. In extreme cases, such deposits can attack
underlying surfaces, causing etching. Etching refers to chemical erosion of the top layer of paint (more often
than not a clear coat), and is also caused by the corrosive effects of organic acids in bug remains and bird
droppings. Such contaminants should always be removed as quickly as possible in order to minimise the risk of
etching.
Can all sub-surface defects be corrected by polishing? Sadly, the answer is no. Critical to this issue is the depth
of the defect in relation to the paint system. Most modern paint systems are made up of three layers; a basecoat
of primer, then a layer of flat colour, and finally a topcoat of clear lacquer, commonly referred to as the clear
coat. The clear coat on many modern cars is often two to three times as thick as the underlying colour layer, and
is designed to enhance the appearance of the finish as well provide protection. Most sub-surface defects usually
only affect the clear coat, and can often be fully corrected by polishing. However, if the defect has penetrated
the clear coat and exposed the colour layer or the primer, polishing will not help, and may even make matters
worse. In these cases, your only option is a trip to the bodyshop. In our experience, most stone chip damage
falls into this latter category. A good test of whether a defect can be corrected by polishing is the fingernail test; if
you run your fingernail over a defect and it catches, the chances are it is too deep to be corrected by polishing
alone.
How can defects be corrected? Defects in the clear coat can be corrected in one of two ways. Firstly, you can
lower the level of the clear coat in the vicinity of the defect by aggressive polishing until the defect is no longer
visible. In general, it is safe to remove up to 50% of the thickness of the clear coat - any more and you risk paint
system failure. The benefit of this technique is that the defect is permanently removed, but the downside is that
such action can compromise the integrity of the clear coat, particularly if undertaken on a regular basis. The
second option is to lessen the severity of the defect by gentle polishing, and then hide or mask it before applying
protection. This is undoubtedly a safer option, but the downside is that the correction is only temporary whatever you use to fill the defect will eventually be eroded, making it visible again.
In addition to the choices given above, you also have the option to work by hand or machine. Polishing by hand
is not a waste of time, although it is fair to say that it is hard work, and the results are limited. If you have any
defects worse than minor swirl marks you will not remove them working by hand; the best you can hope to do is
lessen their severity and then consider masking them prior to applying protection. Machine polishing opens up
greater possibilities, both good and bad. Whilst it becomes possible to fully correct even quite serious defects, it
equally becomes possible to remove your clear coat in a short space of time. If you go down the road of
machine polishing, do your homework, follow the advice laid out below and allow sufficient time to practice and
gain experience.
Now we can start to see why some people are daunted by polishing. Not only can we tackle defects in different
ways, but we can also use different methods. If this level of choice wasn't bad enough, we now have to add in a
third factor; that of product selection. It is no surprise that many car care enthusiasts are put off and confused by
the polishing process, for there are literally dozens of different polishes available on the market, all named and
marketed in different ways. However, when you look past the choice and the labels, four main categories of
polish appear, and these categories are the key to really understanding polishing, as they unify all of the other
options outlined above. For this reason, we will now consider these four categories of polish, namely
compounds, polishes, glazes and cleaner-waxes, before moving on to look at polishing techniques in more
detail.
Polishing compounds are the most aggressive type of polishes on the market, and are used to correct major
paint defects, such as severe swirl marks, and restore dull, neglected paint. Polishing compounds work by
physical abrasion, and should be thought of as liquid sandpaper. Many modern polishing compounds comprise
uniformly sized abrasive particles that break down progressively during the polishing process. This contrasts
with traditional polishing compounds, in which the abrasives did not break down at all during the polishing
process, and which left surface hazing that required further polishing steps with increasingly finer abrasives until
a high gloss finish was restored in readiness for protection. The benefit of modern abrasive technology is that it
is now often possible to go straight from compounding to applying wax or sealant protection without the need for
intervening polishing steps. In cases where an extra polishing step is required (often on darker coloured cars),
the amount of additional polishing required is significantly reduced, saving time and effort.
A few important points should be noted about the use of polishing compounds. Firstly, these products are
designed to be used with machine polishers, and should not be applied by hand. This is because a very high
work rate is required to break down the abrasive particles, and if they are not worked hard enough significant
surface hazing will occur. Secondly, compounds are aggressive, particularly when used with cutting pads, and
will remove paint more quickly than you might expect. We recommend practising on old panels and gaining
experience prior to working on your own car. Thirdly, compounding should not be viewed lightly, and can only be
done a certain number of times before the integrity of the clear coat is compromised. We therefore strongly
recommend you save compounding as a last resort.
The next discernible group of products on the market are polishes, which vary in grade from medium abrasives
to light abrasives. Like polishing compounds, most of the products in this category comprise uniformly sized
abrasive particles that break down progressively as they are worked. However, in contrast to coarser polishing
compounds, the finer abrasive particles in polishes require less work in order to break down, meaning that they
can be applied either by hand or machine (although by machine is easier and gives better results). The purpose
of polishes is to permanently remove less serious paint defects, such as minor swirl marks, fine scratches and
light etching, and create smooth, highly reflective surfaces in readiness for the addition of wax or sealant
protection. The benefit of modern abrasive technology means that once again it is now often possible to go
straight from polishing using a medium abrasive to applying wax or sealant protection without the need for a
further polishing step.
A few important points should be noted about the use of polishes. Firstly, some polishes on the market contain a
small quantity of fillers, which help to mask any remaining defects prior to the application of wax or sealant
protection. The downside of this is that once such fillers are eroded, some of the remaining defects will
reappear. However, many other polishes on the market contain no fillers, meaning that the removal of defects is
permanent (if you can't see them anymore they aren't there). Secondly, when working by hand it is beneficial to
use the least abrasive product possible to get the job done. This is because polishing by hand is hard work, and
much less effort is required to break down finer abrasives. In addition, when working by hand it is possible to
inflict surface hazing when using medium abrasives, as you may not be able to break down the abrasive
particles effectively. We recommend starting with a light abrasive and only moving onto medium abrasives if
absolutely necessary.
Glazes are a seemingly misunderstood category of polishing products, perhaps because of confusion caused by
the naming of certain products. In the true sense of the word, a glaze is a pure polish that does not contain any
abrasives or cleaning agents. Glazes are designed to improve the brilliance and clarity of painted surfaces, and
mask or visually reduce the extent of any remaining imperfections. In order to do this, glazes typically comprise
mineral oils that enhance the wetness and richness of the finish, and kaolin (China Clay), which fills and hides
minor swirl marks and other flaws. Somewhat confusingly, some glazes only contain mineral oils, meaning that
they do not have any masking abilities, and some products that are called glazes actually comprise fine abrasive
particles and solvent-based polishing agents, meaning that they are not glazes in the true sense of the word. We
therefore recommend that you read product descriptions carefully before choosing an appropriate glaze.
A few important points should be noted about the use of glazes. Firstly, glazes are underused in the UK. In our
opinion, it is far better to apply a glaze on a regular basis and hide any defects rather than polish your paint with
abrasives on a regular basis. We only tend to polish our own cars with abrasive polishes once a year, and in the
intervening period we use glazes to keep them looking good. Our reasoning for this is very simple - every time
you use an abrasive polish you remove a further fraction of your clear coat. Do this too often and you risk
compromising the integrity of your clear coat. Keeping daily drivers looking good is hard, but glazes offer a
convenient solution that avoids the risk of over polishing. Secondly, once a glaze is applied you should apply
wax or sealant protection immediately, in order to seal in the fillers. Whatever you do, you should never apply
any product containing solvent-based cleaning agents over a glaze, as the fillers and the oils will be stripped
away.
The final discernible group of polishing products on the market are cleaner-waxes, which blur the line between
abrasive polishes and last step products, as they polish and lay down a layer of wax or sealant protection in a
single step. Almost all of the products in this category utilise solvent-based cleaning agents instead of abrasive
particles, meaning that they have limited polishing powers but excellent cleaning abilities. However, new
products are set for release over the coming year that will utilise abrasive particles for the polishing process,
meaning that more serious defects will be able to be corrected. Despite their limited polishing powers, such
products can reduce the visual extent of defects quite effectively. This is because they tend to round off the
edges of fine scratches, robbing sunlight of the ability to produce reflections and thus define the defects. These
one step style products are great time savers, and perfect for enthusiasts who want to polish their paint lightly by
hand whilst simultaneously adding protection.
A few important points should be noted about the use of cleaner waxes and other similar one step style
products. Firstly, they should not be used over glazes, because their solvent-based cleaning agents strip away
oils and fillers, cancelling out the benefits of applying the glaze in the first place. Secondly, such products
typically lay down a layer of wax or sealant protection and care should subsequently be taken to ensure that the
last step product is compatible with this layer, as sealants should not be layered over carnuba waxes. The rule
of thumb is that if the cleaner-wax lays down a layer of carnuba wax, then only a carnuba wax last step product
should be applied on top. However, if the one step product lays down a layer of sealant, you can generally apply
any type of last step product on top. If you are ever unsure about what can and can't be layered in terms of
cleaner-waxes and last step products, please contact us and we will be happy to advise you accordingly.
Now that we have illustrated common forms of sub-surface defects and described the various types of polishing
products available on the market, we should be able to determine what can and can't be achieved using different
polishing methods. Let's start with polishing by hand, as this is the only option open to car care enthusiasts who
for whatever reason do not own a machine polisher. As stated previously, polishing by hand is not a waste of
time, although it is fair to say that it is hard work, and the results that can be achieved are limited in comparison
to polishing by machine. If you have any defects worse than minor swirl marks you will not remove them working
by hand; the best you can hope to do is lessen their severity and then consider masking them prior to applying
protection. Based on this, and the fact that polishing compounds should not be applied by hand, we can see that
our attention should be focussed on minor defects and products falling into the polish, glaze and cleaner-wax
categories.
In order to permanently remove minor swirl marks by hand, we recommend that you first try using a light
abrasive polish. If after several applications some of the marks still persist, you can then move on to trying a
medium abrasive polish. If you do this, you must work the area well, in order to help the abrasives break down.
After several applications, we recommend finishing off with another application of a light abrasive polish, in order
to remove any hazing and restore a perfect finish in readiness for wax or sealant protection. If you would rather
try and hide defects instead of removing them, we recommend that you use a glaze containing fillers. Such
products will also enhance the gloss of your paint in readiness for protection. If your paint is free of swirl marks
but dull and lifeless, we recommend that you use a cleaner-wax to deep clean the paint and lay down an initial
layer of wax or sealant protection.
When it actually comes to polishing by hand, the first thing you should do is ensure the paint is clean and dry wash your car first and then clay it if surface contaminants are evident. We recommend that you apply polishes
by hand using either a good quality foam applicator pad or a microfibre applicator pad. The former tends to be
better for applying glazes and cleaner-waxes, whereas the latter is better employed when using abrasive
polishes, as the microfibre affords additional bite that helps the polishing process. Whichever you use, always
remember to use a fresh pad for each product - you should never mix products. A common myth about polishing
by hand is that you should only work back and forth and side to side, rather than in circles. We recommend that
you try to work in all directions, because this will help to ensure that the edges of defects are rounded off evenly.
Working in circles will not create new swirl marks unless you finish too quickly and do not allow sufficient time for
the abrasives to break down. A good indication of this is a change in the appearance of the polish - many
appear to become more transparent when they have been properly worked. Polish residues are often quite stiff,
and removal requires firm buffing with a suitable microfibre towel. Plush towels with a short nap are ideal for this,
as they are kind to the finish yet have sufficient bite to lift residues with ease.
Polishing by machine opens up more possibilities in comparison to polishing by hand, as products can be
worked much harder and for much longer with ease. For example, the most popular dual action polisher on the
market has a maximum working speed of 6000 orbits per minute. It is impossible for a human being to replicate
this work rate - just imagine trying to polish a panel in a circular motion 6000 times a minute for 5 minutes or
more, all the time applying constant pressure! Because the work rate is also selectable, machine polishers can
be used to safely tackle all forms of paint defects, ranging from minor swirl marks to very deep scratches. The
only proviso is that the clear coat must be intact before starting, and must not be reduced to less than 50% of its
original thickness as a result of polishing. A further benefit of polishing by machine at high work rates is that
painted surfaces can be burnished to an exceptionally high lustre prior to the application of wax or sealant
protection - the same quality of finish is very hard to achieve when working by hand.
Although machine polishing offers many advantages over working by hand, it also adds more complexity to the
polishing process. This is because additional choices have to be made with regard to machine type and pad
selection. These choices are critical, because if you get them wrong it is very easy to damage your paint machine polishers can remove paint surprisingly quickly if not used correctly. Let's start with the choice of
machine type. Machine polishers fall into one of two camps - rotary or dual action. Rotary polishers are the
choice of professional detailers. As the name suggests, the polishing head rotates around a fixed point at
speeds of 0-2000 rpm. This circular action creates a lot of friction that can be used to great advantage when
correcting major paint defects. However, the downside of this is that is it also very easy to inflict damage in the
form of burn marks, buffer trails and excess paint removal. Mastering the art of rotary polishing takes a lot of
practice, and for this reason we do not recommend it unless you seek professional training first.
Dual action polishers work differently to rotary polishers, in that the polishing head oscillates randomly about a
fixed point as the polishing head spins (hence the term dual action). What this means is that friction is vastly
reduced at any given point of contact, limiting the effective work rate and greatly reducing the risk of burning the
paint or removing too much of the clear coat. Because of this, dual action polishers are ideal for car care
enthusiasts who want to be able to safely correct their paint without the fear of inflicting further damage. A
common myth is that dual action polishers are much less effective than rotary polishers. Whilst it is true that very
serious paint defects can often only be fully corrected by rotary polishing, it is also true that dual action polishing
can usually correct all but the most serious of defects. The major difference is the time taken to make the
correction - a job that might take 20 minutes with a rotary polisher may take an hour or more with a dual action
polisher due to the lower effective work rate, but in most cases the end result will be the same. Now we can see
why it pays the professional detailer to master the art of rotary polishing, and why dual action polishing is the
safe alternative for car care enthusiasts.
The most popular dual action machine polisher on the market is the Porter Cable 7424, which has now been
around for over a decade and continues to be the number one choice of many car care enthusiasts. Porter
Cable is a US company, and unfortunately the 7424 unit has yet to be granted CE certification, meaning that it
cannot be legally sold in the UK. However, it is perfectly legal to import one for personal use, and the only
adaptation that is required is the fitting of a UK plug and the purchase of a 110v transformer. We have imported
several 7424 units over the course of the last year, and in each case we have purchased from Autopia, as they
offer excellent customer service, competitive pricing and fast delivery. The key benefits of the 7424 unit are as
follows. Firstly, it has a powerful 110v motor that generates working speeds in the range of 2500-6000 orbits per
minute, all fully selectable via a thumbwheel. Secondly, at just under an inch, the long throw of the oscillation
action significantly reduces rotational friction, meaning that the unit can be safely used at high speeds without
any fear of burning the paint. Thirdly, the standard sized 5/16-24 spindle allows backing plates and accessories
to be changed quickly and easily. Fourthly, popularity of the unit has generated a vast market for pads and
accessories for all types of polishing tasks.
Pad selection is another critical choice when polishing by machine. All pads designed for use with dual action
polishers are made from varying grades of high quality foam. The firmness of the foam dictates its suitability for
different polishing tasks (compounding, polishing, glazing) and is usually colour coded to make recognition
easier (unfortunately manufacturers use different colour schemes, so always read product descriptions
carefully). Compounding pads are made from the firmest foams and are usually either orange or yellow in
colour. The firmness of the foam allows the pad to cut into the surface of the paint (they are often called cutting
pads) - pads falling into this category are aggressive, and should be used with great care. Polishing pads are
made from foams of intermediate firmness, and are usually white in colour. These pads have a very slight
cutting action that allows them to correct most defects without removing too much paint. Glazing pads are made
from softer foams, and are usually either black or blue in colour. These pads have no cutting action, but are
capable of burnishing paint to an exceptionally high lustre. The softest foams are used to make pads for
applying last step products, and these are usually red in colour.
In addition to the firmness of the foam, pad designs also vary in size and shape, ranging from small, flat pads to
large, variably contoured pads. Small 4" spot pads are designed to be used with 3.5" backing plates, and serve
two main purposes. Firstly, they allow access to awkward areas, such as around grills and wing mirrors.
Secondly, they allow specific defects, such as scratches, to be worked harder, as their size means they spin
faster, doing more work. Their size also means that less surrounding paint is affected during the process of
scratch removal. Larger 6.5" and 7.5" pads are designed to be used with 6" backing plates, and are perfect for
general polishing tasks and working on larger panels. In the past, pads were always flat, but recent advances in
design and technology have resulted in the release of shaped pads onto the market, which are easier to control
and which reduce the amount of sling on start up. The most advanced pads currently available feature variable
contour and constant pressure technologies, which provide greater flexibility in the form of multiple polishing
faces, and yet more safety in the form of foam layers that help to keep the polisher level during use (and thus
reduce the risk of inflicting buffer trails).
Now that we have examined the choices surrounding machine polishing, we should be able to determine safe
approaches to defect correction. In all cases, the first thing you should do is ensure the paint is clean and dry wash your car first and then clay it if surface contaminants are evident. In order to correct serious paint defects,
such as severe swirl marks and widespread deep etching, we recommend that you first try using a polishing pad
in conjunction with a medium abrasive polish. This combination can be worked hard at high speed without fear
of removing too much of the clear coat. If after several applications the defects still persist, you may want to
consider swapping over to a cutting pad and a polishing compound. However, such action should not be taken
lightly, and ideally only if you are experienced at machine polishing. If you decide to proceed, always work in a
well lit area, check your progress after every pass, and keep the working speed below 4500 orbits per minute.
Once you have removed the defects, check the quality of the finish. If you can see any hazing you will need to
conduct another polishing step, this time using a polishing pad in conjunction with a light abrasive polish. We
recommend that the same combination is used to tackle less severe paint defects such as minor swirl marks and
fine scratches. If after several applications the defects still persist, you can then try a medium abrasive polish
(applied using a fresh polishing pad - you should never mix products on the same pad). The pattern you should
see emerging here is simple - always use the least aggressive product you can to get the job done, and always
match your choice of pad to the task in hand. The process becomes more straightforward if your aim is to simply
mask any remaining defects or burnish the finish in preparation for wax or sealant protection - simply use a
glazing pad in conjunction with a suitable glaze.
When it comes to the actual polishing process, the technique is similar whether working large areas or specific
defects. In the case of the former, the first thing you should do is mask off all trims using low tack masking tape.
This is because it is hard to avoid running onto trims when using 6.5" ands 7.5" pads, and failure to cover them
often results in staining that is difficult to remove. The second task is to choose a suitable pad and product
combination for the task in hand. Then you should fit the side handle and 6" backing plate to your polisher, press
the pad in place (make sure that you do not rest the pad on the ground at any point) and connect the electricity
supply. We recommend using an RCD safety device and an extension cable, so as to allow all panels to be
easily reached. Now you are ready to start polishing. Before you do, you should prime the pad - this means
adding a little lubricant to the pad, so that dry buffing is avoided before the product has time to spread. The
easiest way to prime a pad is to mist it once or twice with either water or a quick detailing spray. The next thing
to do is apply the product to the pad in an X shape, as this allows the product to spread out evenly across the
pad when the machine is started.
With the pad primed and loaded, the next thing you should do before switching on is spread the product across
the work area by pressing it repeatedly against the panel - this helps to ensure that all parts of the work area are
evenly polished. Try to work whole panels at a time, starting on a panel featuring the defects you want to correct
(this allows you to quickly determine if your choice of pad and product is going to achieve the desired result).
With the pad held against the paint, you can now switch the machine on. We recommend that you read the
instructions supplied with the machine before you first use it, paying particular attention to the section on safe
working practices. When you start polishing, you should spend the first couple of minutes on a low speed setting
(2-3 on the dial of a 7424) applying only light pressure, in order to allow the product to spread out evenly across
the pad and the work area.
After a couple of minutes, you should turn the speed up (4-5 on the dial of a 7424) and then move systematically
across the panel, applying moderate pressure. Slow, overlapping passes are ideal - there is no need to move
the machine backwards and forwards or side to side. Different products need different amounts of work before
they are ready to be removed, and knowing when this is the case only comes with practice (although a good rule
of thumb is that most allow you to go over whole panels slowly at least 3-4 times). However, a good indication is
a change in the appearance of the product - many appear to become more transparent when they have been
properly worked. You should always stop the machine with the pad held against the paint. Many product
residues are quite stiff, and their removal often necessitates firm buffing with a suitable microfibre towel. Plush
towels with a short nap are ideal for this, as they are kind to the finish yet have sufficient bite to lift residues with
ease. Once the residue is removed you should inspect the panel and repeat the process if defects still persist.
choice of pad will differ. In the following example, we will demonstrate how we removed a nasty scratch that
appeared on the rear quarter panel of our C2 after we left it in a supermarket car park for a few hours. To
remove a specific defect like a deep scratch, it is better to use a 4" spot pad, as they spin faster, do more work
and affect less surrounding paint. In this case the scratch wasn't deep enough to catch a fingernail, so we were
confident we could safely remove it by lowering the level of the surrounding clear coat. After setting the machine
up and fitting a 3.5" backing plate and a 4" polishing pad, we primed the pad with a shot of quick detailing spray
and then loaded it with a medium abrasive polish. We then spread the polish evenly over the work area by
pressing the pad against the panel repeatedly.
Now ready to start polishing, we held the pad against the paint and turned the machine on, using a low speed
setting (2 on the dial). We moved the pad over the work area applying only light pressure for a minute or so, in
order to allow the product to spread out evenly across the pad and the work area. Then we increased the speed
(4-5 on the dial) and began to move systematically back and forth across the work area, applying moderate
pressure. After a few minutes the product started to turn transparent, so we switched the unit off with the pad
held against the paint and then buffed off the residue with a suitable microfibre towel. Whilst this first application
greatly lessened the severity of the scratch, it was still clearly visible. We then repeated the process, this time
applying firm pressure and using the machine on the highest speed setting (6 on the dial). After the product
once again began to turn transparent, we turned the machine off and buffed off the residue. Close inspection
revealed that only the faintest trace of the scratch remained, so instead of repeating the process we decided to
apply a glaze and then reapply multiple layers of sealant protection.
The final step in the polishing process is to pack away all of the tools you have used, making sure everything is
clean and ready for the next use. All towels and applicator pads should be washed in a washing machine at a
low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders and detergents containing
bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing everything to dry out naturally. All polishing pads should be scraped
off using a blunt plastic edge and then rinsed out thoroughly before being left to soak overnight in a bucket of
warm soapy water - a good squirt of washing up liquid is ideal for this purpose, as it cuts through most product
residues with ease and does not damage the foam. On the following day, the pads should be rinsed out
thoroughly and then left to dry out naturally.
We would like to thank Joe Christian and Gary Kouba for contributing images that have substantially improved
the quality of this guide.
Guides > How to choose and apply wax or sealant protection
Once cleaned and polished, painted surfaces require protection against the elements in order to preserve the
long-term quality of the finish. Protection comes in the form of natural carnuba waxes, synthetic sealants, and
products that combine the two. Your choice of protection (commonly referred to as last step product) can
dramatically affect the appearance of your car, as last step products typically offer varying degrees of gloss,
reflectivity, slickness and durability. In this guide, we will define protection and how to measure it, describe
different types of last step product and show how they can affect the appearance of paint, and finally
demonstrate how to apply last step products.
What is protection? Protection may be defined as an invisible barrier that sits on the surface of your paint and
protects it against the elements. By elements, we mean water (which is the most powerful natural solvent on the
planet), UV radiation, dust and grime, industrial fallout, tree sap, bug remains, bird droppings, etc. Any protection
you apply to your paint, whether it be a wax or a sealant, or even a combination of the two, is subject to
chemical and physical erosion by the elements. As such, it gets gradually worn away over time, necessitating
reapplication if a high level of protection is to be maintained. Some forms of protection, i.e. carnuba waxes, also
naturally evaporate from painted surfaces, meaning they lose their ability to protect more rapidly than other
types of last step product.
How do we measure or test how well our paint is protected? All types of protection create an invisible surface
layer on paint that repels water and contaminants. This hydrophobic or water hating layer causes water droplets
to bead on the surface, as shown in the images below. A high level of protection increases the surface tension
on the beads, making them taller. The image below right is an extreme example of this - you can easily see that
the underlying paint seems to be repelling the water droplets. Alongside beading, another measure of protection
is slickness. Slickness refers to the degree to which water droplets slide off of painted surfaces under gravity,
leaving behind no trace. If your car is well protected, you should expect to see tall beads on horizontal surfaces
and very little water clinging to vertical surfaces when it rains.
As we mentioned at the outset, last step products come in three different forms and offer varying degrees of
gloss, reflectivity, slickness and durability. If you are new to detailing and have visited any of the forums we
recommend on our links page, you may have been baffled by the meaning of terms such as glow, depth, clarity,
wetness, etc, in discussions about last step products. In addition, you may be feeling overwhelmed by the broad
choice of last step products on offer in our store. In the following section, we will define what these terms mean,
and attempt to show you how your choice of last step product can dramatically affect the appearance of your
paint - we hope that this information will enable you to choose suitable products and achieve the look you
desire.
When we first look at a car, the first thing we probably all notice is the colour of the paint. Colour is a subjective
thing, as we all see colours differently, but one thing we can often agree on is how rich a colour looks. Richness
affects how thick the paint looks, and thus the degree to which it appears to stand out from the underlying
surfaces. Richness also affects our perception of whether paint appears to be warm or cold. The next thing we
might notice about a car is how glossy the paint is. Glossiness is often referred to as wetness, because high
gloss finishes often look like they have a thin sheet of water lying on them, making them highly reflective, like the
surface of a mill pond on a bright winter's day. Less glossy finishes tend to have more of a diffuse glow, which
enhances our perception of colour richness, but reduces the reflectivity of the paint. On the subject of reflections,
two terms with related meanings are depth and clarity. Both refer to the extent to which you can see into
reflections in the car, in terms of distance (depth) and colour (clarity). If we look at the two images below, we can
see what all of these terms mean in reality. In the image on the left, we can see that the paint appears to be
richer and wetter looking (i.e. glossier) than in the image on the right. However, in the image on the right, the
paint appears to be shinier, and we can see much further into the reflections than in the image on the left. The
differences between these images reflect the choice of last step product - a wax was used in the image on the
left, while a sealant was used in the image on the right. We will now examine the differences between waxes
and sealants more closely, showing further examples of how they affect the appearance of paint.
Natural carnuba wax is derived from a tree native to Brazil, and is nature's hardest, purest and most transparent
wax. Many show car owners and car care enthusiasts (we'll call them the purists) have long argued that natural
carnuba wax produces a richer, darker, glossier finish than other types of last step product, particularly when
used on darker coloured cars. A coat of carnuba wax always beads water nicely, and can help to mask minor
defects in your paint. However, the durability of carnuba wax is quite low, as it evaporates in addition to being
physically and chemically eroded by the elements. Under our climate in the UK, a coat of carnuba wax will
typically last 30 to 90 days, depending on the season, mileage you do and whether or not you garage your car
overnight.
How do natural carnuba waxes affect the appearance of paint? We can answer this question by looking at the
images below. Firstly, carnuba wax produces an extremely glossy finish, which in turn enhances the richness of
the underlying paint - just look at how rich the red paint on the Honda Integra appears to be. A high degree of
surface gloss also equates to a high degree of wetness, which is again perfectly exemplified by the red paint on
the Integra. However, despite the gloss, if you look into the reflections in the red paint you soon realise that
there is only limited depth, i.e. you can't see far into them, and there is little clarity. On lighter coloured cars
where surface gloss shows up less, this lack of depth tends to result in the paint appearing to glow, as it does in
the images of our silver Seat Leon.
In contrast to carnuba wax, synthetic sealants are the product of modern technology, and comprise either
polymer-based formulas or acrylic resins. Many car care enthusiasts (we'll call them the realists) have long
argued that synthetic sealants are superior to other types of last step product, as they produce an ultra slick
finish that is extremely durable. Under our climate in the UK, a coat of synthetic sealant will typically last 6 to 9
months, depending on the mileage you do and whether or not you garage your car overnight. However, the
finish produced by sealants is typically much less glossy than that produced by carnuba wax, and can actually
highlight defects rather than mask them.
How do synthetic sealants affect the appearance of paint? We can answer this question by looking at the
images below. Firstly, synthetic sealants typically produce an extremely shiny finish, which does little to enhance
the richness of the paint. Consequently, it is not unusual for paint to look cold and sterile after having a coat of
sealant applied. However, what is lost in terms of gloss and warmth is gained in terms of depth and clarity in the
reflections. Just look at the reflections in the images below - they have massive depth (i.e. you can see a long
way into them) and excellent clarity (colour definition). Carnuba waxes are incapable of producing such results.
In recent years, a number of last step products have been released onto the car care market that comprise
advanced blends of carnuba waxes and synthetic sealants. These products are typically marketed as offering
the glossiness and warmth associated with traditional carnuba waxes and the depth and durability associated
with synthetic sealants. In our experience, these claims are not far off the mark, and such products have
certainly made it easier to achieve stunning results on lighter coloured cars. This is because lighter colours tend
to mask gloss and limit reflectivity, but by using a blended product you can bring out depth whilst enhancing the
wetness of the paint, as can be seen in the images of the Lotus Elise shown below.
The same effect can often be achieved by layering carnuba wax over a synthetic sealant. The thinking here is
that the sealant forms a highly durable base coat and the wax endows the finish with glossiness and warmth. In
our experience this works well, but you have to be careful when it comes to layering products. Generally
speaking, carnuba wax can be applied over amino-functional and acrylic resins without any problem, but
problems can arise when it comes to layering carnuba wax over polymer-based sealants. In some cases, this
may lead to the finish becoming cloudy, necessitating the complete removal of all wax and sealant layers before
starting over again. Under no circumstances should a synthetic sealant be layered over a carnuba wax. The
reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, sealants will not bond effectively to carnuba wax, meaning that they will be
easily eroded away. Secondly, if you layer a sealant over a wax, the wax will not be able to evaporate freely. In
time, this may cause your finish to become cloudy and dull. If you are unsure about what can and can't be
layered in terms of waxes and sealants, please contact us and we will be happy to advise you accordingly.
So far we have discussed how carnuba wax and synthetic sealants affect the appearance of paint mainly in
terms of gloss, richness and reflectivity. However, some paint finishes have a complicating factor, namely
metallic or pearlescent flakes. Under dull conditions, the flake may be hardly noticeable, but when the sun
comes out, the flake can be made to explode out of the paint… providing you use the right products. In our
experience, carnuba wax tends to mute metallic and pearlescent flakes, limiting the sparkle on sunny days. It is
far better to use a pure sealant on such finishes, and restrict yourself to a top coat of a good quality carnuba wax
only once you have applied several coats of sealant (or better still leave the wax on the shelf). The same goes
for blended last step products - they too tend to mute metallic and pearlescent flakes, and are best avoided.
When it actually comes to applying wax or sealant protection, the process couldn't be any simpler. All last step
products fall into one of two categories; wipe on and wipe off, or spray on and wipe off. However, in each case it
pays to read the label on the bottle, as some products are better left to dry to a haze before buffing off, while
others give better results if they are removed whilst still wet. It also pays to check whether the product can be
applied in full sun (if not work in the shade or undercover), and whether the product is trim safe. By this we mean
whether or not it stains plastic and rubber trims - most of the products on offer in our store do not stain trims, but
you should always check the label first (carnuba waxes are often bad in this respect, as they tend to leave white
stains on trims). If you accidentally stain your trims, you can restore them to as new condition using an all
purpose cleaner or a trim restorer.
The final step in the cleaning process is to pack away all of the tools you have used, making sure everything is
clean and ready for the next use. All towels and applicator pads should be washed in a washing machine at a
low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders and detergents containing
bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing everything to dry out naturally.
We would like to thank Jamie Cuthill, Sean Busch, Robbie Donald and Brandon Wiggins for contributing images
that have substantially improved the quality of this guide
Guides > How to maintain the appearance of your car between washes
Quick detailing is a term used to describe how you can maintain the appearance of your car between washes.
The term was coined in the US in the early 1980s when the first spray and wipe products were released onto the
car care market. These products were intended to serve two main purposes. Firstly, their use was
recommended after washing and drying, as their special formulations enabled them to quickly and easily remove
water spots and add extra gloss to the finish. Secondly, their use was recommended every couple of days to
remove light dust and grime and negate the need for regular washing. This was marketed as a great advantage
for busy people with little or no time for car care and those living in areas subject to seasonal water shortages.
These intended uses remain equally valid today, but have evolved in line with advances in the marketplace. For
example, many quick detailing sprays now also add a layer of wax or sealant protection, meaning that topping
up your protection can now be done quickly and easily after each wash. Moreover, advanced products are
currently being released onto the market that enable you to safely and effectively wash your car without the
need for buckets or a hose. These so called waterless wash products feature advanced blends of emulsifiers,
surfactants and lubricating oils that loosen dirt and grime and enable it to be safely wiped away without adding
fine scratches to underlying surfaces.
If all of the above sounds too good to be true, that's because to a large extent it is. A lot of guides posted on car
care websites about quick detailing are often written by people living in warm, sunny climates where the roads
are clean and rainfall intermittent. In the UK, our climate is very different, and it is not unusual to find that your
car is quite dirty again only a few days after washing it. Generally speaking, waterless wash products are only
meant to be used to remove light accumulations of dust and grime - we do not recommend that they are used to
clean really dirty vehicles, as the chances are you will damage your paint by inflicting swirl marks or more
serious scratches. Although we urge caution, waterless wash products are invaluable on certain occasions. For
example, if you are going to a show or a track day some distance away, waterless wash products are great as
they enable you to quickly and easily remove any grime acquired en route. Also, if you own a classic vehicle that
spends much of its time garaged, waterless washing is a safe and convenient way of keeping the bodywork dust
free and in great condition.
Returning to the first intended use of quick detailing products, we recommend that they are used after every
wash to remove water spots, enhance gloss and add another valuable layer of wax or sealant protection. This is
particularly beneficial during the winter months, when the weather and roads are bad and you only have short
windows of time in which to care for your car. An important thing to remember at this stage is that you should try
to match your choice of quick detailing spray to the type of last step product you use. For example, if you
normally add protection in the form of a carnuba wax, you should only use a quick detailing spray that contains
glossing agents or wax. This is because if you layer a sealant over a wax the wax cannot evaporate, and may
become cloudy over time. However, if you normally protect your car by applying a sealant, you can use any
quick detailing spray you like, providing you don't end up layering another coat of sealant over a layer of wax at
any point. If you are unsure about what can and can't be layered in terms of last step products and quick
detailing sprays, please contact us and we will be happy to advise you accordingly.
Applying a quick detailing product after washing is a simple 15 minute job. All you have to do is spray it on and
then wipe it around using a microfibre buffing towel until it dries (you may have to fold the towel a few times on a
cold day). Most quick detailing products are safe to use on all surfaces, including trims and windows, but you are
advised to check the label first.
If you decide that waterless washing is for you, we recommend that you adopt the following procedure in order
to minimise the chances of inflicting swirl marks or more serious scratches. The first thing you should do is
assess how dirty your car is, particularly on the lower halves of the doors and towards the rear end. If you find
anything more than a light covering of dust and grime consider washing it normally instead. An alternative is to
use a pressure washer to get rid of the worst of any dirt and grime before using the waterless wash product (it is
okay to use such products on wet surfaces). This is a good compromise on a cold day if you don't fancy dipping
your hand in a bucket.
The next step is to work from the top down, panel by panel. Spray each panel thoroughly with the product and
leave it for a few minutes to begin to break down and lift the dirt. Then, using a deep pile microfibre towel, wipe
away the product following the lines of the car, using only back and forth or side to side motions - circular
motions will only make swirl marks more pronounced if you are unlucky enough to inflict any. Check the towel
after each wipe and refold to a clean face if required. If you can't find a clean face when refolding its time to get
another towel out - you may need up to half a dozen towels to do your whole car. When you have finished the
bodywork and the windows, follow the same procedure on the wheels, allowing even longer for the product to
work if necessary.
The final step in the process is to rinse out all of the towels you have used and then wash them in a washing
machine at a low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders and detergents
containing bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing them to dry out naturally.
Guides > How to safely clean and protect the interior of your car
The interiors of cars are often subject to as much abuse as the exterior surfaces, yet are often neglected when it
comes to detailing. It wasn't long ago that the state of the nation's car interiors made the news - apparently a
very high percentage harbour levels of dirt and bacteria that are potentially unsafe to human health! If you stop
and think about this, it is not really that surprising. Most car interiors are only cleaned once or twice a year, and
the rest of the time dirt and grime are dragged in from the street, sticky messes are deposited by children (we
know all about this one), bacteria are brought in by pets and all manner of other biological nasties are deposited
by way of sweating, coughing, sneezing, vomiting, or worse.
In addition to the dirt and bacteria deposited by the occupants, the interiors of cars are subject to degradation by
exposure to the more harmful rays of the sun, and the effects of large variations in temperature and moisture
content. Over time, porous surfaces such as vinyl and rubber tend to dry out, becoming increasingly brittle and
in danger of cracking and splitting. The UV rays from the sun further degrade plastic and vinyl surfaces, resulting
in fading and further surface damage. Large variations in moisture content, particularly during the winter months,
can encourage the formation of mould and mildew, which can give rise to unpleasant musty odours.
In contrast to other detailing tasks, cleaning and protecting the interior of your is not as straightforward as you
might think. If you own a relatively new car or have looked after the interior of your car relatively well, then the
chances are the advice given in this guide will be sufficient to enable you to achieve great results. However, if
your interior has one or more of the following problems, you would be better off in the first instance employing
the services of a professional valeter; badly stained fabrics and/or carpets, obvious mould or mildew, unpleasant
musty odours and strong tobacco smoke odours. Such problems need to be remedied using specialist
chemicals and professional cleaning equipment, and it is quite easy to make them worse by trying to fix them
yourself.
The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, car manufacturers are increasingly packing more and more electronics
into modern cars, including features such as heated seats, air bags and multi-zone in car entertainment
systems. Despite the increasing amount of cabling installed in seats and beneath the carpets, and the location
of airbag control modules in the footwells, manufacturers still haven't opted to install waterproof fabrics or
carpets. This means that the act of shampooing has become a bit of lottery, and professional valeters often have
to individually inspect every car to locate the electronics before commencing work. The benefit here is that they
know what they are looking for and can act accordingly depending on what they find, plus their work should be
insured if things go wrong. The second reason for employing the services of a professional is that they will have
specialist equipment, such as shampoo machines, steam machines, foam cleaners and extractors, which enable
seats and carpets to be cleaned and dried effectively in a short space of time. In contrast, attempts at home
shampooing often leave seats and carpets wet for days on end, which can encourage the formation of mould
and mildew, and give rise to unpleasant musty odours.
Another potential minefield is the actual quality of the fabrics and leathers used in modern cars. What appears to
be leather these days is often not - it is more likely to be a textured vinyl, particularly when found on the backs of
seats and on door cards. Real leather is often only used on the cushion and upright of seats, and even this is
often of poor quality when compared to traditional leather. In days of old, manufacturers would take a hide and
shave it into three layers. The bottom layer (suede) was discarded and used for other purposes, while the top
two layers were used for various parts of vehicle upholstery. However, the modern approach is to swell the hide
using a chemical process and then shave it into as many as ten layers using computer-controlled machinery.
These thin layers are then pressed and stamped with a leather texture in order to mask any imperfections, and
then laminated between a fabric and a clear breathable vinyl. In effect, many modern leathers are actually vinyls
with a layer of leather veneer, and are much less robust than traditional leather.
The above problem also extends to the fabrics used in many modern cars, which are often of relatively poor
quality and easily stained, even by small amounts of water. The reason for this staining is not well known, but
probably due to reactions with chemical residues left over from the manufacturing process. The upshot of the
above is that we recommend that you should avoid shampooing or making your upholstery wet, and take great
care with any leather. If the interior of your car is in good condition then the following advice will enable you to
keep it that way, meaning that you will probably never need to call on the services of a professional. We
recommend that you detail the interior of your car on a monthly basis, and clean and condition interior leather on
a quarterly basis.
When it actually comes to cleaning the interior the first thing you should do is brush down all fabric surfaces
using a soft bristled interior brush and wipe down all hard surfaces using a dry microfibre work towel, in order to
transfer loose dust and dirt to the floor area. Brushing really helps to pull fluff and dust out of the fibres of fabrics,
and restores an attractive, plush look. The next thing you should do is remove the mats from the car and
vacuum the carpets and, if they are covered with fabric, the seats. Again, brushing really helps to loosen dirt
from the fibres of carpets and restores a nice appearance to the pile. If your vacuum cleaner has a suitable soft
brush attachment this can be used at this stage to carefully clean the vents in the dashboard, otherwise this can
be done using a small detailing brush. If you have pets and a pet hair problem to remedy, a rubber bristle brush
is ideal, and can be bought from most pet shops.
With the fabrics and carpets now clean, the next thing you should do is tackle the hard interior surfaces, i.e. the
dashboard, instrument panel, centre console and door cards. If these areas are only dusty they can be cleaned
and dressed in a single step using a good quality surface dressing, applied using a microfibre pad (apply the
product to the pad and wipe over, rather than spraying the product all over your interior). If they are dirtier, such
surfaces should be wiped down first using a damp microfibre work towel. For tackling really dirty surfaces,
dampen the microfibre work towel with an all purpose cleaner diluted down to the recommended level for interior
use. We recommend that the steering wheel is only wiped down with a damp microfibre work towel and not
dressed in any way for reasons of safety.
After cleaning and dressing all of the hard interior surfaces, the next thing you should do is clean the insides of
the windows. If they are relatively clean they can simply be wiped down using a glass cleaner and a microfibre
glass towel. However, if they are grubby or have a distinct haze, it is worth wiping them down first using a damp
microfibre work towel. If you are ever left with sticky residues after removing interior window stickers, these can
be easily and safely removed using a dab of methylated spirit and a microfibre work towel (don't wash this towel
in your washing machine again, instead reserve it for grubby tasks).
After cleaning the insides of the windows you shouldn't need to sit in the seats again to finish the job, so the next
step in the process is to tackle any stains in the seat fabrics, or if you have leather seats, clean and condition the
leather. In both cases, any cleaning can be safely done using an all purpose cleaner diluted down to the
recommended level for interior use - if you have leather seats read the label on the bottle first and make sure it
is safe for use on leather. In order to use the cleaner you should dampen a microfibre work towel with it and then
wipe it over the surface, rubbing stains gently. Do not saturate the surface - use as little product as possible to
ensure a speedy drying time. Once leather seats have been cleaned they should be nourished and protected
using a good quality surface dressing, which should be applied using a microfibre pad.
The next step in the process is to clean and protect the door sills, which are often completely overlooked. If the
door sills aren't particularly grubby they can be easily cleaned using an all purpose cleaner and a microfibre
work towel - it is worth remembering to give the pedals a wipe over at the same time (using an old toothbrush
helps if your pedals are heavily textured). If the sills are really grubby, they can be washed down using a
microfibre wash mitt and a bucket of suds, and then dried using a heavyweight waffle weave microfibre towel.
Once clean and dry, sills should be protected by applying a surface dressing to plastic surfaces and either wax
or sealant protection to painted surfaces. In the latter case spray waxes afford a quick and easy means of
applying protection.
The penultimate step in the process is to tackle the mats you removed from the car during the initial stages of
the process. While you do this, you can also do something about any odours in your carpets by sprinkling over
either a household shake n vac style product or bicarbonate of soda, and leaving it to absorb contaminants for a
couple of hours. The latter is the better choice, as it is odourless, unlike the household products, which can be a
bit flowery. Returning to the mats, the first thing you should do to them is brush them and vacuum them. If they
are made of fabric and feel damp after vacuuming, hang them up in a well ventilated place for a couple of hours
to dry out. It is a good idea to do this regularly during the winter months, as mats often become sodden at this
time of year, and regular drying out will help to prevent the formation of mould and mildew, which can give rise to
unpleasant musty odours. If your mats are made of rubber they can be restored to as new condition using an all
purpose cleaner and a microfibre work towel - under no circumstances apply any surface dressings to mats (or
pedals for that matter). If you opted to treat the carpets for any odours, don't forget to vacuum them again
thoroughly before finally refitting the mats.
The final step in the cleaning process is to pack away all of the tools you have used, making sure everything is
clean and ready for the next use. All towels and applicator pads should be washed in a washing machine at a
low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders and detergents containing
bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing everything to dry out naturally. Finally, any fluff and hair lodged in
your detailing brushes should be picked out and the vacuum cleaner emptied.
Guides > How to safely clean and protect your wheels
Your wheels are probably the hardest part of your car to safely clean and protect, as they are subject to
continuous contamination by brake dust and road grime. Brake dust is a major problem for owners of cars with
alloy wheels, as it is corrosive, unsightly and difficult to remove. Brake dust is the product of friction between
brake discs and brake pads. When braking, the surface of brake pads are worn way, producing dust that is
deposited on other surfaces nearby, i.e. your rims. The compounds used to make brake pads vary greatly in
hardness and metal content, meaning that the amount of brake dust generated can vary significantly between
cars.
Brake dust is actually a combination of carbon fibres, metal filings and adhesive residues. It is often deposited
on rims at very high temperatures, meaning that it immediately etches into any protective coating. The adhesive
residues in brake dust not only cause it to firmly bond to everything it touches, but also initiate corrosion in their
own right, as they are often acidic. If that wasn't bad enough, the metal filings contained in brake dust have a
tendency to oxidise, and if they do this when in contact with the metal of the rim the process of galvanic
corrosion sets in. Thus, brake dust gradually erodes protective coatings until they fail, after which point the rim
itself starts to corrode. This gradual erosion not only makes the rim look unsightly, but can also eventually affect
the structural integrity of the wheel.
There are three ways to control brake dust. The first is to fit aftermarket low dust brake pads. Both kevlar-based
compounds and high metal content compounds are effective in this respect. The second option is to fit dust
shields, which can now be bought for most types of cars. These sit between the rim and the hub, and shield the
rim from the caliper assembly whilst still allowing ventilation. The downside of such devices is that they look
unsightly and aren't suitable for performance cars where high levels of ventilation are required. The third option
is to detail your wheels properly. An easy thing to say, but what does this actually mean? In our experience, if
you want to keep your wheels in perfect condition, it means a minimum of weekly washing and a quarterly
reapplication of a wheel specific wax or sealant. Anything less and corrosion will occur, as we have found to our
cost in the past.
Regular washing should be the easy bit, but is often overlooked, particularly during the winter months, when wet
and windy weather often means that weekends are spent indoors and the notion of going outside to wash the
car seems pointless. Believe us, it isn't. Get your coat on and give it a quick wash, and don't worry about drying
everything off - just make sure you get any road salt and brake dust off. It only takes a few weeks for serious
etching to set in on unprotected rims, and in the winter many weekends can pass by without a nice day. Once
etching sets in you're facing a problem a bit like rust - no matter what you do it persistently gets worse.
We recommend that wheels are washed using a microfibre wash mitt and a gentle shampoo in conjunction with
the two bucket method. Note that you should never attempt to wash your wheels when they are still hot from
driving. This is because products will dry too quickly and leave stains, and you could also crack the discs if you
cool them too quickly by hosing them down with cold water. You should start the washing process by hosing off
any loose dirt and grime using a hose or a pressure washer, being careful not to knock sticky balancing weights
off if you have alloy wheels. You should then scrub the tyres and rims using the wash mitt, being generous with
the suds and taking the time to get into all of the nooks and crannies and remove all of the brake dust (if you
continually miss some wash after wash it will become more firmly bonded, making later removal more difficult). If
your wheels are particularly dirty you can also scrub them first using a soft tipped scrubbing brush. After washing
all of the wheels, rinse them off with the hose and then continue the process by washing the insides of the wheel
arches, rinsing the mitt regularly. Finally, rinse everything again and dry the wheels off using a heavyweight
waffle weave microfibre towel.
You might be questioning at this stage whether brake dust can be successfully removed using just a wash mitt
and a gentle shampoo. In our experience it is very easy to do so, providing that the wheels are regularly
protected with a wheel specific wax or sealant. Such products form a barrier on the surface of the rim, staving off
any corrosive effects and dramatically reducing the ability of brake dust to bond to the rim. However, such
coatings are themselves eroded over time, and should be replaced every few months if adequate protection is to
be maintained. If you haven't protected your rims before and you are finding that normal washing is not
removing all of the brake dust bonded to your wheels, then you may need to use an aggressive cleaning product
to solve the problem. Such products are sold en masse in many high street stores, and comprise sprays and
foams that promise to remove all traces of brake dust without any effort (spray on, hose off). In our experience,
many of these products do not work, and those that do are often so aggressive (acidic) that they themselves can
etch rims if used on a regular basis. We therefore recommend that such products are used infrequently, and
preferably only if absolutely necessary.
Once you have removed all traces of baked on brake dust it should not cause you any further problems provided
you wash your wheels regularly and reapply wheel specific wax or sealant protection on a regular basis. The
type of overhaul we recommend that you give your wheels on a quarterly basis is described below.
The first thing to note is that ideally you should remove the wheels from the car to work on them. This is because
it is very difficult to clean and protect the rear of the rim when working with the wheel still on the car. If you only
ever tend to the front face of the rim, what will eventually happen is that corrosion will spread from the rear,
negating your efforts. To remove a wheel from your car you should start by parking on a level surface and
ensuring that the handbrake is on (it is also advisable to chock the wheels at the opposite end of the car to the
wheel you want to remove). Then using a wheel brace, loosen the wheel nuts by a couple of turns with your car
still on the ground. Then jack up the car using either the jack supplied with your car or a trolley jack (the latter is
preferable), consulting your manual if you are unsure about the location of the jacking points. With your car now
raised, you should now place an axle stand beneath a suitable jacking point and carefully lower your car onto
the stand (again consult you manual if you unsure about the location of the jacking points). Finally, remove the
loosened wheel nuts and the wheel, taking care not to let the wheel fall off the hub (also remember to put the
wheel nuts in a safe place where they will not be lost or damaged).
When working with the wheel off the car, you should be careful not to let it fall over or rest with the front face on
the ground, as this could easily cause damage. When we work on our own wheels we use two short lengths of
timber to raise each wheel off the ground when working on either face. The first step in the actual cleaning
process is to hose off any loosely bonded surface contaminants using a hose or pressure washer, being careful
not to knock any sticky balancing weights off if you are working on an alloy wheel. Then you should scrub the
tyre and rim using the wash mitt, being generous with the suds (it is perfectly acceptable to use either a more
aggressive shampoo or an all purpose cleaner for this task) and taking the time to get into all of the nooks and
crannies and remove as much contamination as possible. If the wheel is particularly dirty you can also scrub it
first using a soft tipped scrubbing brush. After washing the wheel, rinse it off using a hose, and finally dry both
faces using a heavyweight waffle weave microfibre towel.
If you discover at this stage that there are still a lot of surface contaminants bonded to the rim, you can attempt
to remove them using a clay bar and a lubricant (follow exactly the same procedure as when using a clay bar to
clean painted surfaces - see our paint cleaning guide for details). The only downside to using a clay bar on rims
is that many rims feature intricate designs, which makes using a clay bar difficult and time consuming. An
alternative is to use a cleaner-wax designed to clean surfaces and lay down a layer of either wax or sealant
protection in a single step. When applied using either a microfibre work towel or a microfibre pad, such products
have a relatively strong polishing action that is capable of removing baked on brake dust in addition to tar spots
and other bonded contaminants. Once all contaminants are removed, any residues should be buffed off using a
microfibre work towel.
With the wheel now clean, the next step in the process is to protect the rim using a wheel specific wax or
sealant. Such products are designed to be able to cope with higher temperatures than conventional waxes and
sealants, and thus resist etching by hot brake dust. You should take care at this stage to liberally cover every
square inch of the rim, and apply two or three coats of protection one after the other. Each coat should be
allowed to dry to a haze and then buffed off using a clean microfibre work towel before applying the next coat.
The next step in the process is to clean and dress both sides of the tyre using a good quality water-based tyre
dressing, applied using a foam applicator pad. Unlike oil-based dressings (which often contain petroleum
distillates), water-based dressings are able to penetrate the rubber, meaning that they can nourish and
recondition it. This not only makes the tyre look more natural, but also ensures that that the tyre is kept in better
condition, as UV protectants can be carried into the tyre wall rather than remaining on the surface where they
are easily washed off. Moreover, because water-based dressings soak in, they are unlikely to sling any residue
up the sides of your car when you first drive it after refitting the wheels (the same cannot be said of some oilbased dressings).
The penultimate step in the process is optional, but in our opinion worthwhile - it only takes an extra 30 minutes
per wheel to thoroughly clean the inside of the wheel arch before refitting the wheel. Keeping the wheel arches
relatively clean enables mechanics to inspect and repair suspension and braking systems more easily. In
addition, keeping the wheel arches free from heavy accumulations of dirt and grime helps keep moisture levels
down, which in turn may help to prevent the onset of corrosion (we were genuinely surprised on one occasion
when we replaced an arch liner after a long spell of dry weather to find a lot of sodden muck stuck behind it).
The first thing you should do to clean the inside of a wheel arch is hose off any loose dirt and grime using a hose
or a pressure washer (the latter is preferable). All of the surfaces should then be liberally sprayed with a
degreaser, which should then be left to work for 10-15 minutes. During this interval is it a good idea to agitate
the surfaces with a soft bristled scrubbing brush, as this will help loosen stubborn deposits. On a hot day you
should leave less time, as you should not allow the degreaser to dry on any parts, as it will cause stains.
After waiting 10-15 minutes, the next thing you should do is rinse off all of the surfaces using a hose or a
pressure washer. You should then inspect all of the surfaces and if necessary repeat the degreasing process.
Once all of the surfaces are as clean as possible, you should dry them off using microfibre work towels. Plastic
arch liners can then be restored to as new condition using a trim restorer or a good quality surface dressing,
applied using either a foam pad or a microfibre pad. Painted surfaces within wheel arches are often quite
textured, making them difficult to work on, but you may be able to apply a cleaner-wax or spray wax without too
much difficulty. When you are finished, you should carefully refit the wheel (we recommend applying copper
grease to the thread of each wheel nut first), tighten the wheels nuts by hand, raise your car up a little, remove
the axle stand and then finally lower your car to the ground. Once safely on the ground, you should tighten the
wheel nuts using a torque wrench, consulting your manual if you are unsure about the correct torque setting to
use.
The final step in the cleaning process is to pack away all of the tools you have used, making sure everything is
clean and ready for the next use. All towels and applicator pads should be washed in a washing machine at a
low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders and detergents containing
bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing everything to dry out naturally.
Guides > How to safely clean and protect your engine bay
Cleaning the engine bay is not something most people worry about. This may be because it seems like a lot of
hard work when only a few people will see it, or because the task appears to be too challenging. However, a
clean engine bay can add to the value of your car when it comes to selling it, and undoubtedly makes it easier
for mechanics to make repairs and carry out inspections. In contrast to what you might think, cleaning the engine
bay is a very simple task, and once properly detailed, the engine bay is no harder to keep clean than any other
part of your car. In the following example, the whole job was completed in just 30 minutes.
Many people think that engines and water don't mix. To a certain extent this is true. Anyone who has hit deep
standing water and suffered a bent conrod as a result of water being drawn into the engine through the air intake
will testify to this. However, as long as water isn't drawn into the engine, or allowed to saturate electrical
contacts, it will not cause any problems. The proof of this can be seen on cars like the Lotus Elise, where the
engine bay is effectively open to the atmosphere (and therefore rainfall) due to the number of cooling vents in
the cover. So, what does this mean for engine bay detailing? Well, it means that you can hose off the engine
bay without fear of causing any damage, providing that you cover the air intake and any sensitive electrical parts
first.
Safe in the knowledge that you can safely hose your engine bay off, the next question you might ask is how will
this help? Surely grease and grime cannot be simply hosed off? The answer is it can't - what you need to do first
is break down the grease and grime using a degreaser. Up until fairly recently engine degreasers generally
comprised potent mixtures of aggressive solvents, which were tremendously effective at cleaning but not very
safe to work with and also not at all environmentally friendly. Fortunately, progress has been made to the extent
that it is now possible to buy degreasers that comprise advanced detergent formulas and natural solvents, which
makes them more environmentally friendly and safer to work with. The cleaning power of these products is
almost as good as that of traditional degreasers, provided they are given sufficient time to work.
Once the engine bay is clean and dry, all you finally need to do is dress and protect all of the surfaces. This is
very straightforward, as you are dealing with materials that are found elsewhere on your car, namely plastics,
rubber, metals, and painted surfaces. As such, you can use the same detailing products to great effect. Painted
surfaces can be easily and quickly protected using a spray wax. Plastic engine covers and components can be
restored to as new condition using a trim restorer or a surface dressing. Rubber hoses can be nourished and
protected using a surface dressing or a tyre dressing. Most metal surfaces can be polished and protected using
a metal polish, although it is worth doing a spot test first - we have worked on some metal engine parts that
didn't take kindly to polishes, and instead required buffing with a Dremel power tool in order to restore a shine.
When it actually comes to the cleaning process, the first thing you should do is make sure your engine is cold never try and clean a warm or hot engine. This is because products will dry too quickly and leave stains, and you
could also burn yourself if you don't know your way around the engine bay. The next thing you should do is
cover the air intake and any sensitive electrical parts. The best material for covering these components is
aluminium foil. This may seem like a strange choice, but it actually makes a lot of sense, as it is very easy to
mould over awkward shaped parts, and it is 100 % waterproof provided you don't tear it. Note that you do not
have to fully seal every part you are covering - all you are doing is creating a mini umbrella that will prevent
water ingress or pooling in or around sensitive components. To make the most of the umbrella effect you should
only rinse off from a high angle.
Once the air intake and any sensitive electrical parts are safely covered, the next thing you should do is spray a
degreaser over the entire engine bay, covering all surfaces, including the underside of the bonnet (although you
may want to skip this latter step if you have a felt sound proofing cover secured in place, as they take ages to
dry). Try to avoid spraying the front bumper and the wings - degreasers will strip existing wax or sealant
protection. If you accidentally spray these areas, rinse them off with the hose and reapply wax or sealant
protection at your earliest convenience. Once you have sprayed all of the surfaces, leave the degreaser to work
for 10-15 minutes. On a hot day you should leave less time, as you should not allow the degreaser to dry on any
parts, as it will cause stains.
After waiting 10-15 minutes, the next thing you should do is rinse off the entire engine bay, including the
underside of the bonnet if necessary. Under no circumstances should you use a pressure washer for rinsing off you don't want to drive water into any components. A normal hose with the spray attachment set to a wide angle
is perfect, as it provides enough force to carry away all of the loosened grease and grime without risking ingress.
Rinse off thoroughly but for no longer than necessary - once the suds have disappeared the job is done. After
quickly removing all of the foil coverings, the next thing you should do is start your engine, in order to help to
start the drying process. You should only leave it running for a couple of minutes though, as you don't want it to
become too warm, as this will adversely affect the application of surface dressings. After switching off the
engine, finish the drying process using microfibre work towels.
With the engine bay now clean and dry, the penultimate thing you should do is dress and protect all of the
surfaces. Painted surfaces can be easily and quickly protected using a spray wax and a microfibre buffing towel.
Plastic engine covers and components can be restored to as new condition using a trim restorer or a surface
using a surface dressing or a tyre dressing, again applied using either a foam pad or a microfibre pad. Metal
surfaces can usually be restored using a metal polish, although it is worth doing a spot test first, for the reasons
given above. Metal polishes are best applied and removed using a microfibre work towel, as these have plenty
of bite, which helps the polishing process.
The final step in the cleaning process is to pack away all of the tools you have used, making sure everything is
clean and ready for the next use. All towels and applicator pads should be washed in a washing machine at a
low temperature using a gentle non-biological liquid detergent (avoid soap powders and detergents containing
bleach or fabric softeners), before allowing everything to dry out naturally.

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