Article by Carchem
Cleaning your car has changed a lot over the years; cleaning with a bucket of fairy liquid and water, an XL car sponge and drying with a leather chamois was once the common idea when cleaning a car (not to some of you die hard detailers mind… it’s always been the same attention to detail for you)
However, times have changed, products are easier to use without worry of damage and with a little car and attention, your car can end up looking incredible.
This handy step by step guide will layout the process for you to get a brilliant showroom finish and keep your car protected from the elements for months to come.
Step 1- Pre-Wash
Starting out the wash process should be the use of pre-wash products which provide cleaning power without you physically touching the car. This comes in the form of Snow-Foam and Citrus All Purpose Cleaner.
By using ‘touchless’ products you will remove larger and looser contaminants that would normally end up scratching the paintwork under the wash mitt, regardless of how foamy/slick your shampoo is.
Make sure to rinse thoroughly to remove all the product from your paint and wheels.
Step 2- Wash
This next step is your typical wash with car shampoo. Using a dedicated car shampoo which has good cleaning power and feels slick under the mitt (Does not feel like you are dragging stuff on the paint, should feel slippery)
Use a dedicated car wash mitt for this stage in the process, they are designed to glide along the paint and collect any contaminants in their fibres, so they do not pull and scratch the paint.
Make sure on this stage to use two buckets, one of your buckets should be filled with your sudsy car shampoo and the other with (preferably deionised) water. Both buckets should have a ‘grit guard’ in them for you to rub your wash mitt against to scrub out any dirt that is trapped in the mitt.
Make sure when washing that you wash from top to bottom, as you drive along the road all the dirt and debris will bounce up and hit the lower half of your car (generally) and this is where the dirt will set onto your car and so by washing top to bottom you lessen the risk of causing scratches, swirls or marring.
Between each panel make sure to scrub your mitt on the grit guard in your bucket of water so you can remove the contaminants from each panel.
Once complete rinse all the shampoo off with a jet wash from top to bottom.
Dry with a dedicated drying towel
Step 3- Decontaminate
Firstly to start this process make sure you start by applying chemical to the wheels and agitating if necessary, you want to make sure your wheels are clean and the awkward angles of wheels and tyres could mean that when spraying product or rinsing clean you could spray onto the paint panels, by cleaning your wheels at this stage you can rewash the paint in step 4 to remove any remaining residue from the wheel clean and keep your car clean.
This step is crucial to preparing your paintwork to allow for polishing and swirl removal to take place.
3a- Tar and Glue Removal. Using a dedicated Tar and Glue Remover will remove any left-over tar that has attached to your paint or any glue residue from previous stickers. Jet wash thoroughly off
3b- Iron Fallout Removal. Iron fallout removers are dedicated products designed to remove any iron and grime contaminants that have settled on the paint and wheels from the road and air, living close to a railway line will increase the amount of Iron fallout contaminating your vehicle. Most Iron Fallout Removers will turn a deep red or purple as they react with the iron on the paint. Jet wash thoroughly off
3c- Clay bar. Once finishing the iron removal along with tar and glue there may still be some ingrained contaminants or other things such as over spray left on the surface. Using a vehicle clay bar, you can remove these.
Determine your level of paint contamination first to decide which clay bar to use, if you have heavy overspray it would be worth starting with an aggressive clay bar and working down to a fine grade clay.
Make sure you have plenty of lubricant for this step, a dedicated clay lube or quick detailer will work perfectly. start by cutting a small circle of clay off the complete bar and mould it into a flat circle shape. Apply plenty of lubricant to the panel and clay, working one panel at a time, glide your clay bar over the surface in a cross-hatch motion, you will see contaminant starting to form on your clay bar, once you have finished a panel, fold your contamination into the middle of your clay, re-shape and work on the next panel.
Jet wash finally to remove all the left-over lubricant from the paint.
Step 4- Rewash
At this stage it is essential to rewash the vehicle, this will remove any water spots, areas where chemical may have dried and to give you a fresh start for the polishing stage.
Same two bucket process again, using the grit guard to keep any contaminants away from the surface (the paint should be contaminant free at this stage, but it is always better to be safe than sorry)
Step 5- Polish
A car polish can be applied by hand or machine, for the beginner it is best to use just hand polishing techniques and practice using a scrap vehicle panel before attempting machine polishing on your own vehicle as this will prevent irreversible damage until you are ready to tackle your own vehicle.
In this step make sure to use a panel prep wipe after each different polish used to remove any oils and residue left behind from the polish.
5b, ENHANCE- Slowly work your way through the cutting compound grades to light cutting compound and pads, this will remove the smaller swirl marks and enhance the gloss of the paint.
5c, FINISH- This final step of the polishing process involves using a polishing glaze and fine finishing polishes to help hide light blemishes and create a show car shine. Using a finishing pad, you will achieve a swirl free, glossy paint.
Now that your paintwork is decontaminated and polished it is ready to seal and wax it to give it long lasting protection from the elements.
By taking extra care and detail in the above 5 steps you will achieve the glossiest and swirl free paint on your vehicle, without proper paint preparation your sealants and waxes will have lesser durability and effects.
Step 6- Protection
6a, SEALANT- you want to lock in all the hard work you have just completed in the polish stage with a dedicated paint sealant. This will protect your paint with a long lasting, durable layer.
6b, WAX- adding another layer of protection on top of your sealant in the form of a wax. This will add more gloss to your paint and allow your paint to have more protection from the elements.
Now your all your hard work is complete, you can step back and admire your masterpiece as the sun’s rays bounce off the swirl free paint and you will be safe in the knowledge your car will be protected from the elements.
Step 7- Maintenance
Regular washing will help to maintain your hard work, remember to use a pre-wash system and a two-bucket system with grit guards to reduce the likely hood of swirls, marring and scratching.
Once you have applied your sealant and wax a good quality quick detailer will help maintain the properties of it and keep your car glossy, removing light air contamination such as fine dust and pollen.
Polishing and protection are only to be completed in one detail wash and once protected you will not need to polish and protect again until your protection begins to wear off (depending on product)
After this make sure to regularly maintenance wash to keep your car clean and keep your last stage product (LSP) working optimally.
Perfect Products for each step