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April '16 Winner
Well done to James Scott for winning our April show and shine. Last year, James bought what appeared to be a relatively clean-looking used car, only to later discover that the paint was actually in pretty poor condition. Setting aside his obvious disappointment, James remembered that careful machine polishing can usually fix a myriad of sins, so he e-mailed us for advice and got stuck in. After three days of hard graft the job was done. Great work James, who says you can't make white look amazing?!
"We picked up our 2011 BMW 320d Touring last year, but with a little person and a fairly busy job it's taken me a while to do a proper detail. The car looked relatively clean when we collected it, but under the dealership's lights I could see it hadn't been washed properly. For a number of reasons I wasn't able to check the car thoroughly and it wasn't until I got home and gave it a careful inspection in the afternoon sun that I realised the extent of the paint issues. Every panel had serious swirl marks, scratches and water spotting, along with some badly touched-in stone chips where the wrong colour paint had been used! I felt extremely disappointed, but remembered I wasn't the first person to take delivery of a used (or new) car with such issues. I subsequently had a discussion with the dealer, but concluded I would do a better job fixing the problems myself. This detail is the culmination of several years of using and trying a lot of products, many questions to the Polished Bliss team and plenty of online orders! It took just over three full days to complete.
There are lots of country roads in our local area, so our cars typically pick up large amounts of mud, leaves, and other muck that that washes out from farm tracks and falls off tractors. However, to make matters worse, the Easter sun had recently baked a lot of this dirt in place. As a result, I started the detail with Auto Finesse Avalanche and my PA Foam Lance, paying particular attention to the lower panels, wheel arches, and wheels. I wanted to maximise the amount of dirt and grime removal before using a wash mitt, so I doubled the amount of foam solution used and let it dwell for about ten minutes before rinsing it off and repeating the process a second time. I then moved the car off the drive to sweep away the muddy water and make sure I had a cleaner work area.
The next step involved working around the badges, grills, lights and roof rails, using the Raceglaze Detailing Brush Set, which is very handy and offers a brush for every occasion. A significant amount of grime washed out from the roof rails and it took me a good twenty minutes to get to the point where no more dirt was being released. Next, I worked my way around the door shuts and jambs with Auto Finesse Citrus Power. I then rinsed off the car before using the well-established two-bucket method with a Microfibre Madness Incredipad and GYEON Q2M BATHE. This is an excellent shampoo, in part because of how well it rinses away, while the Incredipad's generous size means it soaks up a good amount of water and its suppleness makes for easy use in tighter spots like door shuts.
With the car now washed, I checked every panel for bonded surface contaminants - a much easier job on a white car! The lower half of the car, particularly behind the front wheels and along the side skirts, was littered with tar spots and bonded metal filings that had started to rust. Even the doorsills and panel gaps had massive amounts of contaminants present. To tackle this, I initially applied Auto Finesse Iron Out and left it to work for about half an hour. I find it's thick gel-based nature and resulting clinginess make it perfect for use on windows and side panels, and it's become one of my favourite detailing products. Even where there were no visible contaminants I could see a colour change reaction taking place, so after rinsing the car down I performed a second treatment.
After rinsing off the Iron Out I could see plenty of black speckles of tar left, so I used Auto Finesse Oblitarate next. This product impresses me every time I use it because it works so quickly and effectively. While most of the bodywork now felt smooth there were a few patches that needed some spot claying. This is a step I don't really enjoy, but was necessary before polishing. I should add that while the Avalanche had been working I tackled the wheels with Auto Finesse Imperial, PB Luxury Wheel Woolies and an old wash mitt, and I followed this up with the same decontamination process I used on the bodywork. I also cleaned the tyres using Auto Finesse Citrus Power in readiness for a dressing later on. After a further final rinse I then pat dried the car with a PB Luxury Drying Towel and my Metro Vac Blaster Sidekick. This is an incredibly good bit of kit and its usefulness is intensified with the addition of the optional extension hose, as it makes directing the airflow easier (if you own a motorbike it's an absolute must for bringing confidence to the wash process, where parts like chains and disc bobbins are prone to rusting and seizing, and exposed instrument and gauges need to be dried carefully and thoroughly).
With the wash and decontamination process done, I moved on to the polishing stage. After firing a few questions over to the Polished Bliss team by e-mail, I was confident that my choice of SCHOLL Concepts pads and polishes would be ideal for what I wanted to achieve. The FLEX XC 3401 VRG was my tool of choice. I'm not a professional detailer and, at the time of buying the polisher, I questioned if I really needed one, let alone a FLEX. However, I enjoy keeping my cars and bikes looking their best and decided that I'd choose something with excellent performance, a reputation for solid build quality and a good warranty. I'm happy to report that it's been an invaluable addition to my detailing kit, as with practice I've been able to correct a number of (car park and dealer-inflicted) marks on my last few cars and bikes, saving plenty of pounds on professional fixes.
Notwithstanding the above, the limitations of the FLEX with regards to the use of spot pads can be frustrating at times, so for this detail I invested in the Lake Country XC 3401 VRG Backing Plate System and some Lake Country spot pads. I was also aware that BMW paint can be very hard, but I've remained a proponent of starting with the least aggressive method, so I began with SCHOLL Concepts S17+ and SCHOLL Concepts Polishing Pads. This certainly made some improvement, making the paint visibly brighter and sharper, but it left the majority of the defects untouched. This wasn't too much of a surprise, so I switched to using SCHOLL Concepts Cutting Pads. I could now see a vast improvement, leaving only but a few deeper residual scratches, albeit well rounded off. SCHOLL Concepts S3 Gold and the cutting pads soon fixed these remaining issues! The Lake Country backing plate system worked seamlessly and was essential for the job. This stage took me a good seven hours to complete.
For a while I've been intrigued by a statement about polishing on the Polished Bliss website that says, 'You need to dedicate yourself to the cause... if you do, something magical will happen; the clearcoat will end up looking thicker, and almost like it's sitting proud of the paint finish.' This was my goal, so I switched to SCHOLL Concepts S40 and SCHOLL Concepts Finishing Pads. Suffice to say I was absolutely thrilled with the result, and additional glass-like depth and clarity it delivered. In fact, the front bumper, which hadn't been polished at this point, now looked off-white! I spent another six hours on this step.
Following another e-mail to Polished Bliss I was advised that Auto Finesse Tough Coat is recommended as a great choice of protection for white cars. However, I already own quite a few products and, at this point in time, I couldn't justify adding any more to my collection. So, working with what I already had to hand, and wanting an ultra slick finish that was sharp and durable, I chose to use Blackfire Gloss Enhancing Polish and Blackfire All Finish Paint Protection. The latter, in my opinion, still really scores well on glossiness - a characteristic more commonly associated with natural waxes - but also delivers exceptional slickness and outstanding reflectivity. Again, I hoped this would complement the finish I'd achieved with the S40. The fact that it's so easy to apply and buff off isn't just a benefit for soft paints, rather it makes it a very satisfying last step product to use full stop!
Once the exterior was finished I moved onto the interior and glass. After vacuuming the floor mats and every crevice I could see and find - this was the first proper interior clean I'd done and I found an impressive amount of dirt and hair inside the ISOFIX covers from the car's previous life - I used Auto Finesse Hide Cleanser and a PB Cleaning Brush to clean the leather seats. I'd been looking for a new leather conditioner that I could also use on my bike leathers and after some further advice from Polished Bliss I chose Raceglaze Leather Balm. Helpfully, they had advised me that it wouldn't offer the same weather protection as some other products, but as I'm a fair-weather rider and more concerned with keeping the leather supple and healthy I wasn't deterred. And the 'We Say' information tab on the Polished Bliss website is dead right; it smells fantastic!
The final step, and the one I probably enjoy the most, was applying the wheel wax and tyre dressing. I've been using Poorboy's Wheel Sealant for several years now and can't fault it at all for the price. It performs exceptionally well and adds a very nice amount of gloss. For the tyres I chose Auto Finesse Satin, applying two coats to achieve a rich satin sheen. It's only recently that I've discovered that tyres really do need to be spotlessly clean and dry before any tyre dressing is applied. Failing to do so definitely diminishes the look and durability. But for me, a good tyre dressing makes a good situation even better; it's the icing on the cake. I hope you enjoy the results and many thanks for the expert advice over the last couple of years and the always brilliant service."