This is the first of a new series of blogs we’re going to post looking at questions we’re commonly asked here at PB HQ. This month, we’ve chosen two fairly substantial e-mail enquiries with strongly recurring themes: (i) “I’m new to proper detailing, what should I be doing?”, and; (ii) “I’m just about to take delivery of a new car, how should I detail it?”. Hopefully our responses to the questions posed will make perfect sense, but as always, if you have any questions please feel free to fire away below and we’ll do our best to help.
1. “I’ve always liked having a clean car but until now have always used high street products. After reading your site I’ve found there’s a whole new world in detailing and I think I’d like to make the step up. I’ve always been a ‘bucket, sponge and chamois’ man and realise this isn’t the best. My car’s a solid black Volvo S40 with leather seats and alloy wheels. I hope I can make it really glossy and wet looking and stand out (my neighbour and I compete as to who has the shiniest car!). Hopefully you can guide me with my first steps into ‘proper detailing’. I’d like to work by hand as I’m a little hesitant about using a machine polisher.”
Starting with the wash stage, which is critical to get right if you want to avoid damaging your paint, our PB Basic Wash Kit offers all of the essentials, including a lambswool wash mitt, a microfibre wash mitt, a deep pile drying towel and your choice of shampoo (if you are looking for a general purpose shampoo, Meguiar’s Shampoo Plus is a great option as it works well with all paint protection systems and offers great value for money too). Simply use these products in conjunction with two buckets (our PB Clear Wash Buckets are ideal) and the method described in our guide entitled ‘Safe washing and drying‘.
For alloy wheel cleaning, I’m sure you’ll find Wolf’s Chemicals Decon Gel very impressive. After pre-rinsing with a hose or pressure washer, spray it onto the wheels (or, if you prefer, brush it on) and allow it to dry on the surface for 15-20 minutes. During this time it will progressively turn purple and then brown looking as it dissolves brake dust and grime. It should then be rinsed off thoroughly. What makes this product cool is that it’s non-acidic product and won’t damage centre caps or wheel lacquer, even when used on a regular basis. After cleaning the wheels, a good quality wheel sealant will help keep the wheels cleaner, for longer, and stop fresh contamination bonding to the wheels so firmly. It’ll also make future cleaning easier: Poorboy’s Wheel Sealant is a great entry level option.
Moving onto the bodywork, if there are swirl marks, minor scratches and other defects present that you wish to improve and or remove (highly likely given your previous wash regime!), you should achieve good results on the Volvo paint (which is of intermediate hardness) using 3M Scratch Remover and a Lake Country Light Cut Hand Pad. After working it in well to a single panel at a time (until it looks like it’s almost disappeared) the remaining oily residue should be buffed off using a PB Super Buffing Towel. I’d also suggest grabbing a cuppa and having a read through our guide entitled ‘What does polishing do?‘, as it will not only explain what you are about to do but should also help you to care better for your paint in the future.
Once you’re happy with the condition of the paint, you can move on to the fun bit: adding protection. As it sounds like you’re quite happy to spend time cleaning and protecting your car regularly, a good option would be the R222 Concours Look Kit. This kit consists of R222 Gloss Enhancing Paintwork Cleanser (a non-abrasive paint cleanser which prepares the paint surface perfectly for wax application) and R222 Concours Look Carnauba Wax, as well as all of the applicator pads and towels you will need (the kit price is discounted by 10% compared to buying the included items separately). It’s fair to say R222 Concours Look Carnauba Wax isn’t the most durable wax on the market but if you’re topping up regularly this isn’t a big issue. On the plus side, it does produce a really wet, glossy finish with good water beading and it’s very easy to apply; it should give the results you’re looking for to beat your neighbour!
Finishing off with the interior, for general cleaning of the dashboard and plastic areas Meguiar’s All Purpose Cleaner is an excellent product, and as your skills and bravery improve you’ll find 101 further uses for it, such as cleaning door shuts, the engine bay, tyres, etc. It’s one of those key products that most hardcore detailing enthusiasts wouldn’t be without. For the leather seats, the PB Leather Care Kit is superb; it offers excellent value for money and leaves a nice, soft matt finish. Instructions for all of the products I’ve mentioned can be found on the individual product pages under the ‘How to Use’ tab. If there’s anything I can clarify, or if there are other products you’d like advice about, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help.
John @ PB
2. “I have ordered a new car which will be delivered in the next 4 weeks. I have declined the dealer-applied paint protection system as I’ve seen some mixed online reviews of these. Can you advise me as to what process I’ll need to undertake on my new car and what products I’ll need. Previously, I’ve always washed with a bucket and sponge, but now realise this isn’t the best idea! The car will be metallic blue.”
You’re right that a bucket and sponge isn’t the best idea but at least you’ve taken a big step in the right direction by (a) realising this and (b) coming to us for advice! Given that your car will be brand new, you have a great opportunity to care for it properly right from the start. Without any doubt, the most important thing to get right is the wash process. Failure to do this will result in defects appearing (marring, swirl marks, scratches, etc), which will blight the look of the paint and necessitate time consuming remedial work in the future. I would suggest starting out by studying our guide entitled ‘Safe washing and drying‘: it spells out everything you need to know technique-wise. I would then consider purchasing our PB Advanced Wash Kit plus a pair of PB Clear Wash Buckets, as this will give you the correct tools for the task.
Before hand washing, you may want to consider using a pre-wash foam as this will remove a good portion of loose dirt and grime, lessening the risk of marring and swirling being caused when the panels are eventually wiped down. If you have a pressure washer we recommend rinsing the car thoroughly before using our PB Foam Lance Kit to apply a blanket of thick foam to the car (simply choose the correct fitment type for your pressure washer). If you don’t have a pressure washer, you may find our PB Foam Gun Kit useful instead. It includes the PB Foam Gun, which attaches to a domestic hose rather than a pressure washer. Whilst it isn’t as effective as a dedicated foam lance (due to the lower water pressure), it is still a useful tool.
Moving on to the specific task of preparing your car from new, it is often very surprising how much contamination a new car can pick up en route from the factory to the dealership (many new cars are transported on trains with overhead power lines; these often shower the cars with iron filings, which bond to the paint and corrode in situ). The result is rough feeling paint and widespread tiny orange speckles. Furthermore, many new cars are covered in transport wax, which needs to be fully removed before the paint is protected. The easiest way to tackle these issues is to employ a two stage decontamination process, starting with Autosmart Tardis to remove any transport wax and then moving on to Wolf’s Chemicals Decon Gel to dissolve any iron contamination.
As the car is brand new, it would be fair to assume the paint is going to be defect free (although dealers do sometimes inflict minor damage with a careless pre-delivery wash: if this happens let me know and I will advise you about what to do). On this subject, I would personally ask the dealership to do as little valeting work on the car as possible prior to handover. My reasoning is their valeting team will get no more than an hour if they are lucky to remove the wraps, inspect the paint, wash the exterior, remove any contamination and add protection. Inevitably this process is always more rushed than it should be; I would ask them to remove the wraps and inspect the paint only. Yes, it will look a state when you pick it up, but it will be easy enough to clean up and you will lavish a degree of care and attention that the dealership cannot match.
If the paint is defect free, the next stage is to add protection. For metallic blue, assuming you want to emphasise the metallic effect, I recommend using a synthetic paint sealant. The best option that springs to mind for metallic blue finishes is our Werkstat Acrylic Kit, which comprises three products. Prime Acrylic is a chemical cleaner that removes lingering contaminants and lays down a basecoat of acrylic protection. Acrylic Jett Trigger is an acrylic sealant that is very easy to apply; you simply spray it on and buff it off. A couple of initial coats will give approximately 3-4 months of protection and strong water beading. The sealant will leave the paint surface feeling very slick, and future cleaning will be much easier as result. Acrylic Glos is a quick detailing spray ideal for topping up the finish after routine washing. Applicator pads and towels are included in the kit and it offers a 10% saving over buying the included items individually. Full instructions for use are provided on the product page linked above, under the ‘How to Use’ tab.
At the moment, the only additional products I would recommend purchasing would be a good quality glass cleaner (for interior use), a glass sealant (for exterior use), a wheel sealant and a tyre dressing. Good choices for the first three would be 3M Glass Cleaner (works brilliantly, costs very little), Nanolex Premium Glass Sealant (truly long lasting and easy to apply) and Poorboy’s Wheel Sealant (good performance at a very reasonable price point). Tyre dressings vary in term of the level of shine they produce, so I would suggest browsing the various options in the wheel sealants and tyre dressings section of our store and picking one that best suits your personal preference. If you require any further advice or clarification of any points, please let me know. I hope this advice sets you on the right path and that you thoroughly enjoy caring for your new car!
John @ PB