Questions of the month (August ’11)

August 22nd, 2011

Questions of the month (August '11) - Word Cloud

Continuing our series of blogs focusing on frequently asked questions, we’re going to present two e-mail enquiries that highlight two of the more basic aspects of detailing that are sometimes not fully understood, or overlooked, perhaps due to their apparent simplicity. 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 been hesitant to pressure wash the bodywork of my car because I’m worried that doing so will damage the paint or force dirt into it. For this reason, I’ve always just used a hose but sometimes, especially in winter, it doesn’t take much dirt off the car. With winter now approaching again, I want to know whether you think pressure washing is safe?”

The ‘pre-wash’ stage (which is really part of the wash process!) is really important to get right. The more dirt and grime you can remove from the car before hand washing, the lower the risk of inflicting swirls and scratches will be. Using a pressure washer on paint that is in good condition should inflict no damage whatsoever and it might reassure you to know that every car that passes through our studio is carefully pressure washed; including older classic cars. The main thing to use when pressure washing is your brain, e.g. don’t hold the nozzle inches from the paint, don’t hold it in one place for any length of time and take care round potentially fragile areas such as any corrosion or the edges of wheel arches, where the paint can lift or chip.

When pressure washing, we always work at a safe distance from the surface (12″ or more) and keep the lance moving all the time to chase water across the surface and down off the car. Working top-down is a must, forcing dirt, grime and then dirty water off the car. When you consider the size of dirt particles, tiny to the human eye but microscopically very large, it’s impossible for them to be forced into the paint structure. We’re lucky to have a pressure washer fitted with a diesel burner, so we can wash with hot water; this increases cleaning power substantially. In our experience, this is perfectly safe so long as the water temperature is kept to a maximum of around 60°C.

A pressure washer will remove much more dirt than a regular domestic hose and is ideal for cleaning all aspects of the car including door shuts, window seals, under arches, the underside of the car itself and also the engine bay (although that’s a whole topic all to itself!). A pressure washer is also a great benefit in the winter months as it forces dried road salt and grit off of the bodywork and other surfaces very effectively, greatly reducing the risk of causing surface marring (or worse) when subsequently washing by hand. In summary, so long as you work carefully, pressure washing should pose no problems to your car’s paintwork and should make your cleaning process easier, faster and safer.

John @ PB

2. “I’ve recently purchased my first ‘premium’ wax which I’ve not used yet. I’ve never really waxed my cars and I’d like to know how to get the best results and also if there’s anything I need to look out for when applying it?”

Waxing a car looks simple; you’re really just smearing a non-abrasive product over your car’s bodywork before buffing off any residue. How hard can it be? In truth, it is more complicated than this and there are potential pitfalls – it can be easy to make a small error or overlook an important factor and end up with a poor result. Starting from the top, before waxing, the paint surface must be clean and fully decontaminated. If it needs to be glazed or if you’re applying a pre-wax cleaner, make sure this is done in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a pre-wax cleaner makes a lot of sense, as they tend to lay down a rich oily film that primes the finish perfectly for subsequent layers of wax.

When waxing, panels should always be cool to the touch and you should work out of direct sunlight, preferably indoors. I recommend using a small foam wax applicator pad, such as a Meguiar’s Foam Applicator Pad, as these are soft and comfortable to work with. Press the face of the pad very lightly into the wax and twist very slightly; only the smallest amount of wax is needed per given area. Using gentle pressure, and trying to keep the pad as flat to the paint surface as possible, gently coat the area, stretching the product across the panel as much as possible. You should be able to see the merest film of wax on the surface; if it looks like butter spread on bread, you’ve used far too much!

After allowing the wax to cure on the surface for the length of time described on the product page in our store, gently buff off the residue using a microfibre towel with a short, plush pile. Using a short pile towel is best as towels with deep piles can drag and make the removal process more difficult. There should be no need to scrub at the paint and you should cover the area methodically to make sure you fully removed the residue. If you’ve applied too much product, or left the wax to cure for too long, and the residue proves tricky to remove, use a good quality quick detailing spray to moisten the residue and aid its removal. Again, don’t scrub at the paint as this can mar the surface – use light strokes and refold your towel regularly to ensure that it doesn’t become clogged.

Assuming you’ve applied the wax correctly, you might think everything’s fine and that’s the job done. However, there is one final potential issue you need to be aware of. Waxes contain oils to help make them spreadable and easy to use; generally more so as carnauba content increases. Some of these oils may be rejected during the curing process and may manifest themselves as ‘wax holograms’; these usually look like smears on the wax surface. This is normal and these smears can easily be removed by quick detailing (if the car hasn’t been outside and is still dust free) or normal washing. Usually, wax holograms appear more quickly and prominently in hot weather conditions; the heat speeds up the curing process and encourages excess oils to rise more quickly.

John @ PB

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4 Responses to “Questions of the month (August ’11)”

  1. David Hood says:

    Have just been washing my car and have noticed 2 marks which have obviously been made by the flying rats in Aberdeen . Washing has made no in road to removing them nor a light polish !! what do you recommend ?

  2. Hi David, the marks you describe are more than likely etching caused by the acid in the droppings. Etching is a sub-surface defect, so polishing is the only way to remedy it, and sometimes said polishing needs to be quite aggressive, because etching can penetrate quite deeply into the paint. In order to help guide you with the next step, we need to know what car you have (which will enable us to determine whether you have soft, intermediate or hard paint) and whether you are working by hand or machine. As this is heading off topic in relation to this post, please either call us or e-mail us with this information and we can take it from there. Best regards, Rich.

  3. Generally, if you have a decent car, I’d suggest not doing it yourself and get a professional to clean your car. And I don’t mean the local hand wash next to the McDonalds Drive-Thru or local supermarket. If it’s worth it, pay for it!

  4. There is certainly some truth in what you say, given the way that many prestige and performance cars are neglected and badly treated. However, on the flip side of the argument, there are plenty of owners of decent cars who take great pride and joy in keeping them clean and properly detailed. As long as such people take the time to learn good techniques (using our free guides for example) and use good quality products, then there is no reason why they shouldn’t do all of the work themselves. You only have to browse the winners of our monthly show and show competition to see evidence of this in action!

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