Following on from Rich’s timely blog about the importance of winter preparation, this next batch of frequently asked questions will focus on other aspects of detailing that become more prominent during the winter months. As always, if you have any additional questions please feel free to fire away below and we’ll do our best to help.
1. “My car windows mist up quite a lot and with it being so cold (and usually dark!) at this time of year, it’s really starting to frustrate me. Also, with snow and ice expected, and my car sitting outside, I’d like to try to avoid scraping the glass every morning. Are there any products you sell which can help?”
The misting up of windows is a common problem during the winter months and typically arises as wet clothes and footwear bring moisture into the car and low temperatures prevent interior surfaces from properly drying out. This moisture disappears into vapour form when the heater is on and the cabin is warm, but quickly reappears as condensation on glass surfaces when you leave the car and the temperature drops.
Obviously, the first thing to check is that your air conditioning system is switched on (assuming your car has it) and working properly. This might sound silly at first, but air conditioning systems harvest moisture very efficiently, and running it continuously at a comfortably warm temperature (18 °C) throughout the winter months will help to remove fresh moisture and greatly reduce instances of misting up.
The next thing to check is the cleanliness of your interior glass. A film of grease or grime on an interior window encourages moisture to condense onto it and gives it a ‘hub’ to cling to. The cleaner the glass is, the less likely it is to mist up. And just because it looks clean don’t fall into the trap of assuming it is clean – films build up over time regardless, so regular cleaning is necessary.
Glass cleaners have really moved on in the last few years and many, such as 3M Glass Cleaner and Auto Finesse Crystal, produce entirely streak free results, if applied properly. In all cases, spray the product onto a folded microfibre towel (PB Super Buffing Towels or Microfiber Madness Cloudbuster Towels are ideal), as opposed to the glass, and then work it in methodically. Finally, refold the towel and buff the glass down lightly. To check for smears or streaks, use a point source of light (the ideal tool is the 3M Sun Gun, but a high intensity torch will do) and carefully look over every inch of the glass, rebuffing if necessary.
To help prevent moisture soaking into interior fabrics, we recommend the use of a fabric or textile sealant. Both 303 High Tech Fabric Guard and Nanolex Textile and Leather Sealant are strongly hydrophobic and repel water, preventing it from soaking in and forcing it to bead on the fabric surface. As well as using these types of product on seats, they’re also ideal for waterproofing carpets and floor mats; it’s almost impossible to keep snow and slush out of the car completely, but these products allow melted water to be vacuumed up or soaked up with towels.
Moving on to the exterior glass, the glass sealants we offer, from Nanolex and Wolf’s Chemicals, all go some way to preventing the formation of frost due to their ultra slick, hydrophobic nature. Whilst they won’t completely inhibit ice from forming, what does form will be thinner and easier to remove. We also recommend using lukewarm water to remove frost, as opposed to conventional scrapers. This is because scrapers can easily damage both glass and surrounding painted surfaces. Just remember to use lukewarm water, as hot water could crack cold glass in extreme cases.
Finally, if the above measures aren’t working and misting up is becoming a serious problem, it’s worth checking for leaks. Drain holes in body panels and rubber seals can be become chocked with debris and grime during the winter months, leading to water building up and leaking into places it shouldn’t. Doors and door seals are particularly susceptible to this problem.
John @ PB
2. “Last winter, with the state of the roads, I found it difficult to wash my car without feeling I was damaging the paint. I use a pressure washer and a foam lance and I think I’m pretty careful with my washing; using two buckets, good shampoo, changing the rinse water regularly, etc. Is there a product I can use to help strip off even more dirt before I start handwashing?”
We covered the importance of pre-wash rinsing and foaming in our recent blog entitled “Questions of the Month (October ’11)”, but it seems like you already use the techniques described. I know from personal experience how tricky it can be to clean a very dirty vehicle carefully; if you miss a couple of weekends, the level of dirt and grime quickly builds up and coupled with salt and mud it can be quite tricky to remove. My own vehicle is often used off road and ends up filthy if it’s not washed for a few weeks.
Here’s a few suggestions that may help. If a vehicle is very dirty, after the rinse, foam, rinse process, I sometimes foam again, and leave this foam on the car whilst I hand wash; the foam provides further lubrication on the panels, helping to minimise marring. We’re lucky here at PB HQ that we have a hot pressure washer to hand, and this is definitely a great benefit as hot water removes more grime throughout the rinsing and foaming process), but they are quite expensive to justify for domestic use.
After rinsing, foaming and rinsing, you could also consider spraying a general purpose cleaner over the most badly affected areas; usually the rear end and lower sills. Auto Finesse Citrus Power is excellent as it uses powerful citrus-based cleaning agents to loosen and suspend dirt and grime, but doesn’t strip existing sealant or wax protection. To reap its benefits, you simply spray it over affected panels and allowed it to dwell for a few minutes before pressure washing it off.
An alternative option is to use R222 Total Auto Wash, which has long been one of our favourite cleaning products and again uses citrus-based cleaners. It will partially strip existing sealant or wax protection but if you’re going on to re-apply protection this isn’t so much of a concern. Meguiar’s All Purpose Cleaner also falls into this category and comes in concentrated form, meaning it offers excellent value for money when used at the dilution ratio of 10:1 (water:product) specified for safe exterior use.
Interestingly, all of the products mentioned also work well through a foam lance; bear in mind that they may still partially strip existing paint protection when used like this, but if a vehicle is very dirty and you require the additional cleaning power and you’re going to re-apply protection, they can be very effective when used like this. Citrus Power, Total Auto Wash and All Purpose Cleaner are all ideal for use under wheel arches and on exposed suspension parts too.
Of course, having a really slick surface and trying to prevent dirt sticking in the first place will make routine washing much easier. Waxes do tend to be less slick than sealants so it might be worth looking at your LSP (last step product) choice; if you have the right facilities (warm, dry indoor work space) to apply it, one of the newer nanotechnology sealants from either Nanolex or Wolf’s Chemicals would be worth considering; their partial self cleaning properties can make life much easier!
John @ PB