Part 2 – Preparing The Paint Surface and Protecting It
You spend thousands of dollars on your vehicle it’s probably something you want to keep looking new and protect. Protecting the surface of your car seems like a tedious task but it gets easier the better you take care of it. Keeping a good quality sealant on the surface of your car can help keep contaminants, over-spray, bugs, and bird droppings from getting to your paint making it easier to get off the next time. This set of instructions is for clear-coated vehicles as most other types of paint are on older cars and almost obsolete so I am not going to even bother for now. If the clear coat appears to be peeling off of your car, nothing here is going to help you but I guess you can clean, polish, and wax what is still there.
Supplies You Will Need
- Meguiar’s Smooth Surface Clay Kit
- 3 or 4 Microfiber Towels (Super soft towels are best, some towels can scratch a vehicles surface leaving swirl marks or ‘spider webs’)
- A light to medium rubbing compound. Meguiar’s Ultimate compound is a light compound that works well and isn’t to abrasive.
- A paint sealant/wax such as Meguiars Carnauba Wax. This caranuba Wax is a wax I prefer it over their NXT 2.0. The NXT seems to leave a swirly haze on dark colored vehicles.
- A few wax applicator pads.
- And a few hours of time, this step may take 4 or more hours but trust me its worth it.. Really worth it!
Your Vehicles Finish
At this point you should have already washed and dried your car as described in Detailing Your Vehicle – Washing and Drying Your Car. If not, go back and read that as there is important information and tips that you will need to know before washing your vehicle. If you rub your hand over your cars finish and it don’t feel like a brand new piece of glass then it probably is going to require paint prep and cleaning before waxing. Sometimes you are lucky after purchasing a new car to have the paint this smooth, but sometimes not. The clearcoat finish on a brand new car should absolutely feel this way and this is something that you can achieve and you wont want to skip this step. When the surface is smooth and free of contaminants then other particles and contaminants will have nothing to stick to therefore they wont build up. Most light overspray will come off using the Smooth Surface Clay kit, rubbing compound, elbow grease, and patience. Lets get started!
Step 1 – Cleaning The Surface With Clay
Your probably thinking “Use clay to clean my paint, he is crazy” but this is one of professional detailers best kept secrets and when used properly and it works well (please don’t try using play-dough or modeling clay. It must be a surface prep clay). The trick is using it properly and taking your time. One of the biggest things I see auto detailers do is when they get to the clay part is they start with ambition and detail and finish trying to hurry…. Don’t do that! Take your time, the reward is fulfilling. Test a small area first, because sometimes overspray is bad enough to where it may require a professional to remove.
Start in a small 1′ x 1′ area on your car following the directions that came with the clay bar kit. Keep this area lubricated with the included bottle of Quick Detailer. Using a back and forth motion and not a swirling circle motion rub the paint with the clay bar. You will be able to feel the resistance of the particles on the paint and it will eventually get less resistant. When the paint is free from particles the clay will glide over the area (if it becomes more resistant, spray more Quick Detailer on the spot). Using one of your microfiber towels wipe this area and check it with your hand to feel the progress.
If you have spent more than a few minutes on this area and the overspray, sap, and particles are not coming off it may be time for a professional. They use more abrasive clays as well as techniques such as scraping with a razor (I don’t suggest this, it takes a real light touch and proper prep). If the area has become free of contaminants continue over the hood, roof, and trunk of the car and then to the sides and doors until all the paint is completely free of contaminates and continue to the glass. Be sure to take your time on each area and keep the area lubed with the Quick Detailer. If your clay bar is leaving behind clay (they look like skid marks) then you need more Quick Detailer. The marks will come off with a few rubs of the clay. Do not drop the clay or set it on the ground for any reason, it will pick up dirt and dust and severely scratch your automotive surface. If for any reason the bar makes contact with the ground it is ruined and must be thrown away, DO NOT attempt to clean it or use it again (good thing the kit comes with 2 pieces because this does happen).
Step 2 – Polishing The Surface Of Your Automobile
This can be done by hand or by using a Dual Action Polisher if your serious about keeping your cars finish in top condition. I will continue with the hand applied method and save the power tools for ‘Details of Detailing’ later.
Using the same method as the clay, you want to take your time and do this in small sections 1′ x 1′ or 2′ x 2′ sections. Don’t attempt to polish a whole panel at once, you are going to get nowhere with this except for smearing polishing compound over your whole car. Put a semi-generous amount of Ultimate Compound on the Wax Applicator pad and polish a small area of your hood in circular motions going back and forth in your little area with medium-light pressure pressing on the pad with your whole hand. This isn’t wax, you will want to concentrate on the area for a bit and allow the compound to polish the surface to a shiny luster. It is time-consuming but this gets rid of the particles the clay didn’t get as well as turn your vehicles paint into smoother finish prepping it for wax/sealant. After you feel that the area is polished, wipe away as much of the compound that you can with a fresh microfiber towel (remember this towel for this step and use this one for just this). Use some Quick Detailer and another towel to clean the area and check progress and move to the next area until all the panels are done. This is a good time to also polish all the glass as it picks up these same contaminants as well as removing water spots and stains plus they could always use a good polish. Once the whole vehicle is polished to your liking, hoping you took your time on each area, go over the whole car with the Quick Detailer and towel to get any compound left behind.
Warning: Compounds contain chemicals that can whiten or damage the black rubber molding around windows and trip. Be sure to keep the compound off of these areas and quickly wipe clean if you do get some on them.
Step 3 – Applying Paint Sealant
Your almost done! This is my favorite part because the end result, if all the other
steps were done thoroughly, you’ll have an outstanding smooth as glass protective coating. You won’t want to take your hands off of your cars paint. It is so rewarding knowing your cars finish is now protected and the next time you wash it will be easy as pie as everything is literally going to jump off of your cars finish and water will bead off your car. Washing your car will become a minute task from here on out.
Using a new clean wax applicator pad, apply the carnauba wax semi-generously over all the paint, chrome, glass, and I even do my headlights to help get the bugs off next time being sure to keep it away from black molding as it can turn it white and be hard to get off. If its painted, chrome, or glass…. wax it, you will be glad you did. I will say wait about an hour for the wax to dry otherwise you will simply be pushing around wet wax when you go to wipe it off. You can tell if its dry by running your finger through the wax and check to see of the wax has smeared or came off clean. Came off clean? Well your ready to wax off Danielson!
Using a fresh clean microfiber towel, use one side of the towel to completely remove all the wax inspecting as you go making sure you don’t leave any behind. Once you feel all the wax is gone, either use the other side of the towel to give it one final quick wipe down or use a separate clean towel. If you were successful and you did each step and took your time, you can now do a Dukes of Hazard slide across the hood of your car (not suggested or recommended but it’s up to you. Scratches and dents aren’t my problem but… hey, its your car).
Some common myths of paint sealers.
Clear Coat does not need sealers or waxes.
This can’t be any further than the truth. Think of your clearcoat as clear paint, just because its clear doesn’t mean you don’t protect it. It’s not made of diamond, it’s just as vulnerable as non clearcoat paints.
They put paint sealant on my car when I bought it
Yeah, they sure did and its called “Fast Wax” in the industry and it comes off as fast as it goes on. The next time you wash your vehicle, this “fast wax” is washing off with it. They use this because the detailers are limited in time and can’t spend an hour waiting for wax to dry. Trust me, you still need to wash, wax, and possibly do a surface prep (I have seen brand new cars that were covered in overspray and other airborne contaminants).
Wax your car every 6 months
You can do what you want, but I say every 3 months of wax is more like it (or until the water stops beading off the car if that comes first). The wax is just a shield and needs replenished as it gets rubbed off and washed. There is several manufacturers out there that say their products will last 6 months and this may be true but how thin is this coverage at 6 months? Probably gone by that point. Apply Meguiar’s Carnauba Wax every 3 months and I think you will be fine.