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Pelican Technical Article:

Detailing Your Car

Steve Vernon

Time:

15 minutes to all day

Tab:

$0 to $1,000

Talent:

*

Tools:

Depends on level and type of detailing work you want to perform

Applicable Models:

BMW E30 3-Series (1984-93)
BMW E36 3-Series (1992-99)
BMW E46 3-Series (1999-06)
BMW Z3 (1996-02)

Parts Required:

Chemical Guys Smartwax Products

Hot Tip:

Try and work in the shade

Performance Gain:

A freshly washed and waxed car offers less wind resistance

Complementary Modification:

Shampoo the interior

For a lot of people, their car is the largest financial investment they will make, and while the new paint and clear coat they put on cars nowadays is very good, it still needs maintenance. Whether you're washing the car for a drive up the coast during the summer or prepping it for winter storage, we all share the same passion for keeping our pride and joy sparkling clean.

The art and science of washing and caring for your car's exterior surfaces has come a long way in just a few short years. While it used to be common to pull out the garden hose, fill a bucket with dish soap and water, wash the car and then dry it with some old bath towels, it is now possible and preferable to wash your entire vehicle without any water. New technology has created car care products that are environmentally safe and car-friendly - an added benefit is it has also helped reduce the amount of time necessary to clean and protect your car's exterior surfaces. We went to one of the leaders in the auto detailing and car care business, The Chemical Guys and Smartwax to find out how to use these revolutionary products.

While there are literally hundreds of different and special products professional auto detailers carry to perform their trade, you really only need a few things to get you started on bringing your car back to, or maintaining, its showroom finish. This article will cover how to give your own car a professional waterless detail, but if you are interested in learning more or taking your detailing skills a few steps further, The Chemical Guys offer a full line of courses and Pelican Parts stocks a full line of The Chemical Guys and Smartwax products.

Prep: Try and work in the shade. While all the products listed here are safe to use in direct sunlight, you should not work on the car if the surface is hot. Shade will help you see more detail in the paint work, and make finding flaws you want to correct easier.

The Wash: While people still pull out a garden hose to wash their car it is no longer necessary and is actually costly and hurts the environment. A typical home car wash uses thirty five gallons of water and sends all of the soap, chemicals, dirt and oils off your car right into the storm drain and out to the nearest stream, lake or ocean. It is now possible to completely clean your car without even using a hose or bucket.

The Chemical Guys recommends using their "Ecosmart" waterless detailing system that washes, waxes, shines and protects all in one easy step. This system is a specially-designed blend of cleaners that rapidly softens, emulsifies and encapsulates dirt particles, providing a protective barrier between the dirt and the paintwork. Mist onto the surface with a spray bottle and then gently remove the liquid with a clean micro fiber towel. You will be left with a light haze, which you then buff with another clean micro fiber towel, to a great showroom shine. Depending on how dirty you have let your car get will depend on the amount of Ecosmart you need to mist on the car. Do not attempt to wipe off dry sections of the car as you will damage the paint. Always work on the car in straight lines, never in circles. This is done for several reasons; first it is the easiest way to cover all the car, if I gave you a pen and told you to fill in a page of paper you would not start by drawing continuous circles; second if you do any damage to the clear coat i.e.; micro scratches they are easier to see and polish out if they are all running the same direction.

Micro Fiber Towels: Micro fiber towels use fibers that are less than one Decitex across, if you are wondering how small that is: 10,000 meters of 1 decitex fiber weighs one gram. This makes for a very large surface in a small area. These towels are used to clean, polish and detail your car. You should get several in several different colors and do not mix them up. Use one color for the exterior paint, one color for the glass, and one color for trim and dressing. You should fold each towel in half twice; this will give you eight clean surfaces to work. When you wash your towels wash them separately as well, as you do not want your glass towels getting washed with towels that have wax or tire dressing on them. Also, always dry your towels on low, if you dry them on hot the heat can melt the polyfibers.

Waffle Towels: Waffle towels are great for removing water from a surface. They are designed just like the name says, with a waffled shape or pattern in the cloth and are great for absorbing liquids.

Clay Bars: For a long time Clay Bars where a professional detailers secret weapon. Clay bars are used to remove contaminates from the clear coat of the paint. They are made from a polyelastic material and come in varying strengths. As with everything regarding your paint always start with the weakest strength and move to a stronger one if necessary. Clay bars actually pull the contamination from the clear coat. You should take a portion around the size of hotel room bar of soap and warm the bar up by needing it in your hands. Flatten it out into a long smooth 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick piece. Get the surface of the area you are working wet with The Chemical Guys Clay block Super Luber. It is a specially designed formula of wetting agents and lubricants to ensure a smooth sliding surface for the clay bar. NEVER clay bar a dry car! You will scratch the clear coat! You should get the surface to be clayed wet and keep it wet while working the bar.

Put moderate pressure on the bar and rub in straight lines along the surface. You will be able to feel the bar "tugging" small contaminaints from the paint. A good trick to know if you have got all the contaminants from the paint is to put an ordinary plastic page over your hand and gently rub the paint of the surface you have just clayed and an unclayed surface. The difference in smoothness should be very apparent. You will see the clay bar change colors as it begins to remove dirt from the car.

You will need to keep the bar pliable and constantly keep fresh clay on the car by turning it as it gets dirty. Clay bars are not cheap and they will dry out if you leave them exposed to the air. Get your self a container or a plastic Ziploc bag to keep it fresh and clean. Note: If you drop the clay bar on the ground throw it out! It is impossible to remove debris from it and it will do nothing but damage your car if you continue to use it after it has been on the ground.

Polish: If you really want your car to look the best it can, you will need to polish it. All vehicle clear coat surfaces will have small imperfections in them, like cracks, scratches and swirl marks. Even cleaning and clay baring your cars surface will leave micro scratches in the clear coat. The way a cars paint really shines is to have the light clearly reflected off of it and any imperfections in the clear coat will cause the light to refract rather than reflect. The washing and clay bar get the dirt off allowing the light to pass through, the polish removes the cracks and scratches allowing it to reflect straight back out. Most people think that the wax makes a car shine, and while a wax will add some luster to the look of a car, its primary job is to protect the paint and clear coat from the elements.

Polish is basically sandpaper in a bottle. If they could make 8000 grit sandpaper it would be the same thing as polish. If you are trying to fix a problem, in this case swirl marks and micro-scratches in the clear coat, always start with the weakest strength product you can get and if that doesn't work move up to a more aggressive compound. NEVER use polish on your trim or rubber, it will stain it immediately! Always tape around the areas you do not want to get the polish on to protect them. Polishes can be applied by hand but they really need the speed and heat generated by a random orbital polisher to work well.

If you have not let your car's clear coat get too bad, you should be fine polishing it by hand, just follow the directions for the level of polish you have bought. If you are applying the polish with a random or dual orbital machine, make sure you follow those directions. Each bottle of polish will have a set of directions for the different types of machines. Make sure that you use the right pads and that they are clean. If you are applying the polishing compound with a machine that does not have random or dual-actions and just spins at a high rate of speed - be very careful, as these machines can cause extreme damage to your cars surface if not used correctly. If you are going to invest in a machine, I recommend you get a dual-action polisher.

Glaze: Glaze is great for a short-term way of getting rid of swirl marks in your paint (clear coat) and can be applied by hand, but it is only a short-term fix and will not remove them like polishing with a polish and machine.

Sealants and Waxes:
Now that you have got your car's paint shining like new, you need to protect it. There are basically two ways to protect your paint and clear coat. These are waxes and sealants. Both will protect your cars surfaces from the elements. Some people prefer waxes as they are a natural product and can give what some feel are a warmer and richer shine. Others prefer sealants because they are synthetics and can be custom blended for different car colors and looks. Sealant will protect the car a lot longer than a wax will. There are as many different types of waxes and sealants as there are opinions about each. The only thing you need to know is if you are going to be applying both, make sure you always put the sealant on first, and the wax on last, remember: "Wax is Last."

Hybrids: One new product that has been increasing in popularity rapidly in the last year or so is the "hybrid." The Chemical Guys and Smartwax have developed a new product called "Black Light." It has been crafted to provide the smoothest, sharpest, wettest and brightest reflection possible all in one step. I saw it demonstrated at their facility in Los Angeles and it was quite impressive.

Glass Cleaner: You can get your car as clean and shining like new, but if you are looking out through dirty windows it will ruin all the hard work you have done. You spend more than 80% of your time in the car looking out the front window so make sure it looks clean and streak-free. Beware of any glass cleaners than have harsh chemicals in it and absolutely avoid any glass cleaner that has ammonia (like Windex). Ammonia will destroy the tinted windows. Smartwax and Chemical Guys make a product called "Glassworkz" that is eco-friendly and does a great job. Using a clean towel, spray a mist of Glassworkz on a clean micro fiber towel (this will control the over spray) and wipe the glass down in straight lines. Using another clean towel, or the clean side or the existing towel, polish the glass to a streak-free finish.

Brushes: You will eventually want to get a series of brushes for working on the small nooks and crannies of the car. For the exterior you will want to get bores or hoarse-haired brushes as these will not scratch your paint. You will want to get a pet-hair brush for removing hair from your carpets.

Tire Dressing: Don't forget the tires and rubber trim. You can restore your trim and tires back to new, as well as protect them from UV rays, dust and dirt with any one of the huge assortment of tire and trim products available on the market. Unlike the 1980's, new tire and trim dressings do not leave the tires looking wet or like they are dripping in product. While tire and trim dressings can be sprayed on or squeezed on, it is best to apply it to a pad first. By applying it to the pad first you will eliminate the possibility of over spray and can precisely control the amount of product you apply. Apply the product to the tires, wipe off the excess on the rubber and any other place it may have gotten that you don't want; then go over the tire or rubber one more time. You want to make sure you do not have any extra dressing on the wheel that may fly off when the car starts moving and dirty up your clean car.

Car Cover: Once you have everything looking showroom clean - you may want to invest in a good car cover!

To purchase the products mentioned in this article click here for: Chemical Guys and here for: Smartwax.

Smartwax and The Chemical Guys offer courses on everything from DIY all the way up to a week long professional detailer's school.
Figure 1

Smartwax and The Chemical Guys offer courses on everything from DIY all the way up to a week long professional detailer's school.

Here is The Chemical Guys Ecosmart Waterless Car Wash.
Figure 2

Here is The Chemical Guys Ecosmart Waterless Car Wash. You no longer need a hose and bucket! You can save yourself some money on your water bill and the environment at the same time.

Using a spray bottle and Ecosmart, spray a mist on the car's surface - make sure any dirt or debris on the car is wet before you try and remove it.
Figure 3

Using a spray bottle and Ecosmart, spray a mist on the car's surface - make sure any dirt or debris on the car is wet before you try and remove it.

Wipe the car off in straight lines with a clean micro fiber towel.
Figure 4

Wipe the car off in straight lines with a clean micro fiber towel.

You see here how much dirt the Ecosmart removed from a car that didn't look that dirty.
Figure 5

You see here how much dirt the Ecosmart removed from a car that didn't look that dirty. Use a clean section or new micro fiber towel to buff the haze off the surface into a shine.

You are going to be using a lot of towels with a waterless wash.
Figure 6

You are going to be using a lot of towels with a waterless wash. Make sure you fold the towels so you have 8 sections you can use on each towel. Begin by folding it in half.

Fold the towel in half again.
Figure 7

Fold the towel in half again.

You now have 8 different sections you can use by flipping and turning the folds of the towel.
Figure 8

You now have 8 different sections you can use by flipping and turning the folds of the towel.

Here you can see the pattern that gives a waffle towel its name.
Figure 9

Here you can see the pattern that gives a waffle towel its name.

Here is a large light elastic clay bar from The Chemical Guys.
Figure 10

Here is a large light elastic clay bar from The Chemical Guys. There are several different strengths of clay bars. The amount of dirt on your car and what type of damage you have on your paint will determine what type of clay bar you need. If you regularly take good care of the paint, a light clay bar is probably all you need to remove everything up to and including tree sap. They make heavy duty bars for removing serious damage but it will be more aggressive on the paint and you will need to polish the clear coat after using.

You will need to keep the surface of the vehicle lubricated while doing this, the worse thing you can do while claying the car is allow it to dry out.
Figure 11

You will need to keep the surface of the vehicle lubricated while doing this, the worse thing you can do while claying the car is allow it to dry out. If a clay bar hits dry paint it will immediately scratch it. You can use all kinds of products for keeping the surface wet, some people just use a diluted soap and water mixture in a spray bottle - if you can afford it I would recommend you use clay bar lube. These have been specifically designed to work with clay and assist in removing contaminants while not damaging the clear coat.

You should take a portion around the size of hotel room bar of soap and warm the bar up by needing it in your hands.
Figure 12

You should take a portion around the size of hotel room bar of soap and warm the bar up by needing it in your hands. Flatten it out into a long smooth 1/2 to 1/4 inch thick piece.

Keep the car surface lubricated and applying moderate pressure while moving the bar in straight lines over the surface.
Figure 13

Keep the car surface lubricated and applying moderate pressure while moving the bar in straight lines over the surface.

Clay bars are not cheap and they will dry out if you leave them exposed to the air.
Figure 14

Clay bars are not cheap and they will dry out if you leave them exposed to the air. Get yourself a container or plastic baggie to keep it fresh and clean.

If you really want your car to look the best it can, you will need to polish it.
Figure 15

If you really want your car to look the best it can, you will need to polish it. Polishing your car will remove all the swirl and micro scratches from the surface and allow the paint to really shine. You will need a random orbital machine if you want to do it right. Always start with the mildest product and if it doesn't work, move up from there. Make sure you follow the instructions on the bottle and tape off any trim areas. Polish will destroy rubber and trim if you get any on it.

One new product that has been increasing in popularity rapidly in the last year or so is the â€Ã...
Figure 16

One new product that has been increasing in popularity rapidly in the last year or so is the "hybrid." The Chemical Guys and Smartwax have developed a new product call "Black Light." It has been crafted to provide the smoothest, sharpest, wettest and brightest reflection possible all in one step. I saw it demonstrated at their facility in Los Angeles and it was quite impressive.

There are as many different opinions on wax or sealant as there are waxes and sealants! Both are used to protect the surface of your car exterior from UV and other contaminants found in the environment.
Figure 17

There are as many different opinions on wax or sealant as there are waxes and sealants! Both are used to protect the surface of your car exterior from UV and other contaminants found in the environment. A sealant will last longer than a wax, but some people swear that wax gives a warmer glow to the paint. I would recommend trying both and asking others what they use. You can apply both - just make sure you put the sealant on first and the wax last. Wax should be the very last thing you put on the car's paint.

While tire and trim dressings can be sprayed or squeezed on, it is best to apply it to a pad first.
Figure 18

While tire and trim dressings can be sprayed or squeezed on, it is best to apply it to a pad first. By doing so, you will eliminate the possibility of over spray and will precisely control the amount of product you apply.

Apply the product to the tires, wipe off any excess dressing on the rubber and any other place it may have gotten that you don't want then go over the tire or rubber one more time.
Figure 19

Apply the product to the tires, wipe off any excess dressing on the rubber and any other place it may have gotten that you don't want then go over the tire or rubber one more time. You want to make sure you do not have any extra on the wheel that may fly off when the car starts moving.

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Page last updated: Wed 12/7/2016 02:31:29 AM