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Canyon Carver
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How To: Care for Your Paint

This is a tutorial for the beginner who wants to improve the appearance and durability of the paint on their vehicle. It will cover all aspects of paint care from initial washing to day-to-day upkeep. Keep in mind that this is just a general guide to paint care. Different products require different procedures in order for them to most effective. When in doubt, use the manufactures’ recommendations on the back of the product.

The user assumes all risks and responsibilities when using any of the practices mentioned below. It is suggested that the user use common sense when interpreting any of the practices found below.

The following tutorial will be broken down into the following sections…
- Section 1: Washing the vehicle
- Section 2: Evaluating the paint
- Section 3: Clay baring the vehicle
- Section 4: Polishing the vehicle
- Section 5: Waxing the vehicle
- Section 6: Maintaining the appearance

Section 1: Washing the Vehicle

The very first thing you must do when working with your paint is to start with a clean surface. This requires that all the dirt, dust, road grime, mud, etc, be removed. This is something you do all the time, but have you ever thought about what you are doing to the surface of your vehicle.

What you will need for the job…


Soap – No, I don’t use Dawn dish soap. You should always use a soap made specifically for automobiles. Dawn and other household cleaners are far to abrasive to use on your paint. They will strip off the wax leaving a clear coat that is unprotected to the elements. The role of car soap is to help clean the paint and to provide a lubricant between the paint and the dirt to reduce scratching while you are washing. I use my own special brew of car soap and put it in the Dawn bottle. I could tell you what’s in there, but then I’d have to kill you.

Boars Hair Brush – The single most important detailing item I have ever used. This brush is used to wash the painted surface. It replaces wash mitts, rags, and sponges. The problem with these washing methods is that they tend to drag the dirt as you push them around. The boar’s hair brush gently sweeps the dirt away and will only apply as much pressure as the stiffness of the bristles. What this does is, it washes away the dirt with minimal pressure, which leads to a reduction in micro-scratches from the dirt moving on the paint.

Bug sponge – When new, these sponges are very abrasive. I recommend using them on something other then your paint for a while until the netting softens up. Once soft, it provides a fast and easy way to remove bugs or other contaminates that the boars hair brush won’t remove. It will put very tiny scratches into the paint, but these can be removed or hidden by various methods. Use this sponge sparingly.

Chamois & Cleaner – A soft, clean chamois is an excellent way to dry your vehicle. Keeping the chamois clean is vital to reducing any scratching while drying. It’s best to use two chamois: a “clean” one for upper portions of the body, and a “dirty” one for lower portions and doorjambs.

Procedure:
It’s best to wash a vehicle in the shade while the paint is cool. Fill up your bucket with the recommended amount of soap to water ratio. Too much car soap can strip the wax. Hose down the vehicle trying to spray off as much dirt as possible. Take your boar’s hair brush and dip it in the bucket, wash a body panel, and then re-dip it in the bucket. You’ll want to repeat this procedure for the entire vehicle. You want to try and keep the brush as clean and soapy as possible. This will reduce scratching. You can also run your hand through the brush to help clean out any debris. Start at the front top of the vehicle and work your way to the bottom rear.

After the vehicle is washed, spray it off again with the hose. Now take your bug sponge and clean any areas that didn’t get cleaned with the boar’s hair brush. Work quickly so that the water doesn’t being to dry on the vehicle. You can keep it wet if need be. After the vehicle has been cleaned, spray it off once more.

Chamois the vehicle from the top to the bottom. Keep washing your chamois out incase in picks up any dirt left behind. If you find an area that you missed, go back and wash it, don’t try and chamois it clean. It’ll only scratch the paint and get your chamois dirty.

Once the vehicle is dry, proceed to Section 2.


Section 2: Evaluating the paint

Now that your paint is clean, it’s time to take a look at it and see what condition it is in. This will help you to decide what steps you need to do in order to correct and protect it down the road.

What you will need for the job…

Your eyes and hands

Procedure:
Look at your paint in several different lights and angles. Chances are that you will see the years of abuse reflected in the clarity, or lack there of, of the paint. Listed below are 3 common scratches found on paint.



Figure 1.0 shows scratches from a rotary style buffer. These are uniform scratches from an improper polishing job. If you have had your vehicle repainted or “professionally” detailed, you may see these types of scratches.

Figure 1.1 shows scratches from washing your vehicle. These are formed when a wash mitt or similar device is used and pushes the dirt instead of lifting it. They are similar to the scratches from a rotary buffer, but the main difference is that they are not uniform. They are generally random as you use a random pattern when washing your vehicle. Washing a vehicle properly can reduce these types of scratches to almost none.

Figure 1.2 shows a spider web type of scratch. If you look at the reflection of the sun in your paint you may see a circular set of scratches radiating out from the center, much like a spider web. Theses are formed after many years of everyday abuse to the paint. If properly taken care of, they can be reduced or eliminated.

The good news is that all of these types of scratches can be removed and prevented. Figuring out what type of scratches you have and how severe they are, will help you to choose the most efficient way to remove them.


Section 3:Clay baring the vehicle

After evaluating your paint, you’ll probably notice some fine bumps or roughness to your paint. This is dirt, deposits, acid rain, etc. All the elements that fall out of the sky and stick to your paint. Washing won’t remove them. Polishing can, but this debris once removed can scratch during the polishing process. Probably the best way to remove these deposits, is with a clay bar.

What you will need for the job…


Paint Cleaning Clay – The clay, when rubbed on your paint with a lubricant, will pick up these deposits and embed them in the clay, all while keeping scratching to a minimum. There are several different grades of clay. Some work more efficiently then others, but can be harsh on your paint. It’s best to go with a medium to gentler grade of clay.

Speed Shine – Similar to a “quick detailer” Speed Shine is an excellent lubricant for the clay. This prevents the clay from sticking to the paint while you are cleaning

Micro fiber Towel – Used to dry the Speed Shine. Micro fiber is an excellent material due to its incredibly small fiber strand and ability to lift dirt off the surface of your vehicle. 100% cotton is also an acceptable cloth to use on a painted surface.

Procedure:
Work a small section (approximate 2 square feet) at a time. Spray a good coat of speed shine on the section. Take a piece of clay and roll it into a ball. It should be about the size of a golf ball. Place the clay on the vehicle and begin to rub. The clay should glide across the surface. You may feel some friction if your paint is really dirty. Excessive friction is usually caused by not enough lubricant. Work the section until the paint feels smooth and clean of debris. If the clay is getting dirty, fold the clay in and roll it back into a ball. You should be able to do the entire vehicle with this one piece of clay. If you should happen to drop it on the ground, Throw It Away. After you are finished claying, dry the vehicle off with the micro fiber towel. The Speed Shine should buff off very easily and leave you with a smooth surface to polish.

Here is a video demonstrating the clay bar process…
http://s-seriesforum.com/albums/album122/paintcare_step3_vidnet.wmv (1.8 MB)


Section 4: Polishing the vehicle

Now that you have clayed the vehicle, the surface should be smooth and ready for polishing. Polishing is removing a very thin layer of clear coat to eliminate the various scratches. Polish doesn’t add anything to the painted surface, it only removes the bad stuff. There are different grades of polish ranging from abrasive to gentle. Choosing the right starting point will allow you to polish the vehicle more efficiently.

What you need for the job…


Porter Cable 7424 Random Orbital Buffer – This is an easy to use, reasonably priced, buffer for correcting minor problems in your paint. It uses a random orbital pattern so that you won’t induce any of the buffing trails that are associated with rotary buffers. It uses a Velcro pad mounting system for quick and easy switching of pads. It has a variable speed so that it can be slowed down for the beginner and sped up for advanced. I along with most others, highly recommend this buffer.

Orange Polishing Pad – A foam pad that is used to apply the polish. Foam won’t induce heat and is very gentle. The orange pads are very stiff though to allow for a slightly faster cutting action. Probably the safest material on the market to use as an applicator

Polish grades 1-3 – Polish is what you will use to remove a very thin layer of clear coat. #1 Polish is the most aggressive with #3 being the gentler. Always work your way up through the polishes. If you have to start at #2, make sure to follow up with #3 to remove the scratches caused by #2. Another quirk with polish is that is must be applied long enough for the particles to break down. As these particles break down, they will remove the micro scratches caused from the initial polish. Patience is important when working with polish.

Micro fiber Cloth – An excellent way to remove the polish. 100% cotton can be used as well.

Speed Shine – If the polish should happen to dry and be hard to remove from the surface, spray a little Speed Shine on and buff off .

Procedure:
First you need to determine what grade of polish to start with. You only want to go as low as what you need, but at the same time you don’t want to have to back track if the higher grades of polish aren’t removing the scratches. Only experience will help you select the right grade of polish to start with. If this is your first time using this system and your paint has its share of scratches, I’d start at #1. Preload your pad with a little polish. Spread to the polish around on the pad to help soften up the foam. Put a drop of polish about the size of a quarter on the panel you are working on. You can probably do about 2 square feet with this much polish. Spread the polish around with the buffer off so that it doesn’t sling when you turn on the buffer. Set the buffer to a speed of 3 and turn it on. Move the buffer slowly around the edge of your section area. Only use the weight of the buffer, there is no need to push down on it After you have all 4 sides done, work the center back and forth like you would cut grass. After you get the polish spread across the entire panel, go back over the panel at a 90 degree angle. Again, go back and forth as if you were cutting grass. You’ll want to make 4 passes over the panel, two in each direction. This will insure the polish has broken down enough and the entire panel got polished evenly.

You can then remove the polish with the micro fiber towel. Buff off the polish. If you used too much polish or if the polish has started to dry, you can spray on some Speed Shine to help soften the polish up and buff off.

Here is a video that shows the polishing process…
http://s-seriesforum.com/albums/album122/paintcare_step4_vidnet.wmv (2.8 MB)

Proceed to do the entire vehicle like this. When finished evaluate the paint to see if you can move onto the next polish. If so, put on a fresh orange buffing pad and repeat the process with the next grade of polish. Continue until you finish with #3 grade polish. You should now have a 95-100% micro scratch free surface. The remaining ?% can be hidden up with waxes.


Waxing the Vehicle

The hard work is now done. You’ve removed all the years of abuse on your paint. Now it’s time to protect it and make it shine with a coat of wax. Unlike polish, wax leaves a protective layer on the paint. Because of this, it won’t remove any scratches, but it can hide some. There are many different types of waxes on the market. Choosing the right one and applying it correctly will insure a good protection along with a deep shine.

What you will need for the job…


Porter Cable 7424 Random Orbital Buffer – An excellent way to apply wax based on the reasons listed above in the polishing section.

Best of Show Wax – My favorite wax. It has a high percentage of carnauba in it for a deep shine. It is a little tough to remove, but if applied properly can produce wonderful results. This wax is recommend only if you strip off all your old wax. The manufacture warns that hazing can occur if applied over synthetic waxes. Wax will fill in and hide some small scratches, but when washed these scratches will start to reappear.

Red Waxing Pad – Much softer then the orange polishing pads. Spreads the wax evenly and effortlessly. Can be cleaned with soap and water when finished.

Speed Shine – Can be used if the wax becomes hard and won’t buff off easily

Micro fiber Towel – Once again, an excellent choice for wax removal based on the above reasons.

Procedure:
Preload the red wax pad with some wax, a little goes a long way. Put a quarter sized drop of wax on the section you are to be working(the same 2 foot square section). You’ll want to use the exact same procedure that you used while polishing. Set the machine to speed 3. Pay special attention to laying the wax on evenly, so you don’t end up with stripes. After you have made your 4 passes, let the wax “set-up”. This will vary on atmospheric conditions, but a good rule of thumb with this wax is 1-2 minutes.

After it has set-up, buff off with a micro fiber towel. If the wax has become to dry, you can spray on a little Speed Shine and buff it off. Wax the entire vehicle with this method.

Here is a video of the waxing process…
http://s-seriesforum.com/albums/album122/paintcare_step5_vidnet.wmv (2.7 MB)


Section 6: Maintaining the appearance

Sometimes it seems like the world is out to get you. You just finished all that hard work and it’ll only go down hill from here. But, you can slow this process down with the proper maintenance program.

What you will need for the job…


California Car Duster – I think just about every one owns one of these. Using it properly and keeping it clean are important though. Don’t let your friends borrow it, god only knows what they will do with it.

Meguires Quick Detail – Behind the boars hair brush, probably the most important detailing product I have. Touch up a spot at a car show, remove bird droppings, the list is endless.

Micro fiber Towel – By now you should know, buy a lot of these.

Procedure
If the vehicle isn’t too dirty, you can drag the duster across it. This is meant to pick up dust, nothing more. Use a car duster for this and not a towel. A towel will simply push the dust around while the duster will pick it up and lift it off. A good wax job will make the process even easier. After it is dust free, you can look at the paint at different angles and use the quick detailer to remove water spots or hide micro-scratches. Simply spray on and buff-off. If use quickly enough, it can even be done in the sun, although it’s best to do it on a cool surface. It helps to prolong that just waxed depth and shine.

Conclusion: I hope that you found some of this information useful. There is no one perfect way to clean a vehicle and/or protect its paint. So keep in mind that experimenting with new products or different procedure may lead to more efficient and effective means.

Almost all of these products can be purchased through Griots at www.griotsgarage.com. Similar products can be found online or at local stores.
 

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That 3D picture dude guy
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4,570 Posts
Awsome write up. You should have a PM in a couple minutes. :)
 

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227 Posts
damn major props for such an in depth how to...i was definitly doing some things wrong...thanks a million
 

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VVVthat thing is deadVVV
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4,185 Posts
this is gonna be handy this summer. i already knew i needed to invest in a bunch of paint care supplies since i finally have a truck with shiny paint! now i will know how to use them!
 

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my truck is slow
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Props on using griots, there my favorite along with Adams. We also use alot of stuff made by Ardex, its a philly based lab that makes good detailing stuff. Being i work semi close to philly this is where we get the stuff at work. Im a little hesitant to use some of the griots stuff such as the best of show wax because of the hazing but you really cant go wrong with griots. Good write up
 

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Canyon Carver
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2,853 Posts
Discussion Starter #10
are mothers and meguires* good cleaners, waxes, solutions, etc??????
I've used a lot of meguires products in the past and still use them today. I've always been happy with the results. I think with a lot of the name brands, it's not so much what you use, but how you use them.
 

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Good Bye SonomaST
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awesome man, i just bought a blazer and i can tell it sit outside alot of its life, i want to try to livin the paint up. its only 4 years old so i dont think it will be too late. in the next weekend or two i will be spending a day or two washing, clay barring, polishing, and waxing it to try to give the clear coat a little life. thanx
 

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Props on using griots, there my favorite along with Adams. We also use alot of stuff made by Ardex, its a philly based lab that makes good detailing stuff. Being i work semi close to philly this is where we get the stuff at work. Im a little hesitant to use some of the griots stuff such as the best of show wax because of the hazing but you really cant go wrong with griots. Good write up

i work at a detail shop in nj, and we use almost all ardex chemicals and i must say they do work very well i use a lot of the mon my own truck and it looks amazing even after all the hell i put it through, i keep it soo nice that even after a day of mudding i just powerwash it off and i dont even have to scrub it
 
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