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Old 30th June 2012, 10:04   #1
rovexCDTi
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Default Guide to Car Detailing Products

I thought it might be an good idea to write a guide to help navigate through the vast array of car care products out there today, for those that really dont know where to start.

There are just so many out there now, many have confusing and misleading names, which really doesn't help an already complicated situation!

I will add to it bit by bit, a few product types at a time.


Shampoo

Loads to choose from, but which one? Well they vary in price from £1/litre to well over £20/litre. The best ones to get are probably in the middle unless your top protective coat has special needs.

The cheapest ones are rarely much good. Too harsh and offer no protection, some will strip your wax, even if they claim they wont. The top end ones are usually just expensive because of the name, or are designed for specialist coatings. An example is Wolf Chemicals Nano bathe. Its designed to maintain the surface of their Nano sealants, that would be clogged by waxy shampoos.

Good midrange products are most peoples best bet, something like Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo conditioner which is about £10/litre or Meguiars Gold Class Shampoo which is a little less (but in bigger bottles). They are concentrated so better value in the long run than the run of the mill Simoniz/Turtlewax type things.

There are also specialist products, like the Nano Bathe and products like Optimum No Rinse. ONR is designed to be a one bucket product that needs no rinsing. Its ideal for water restricted areas. It does work, but i wouldnt use it all the time. Its very handy as a quick detailer as well (more on them later). I used it this morning to help safely remove that horrible Saharan dust we have had land on us this week. A very handy product to have.


There is also Snow Foam. This is a subset of car shampoos that is designed to be used with a pressure washer and an foaming attachment. It creates a thick sticky foam that completely encapsulates the car, removing dirt as it melts away. Its fun, and contact free (reducing the chance of swirl marks). Its designed to remove the really nasty scratchy particles first, so you can wash safely afterwards. Its best used in areas with dry dust, that easily scratches paint.




If you want to remove your wax for whatever reason (and there are many) you can use an APC, NOT washing up liquid. an APC is an All Purpose Cleaner. Household varieties are fine, Tesco Daisy is a big favourite because its cheap. This will strip off all oily and wax products, ideal if you are then going to polish or compound the paint, or use a fancy ceramic or nano coating.

Try to avoid the waterless washes if you can. They are usually loaded with glazing oils to cover up the scratches they cause. They are ok for emergencies or as a QD, but frequent use will ruin your finish.

Detailing Clay

This is a plasticine like dough designed to remove little particles of grit and metal that embed themselves into paint. Even washing and polishing wont remove these particles, so we use clay to remove them. Its like a deep pore cleanser for your paint, it horrifying how much dirt is in your paint! If you dont remove this dirt your car will never look and feel really smooth and shiny. You need to use a lubricator with it, a strong car shampoo solution will do, some can be used with water, but id still use a shampoo solution. Never clay a car without washing it first.

Dont pay a fortune for a clay bar. A 100gram bar is more than big enough for a ZT, 50g is probably enough, and pay £10 max really from an online store. Halfords prices for clay is a rip off. Use a medium blend the first time or if unsure what type is best.





Tar Removers

These are chemicals used for removing those annoying lumps of black tar and oil that stick to our cars. White spirit is actually good enough most of the time, but some of the best ones have other benefits. Autosmart Tardis is a great product because it can be washed off easily with a normal car shampoo, and it can even remove uncured paint, so its handy to have around in case anyone vandalises your car/house with paint. Tar removers tend to remove waxes though, so re apply after use. For me Tardis is a must have product. Its about £20 for 5 litres, which is overkill for most users, but can be bought on eBay for less in smaller volumes.
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Old 30th June 2012, 10:09   #2
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Compounds

Now it starts to get complicated. Compounds are abrasive products that are designed to remove paint to varying degrees. Compounds are usually more aggressive and are used to remove a lot of paint and to level it. The reason for doing this are to remove dead dull paint, take out minor scratches and to remove swirls. Aggressive first stage compounds can be used to level paint after painting or remove over spray. Rubbing compound is an example of that, but you need to be careful with it because it can remove too much paint.

For home use the milder ones are better, the trick is what type to use. There are 2 basic types, Diminishing Abrasive types and Micro abrasive types. The diminishing ones have large abrasive particles that break down as you work them, becoming finer and finer, making the paint clearer as they go. If you stop working them too early they can leave hazy marks and holograms behind. These are like cloudy areas of paint that dance around as the light source moves. I see them a lot on badly prepped cars. Heavy use of coloured waxes can also produce a similar effect.

Diminishing compounds are great in that they tell you when to stop polishing, but the risks are higher for home users. Micro abrasive compounds use smaller particles that dont leave behind holograms if you bet bored and stop. You need to work them a bit, but not as long and they tend to leave a finer finish. A readily available product is Meguiars Ultimate compound. Dead easy to use and remove, ideal for use by hand or machine on paint thats not too badly marked. Technically T-Cut (original) is a compound, but its rather harsh and horrible to use.

Compound are also sold as colour cut, paint cut or paint restorers. They are polishes but are in a more abrasive class, so ideally you should polish after use.


Polish

Now this is where it get REALLY confusing. A Polish is not a top coat, its a preparation stage, but some products have waxes or sealants in them in an attempt to make a one step solution. Avoid those, they wont give you a lasting, brilliant finish. Avoid those awful coloured waxes/polishes, they really are appalling.

A true polish is just a very fine compound that gives a final super clear, crystal like finish to your paint, they are also sold as paint cleaners. The line between compounds and polishes is a fine one and they overlap to some degree. Poorboys and Sonus make a range that has little distinction between each stage. Poorboys have SSR3 going down to SSR1, 1 being a fine swirl removing polish, 3 being harsher for more serious defects and is more like a compound. All are true polishes in that they leave no coating behind.

True polishes are best for use under ceramic, nano and other fancy coatings. The stuff you get in Halfords is the stuff that really complicates things. Most are glazes, some are polishes, but few are much good.


Glazes

These can be polishes as well, but the difference is that they leave something behind to enhance gloss. Technically Autoglym Super Resin Polish is a glaze because it contains filling oils that hides remaining swirls. Meguiars Techwax is also a Glaze, but with extra sealant in it, as is their Ultimate Polish.. Annoying isnt it..

Some glazes are very mildly abrasive, SRP is very slightly and my current favourite, Prima Amigo, is also abrasive. They will remove remaining dirt and any remaining polishes or compounds, but remove very very little paint, they are just a refining stage, that give a wet deep shine once you apply a top coat.

Glazes will leave behind glazing oils, waxes or synthetic layers that hide swirls, but they shouldn't be relied on as top coats, they are only an enhancement stage.

Others are chemical cleaners and glazes, such as Werkstat Prime, some are both like Dodo juice Prime lime and Prima Amigo. If you have mild swirls use the abrasive ones, if your paint is really crystal clear use a non abrasive.

If you are going to use a ceramic or nano crosslinking top coat don't use a glaze, use a true polish only because you don't want anything getting between your paint and the coating. Some nano products have companion cleaner/polish products. Use them whenever possible.

Glazes are really great for dark cars, especially black. They hide swirls, which really show up on black and enhance depth. There are glazes especially for dark paint, like Prima Amigo (although its great on any paint) and Poorboys Blackhole.
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Old 30th June 2012, 10:09   #3
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Waxes

These are top coats and shouldnt be abrasive in any way. Avoid the polish/wax combo products and the coloured products. They can be liquids or solid pastes, but all should contain Carnubra wax if they are of any quality. This is the hardest natural wax and its use will mean the product will last for a month or two if not more, not a couple of weeks. The good old fashioned paste waxes are great on dark paint, they are slightly warming to the finish, adding great depth. If your paint is now prepared correctly they should glide on and off quite easily. The liquid waxes are often hybrids, with both wax and a synthetic in them. They are fine as well, but avoid anything that calls itself a polish. Liquid waxes are usually made for ease of use.

Many things claim to be waxes when they arent. If its perfectly clear its not a wax, if it drys powdery and white its not a wax. Again few things sold in Halfords are really waxes. They should be what you expect, yellowy liquids or pastes... that look like waxes!

Prices for waxes varies morew than for any other stage. A cheap paste wax can be a few pounds, a custom made high end wax can be £3000. Is it worth it? No, not for its performance anyway.

Examples of good waxes are Collinite 476S, which is very durable and very hard, the Auto finesse range, the Dodo juice range and if you are feeling rich, Swissvax whos cheapest wax is about £65 and most expensive non custom product, £800!

All will look great on dark colours and if pthe paint is prepped properly should give a stunning gloss.

Synthetic Sealants

This is a really complicated category, but basically a sealant is any top coat that isn't made from natural waxes. They can vary from wax like pastes to thin oily liquids and milk like fluids. Like waxes they shouldnt dust up when dry, they should only go hazy and should not have any cleaning or abrasive ingredients.

There are some really funky sealants out there, some are simply synthetic waxes like FK1000P, which is great for silver, some are spray on milk like liquids like Werkstat Jett. Others are oily liquids that deposit hydrophobic nano crosslinking bridges behind, that repel water intensely. There are even ceramic based products that are harder than your paint and will genuinely last years. All can be used on any paint colour, but synthetic sealants are especially good on light colours and light metallics like silver, because they enhance reflections and depth but dont warm them, like waxes do.


Conventional sealants are things like FK1000P, Auto Finesse tough coat, Optimum opti-seal, Werkstat Jett Acrylic and (confusingly) Meguiars Ultimate wax. They are spray on or spread on and just need wiping off like any wax would. Some people are dubious of the spray on types, thinking they cant possibly work, but they do, they really do.

The Nanos are a different type of product. The bond to the paint and are really hard to remove, in fact they are resistant to acids and even petrol and many solvents. Wolf Chemical Nano Body wrap is an example. Its very durable, giving many months of service. There is now a body wrap hard body, which is harder and can last 2 years. This needs applying with a cotton wool pad and removing with a microfibre. The effect is stunning.



There is also Permanon. This is very very easy to apply, just spray on and walk away. Its similar if less durable.

Beyond that we have the cermanic hard coatings. These are top of the line, state of the art sealants that are harder than your paint. Examples are Concours Car Care Ceramishield, Optimum Opti-coat, G-Techniq C1 and CarPro C-Quartz. These leave behind a silicon (not silicone) coating that resists swirl marks, scratches and chemical attack. They can only be removed with a compound and a polishing machine, they are that tough.



They arent THAT expensive, ranging from £30 to 50, but thats for one cars worth. Remember your car will be protected from scratches and wont need waxing for 2 years minimum. These are not the rip-off dealer applied coatings that are just average sealants, they are the real deal.
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Old 30th June 2012, 10:10   #4
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Quick Detailers

These are sprays that you use after a wash and between waxings. They clean and lay down an extra layer of protection, restoring gloss. Just spray on after your rinse and dry the car with a large microfibre cloth. Takes a few minutes and leaves the car spotless. No more water marks. Handy to keep in a the glove box in case of bird droppings!
Pretty much any one will do, but try to match it with your top coat, so same brand, same type (natural or synthetic). Some are specific to a top coat, like the Wolf Chemicals Nano QD. You can even use a stronger solution of Optimum No Rinse as a QD, I dont find its a good clay lube though. you could also use a spray wax as a QD, just might little a little more buffing. You can also use products that are a kind of half-way house. I think products like Zaino Z8 Grand Finale are a hybrid. They are a sealant and a glossifier, and a QD when diluted. you could also use a solution of Permanon. True QDs will have some sort of lubricant in them to prevent swirls and a detergent to remove light dust.


Wheel cleaners

There are number of types of these, the old fashioned acid ones and the newer more gentle ones. The acid ones are OK for wheels in good condition, but any damage will allow the acid to penetrate and could make the wheel go porous. It best to use the more modern types with a microfibre cloth or soft wheel brush. When detailing your car its wise not to forget the wheels. Give them a polish and coating of wax or sealant, but be aware that most waxes wont last that long on wheels. Synthetics are best and there are a few dedicated wheel sealants. The Nano and ceramics are great for wheels, they tend to keep them clean for a lot longer. Brake dust should just hose off.

Wonder Wheels is acidic, and best avoided to be honest (although if does work). Valet Pro Bilberry wheel cleaner is alkaline, so wont atttack the alloy. It might dull some soft paints, but its pretty safe. the best wheel brushes bar none are Wheel Woolies! Not cheap at all at about £35-40 for the 3 pack of 3 sizes, but they really are good.


Trim Products

These come in a number of forms. The most common type are the simple oily/silicone coatings that act a bit like chip fat making chip paper go clear. Any faded trim or rubber look instantly better and somewhat glossy. These dont tend to last very long though. Back to Black is the classic. Some people use things like linseed oil or even peanut butter, which basically do the same thing, but natural oils can go rancid, peanut butter especially isnt recommended...
More advanced ones contain silicon oxide that plates the trim. These tend to be more natural looking and last longer on most trim types. CarPro PERL is a great example of that and very economical.
Even more advanced products are available that are similar to the nano/ceramic coatings that exist for paintwork. Some of the specialist coatings can be used on trim, Ceramishield is an example. These will do the same thing they will for paint, last years and repel water strongly.



Accessories

There are some essentials needed in car care. Microfibre cloths are the new stockingette. Never use anything else for removing waxes and sealants unless they specifically say so. Get one of two good quality ones for removing your top coats.
Unless told otherwise always use a foam pad for applying waxes and sealants, unless they are spray on types. The Nano and ceramic products usually need a cotton wood pad or a peach skin microfibre pad for application. Dont use a cloth, it wastes product and can lead to swirls. Foam pads vary in density. The hardest ones are good for compounds and polishes, the soft ones good for waxes and sealants.

IPA (rubbing alcohol, or Isopropanol) is handy to have around. Its basically cassette head cleaning fluid or the stuff in injection swabs. It removes oils and waxes, so is good for removing waxes that are ingrained into plastic trim. Its also used as a full body wipe down product prior to ceramic or nano coatings. Its also great for cleaning glass, and refreshing a ceramic or nano coating (it wont remove them).
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Old 1st July 2012, 09:46   #5
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You have been Busy Busy... Great Write up...

Im prety settled on the ValetPro Wash and protect for my wash medium for simple weekly wash... but have a good few.

Just a note on shampoo mix for clay lube, the Autoglym bodywork shampoo destroys Autoglym Clay, just doing a boot lid it will have fallen apart... been there done that.

Great Write up there Sir....
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Old 1st July 2012, 14:53   #6
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Thank you!

Yeah i noticed that about Autoglym Shampoo as well, with other clays as well. The Meguiars doesn't seem to do it.
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Old 1st July 2012, 17:37   #7
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Excellent work Rovex. The guide would make an excellent "sticky" in the valeting forum.

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Old 1st July 2012, 20:52   #8
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Brilliant write up. I've added to my reading list On i pad so that I don't have to search again when using it for reference. Well done
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Old 1st July 2012, 21:26   #9
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Really enjoyed this contribution. I'm new to detailing and am a bit of a coward when it comes to "abrasives" on my cars. Still always willing to learn. Would you consider Poorboys Black hole followed by a natural wax to be ok for XPower grey??

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Old 2nd July 2012, 11:53   #10
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I think that would be a good mix. X-power grey is dark enough to get away with a wax, but a sealant would be good as well. Id maybe try Prima Amigo instead, it lovely stuff.

Ive just had my delivery of Ceramishield, so ill do a write up of how to apply it, once i get a few dry days..
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