This seems like a good time to talk about some of the car care products you should keep handy in your garage.
Cars need to be taken care of and not just serviced. I have had experience with a lot of products over the years and some I have loved only to end up loathing them and others I have learned to always keep at hand.
Let me start with the inside of the car and work my way out. I have already talked about the window cleaning products. I currently use a product called Perfect Glass and Scott paper towels to clean the glass inside and out. I say currently because I know full well that what ever is great today may end up surpassed tomorrow. The Perfect Glass product does a great job cleaning the windows, but the Scott towels is key in that they don’t leave behind a film or fibers.
Car interiors consist primarily of vinyl and leather and metal surfaces. Mostly it is plastic or vinyl. The best protectant I have found for interior plastic is Vinylex. It comes in a blue pump spray bottle and all you have to do is follow the directions on the bottle. I fell in love with Armorall years ago and thought it was just the best thing going until I found out the down side. It really doesn’t help the plastics used in cars. It goes on shiny, but then seems to pull the life out of the plastic and it eventually turns dry and can even lose color. I have even noticed how it off gasses onto the inside of the windshield if you use it on the top of the dash. So no more. Vinylex is the stuff. You can put it on liberally and get things shiny or rub it down to get a more new car satin look. I’ve used it for several years and like the results.
For pleather (vinyl leather like upholstery) you can use Vinylex as well, but real leather is a different animal. Lexol is the product I like best. It comes in a two part process. The orange bottle is for cleaning the leather and the brown bottle is for treating the leather. In two steps it will remove the dirt that gets into the pores and then the preservative will soak in and keep the leather supple and nice. The product has great directions – just follow them. This is not something that will pull leather back from the brink of going bad. I don’t know anything that will “restore” leather other than reupholstering. If you have to consider that then consider the Katzkin (www.katzkin.com) product line. I had a 1997 Mitsubishi Eclipse that I had done in their leather upholstery and was delighted. The factory leather from Mitusbishi was about as comfortable as tanned elephant skin.
The next area is the “rubber” seals around the doors. I put rubber in quote because I don’t know if it is pure rubber or a mix of things, but I do know that it needs to be cleaned and cared for. There is a company called Wurth that makes and sells a lot of automotive care products (as well as other automotive items) that has a great rubber care product. It comes in two forms. One is a spray and the other is a stick with a foam applicator. Wurth Rubber Care is the product name. I have seen it distributed directly to auto dealerships, but not in retail stores of any kind so I’ve found sources on the Internet where I can buy in small quantities. Expensive, but nothing else works as well.
A car’s paint is very important to take care of. Today’s manufacturers don’t use much paint, at least not compared to the days of muscle cars. The chemistry of automotive paint is far different as well. Without getting into a lot of detail let me just describe it as a primer layer, a color layer, and a clear coat layer. The clear coat provides the protection and shine that makes a new car look so good. But all these layers are a thin as the automotive companies can get away with.
So how do you take care of them and get the most mileage out of a factory paint job? Clean your car’s finish. Use a real automotive shampoo. Use plenty of the best water you can. If you just want to get it cleaned and looking good in less than an hour then pick up the Mr. Clean spray and wash product. It is actually very good for what it does. But if you really want to keep that paint finish nice be prepared to spend some time and do it right.
First – NEVER was the car in the sun! Wait for clouds or when the shadows are covering the wash area. Sun baking down on wash water and soap does not do nice things to automotive finishes.
Rinse the car off of all the loose stuff. Start at the roof and work your way down using the high pressure spray for the wheel wells and around the brakes. You lifted the wiper off the glass didn’t you?
So plan on using a bucket of about four gallons of water with your auto shampoo. Use a high quality product like McGuires or Mothers. Don’t use a dishwashing detergent. If it is a little cold out then fill some old water jugs up with hot water to mix your shampoo in. Use a good wooly mitt and keep it saturated with soap and water. Start at the top of the car and do a section at a time. How big a section? Look at the mitt and if it starts to get dry or dirty stop and rinse things off. Rinse the mitt off in the soapy water and wash some more. Rinse the car from the hose and move on to another section unless you need to repeat and area. Remember how this works. The mitt and the soap removes dirt and keeps it suspended so you can rinse it off. So use it that way.
You start at the top and work down. That keeps the dirtier stuff for the dirtier part of the car. If it gets too bad with dirt, dump the soap and refill with fresh clean stuff.
When you have washed it all and rinsed it all you will save the wheels for last. They have the grittiest dirt. Brake pad material is not nice to grind into any finish. So save a mitt that you will only use on wheels and get a wheel brush that is made from nylon bristles that have soft exploded tips to scrub with on the wheels and tires. Some times you will have to pull the wheels from the car to get them properly cleaned.
Once it is all washed and rinsed you need to dry it. Use 100% cotton towels. I use old bath towels as they seem to absorb really well. Use plenty of them. It may take four or five to complete the car.
Put down the wipers when the windows have been dried and pop the hood and trunk (or hatch). Dry out behind the rubber seals there and on the inside of the doors as well as the gas cap door. When it is all dry, look over the body carefully. You will likely find road tar or bug splats that did not come off. Not to worry. Get some bug and tar remover from a company called One Grand. It is another one of those products that you don’t find in a retail outlet so search the Internet for it. It is great.
You may have to re-wash some areas if it has been a while. You care about your paint – right?
When the car is clean and dry, what comes next? Clay bar.
If you don’t know what clay bar is that’s OK. But it is your paint’s best friend. It sounds like something that you have to be an expert to use, but it is easy and very effective. What it does is remove all the contaminants that get imbedded in your car’s paint.
Run your hand over the clean car and it will still feel a little rough. Get a clay bar kit and use it as directed and it will feel smoother than glass. It doesn’t polish or buff the paint. It doesn’t remove any of the paint – only the contaminants. You don’t even have to rub hard. It just takes a little time.
When you are done with that it is time to wax the car. This must be done in the shade as well and don’t use a wax with cleaners in it. What are cleaners? That is what the manufacturers of auto wax call polish that they put in the wax. You don’t need to polish your car’s finish you need to protect the paint and the best stuff to do that with is pure carnauba paste wax. Mothers sell it and there are other brands. Just make sure that it is pure carnauba wax and nothing else.
Put it on sparingly and wipe it off with pure cotton towels. If you are not sure if the towels are pure cotton, hold a match or lighter to it and see what happens. If it melts it is not 100% cotton, if it chars, it is. I use small hand towels that are white and clean them a couple of times for re-use.
When you are done (a LOT of work, I know) you will be amazed at the finish of your car’s paint.