Looking for the best car detailing and cleaning tips, hints and tricks? Well look no further!
Here at FC we’re often asked technical stuff via the mediums of email, Facebook and being shouted at in the local petrol station. Now obviously we are pretty amazing, but contra to popular belief, we don’t know absolutely everything about everything.
Luckily though we happen to have a team of industry experts on hand to deal with the really tricky stuff. This month we catch up with master detailer Greg Spink at ValetPRO to answer all your questions about cleaning your ride.
Why shouldn’t I use a sponge to clean my car?
Plenty of people say you shouldn’t nowadays, but it’s not actually that simple. There’s nothing wrong with using a good quality sponge – they are in fact easier to use and maintain than many wash mitts. Sponges are highly absorbent and collect dirt well. When you squeeze a sponge full of water it pushes all the dirt and grit it’s collected out. Don’t get me wrong, lambs-wool wash mitts and the like are fantastic, but it’s much harder to get the dirt out and keep them clean. If they’re not maintained to a high standard it can defeat the object. A sponge is less effort, but you need to pay out for a high quality one. The real problem comes with cheap car sponges like the ‘three for a quid’ jobs. Many are abrasive – you can feel that straightaway when you pick them up – all they do is scratch your paint or strip your wax. Make sure you steer clear of those and you’ll be fine.
What’s an LSP?
One of those annoying industry buzzwords. It means last stage protection and refers to the waxes or sealants you apply in the last stage of car detailing. Your paint’s final barrier to the elements.
Should I use a chamois leather on my car?
It’s much better to dry your car with a clean microfibre cloth. Dragging a chamois over the surface of your paint isn’t always the best, and many are treated with oils that can leave a nasty smear that you’ll have to buff off. Microfibre cloths are cheap enough and much easier to clean – just remember to chuck them in the washing machine when you’re done.
Is it worth investing in a pressure washer?
If you like an easy life, yeah, I would. Car cleaning isn’t much fun without one and they tend to use far less water than a normal hose anyway.
How do I use snow foam?
Snow foam is great stuff and can be used either through a foam lance on a pressure washer or even a cheap garden sprayer. The idea is that you spray the diluted foam all over your car, wait a few minutes while it breaks down and lifts off dirt, then rinse off, so you can go on with your sponge and shampoo. There’s two types to be aware of – alkaline and PH neutral snow foams. Alkaline foam is great for cleaning bug splats and fuel stains, but is pretty harsh and can damage wax or sealant layers. That’s why I’d only recommend those for professional use, or for the guys trying to get right back to the paint. PH neutral foams are a little milder and safer for continued use, like a nice dusting in the summer, and won’t strip waxes.
Is 100 percent carnauba the best wax I can buy?
Despite some manufacturers’ claims, no car wax is 100 per cent carnauba. You wouldn’t be able to use it – carnauba is about as solid as concrete in its natural form. Most car wax products have a natural wax content, like carnauba, and the rest is a mixture of solvents and other additives that make it possible to apply and enhance its properties. Of course, you can have a product that only contains carnauba and no other type of natural wax, as well as all the other stuff, and clever marketing could say that’s ‘100 percent carnauba’. But the wax will never be 100 percent of the whole product.
Are spray-on tyre shines better than paint-on ones?
There are good tyre shines and there are not so good ones. Silicone solvent-based shines are more suited to brush or sponge application, because you don’t want them misting all over your paint. Water-based dressings are better to spray on because they won’t smear on paint and are more easily absorbed into the tyre. The thing to look out for is something that’s high shearing. This means it actually gets thicker as your wheels spin, so it’s less likely to splatter all up the side of your car. Low shear tyre shines get thinner, and that’s not ideal.
What is a ‘non-stripping’ shampoo?
I suppose that means it claims it doesn’t strip wax or sealants. But then no shampoo should strip wax or sealants anyway.
How do I use an electric polisher?
They can be a minefield especially in the DIY market. If you must use one at home firstly only use a very mild compound, not an aggressive one. Secondly look at the type of polisher. I wouldn’t recommend a rotary polisher. Many on the market spin way too fast and it’s far too easy to melt the paint and rip the pad off if you don’t keep it moving – I’ve done it myself! You don’t have the same problems with a DA (dual action) polisher as you’ve got much more control, but they can be very expensive for a good one. Polishers are very effective if you know what you’re doing, but don’t forget you’ve only got the lacquer layer to work with. If you’re down to the paint that’s way too far.
Is there actually a real difference between wax and polish?
A huge difference. A polish is an abrasive. Not an aggressive abrasive like a compound, but abrasive enough to clean and refine paintwork. It’s a preparation product, whereas a wax is a protectant. No true wax is abrasive, it’s just there as a sacrificial layer to protect your paint… along with all the hard work and preparation you’ve put in.
What’s the best way to care for my vehicle wrap?
Mainly regular washing. Unlike paint, vinyl wraps won’t benefit from abrasive polishes. I suppose technically you could wax a gloss wrap, but that would depend on the solvents and other ingredients used in your wax. You can use quick detailers on both gloss and matt wraps along with matt paint surfaces, but always read the label on your product and, if in any doubt, ask first.
What is a sealant?A sealant is synthetic material developed to protect your paint, basically a man-made version of a wax. Waxes are a natural product, whereas a sealant will be a mixture of manufactured fortified polymers. Some prefer using sealants to waxes, some prefer waxes and some like to use both. As to which are best? It’s all down to personal preference. Neither is going to hurt.
How often should I wax my car?
A good quality wax or sealant should last up to three months, but you shouldn’t wait that long to clean your car. Personally I’d recommend cleaning and waxing or sealing once a month, to build up a good barrier to the elements. After three or four applications you’ll hit a nice plateau of protection.
Do I need a special type of wheel cleaner for polished wheels?
It’s definitely important to check that your wheel cleaner is safe for your particular wheel finish. There are basically three types of wheel cleaner. Traditional acidic cleaners have plenty of power for melting away baked-on brake dust and can be used on the majority of painted and clear-coated rims. That said they are generally corrosive and not something you’d want to use all the time. Never use these on chrome, polished or other sensitive surfaces.
How many stages should there be in the perfect cleaning of a car?
It depends how fanatical you want to be about your detailing. I don’t think I have enough fingers to count them all – it’s down to preference really. For a decent clean that won’t drive you mad, a good start would be:
• Clean your wheels with a good quality cleaner and rinse
• Prewash – snow foam the whole car and rinse
• Shampoo, rinse and dry with microfiber cloths
• Prepare the paint surface with a cleaner, cleanser or polish. Use a clay bar to clear any contaminants if needed. Rinse and dry again
• Wax or seal the paint
• Now do all the other bits, windows, trim and suchlike