When River City Auto Body finishes a repair or detailing for a client, the client usually comments, "Looks great. Now what do I do?" Regular washing, drying, polishing, and waxing is the easy answer. But the devil is in the details, so here are the detail fails to avoid.
Fail 1: Using dish or laundry soap. You wouldn't shower with these cleaners because they're harsh. They strip grease and oil fine, but they can also strip off the vehicle's protective wax! Use a liquid car soap. More soap isn't better, either, so follow the instructions on the bottle. Use a soft-bristled brush, in small, circular motions, to remove more stubborn stains and grease, but generally a microfiber cloth is enough to clean less dirty areas. Rinse as you go, too. It keeps soap from building up. A wash a week -- by hand, in the shade -- is plenty.
Fail 2: Air drying. Start drying the vehicle right away to prevent water/soap/mineral spots. These spots will be worse if you didn't wash in a shaded area. A clean, soft, microfiber towel absorbs most of the water.
Fail 3: Dragging a towel across the car. Sure, it saves time, but it can trap dirt, possibly scratching the surface as you go. Use a bunch of clean towels, turning frequently, and working a small area at a time. Then allow the car to air dry completely once you've removed most of the water.
Fail 4: Glaze, polish, and wax are the same thing, right? Not even close. Glaze has a fine grit... like sandpaper, only gentler. It helps remove swirl marks for polishing and waxing later. Polish is a better alternative if the paint doesn't have swirl marks. Waxing fails are coming up, but first, another plug for microfiber. A microfiber towel or mitt is good for applying glaze or polish because it lifts any residual dirt into the fabric. Sponges aren't as effective at doing that. Your old Van Halen t-shirt is the worst for your car finish because it will just grind the dirt into the finish in those tight little swirl patterns.
Fail 5: Waxing too often. Once every three months is ample protection for the paint, unless you have used a glaze. Always follow glaze with wax because the abrasives in the glaze remove old wax. Microfiber -- again -- is the best wax applicator. Waxing too frequently will dull the shine, which is probably the opposite of what you wanted.
Fail 6: Using a buffer. Some people are really knowledgeable with this handy tool. Others, not so skilled. Overuse, or improper use, can cake wax onto the car or lead to paint removal if it’s used too aggressively. Use the same amount of pressure you'd use to crack a hard-boiled egg's shell without crushing the egg white. Dual action buffers or random orbit buffers are best for rookies.
It's easy to avoid all six fails: Just bring your car to River City Auto Body for your detailing needs. We do hundreds of vehicles a year. You do one.
Photo by Wen hui Wang , used with permission.