Advanced paintwork cleaning and protection

Posted on June 22nd, 2016 by Rob Marshall


Following our previous blog on the summer pastime of car washing, you should be left with a dry and clean looking vehicle. While most owners might be congratulating themselves on a job well-done at this stage, they will be unsurprised to find that many professional detailers view it as a mere starting point.

While a car might look clean from a distance, dirt can still remain trapped within the paint’s pores. In addition, microscopic scratches can even alter how the car looks – for example, previously shiny dark colours can appear dull and even colour matches between the body panels can be affected. Here, we give a further top-ten tips on how to follow-up straight-forward washing.

Deep clean – Detailers use clay bars that help to remove ground-in dirt and stubborn marks that washing might not remove. Be wary that various grades are available and a bar that is too coarse may scratch the finish.

Stubborn deposits – Some marks, such as tar, will not be removed from the paint by washing alone. Various products, including dedicated tar removal solutions, are available.

Final dirt removal – Glazes help to clean out the fine dirt that can become trapped within the paint’s pores. However, note that some polishes also perform the same function. Glazes also contain ‘fillers’, paint’s equivalent of human skin make-up, which cover defects, rather than exposing them for correction. Some professional detailers tend not to use glazes for these reasons.

Scratch removal – Bodyshops and detailers use fine abrasive ‘compounding’ pastes to bring the paintwork’s level down to that of the scratch. Yet, with modern paints being so thin, professionals tend to use a paint thickness gauge to see if there is sufficient depth remaining, prior to application.

Polishing – The compounding process may leave behind very fine marks and so even finer abrasive paste, polish, is used to remove the tiny imperfections. Like glazes, many types also contain ‘fillers’ to mask very minor defects. Combined polishes and waxes are popular car accessory store finds but, while easy and convenient to use, its performance as both a wax and polish is compromised, compared to separate, stand-alone products.

Sealants – Unless your car’s paintwork is under one month-old, sealants provide far superior medium-term protection from abrasion, ultra-violet degradation and moisture, compared to wax alone. While fairly easy to apply to paintwork, it can also be used on dark plastic trim and even plastic headlight covers, to provide extra sunlight protection.

Wax – The life of wax on paintwork varies from a few weeks to several months. A sealant lasts for around 2-4 months, typically. Applying a wax over sealant will boost the sealant’s life considerably. Yet, you may notice that waxed paintwork does not offer the same sheen as freshly-polished paintwork. As a compromise, some waxes boast carnauba, a wax that is also used to provide sheen to edible sweets and other products. A trade-off is that such waxes tend to have a shorter lifespan, which is why certain show waxes are rich in carnauba, because they are reapplied regularly.

Glazing – Do not forget to clean your glass, inside and out. While conventional household window cleaner will suffice, some automotive products possess rain-repelling qualities, which help to boost visibility in heavy showers.

Wheels – Wheels are painted, too, and alloy rims look especially down-at-heel, if neglected. While corrosion and lifting paint on wheels demands repainting, you can help to remove damage that is caused by brake dust, by using an acid-free alloy wheel cleaner that will help to lift away embedded metal deposits that have originated from the brake disc and pads.

Professional coatings – While some car dealers try and sell over-priced sealant applications, bear in mind that advanced coatings offer further resistance against scratches and weathering. However, these types can be applied only by professionals but may be worth seeking out, if you plan to keep your car long-term.