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Old 10-11-2001, 12:54 PM   #1
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Keeping the car looking Showroom Quality

First off I have to give props to where it is due. I learned a lot about keeping the FBP swirl-markless witht he help of some ClubSi buddies of mine. But these are the basics steps and you will be really happy with the outcome of this if you show and take pride in the appearance of your ride.

To help us all out, I will outline general method of professionally detailing your car. I do this about twice a year (or every 7500 miles). This is just an outline, and I hope to supplement this with more articles in the future regarding specific steps in the process. Also, you should keep in mind that each individual car has its own challenges in detailing, so use the following as a resource that you might refer to in the future!

A few tips before getting started:
1) Make sure you have ample time, it may take 6 hours or more.
2) Make sure you have all the necessary products to start with.
3) Help (in the form of a family member or friend) can make it go much quicker.
4) Perform all the steps in the shade if possible. If not, I suggest washing the car outside then drying it in the garage and performing all other steps in the garage.
5) Use only 100% made in the USA cotton, all other materials (with the exception of microfiber) will scratch the clearcoat.
6) If you drop any sponge, mitt, towel, don't use it again. It'll just inflict scratches.
7) Always default to the product instructions if they differ from mine.

Basic Detailing Outline


When washing the general method to avoid scratches is to use two buckets. One with just water and the other with car wash shampoo. Always rinse your washing tool (brush/mitt/sponge) in the water bucket before going to resoap. Also rinse the car frequently to avoid drying out the soap and leaving soap residue.

Wash first with Dawn. Buy the blue original formula. Use a few squirts in three gallons. This step effectively removes old carnuaba wax (not synthetic wax). You will not need to wash with dawn every week, as it is meant to be a twice yearly wash to remove built up wax. Any more frequently, and it can quickly dry your paint out. Rinse immediately to avoid residue buildup.

Follow up (without drying off the water from the dawn wash) with a wash with a regular car shampoo. I like to use higher end car shampoo products because they are very mild, will not strip wax excessively, will often help sheet the water off your car, and contain oils to help keep your clearcoat/paint from losing the oils in the paint. Pinnacle Bodywork Shampoo, Meguiar's Professional Hi Tech Wash, Meguiar's Gold Class shampoo, and P21s Shampoo are some examples of such good car wash shampoos.

Immediately dry your car.


Clay your car. Make sure you follow instructions, use enough lubricant, and NEVER drop the clay bar. It will take out the grime, bird feces, water spots, particulate matter that can build up on your paint (before and after claying, stick your hand in a ziplock bag and run it over the surface of your car... you should feel decreased particulate matter on teh car after claying). If you do drop the clay bar, use another one and throw that one away. Both Pinnacle and Mother's make great clay bars, but I would have to recommend the Mother's clay bar because of its low cost.


Most detailers would agree that this is the most important step of the whole process. Properly done, it should remove grime, heel marks, oxidized paint, and other contaminants while renewing the paint's shine. It provides the basis upon which your shine will glow. At the very least, this step involves using a nonabrasive polish. However, if your paint suffers from severe swirl marks or light scratches, I'd suggest adding an abrasive polish to remove such defects in the paint.

A. ABRASIVE POLISHING (if necessary)
Apply the polish one panel at a time. Use just enough to cover the panel and work the polish in until a thin haze is left. Use only foam applicators to apply. This step effectively removes many swirl marks or light scratches by removing less than 1mm of your clearcoat. If done less than 2 times a year, this will not hurt your paint/clearcoat. I can only recommend a few products: 3m Perfect it II (or 3m Finesse it II although more abrasive) and Meguiar's Professional series fine cut cleaner. Always follow up with a nonabrasive polish.

Same technique as with abrasive polishes. This will strip free all previous wax (carnuaba and synthetic) that hinders your true paint color from coming through while helping to remove the residue, film, or very fine scratches that abrasive polishing can leave behind. I recommend Pinnacle paint cleanser, HD Cleanse by Zymol, Meguiar's Professional swirl remover no. 9, Meguiar's Premium Medallion Paint Cleaner.

Again, apply as with A and B. This step will help gloss your paint to bring out more shine while helping to fill in some of the swirl marks or scratches you couldn't get out earlier. I use and recommend only 3m Imperial Hand Glaze for this step.


Wax has evolved over the years, and the selection that it has generated can be quite daunting. Simply put, there are really two types of waxes: synthetic and carnuaba. Synthetics are often made from polymers or arcyrlics. The benefits of such a wax is that it can last long, it can withstand greater abuse, and it can lock in the shine that step III has brought you. Its downside is the fact that it tends to give more of a reflective shine (mirror like). While some like this shine, I prefer the deep, rich gloss that carnuaba waxes give. Carnuaba is a brazilian wax that is normally rock hard. To make it suitable for cars, companies will often combine chemicals that will raise lower the melting point of the wax, making it easier to apply. A downside to carnuaba is that in dry or very hot climates, it will last 4 weeks or at most 6 weeks in less severe climates. If you are like me, I put both on. I first apply the synthetic for the long lasting protection. Then I add the carnuaba to give the rich, deep gloss I prefer.

Apply with a foam applicator pad. Apply and remove as stated in the product instructions. Generally, this is the same as the techniques listed in step III: polishing. There is great varaiablity on what people would use here. I use an expensive German acryclic called Klasse that is imported and was made because of German cars' finicky paint. I love it. A very nice shine and it can be layered. I usually add on two layers for extra shine. It also protects from uv rays, acid rain, some small chipping and can help prevent swirl marks somewhat. It also does not yellow. I would also consider Meguiar's polymer no 20. That has been used with success also and is cheaper. Zaino is another, but I will comment on this at the end of the article.

Apply similarly to A. Note that this needs to be applied at moderate temperatures. Too cold and it won't settle correctly. Too high, and it doesn't solidify fast enough. Remember, it only lasts for 6 weeks, so I tend to relayer it every six weeks or so. It only takes an hour which is not much time for the great return you get. Products I recommend: hands down best is Pinnacle Souveran. I use this occasionally if I feel my car needs to be pampered. One Grand Blitz is cheaper but very very nice! Others include Meguiar's No 26, 3m Show Car Paste, and Zymol Carbon.
Now that you are done, all you have to do is enjoy it!

A word on Zaino. I like this product also, but the instructions for its application is much different than what I have listed here. Thus, I will refrain from making any statements regarding its usage. Refer their website for further information.
Also, many people like to use leaf blowers to help dry off their cars. I find this helps out a lot too as it keeps those towels from leaving any possible nasty swirl marks on your paint. That in combo with a good shammy... your paint will love you and shine like a mirror. Hope this helps everyone here... I know it is long but it is only twice a year it is needed. I will post up some pictures of the shine of my car and a few friends after doing this procedure when I get some time. Okay... I will go kill over now.
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