Tips for the Exterior:
- Maintenance is always key. Even covered in a garage, the exterior of a vehicle will eventually accumulate dust and require cleaning. So if that means once a week doing a five-minute quick detail or heading to the touchless car wash to get that caked-on mud out of the wheel wells, maintaining a certain level of cleanliness means taking the time to do a thorough detail job will be a fun experience and not a grueling chore.
- As much as I love to put a fresh coat of wax on or give a quick mist of detailing spray – the more you touch paint, the more you risk instilling defects in the finish. When you go to clean any exterior surface, make sure you’re using new or thoroughly cleaned wash mitts, sponges, towels, and applicator pads to ensure you’re not unintentionally causing damage.
- Wether you care to agree or disagree with me, I no longer buy top-tier or “boutique” brand products because I don’t find them to produce a better finished product than what you can easily get from my staple brands such as Collinite, Meguiar’s, Griot’s, etc. A lot of the people I give detailing advice to have bought an expensive product and are unhappy with the results because they think an $80 paste wax will provide miracle swirl-hiding properties and remove acid rain etchings and stone chips, too. Okay, maybe not, but you get the idea. It’s not about the product, it’s about the process. And with that being said – let’s begin!
Single Stage vs. Clear Coat – A Brief Overview
Before you begin detailing, you need to know what type of paint you’re working with.
- Single Stage: The base color coat is the finish coat. Single stage paints are more common with vehicles before the mid 90s, and can be metallic or non-metallic. Single stage paint is more porous than a clear coated vehicle and easily stains, etches, and oxidizes. An easy way to tell if you have a single stage finish is to polish a test area using a foam pad or cloth. If you’re pulling up color – you have a single stage finish. It is harder to correct deeper scratches on these vehicles safely without removing too much of the surrounding finish.
- Base/Clear Coat: The base color coat has an additional clear layer which is the finish coat. Most vehicles featuring metallic paint since the 80s (and now all non-metallics, too) are clear coated. When you polish a clear coat, you won’t pull any color up on the pad (you’re still removing paint, it’s just clear). Clear coats are more durable than single stage as they provide the base coat a layer of protection against contamination and damage. Swirls and scratches visible are usually limited to the clear coat layer. As with single-stage paint, you can easily remove too much clear and get down to the color coat, so you’ll still need to be careful.
Audi Paint of the 80s and Early 90s
Remember when it was common to see lots of older cars with peeling roof and hood paint? Beginning in the 80s, car manufacturers switched from using solvent-based paint to water-based paint. Many Audis with clear coat finishes (generally metallic and pearlescent cars) from the mid-80s up until the early 90s suffer from base coat and clear coat defects. A lot of issues, such as peeling, sanding marks showing through the color coat or spider web like cracking were warranty defects that didn’t show up for a couple years after purchase, so in turn, it took years for assembly lines to perfect finishing standards.
If your vehicle suffers from rough clear or base coat cracking, there isn’t much that can be done without a respray. However, you can always protect and preserve what is left of the finish by keeping the paint clean and using wax regularly.
Wax vs. Sealant
Determine wether a wax or a sealant is best for your vehicle.
- Wax assumes the product contains carnauba, a naturally occurring wax from the leaves of palm trees. Carnauba car waxes are not 100% pure carnauba – the coarse palm tree wax is blended with solvents, oils, and polymers to create a spreadable substance that can be applied to paint. Waxes help create depth, warmth, and vibrance to your car’s finish. Carnauba wax is durable, but easily wears when exposed to constant heat/cold, moisture, frequent washing, and contaminants, so usually wax is a good choice for show cars or infrequently used drivers.
- Sealant is usually 100% synthetic and extremely durable. A typical sealant will consist of polymers and resins which bond to paint and create a top layer barrier which offers better protection from damage and the elements than a wax. Daily drivers and vehicles that aren’t garaged are good candidates for sealants, which can last anywhere from a few months to a year before needing to be applied again. A sealant may not offer the same aesthetic qualities as a wax, so you may want to try an panel first before applying to the entire car.
Hand vs machine
5 step detail
Rubber and weatherstripping