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Cleaning & Polishing

Cleaning & Polishing Published: 27th Nov 2019 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

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If you’ve ever thought that your beloved classic isn’t scrubbing up too well lately then it could well be that your personal cleaning technique needs brushing up on…

Telling someone how to clean their car, sounds – rather like cleaning your teeth – like an insult. But there is a right and wrong way to do both! We can’t help you with your pearly whites but, with the help of leading car care experts in the field, we can make your classic sparkle like the day it left the factory!

Let’s start with basic washing and who should do it. No disrespect to the high street £5 drive-ins which are great for the daily driver, but the experts advise caution applying the service on a classic. “You should beware of inexpensive high street washes because they are typically only concerned with speed, getting your car in and out and cleaned as quickly as physically possible. The problem with this is the chemicals they use to do so, generally they either use a low PH acidic or high PH alkaline chemical detergent which does very well at stripping the paint or road film, tar, bugs etc but also whatever else you have put on the car including waxes, sealants and in some cases ceramic coatings which would have cost a lot of money to apply”, warns Stainguard. “Unfortunately, the majority of them just want your car in and out as quickly as possible; ultimately, to ensure a safe approach we would advise washing your car yourself”, adds Autoglym.

If you do it yourself, do you use a hose or a jet wash? The only time problems are created is when the operator uses the high-pressure lance close to a delicate surface such as a stone chip that has broken the clearcoat or wheels that have been kerbed. The secret is not to use the lance too close to surfaces but use the fan of the lance to aid flushing off foams and shampoos, advises Stainguard.

Autoglym cites four common faults when cleaning: Working in direct sunlight, spraying wheel cleaners onto hot surfaces, letting vehicles self-dry creating water marks, and, worst of all, using household detergents as a shampoo.

There’s still a reluctance to use waterless cleaners because you can’t beat old fashioned water, can you? “It’s a mixed bag of good and bad with no hard and fast rule. If your instincts don’t sit right with it, avoid, as it will probably play on your mind despite the result”, recommends Autoglym.

Stainguard shares this view and feels most folks prefer the old fashioned way. Indeed, “One of the biggest mistakes motorists make when washing their car is to not rinse the car first to remove as much loose dirt and debris before applying a soap and washing with either a wash mitt or cloth; by not doing this they are simply moving dirt over the paintwork and risk scratching it. Not using a grit guard in the bucket they are using to wash the car means the bits of dirt and small stones etc are being circulated around the bucket every time you put you mitt back into it. These small particles make their way onto the mitt and then onto the paintwork and again increase the risk of further scratches to the paintwork.

“Furthermore, many motorists will start at the bottom of the car, or where the car is dirtiest. Once again the risk of transferring dirt and small particles that can scratch is increased. You should always start at the top of the car after hosing down. Contemporary thinking amongst detailing aficionados is that sponges are a no-no, especially synthetic ones as they trap particles of dirt and grit with obvious consequences”.

The need for chamois leathers are drying up, replaced by microfibre cloths. “We generally use microfibres as they produce a better finish. Microfibres take a little more time to get the job finished but are generally softer with less risk of creating swirl marks. Microfibre cloths need to be cleaned though as they can, by the very nature of their construction, trap contaminants that can scratch. Some detailing aficionados never use the same microfibre cloth twice!”, says Stainguard.

If you’re a typical car enthusiast who likes cleaning your pride and joy, then it’s likely that you have shelves full of half used waxes and polishes. So what, they don’t go off, do they? Apparently they can. “Paint has a variety of finishes ranging from the old solid colours that would leave colour pigment on not only the applicator but also the removal cloth as they oxidised with age to the modern lacquered finishes so it would be very much down to the actual products’ claims. Best practice, says Autoglym, is always to dispose of very old dated stock and work with stable products fit for purpose. Retail products from Autoglym have a generic two year shelf life, however some will last a good bit longer, claims the company.

“A lot of it boils down to common sense. Open the product, shake it, smell it, see if an emulsion has split and judge it as you would a tin of paint, or any other product that may have been sat on the shelf for some time. Would you expect to use a decade old or 20-year-old tin of paint? Probably not, so use your eyes, ears and nose to assess any ageing product before putting it to use”.

Stainguard chips in, “A contributing factor when considering whether a product is still in a useable state is the conditions in which they have been stored, avoid high or low temperatures as this can make the contents of the product separate, this isn’t necessarily the final nail for the product but if the product doesn’t regain its original form with a good shake then it definitely is time to throw it away.

“There’s one further thing to consider, what is the paint finish of the car that you are using the product on? Is the product meant for older type paints such as a ‘precat’ cellulouse based paint or modern two-part paints that have a clear coat over it? If it’s the former then this product will likely be ineffective on the newer harder paint types. In many cases the performance and convenience of use of newer products outweighs the cost saving associated with using up old products stuffed away on a dusty garage shelf”.

One of the reasons motorists may have so much product kicking around is because they don’t polish their classics as much as their fathers used to as there’s no need with modern finishes. “On average”, advises Autoglym, “we’d recommend a six-monthly decontamination wash, full strip back of all polishes and sealants to take the paint back to its lacquer/finish, then re-coat with fresh product thereafter but it very much depends upon paint condition, oxidation, mileage covered, where the car is kept, exposure to UV light, water beading properties and what sort of paint tech was used to paint the car”.

Do you have to polish every week? No! Should you wax or seal on a weekly basis as part of your routine? Yes, if you want to, reckons Stainguard. “Polishes generally have a cut to them, meaning they will effectively remove scratches, swirl marks, holograms etc by removing the top layer of clear coat and ‘polishing’ or making the paintwork appear shinier. Over time if this is done often then you can remove the top coat all together meaning the layer(s) of paint underneath are then vulnerable to the elements and will degrade much quicker.

“Using waxes, glazes or sealants after you have cleaned your car gives it more shine and at the same time, protection against UV sun damage, road film, brake dust and anything else flying about that wants to bond to the surface.”

All the companies we quizzed said that the quality of polishes vary and you get what you pay for. You can have waxbased polishes that cut, polish and protect, ‘One Step’ polishes that contain a self-diminishing medium, meaning you can do the job of different graded polishes in one step. The granules of medium within the carrier start off large and become smaller as you work the compound into the paintwork.

According to Stainguard, “There are generally three stages when considering polishes, stage one would be considered the heaviest duty through to stage that would be a final polish that would leave a perfect glossy finish completely free of any paint imperfections”.

Cutting compounds can be a bit of a thorny issue. Stainguard again: “The performance of such compounds varies considerably according to the type and also method of application or use, some will only work with some form of buffing or polishing machine as they rely upon a certain amount of heat being generated. In essence however there is no reason why they shouldn’t be used. Caution should be exercised in respect of the older cellulose paints as it is easy to rub the paint away”.

“ Anything with an abrasive ‘cut’ to it, such as Autoglym Professional products like Rapid Renovator and Rapid Renovator Plus can be used with a DA polishing buffer to bring back severely swirl marked or scratched paintwork and lacquer. The biggest problem with scratches is incorrect evaluation of a scratch. AG Scratch removal kit is capable of scratch removal on par with instructions provided the scratch can’t be felt by your fingernail, if this is the case then scratch removers will only uplift the area without removing the deep scratch”.

Generally speaking, if you can feel the scratch then it will need a repair and your chosen scratch remover will be ineffective advises Stainguard. However, if you can see the scratch but cannot feel it with you hand or nail then again generally speaking you should be able to remove it with your chosen product. Beware of ‘magic’ scratch remover pens or compounds, the company has yet to find one that has any effectiveness whatsoever, it also told us.

Stainguard has this advice when applying polish and compounds. “Broadly speaking, the most common mistake made by motorists when cleaning and polishing their cars is to not complete a full decontamination of the paintwork first. Whenever a wax, polish or protection sealant is to be applied to the paintwork it must be completely free of any contaminants. This includes brake dust, road film, tar, bird droppings etc.

Proprietary TFR (Traffic Film Remover) products as commonly used by road side cut price hand car washes are often ultra-aggressive and can damage paint and coating systems.” Autoglym further adds that in its experience, applying polishes over textured non-colour coordinated plastics, selecting wrong products for the job such as intensive tar remover to remove dried in bugs on painted finishes and working in direct sunlight allowing products to dry out are common gaffes.

So, there’s no excuse for a ‘dirty clean’ car anymore, is there!

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