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The Basics - Maintaining Your Vehicle

The world of Detailing has come a long way over the years. New technology, updated products, different paint types & finishes alongside so much more means there is more information to read up on and remember in order to master all these modern changes. One thing that has not changed however is the way in which you should maintain your vehicle. The importance of maintenance and aftercare on any vehicle is far larger than the initial rectification. You could pay the very top detailing guru to restore your tired looking car back to a show winning condition, this is great and the car looks for want of a better word, perfect. The owner will be overjoyed, want to show everyone their newly found treasure and to keep it looking shiny & clean. But, one simple wash with the wrong techniques could see that large Detail you had performed ruined. It only takes one wash, honest. What this Blog post is designed to do is to put into perspective just how a few extra steps and a little extra care can prolong the condition (and value) of your vehicle... So onto the Maintenance Detail. We had this lovely Porsche 996 Carrera 4s brought in by its owner and asked for the car to be cleaned down ready to be put away under-cover for the winter. A steam clean of the interior was requested also. The car was delivered to us relatively clean with minor road dirt on the body and medium-light amount of brake dusting lying on the wheels. The way someone would normally tackle this is to use a 'Jet' hosepipe gun to wet the car in the hope to blast the dirt away before the wash. Whilst this does help, it doesn't really benefit as the water is often not powerful enough to release surface dirt. It would be advised to use a pressure washer to rinse the car down with, but even then, this might not be enough to remove surface dirt thoroughly enough. So what is the detailing technique to prepare the car for the wash?

Well, to start any maintenance wash it is always good practice to tackle the wheels and arches first. The reason for this is simply to prevent any dirt from the wheels being transferred back onto a clean panel (when body is washed first). If the panel isn't then re-rinsed before being dried, this grit can get caught and drag along the paint. So... Wheels first just to be that extra bit careful.

If you regularly clean your vehicle, you may find it a lot easier to keep your wheels clean, or at least that you need less aggressive cleaners. If your vehicle is cleaned less frequently, you may find that a dedicated wheel cleaner may be required to free the brake dust. If a cleaning agent is needed, it is recommended to shy away from acidic solutions as frequent use of these may cause the finish of your wheels to become dull or corroded. Once your wheels are compromised, the only way to revive them would be a professional refurbishment that can cost a few hundred pounds. A 'safe' wheel cleaner is recommended, such cleaners as Auto Finesse Imperial wheel cleaners. This works great and can be diluted to suit the task in hand. To give stubborn brake dust more persuasion, a fallout remover can be soaked into the dust for a few minutes. These products will turn a deep purple to show the product working, as demonstrated by Auto Finesse Iron Out in the following image...

Once left to soak, agitate the product with a wheel brush and a thorough rinse to reveal fresh looking wheels. Repeat the cleaning steps if necessary until you are happy with how the wheels are looking. This is the result of Auto Finesse Iron Out left to dwell for 4minutes before being agitated with an assortment of boar hair brushes and wheel woollies to access such areas as the inner barrel and behind the spokes...

Now the wheels are done, time to move onto the body. Another good practice to make your vehicle that little bit cleaner (also makes you feel happier with your work), if your licence plates are fixed with screws - remove them! This 30second step might sound a bit silly, but if you haven't done this before you might be surprised with the grime that accumulates behind. Next step, have a look around your vehicle, assess what areas are dirtier in order to take the right steps in the pre-wash stages. For example, the front of the car might be covered in bug splatter. For these areas, a citrus pre-cleaner can be sprayed liberally and left for a few minutes, this will loosen up surface dirt and soften bug remains to make them a little easier to remove. With the citrus cleaner working away, next step would be to cover the car in a nice generous layer of foam pre-wash. More commonly known as 'snow foam', this works in a similar way as the citrus pre-cleaner in breaking down surface dirt and lifting it away from the paint. Another benefit of the foam is that on vertical and sloped panels, the foam will carry away any loose grit particles. The foam can then be left to dwell on the car for anywhere between 2-6minutes although this depends on various factors such as direct sunlight, foam being used and so on. A pressure washer will be required for the foam to get the best foaming action, although a hand pump foamer can be used also.

If you wanted to go a little further with the foam stage, get a 1" detailing brush and agitate areas such as window rubbers, badges, grills and areas under lights, this removes dirt and dust caught in areas that get missed during the bucket washes and eventually build up. Not an essential step, but it all comes together in the final product. Once the foam has dwelled for a minimum of 2-3minutes, a pressure rinse will blast off any thicker grime. On lighter colours such as silvers and whites you can actually see the dirt being removed during the rinse. Once the car has been rinsed thoroughly of foam and loose dirt, its finally time to move onto the bucket wash; where the damage can be caused... Its not a case of getting a bucket and sponge with some car shampoo and going to work. All those horrible swirls, spider web scratches and general scratches are caused by poor wash technique. So, get a pen and paper...

Firstly, you'll need two buckets, grit guards (optional), a high quality deep-pile wash mitt and a high quality pH neutral shampoo. The purpose of the two buckets is to have one containing the shampoo wash solution and the second will be filled with clean water. The idea of the fresh water is that once you have washed one panel, the mitt will be placed into the clean water so any grit and dirt will remain in that bucket and not the shampoo solution. The mitt will then get re-dunked into the wash solution and another panel washed. This reduces grit particles being re-transferred onto the paint causing scratches and swirls. Auto Finesse Lather is a great shampoo to cleanse the body of the paint. Characteristics such as great lubrication, cleaning ability and also being wax-safe make it a product that is used by myself and professionals across the UK. To safely wash your vehicle, its common knowledge to start high by washing areas such as the roof, pillars, top of the boot lid (on saloon) and bonnet. Always wash in straight lines with little-to-no pressure to ensure minimal marring. As said earlier, after every panel, rinse the wash mitt out in the clean water bucket before dunking back into the shampoo and continuing. If the weather is hot, wash one panel at a time and rinse that panel before moving onto the next to prevent shampoo drying on the surface. Side panels should be split into half, imagine the door moulding being a separator - anything above the moulding will be washed first, still in straight lines, then the lower panels. It’s easier to crouch down than lean down whilst cleaning lower panels, just to control the pressure being applied to the mitt. If you find a stubborn bit of dirt, a bug remain for example, rather than rubbing a few times with high pressure try gently massaging it with more passes, will reduce the chance of scratching that small area. Extra care could be used by having two wash mitts, one for higher (cleaner) panels and one for lower (dirtier) panels and door shuts.Once rinsed thoroughly of all dirt and shampoo, it’s time to dry...

Another common mistake that people will make will be to wash their cars and to leave them dry naturally. This will result in water spotting that can make a car look dirty all over again, not to mention hard water areas will have the risk of slightly etching the paint, this isn't common but sometimes on very hot summer days the sun will bake mineral deposits onto the paint. If you're set on letting your vehicle drip dry naturally, there is a solution for you in the form of a water filter. This will remove the minerals that get deposited onto the paint; no minerals mean no mineral deposits. Although it does have to be said, a water filter will need re-filling once in a while when the filter has been spent.

The easiest way to dry a car is with a drying towel, many are available in many different types. Waffle, plush and edgeless are all types of towel that can be used to dry your car. A quick detailer can be used to aid the drying process and lubricate the towel to reduce the risk of scratching the paint. A pat-dry technique can be adopted to remove water from a panel, this removed the swiping technique and therefore removes the chance of dragging remaining dust or grit across a panel. If you have access to an air-line or forced air blower, you can dry a car with these to. This would be the safest way to dry your car, this will remove any and all risk of scratches as you will not be touching the paint. This is guaranteed to remove the chance of marring whilst drying. Forced air is also a great way to clear standing water from such areas as those annoying wing mirrors where drips appear repeatedly, even after your thorough towel drying technique!

With a separate drying towel or microfiber, wipe excess water away from the wheels and dress the tyres with your favoured dressing, it’s a choice of Gtechniq T1 Tyre&Trim or Gyeon TIRE personally for their stunning 'as new' high-satin finish (seriously!). If you wanted to make a more rounded job of the process, dress plastic trims, arch liners and grills. Not forgetting to shine up the rear exhaust tips.

These little touches can transform the appearance of the car. Wipe away any excess products and step back and admire your pride and joy in full glory. A full glory achieved safely.

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