The Top 5 Detailing Myths You Need to Know
Myth #1 A Shiny Car Is A Clean Car
This myths about detailing is an easy one to debunk. You can check this yourself after washing your car. By running your hand or fingers over the paint you may still be able to feel small imperfections and contaminants that have embedded themselves into the clear coat of your car. No need to panic as this is rather common, especially with vehicles that are driven regularly. To get rid of those small imperfections and particles we prefer a clay bar treatment. Contrary to another myth, you do not have to be a professional detailer to use a clay bar, although you do need to educate yourself before attempting the process. A very important thing to remember is to keep the paint lubricated for the clay bar to avoid marring of the paint. There are many different types of lubricants that can be used. We use a showroom gloss water-less wash to keep the surface wet long enough to keep the clay bar moving along the surface of the paint while picking up contaminants. Be sure to rinse off the clay bar between every use and store in an airtight zip-lock bag or container.
Quick tip: Performing a clay bar treatment before paint correction will help produce amazing results.
Myth #2 Old T-Shirts, Diapers, or Flannel Cloths Are Best for Detailing
If you’re cleaning your car regularly, good for you! If you’re using old t-shirts or diapers, shame on you! You’re not in trouble but it’s time to make a change. Investing in some quality microfiber rags is the best option for most interior and exterior tasks in detailing. Diaper and shirt “cloths” most commonly have cotton in the material that can scratch and cause swirls in the clear coat of your car. These “cloths” also do not lift dirt very well from the surface of the paint but rather push and or drag the dirt across the clear coat that can cause micro-scratches and swirls as well. The same is true on the interior, they will just spread the grease and dirt around and not really lift and/or absorb all that gunk you want removed. Microfiber rags will absorb and clean best with any type of detailing job you need done. At Onsite Detail, we don’t use anything but microfiber cloths. We also care for them properly and wash them correctly after every use.
Quick tip: Make sure to check rags well and make sure there is nothing stuck in the fibers of the cloth that could potentially scratch before each use.
Myth #3 Dish Soap Is the Best for Washing Cars
So I have good news and bad news! I’ll give you the good news first. Sorry if you wanted the bad first but for the sake of my argument I need to give you the good news first. Washing with dish soap does get your vehicle clean but it will strip most waxes and sealants off the paint’s surface. Now you need to re-wax your vehicle. I guess if that was your goal all along it would work but if you wash your car weekly you would be removing the wax or sealant long before it would wear off, essentially wasting money and defeating the effectiveness of the wax or sealant. Most waxes will last for 2 to 3 months. Most sealants will last 2 to 6 months. Dish soaps are designed to remove oils, grease, and many substances which include chemicals that are found in wax, polymers, and silicone. This means some dish soaps can prematurely dry out exterior plastics and rubbers and cause premature oxidation. The best option for car wash soap is a soap that is pH balanced and has glossing conditioners and specially formulated for vehicle washing. So a good car wash soap will clean your car and not take off the finishing protection that may have taken hours of work to apply.
Quick tip: If you have ceramic coated vehicle avoid using car wash soaps that have a wax or sealant additive.
Myth #4 Waxing Is All You Need To Do To Remove Swirl Marks
How nice would this be? Unfortunately it takes much more to correct the swirls and scratches than a layer of wax. Sometimes a wax or glaze can temporarily hide small imperfections but is does not correct the problem. Paint correction is one of the things that you need to have done professionally. To completely or mostly eliminate swirls and minor scratches can be a 3 to 4 step process. With deeper scratches and scuff marks, this process can start with wet sanding. Wet sanding requires a proper sand pad with very small grit made for working on automotive paint. It also requires keeping the surface lubricated to avoid being too aggressive and causing irreparable damage. I would recommend the same surface gloss that I mentioned previously with using the clay bar. Having a well lit shop or garage with LED lights will help the imperfections be more visible than they would be outside or in bad lighting. Depending on the severity of the scuffs we can determine the correct pad and the appropriate amount of pressure to apply or not to certain areas. This is why when it comes to doing this, you would want to make sure you know what you’re doing or who does. Wet sanding does not always need to be done and rarely needs to be done to the whole car. The most common areas for wet sanding will be the hood, roof, and trunk area.
When wet sanding is complete, you will notice a lighter complexion to your paint but an extremely smooth surface that you’ll be able to feel the difference in before you wet sanded. Next step is to bring back the glossy, mirror-like shine. Many of the swirls and minor scratches will be eliminated but this may still only be the first step of 4. Your vehicle is now ready for buffing, polishing and waxing. Yes, they are all separate and require different products with less and less grit as you go. Finally finishing with a wax or sealant to protect your newly buffed and polished paint/clear coat. Again I reiterate please have this done professionally! This is something you don’t want to get into and figure out the hard way that you’re in over your head.
Quick tip: The best way to keep your car scratch and swirl mark free is to not get them in the first place. Make sure you use the correct techniques and procedures when caring for you car, especially washing.
Myth #5 Electric Machines Are Damaging To Your Vehicle’s Paint
This myth is could potentially be true… or partly true. In the wrong hands someone could probably do more damage than good with a rotary buffer or DA polisher but with the right machine and proper training someone can correct a lot of damage that has been done to the clear coat. Car paint is made to survive some pretty harsh conditions: rain, windstorms, sun, and other elements but those things among others will slowly and continually “beat up” the clear coat. To correct the paint imperfections when possible you need a machine. I prefer an oscillating or DA polisher machine. Although it’s an easy machine to learn (for most detailers), experience, skill and technique still play a vital role in being able to successfully eliminate swirls and scratches.
Quick tip: A professional detailer will be able to help determine what type of correction (if any) your vehicle needs according to what results you are looking for. At Onsite Detail you can text or email photos in and get recommendations on what course of action should be taken.
There are many myths, rumors and misconceptions that go around about detailing, many of which are/were marketing gone wrong or old techniques people did before they knew better. If there are any questions or concerns feel free to contact us and we can do our best to help you out and get your questions answered.
by Andy Stallings, Operations Manager, Onsite Detail