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FAQ

I get asked a lot of questions on message boards and through e-mail. A lot of these questions are really good and I usually end up answering the same one over and over.  I donít mind doing that, but sometimes I just donít have the time to answer with all the detail that I would like to. For that reason I am going to have this Q&A page to keep common questions and answers updated. Please keep asking me questions through PMs and e-mail, but also keep checking this page as I will try to keep it updated with new questions and answers.

Q: What is the best product to use on my car?

A: There is no such thing as ďbestĒ.  While there are many product that I like more than others, I would never say that they are the best for everybody.  Iím sure youíve heard the saying that Ďbeauty is in the eye of the beholderí.  That is how car care products are.  Some people really like a shiny dash and others like it to be more matte. Some like a car that gleams like a polished rock and others like a warmer glow. There really is no way to tell someone what is best. I can tell you what I like, but nobody can tell you what you like.  I would hope that you take my recommendations as just my opinion and what I think would look good. There are a hundred other ways to make your car look good other than my opinion. If you are open to experiment and feel that we may have similar taste, then you might really like what I suggest. Just know that what I suggest is in no way motivated by anything other than my own personal likes and dislikes.

Just as a side note, Iím not compensated by any company for my opinion.  Its true that I might point you in the direction of www.DetailCity.com when I give a recommendation, but that is only because they really do carry just about everything that I have found works the best for me. Iím always glad to recommend other sites when what you need isnít something carried by DetailCity, but I donít want you to think that they are paying me or sending me free product just because I enjoy sending them business.  Dwayne has been a good friend for many years and he is one of the most helpful people in the industry that I have met. I would never recommend a company or a product that I didnít trust, so you can rest assured that you will enjoy your shopping experience with Dwayne at Detail City  if you choose to shop there.

Q: I understand that you recommend the Porter Cable 7424 as probably the best tool to start with, but is there a reason that my Craftsman buffer wonít work? Iíd rather not spend an extra $150 on a polisher and pads if I donít have to.  Whatís wrong with the $45 buffers I can buy locally?

A: Go back to the front page of OCDetails.com and type Ďbuffer burní in the search box. It will show you a couple good examples.  If that isnít enough, then check out this car: photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 That is a classic example of how someone thought they could get their car looking good by using what I call an Ďel cheapo bufferí.  The way that you remove swirls from your paint is by using a polish that has abrasives in it. The speed of the polisher will break down the abrasives and use them to sort of level out the paint. Its like sanding a table.  As you sand the table youíll see the scratches disappear as you remove a certain amount of the surface.  The clear coat on your car is thinner than the edge of an index card.  You really donít have a whole lot of surface that you can remove before you burn through it and cause problems.  Buffers that use wool bonnets that generate much more heat than a foam pad can sometimes Ďsmearí the paint and cause those hologram looking marks.  Iím sure it is possible to use one without wrecking your paint, but when you are trying to remove swirls I have found that they just donít move fast enough and create way too much heat to do the job well. 

You may wonder how something that moves faster than a buffer doesnít create more heat and create more risk, but its because the Porter Cable is a random orbital polisher that makes it safe. Its not just spinning in one place. It spins and orbits at the same time.  Looking at it you might say that it is wobbling more than it is spinning. It doesnít create the friction in the same place for as long as a buffer does and it also breaks down the polish faster.  Look at it like pulling off a band-aid. If you pull it off slowly then it hurts more than if you pull it off fast.  Abrasives that break down slowly on your paint will cause more problems than if they get that initial cutting action and then immediately start breaking down into finer polishing agents to remove the swirls. el cheapo buffers just donít work right to break down the abrasives like they should. They are great for waxing with since you donít need heat or friction to wax your car.  However, I would definitely say that you should avoid using them for any kind of polishing unless you are sure you can do it without causing buffer burn.  Besides, a $120 Porter Cable 7427 will probably last you forever. Iíve been using mine for several years and have run it for hundreds of hours and it still works the way it did when I first got it.  Also, I have never ever heard of a single incident where anyone has caused damage with a PC like they can cause with a buffer. If you are looking for the easiest and safest tool to use on your car, then the PC is it.

Q: Ok, I understand that I need to get a Porter Cable now.  What else do I need to buy with it? I see all these pads and backing plates and counter weights and polishes...  Itís awfully confusing. What exactly do I need to get with this machine?

A: That is by far my favorite question. It always comes from someone who has done a lot of research and now knows that their paint is important to protect.  Think about it... your paint is the very most expensive part of your car.  To get an OEM quality paint job you could pay upwards of $8000.   Sure you can get the $250 Maaco special, but Iíll bet that paint wonít last you for 15 or 20 years like a well maintained OEM paint job will. I really donít think that spending a couple hundred dollars to protect the most expensive part of your car is unreasonable. Iíll bet youíll spend hundreds more on oil changes and regular maintenance on you engine over the life of your car than you will spend on a PC and the right pads and polishes. So kudos to everybody who asks this question.  You are all wise beyond your years.

The answer is simple.  You need the PC, of course. I donít know where you plan on buying it, but usually you will spend anywhere from $100 to $140 on a PC7424 or PC7336. The difference between the two can be found on CoastalTool.com (which usually has the best price on the 7424 by the way).  Once you have the machine the rest should be easy. Check out DetailCityís fine selection of pads.  The basics that you need are a finishing pad and a polishing pad.  If you are going to order from PAC then I would suggest that you get the Red one and the White one.  Youíll use the white pad to polish swirls and youíll use the red one to apply waxes and sealants.  I would also suggest this backing plate.  The foam backing plates are great because if you are polishing under a hood scoop or spoiler you donít need to worry as much about grinding the paint with the edge of a hard backing plate.  Also, if you are going to use a 6Ē backing plate then you really should get the 6Ē counterweight.  That will help reduce vibrations. You can use the 5Ē backing plate that comes with the tool, but youíll probably enjoy it more if you get the 6Ē.  The good thing about ordering from Coastal Tool is that the PC7424 already comes with a backing plate and the 6Ē counterweight.  I would still suggest upgrading to the foam one, but the one that it comes with from them will actually work just fine.

As far as polishes go, that really depends on the condition of your paint.

Q: How do I get waterspots off my car?

A: Waterspots are a major problem with most cars. If you leave your car parked near sprinklers or anywhere water could be sprayed then you run a good chance of getting the kind of spots that are difficult to remove. Calcium and other minerals in the water can leave deposits on your paint that donít come off with mere washing.  To remove these spots the easiest way I have found is to soak a cloth in vinegar and then let it sit on the affected area.  Obviously youíll have to repeat this multiple times since you probably donít have a cloth large enough to cover the whole side of your car.  The reason you want to soak the cloth is because that way it will be in contact with the mineral deposits longer and be able to break them down. After doing this vinegar wash you should wash with regular old car wash. The soap will neutralize the acids from the vinegar and also get that smell of your car.  Nobody wants to drive around smelling like a pickle. ;)

If vinegar doesnít do the trick then it is possible that the minerals have etched your clear coat. In that event you will need to polish the paint with a mild abrasive.  That is the sort of work best left to a machine, but mild etching could be removed by hand.  Definitely try the vinegar trick first before you bust out abrasive polishes or paint cleaners.  Get to the spots as soon as you can and you should have an easy time getting them off. If you let your car sit in the sprinklers for several days then the amount of damage will be severe.  It may be necessary to take the car to a professional.  It costs you practically nothing to try some vinegar on the spots first and then worry about what is left over later.

Q: What do I need to cover under the hood before detailing my engine?

A: Honestly you donít need to cover anything. You only need to cover the electrical parts that are going to get wet.  If you detail the engine correctly then you wonít be getting those areas wet anyway.  However, if your method of detailing your engine is similar to putting out a fire, then the parts you want to cover for sure are the alternator, air filter (if exposed), battery, relay or fuse box, and any other area where electrical connections are made. Your engine isnít made of sugar and wonít melt in the water, but getting water in some areas could start a process of corrosion that could lead to malfunction or failure in the future.  I have seen alternators catch fire when soaked with degreaser when they are still warm, so I would spare you the trouble of having that happen.

What I would suggest instead of covering everything is to take your time and detail the engine by hand.  Donít rely on chemical degreasers and high pressure water to do the job for you. Degrease the painted areas and rinse them with slow running water.  Then with a spray bottle of soapy water or perhaps diluted degreaser and a toothbrush you can detail the rest of the engine compartment with stunning results.  It may take 30 minutes instead of 5, but isnít quality and safety worth it? See the other articles for more engine detailing advice.

Q: Is it true that with the more coats of wax that I use, the protection will be enhanced?  In other words, if I get 6 weeks of protection with one layer, will I get 12 weeks with 2 layers?

A: Simply put, no you will not. The myth about layering waxes is that people think that with each layer of wax they are adding an additional 6 weeks of protection. That isn't true at all. In fact, there is a great deal of debate on if waxes can even be layered at all. Due to the solvents that are present in all carnauba waxes, it is very possible that each layer of wax just blends in with the previous layer and basically starting your 6 weeks over from day one. If that is the case, then more wax doesn't necessarily add further protection, but rather it just resets your protection back to the beginning giving you another 6 weeks. I use the time range of 6 weeks because that is what good waxes will last. I haven't used any that last longer. The average is probably 4 to 5 weeks. Layering sealants is another matter... Those are very much able to be layered. You have to wait the 18 to 24 hours for the sealant to cure before adding additional layers, but those layers would actually increase the durability of the product. It wouldn't increase exponentially, but it would increase it enough to make layering worth it.

Q: What is the difference between a carnauba and a sealant?

A: Application wise there is very little difference. Sealants are liquids just like many waxes are. You can apply them by hand or with a polisher or buffer. You apply it and buff it off just like a wax. The difference is appearance and durability.

You know how if you dip your finger in candle wax it will form a shell around your finger? That is what wax does to your car. It creates a shell where the molecules are linked to each other and not necessarily to the car. When your car heats up it will actually shrink a little. When it cools down it will expand again. This shrinking and expanding will cause the wax shell to loosen and eventually melt away.

A sealant is more like if you dipped your finger in super glue. You know how superglue bonds to your skin and is a major biatch to remove? Sealants aren't nearly as messy as super glue, but the concept is similar. It will bond to your car on the molecular level as well as bonding to itself. This creates a very durable layer of protection that will shrink and expand with your car and last anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks longer than typical carnauba waxes. All that is required is that you don't apply any additional layers for a day or so while the product has time to cure and bond to the car.
 

Q: How soon can I wax my new car?

A: You can never start car care too early.  Wax it the day you get it.  It is likely that the dealership hasnít done anything to it.  When I bought my 2005 Legacy I did a full detail as soon as weather permitted. You can clay, polish, and wax a new car the day you get it.  I would highly recommend doing it.  There is no reason to wait.

Q: Do I really need to condition my leather?

A: You only need to condition your leather if you like having soft and supple leather in your car.  If you like dried out cracked leather, then do whatever you want. The fact is that leather is probably higher maintenance than cloth.  You should clean and condition your leather often.  See the Leather Care article for more information on this. 

I asked Dwayne at PremiumAutoCare.com what he thought about leather care and UV protection and this is what he had to say:

    ďAll leather, unless it is the color of a dead cow, is artificailly colored.. or "dyed"..... UV tends to cause auto interiors to fade over time. UV protection blocks the rays that cause the fading. That is what makes Wolfgang Leather Conditioner so great. It helps prevent that kind of damage from happening to your leather. Protecting it from the time you get it would be the best suggestion to properly protect and care for your leather.Ē
     

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