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With so many products out there, it can be hard to figure out what does what.  This page is going to explain some of that for you I hope.  This is not meant to be a definitive work.  There are many products that I havenít tried yet.  This is just here to give you a sampling of what some products can do based on my own experiences. Remember... The perfect shine is not a product. It is a process.

I have used a lot of different washes. What I have learned is that most of them are going to do what you want them to do.  I want to give you three of my favorite ones to consider. These are all carnauba free car washes.  I wonít use a car wash that has carnauba wax in it because if you use one like that, then you donít know what kind of wax you are putting on your car. Using a wash with wax is the lazy manís way of caring for your car.  Donít use products with mystery ingredients in them. If you want to wax your car, then do it right. Donít try and cut corners by using a wash with wax in it. The following washes are all available at your local AutoZone or PepBoys store most likely.

Prestone Car Wash

Prestone makes an excellent car wash.  This one impresses me very much. An hour after washing the car there are still suds in the bucket.  This is very important on the big jobs that we sometimes find ourselves doing.  The last thing you want is to lose the suds in your bucket halfway through a monster size SUV or something. Remember to always use the double bucket method. Keep a clean bucket of water to rinse your wash mitt before going in for more suds. That will maximize the suds life for any wash you use. It will also help keep your wash water clean.

Meguiarís Gold Class Car Wash

Meguiarís Gold Class car wash has long been held to be one of the best that you can buy. I donít know anybody who has ever had anything bad to say about this soap. The suds are long lasting and it is an excellent soap to help float the dirt off the car.  I like this wash because you donít need to use a lot of it to get a bucket full of really good suds.  Just a little tip of the bottle into a bucket will give you enough soap to wash you car with. That makes it a value.  If you wash your car once a week then you can expect a bottle of this product to last you for a very long time.  Figure about an ounce per wash.

Meguiarís NXT Generation Car Wash

Now this is what I call a good wash. NXT hit the market in the spring of Ď04.  It was the subject of more than a little hype, but I believe that it comes through with what it promises.  NXT is probably my favorite wash so far. Just the smallest amount of this wash creates suds that will not quit. It is like the Prestone wash in that the soap will last clear through the wash.  It is slick and incredibly effective at floating the dirt off your car.  I have had the same jug of this stuff for probably 6 months and I still have 1/3 of the bottle left.  It is amazing.  You will not be disappointed with this stuff. I canít think of any reason that anybody would not enjoy this product.

Drying your car sounds like it should be an easy job.  It is funny how many ways there are to do this so called Ďeasy jobí. There are products that say that you never have to dry your car again if you use them. In reality, there is no substitute for taking the proper tools and actually drying your car by hand.  People who use these Ďno dryí products are probably not the type of people who would even notice the damage that it could be causing.

While drying isnít the hardest part of detailing a car, it is one of the most important to be done properly if you are going to avoid creating some of the damage that you are trying to repair.  Drying your car improperly is one of the fastest way to create swirls. While everybody has their own technique on how to do this, this article is here to point you in the direction of products. These are the two best products that I have used in my years of detailing.

Waffle Weave Microfiber

My absolute favorite drying tool is a waffle weave microfiber towel. It is called a Ďwaffle weaveí because of the pattern on the towel. It looks like a waffle.  Those pockets suck up water like nothing else. I can dry two or three cars with one towel before I need to hang it out to dry. You just fold the towel into quarters and blot the car dry.  Once the majority of the water is soaked up, you can unfold the towel and dry it like you would normally do. If you use a low pressure stream of water over the car after rinsing, then youíll find that most of the water will slide off prior to drying anyway. This is truly a great and safe towel for drying.

The Absorber

You may recognize this product.  You can see them hanging on the rack at WalMart and Target all over the country.  Believe it or not, this towel is one of the best drying tools that you can get off the shelf. I have had the same Absorber towel for 7 years now. It is still in excellent condition. I have been using it to dry engine bays for the last 3 years because it is such a durable towel. If you want to buy a drying tool off the shelf, then this is the one that I suggest you get. Many people donít believe that it can get any better than the Absorber.  Waffle weave towel users will tell you that they have found the replacement for the Absorber, but they are both excellent and safe to use on your car.

I am not sure exactly what is up with clay, but I am aware that there are only two kinds.  There is the elastic kind and the plastic kind.  I really donít know much about which one is better or who makes which. There are some interesting lawsuits out there and some fun reading to do if you want to do some research.  For my money it doesnít get better than the two clay bars below. They could be the exact same clay for all I know.  All I know is that Clay Magic is the best I have ever used off the shelf and the Four Star clay is the best I have ever ordered that isnít on the shelf.

Clay Magic

Four Star Ultimate Clay

Clay Magic can be found at autopart stores all over the place.  AutoZone is probably your best shot at finding it on the shelf. Generally it is available in 100 gram sized bars.  That is plenty. Just break it into 3 or 4 pieces and use them till they are dirty.  One 100 gram bar will last you for several cars.  The fine grade (blue bar) is the one you should most likely use.  The red bar is more aggressive and meant for more serious overspray and contamination.

Four Star clay could be the exact same clay as Clay Magic for all I know.  I know it only comes in 200 gram sized bars and that is about it.  Its really sticky and your risk of dropping it while using it is minimal. That is really all I look for in a clay anyway.  I just donít want to have to drop it and need to throw it away. A 200 gram sized bar is easy to rip up into several pieces.  Anytime I need a new piece I just tear some off the bigger chunk and use that. It is excellent clay.  If you are a member of a site sponsored by PremiumAutoCare then you can get a discount on it.  That is another reason why I like it. ;)

Letís get clear on some terminology here first.  The term Ďpolishí can be used to say you are cleaning your paint and also can be said that you are removing swirls. I see the meanings interchanged all over the place. Because some people call it one thing and  some people call it the other, I am going to include both purposes here.

Really, to do either one of these tasks you are going to need a machine. I strongly suggest getting one. Iím not saying that you canít do the job without a machine, but I do have to suggest getting one. The job is a very physically demanding one.  A Porter Cable 7424 is an excellent tool and it will make the use of any of the following products much easier.

Klasse All In One

I have never used a better paint cleaner than this stuff.  I just canít say enough about it. I know I have said it over and over that its not the products that matter, but this is a case where the product really does matter.  I have used this product on the toughest oxidation imaginable and it took care of the job like it was nothing. If you have need of serious paint cleaning because of oxidation an other problems, then this is something you have to try. Iíll just let a couple pictures do the talking for me...

 

If your red vehicle looks like that, or if your black car is starting to look grey and dull, then Klasse All in One is something you need to try.  It will clean, or polish, your car to a much brighter shine.  I wonít make any promises for the product, but it has never failed to impress and please me. This truck was 10 years old and hadnít ever been waxed in all that time. The owner was ready to take it in for a new paint job. The pictures accurately show the difference that could be observed in person. The pink went away and the gloss of the paint was restored.  Not bad for a low cost paint cleaner and a simple polisher, eh?

Meguairís #83 Dual Action Cleaner Polish

Meguiarís #83 Dual Action Cleaner Polish, also known as DACP, is rated on about a 6 on the scale of 1 to 10. It is my polish of choice when I begin tough swirl removal projects.  It seems to be just abrasive enough to take care of just about every job I have worked on.  Sometimes I have had to go over the car more than once to get it done, but it does a good job. This is certainly a product that you need a polisher for.  It uses the principle of diminishing abrasives, which means that the abrasive particles break down into smaller ones as you introduce heat and friction. The particles gradually polish the paint till the swirls are gone and what is left of the polish turns to dust and buffs off the car.  Here is a good example of what can be accomplished with this product and a little experience:

There are actually many many many other polishes that will do a good job too.  I am going to stick with my recomendation that you check out DACP with a Porter Cable polisher.  If you have those tools then I believe that you can take care of just about any swirl on your paint. Keep in mind that if you have scratches that you are trying to remove, then the PC and DACP probably wonít cut it.  Scratches may require a more powerful polish and a tougher machine. Since this whole site is meant to help beginners and hobbyists, I think Iíll leave instruction in those areas to other people.  Even I donít use a rotary or deal in serious scratch removal.

Ahhh... wax. I know of very few products that have so many different versions that inspire so much debate. I hear it all the time that ďthis wax is betterĒ and ďno, that wax is better.Ē I donít know what to make of it all sometimes. I do know that many waxes exist and there are many reasons to use or not use each of them.  I have more than my fair share of waxes and I have tried very hard to find the ones that I like best. After the hundreds of dollars I have spent in testing, and based on all the different makes, models and colors I have tested them on, I have come to one irrefutable answer.  There is no Ďbestí wax. The term Ďbestí just canít exist in a comparison like this.  Each wax has its own list of pros and cons. So get the idea of Ďbestí out of your head right now.  Iím not going to suggest these waxes because they are the Ďbestí. I merely suggest them because they satisfied me and I found them to be impressive on every color that I tested them on. I can safely say that you will not be disappointed if you take my suggestion and try these waxes.  These are suggestions based on experience with dozens of waxes and dozens of cars talking here. Take that for what it is worth...

S100 Carnauba Paste Wax

Donít be fooled by the hype of high priced waxes.  No matter how much I have paid for the wax, I havenít found a better general wax than S100. This looks awesome on all colors and all cars.  There may be other waxes that look better on specific colors, but if you donít want to spend the hundreds of dollars to figure out what that wax might be, then this is a great one to try.

The best part about this wax is that it has a really nice way of making dirt not stick to it. When your car is dusty and it rains, it

usually leaves all kinds of muddy water spots on your car. After I put a coat of S100 on my car the rain doesnít do that anymore.  The car practically rinses clean off in the rain. It has the same effect in the snow.  The spray from the road usually makes a mess of your car. This wax helps keep the dirt from sticking somehow. All waxes will make your paint bead up and zip off, but this is the only wax I have used do far that seems to help keep the car clean. Its worth at least trying out.  You can usually find it at Harley Davidson shops for about $15 bucks. You wonít find a wax that is as high quality as S100 for less than $15.  I feel that it is an acceptable price considering the quality of wax that it is. I would gladly pay $40 bucks a jar if the price were to go up. It gets OCDetailsí highest recommendation.

Liquid Souveran

Now this is some good stuff. Liquid Souveran is probably the finest liquid wax that I have ever used.  I used to think that it didnít get better than Meguiarís Gold Class liquid wax.  Then one day I got the opportunity to trade another product for a bottle of Liquid Souveran.  Man, am I ever glad I made that trade. The reflections and depth that this product puts on the car is really impressive. It was one of the first products that I used that actually helped me get reflections on my white car in direct sun. Its no trick to get reflections on a black car or any other color if its in the shade, but white is just not the color to get if you want reflections.  I got them with Liquid Souveran.  Below is a picture of my car in direct sunlight reflecting the hose on the driveway. That may not seem too impressive, but its the first product that I have used that got me a reflection like that in direct sunlight.  White usually just gets bright in the sun and doesnít reflect anything.

I guess Iím just a sucker for those deep and wet looking cars. I know that a couple of those are in the shade and not really fair pictures, but they looked just as good in the sun.  Sometimes I just canít get the car into the light for a picture. Consider how often your car is in the shade anyway.  This is a look that you are going to love on your car.  It will give you wet reflections on any color.

What is a sealant, you might ask?  A sealant is kind of like a wax in the sense that you use it to protect and improve the appearance of your car.  The big difference is going to be durability. Sealants last much longer than a wax.  The reason is simple to illustrate for you.

Have you ever dipped your finger in a candle?  The wax forms around your finger into kind of a shell. As you bend your finger you can make the wax stretch out until you can pull the shell off. Wax does a similar thing to your car.  It forms a Ďshellí around your car that protects and looks good for as long as it is on there.  The problem is that your car shrinks and expands as the temperature changes. As it cools at night and then heats up in the sun, it creates a problem with durability.  The wax will loosen from your car this way and become easy for the heat of day to Ďmeltí the wax and cause it to be gone.  I canít really explain where it goes, but it wears off. As you wash your car and drive it and park it it wears down a little more.  Wax simply isnít that durable. I have seen 6 weeks of durability out of good waxes. That is on a daily driver that is parked outside during the day.

Sealants are like super glue.  Imagine how it would be to dip your finger into a pool of fresh super glue.  Sealants bond to your paint like that.  The durability goes up from 6 weeks for a wax, to close or beyond 12 weeks for a sealant.  The reason is some complicated explanation about cross linking polymers and blah blah blah... Iím a detailer; not a chemist. That kind of stuff ends up getting lost on me.  Iím sure that the folks who make these products can explain it better than I can. All I know is that they last and they look awesome.

Recently there have been sealants that almost look like carnaubas. Carnaubas are known for the wet look that the oils they contain create.  Up until the last couple years I have noticed that the sealants gave a very sterile and non-wet appearance. They looked nice, but appearance wise I would still suggest topping them with a carnauba wax so you can get the upgrade in appearance. These are some of the suggestions I have to offer for sealants.  There are really a lot of them to choose from. Zaino, Meguiarís, Klasse, etc... The options are increasing with every year.  The following are just a couple suggestions based on good experiences and seasonal needs.  Donít count out the many sealants that Iím not mentioning. They are all really good.  It just depends on what you are looking for your product to do.

Wolfgang

Wolfgang is a new sealant that just came out in 2004.  There is a really high expectation of quality when you are introducing a product like this. There are so many sealants in competition that a new one has to be really something special to stand a chance.

The first time I used this stuff I couldnít believe my eyes. I have never seen a product transform a car like this one does.  I am sure the Ďholy crap!í reaction that I had is something that doesnít translate into pictures, but it really was impressive.  Immediately the car was showing reflected images from across the street.  The tail lights were reflecting in the bumper just like a mirror. The clarity of the reflections and the depth and wetness is just really impressive. 

I have used it on green, white, red, beige, yellow, silver, black and blue.  Every color I have used it on has been amazing.  Its a product that I am glad that I bought and will try to keep around for show cars and anyone else looking for a really impressive look. 

Here are some pictures of Wolfgang on a few client cars. I know they look about as good as any other product in pictures, but there really is a difference in person. If you havenít tried a sealant before, then this is one that I suggest cutting your teeth on. It gets an A+ from OCDetails.

Wolfgang is a sealant that produces excellent depth and reflection.  If that is what you are looking for, then I canít suggest a better product.  There are several products that you might like to try it against before you marry it, but it is a great thing to have in your arsenal.

Klasse Sealant Glaze

Klasse has already made this list once today.  Klasse All In One as shown above, is the cleaner product to the Klasse system.  Most sealant systems have a cleaner product that goes along with the sealant part.  The cleaner prepares the paint for the sealant.  Wolfgang has one, Blackfire has one, Four Star Ultimate has one, etc. The second part of the Klasse system is called Sealant Glaze and it is one of the most durable sealants that I have ever used. I use it primarily in the winter simply for the fact that it is so resistant to the damage that Utah winters can have on my car.  I put 4 or 5 coats of Sealant Glaze on my car in October and when I remove it all in March I can tell that it was protecting the car. The light damage that every car gets when blasted with salt spray just disappears as I take the layers of

acrylic sealant away. 

The downside, if you can call it that, of Klasse Sealant Glaze is really one of the more sterile sealants.  The appearance that it produces is highly glossy and shiney, but rarely wet or very deep.  That look works for some people.  I just throw a couple coats of wax on and obtain the wet and deep look that I want in the winter. On some cars I find the high gloss and shine of Klasse Sealant Glaze very desirable. When my car is covered in salt and road grime in the winter, I think having that extra gloss beneath the muck to be advantageous. Here is an example of what I mean when I say this stuff is high gloss.

Other than the photoshoped Viper engine in that one Integra, that is what Iím talking about by high gloss.  Its a look that many people really like and it may be what you are looking for. The reason I suggest it is for the durability factor.  It is just an awesome and highly durable product.

Eagle One A2Z

 

Wheels and tires are a big deal on a car in a show.  It doesnít matter how shiney your paint is if your tires are brown and your rims are crusty.  It just wouldnít go over well at a show.  When you are on show you have to be clean from head to toe.  Tires are a big deal. The first thing you have to do is clean them.  A2Z is the thing for that.  This is a product that will clean your wheels and your tires. The way I suggest using it is to spray your cool and dry wheels and tires down with it, and then hose them off as soon as possible. By the time you get the fourth wheel sprayed down, the first one will be starting to dry.  Start hosing them off and just watch the crud run down your driveway.  Iíve got four black spots on my driveway from all the wheels and tires Iíve cleaned with this stuff.  It will get the job done. If you have really expensive wheels then you might want to go with something milder if you are worried about it being to harsh, but it is still a very effective product on tough brake dust and road grime.

Eagle One Wet Tire Shine

After you clean the wheels and tires with A2Z or whatever product you are using, you should gloss up the tires.  There is an appearance that I call Ďghetto glossí that happens when you use a tire dressing that is super greasy and shiny.  Now, while shine and gloss is good, its not good when it is a little to shiny.  The other problem is that products like that tend to attract dust like no other. They also tend to sling all over the side of the car. If Eagle One Wet is applied with a foam tire swipe on dry tires, then the sling is as minimal as a tire shine product can be.  The only time I ever see sling from this product is if the product got watered down by using a wet tire swipe or trying to use it on tires that were not dry yet.  I have a towel that I use especially for drying the tires prior to using this product. If you use it right, then you will be very pleased. The gloss is just right and it is not a dust magnet. It is a nice shine that I have seen last for around two weeks before I feel like the tires need it again.

Article still a work in progress....

 

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