Exterior Detailing – The Products

The last installment of the Detailing Files focused on getting the exterior paint ready to be polished, by a very thorough washing using Dawn instead of a milder automotive specific detergent.

Now that you have a clean paint surface, mostly wax free (as is evidenced by there being virtually no beading of the water in the final rinse), you can begin the restoration of the finish.

This is typically a four step process (or five if you need to use a medium cut compound).

  1. Clay bar the surface – using detailing clay to remove embedded contaminants from the paint.
  2. Cutting Compound – Assuming that you have some fine surface scratches or marring to remove, a fine (or medium in really bad cases, followed by a fine) will get the surface ready for polishing
  3. Polishing Compound – this removes buffing marks and “swirls” in the finish to leave a smooth, clear surface
  4. Waxing or Sealant – A high quality carnuba wax coat, or a polymer sealant to provide protection to your finish.

Continue reading →

The exterior detail – washing

Geoff's S2000

Before you can begin a proper detailing of a car exterior, you must start with a good wash, and I don’t mean just run it through the wash at the local gas station, or even a “better” wash at a dedicated car wash franchise.

The Two Bucket Wash

The gold standard is something known in the detail world as a two bucket wash. This is pretty important, as it is crucial to clean without just rubbing the dirt particles into your paint and finish.

grit guardA two bucket wash is pretty simple, although, when I started, I heard the phrase, but it didn’t click at first. You need two buckets (I use standard 5 gallon buckets I bought at Home Depot), two “grit guards“, and washing detergent. Also, while you can use a soft terry cloth towel to lather and suds your car, I recommend a washing mitt or pad. Continue reading →