Exterior Detailing Guide - Two Buckets And A Bird!
Showroom FX's Guide To Professional Exterior Detailing
From the July, 2010 issue of High Performance Pontiac
By Randall D Allen
Photography by Randall Allen
For those of you who have been shut out of driving or showing your Pontiac due to the off season, hope comes with the March 20 vernal equinox for the northern hemisphere. Spring is often used as a metaphor for rebirth, growth, renewal, and even better times. For Pontiac hobbyists, it signals the time to get serious about show season prep for our rides.
As a full-line retailer of car-care products, Showroom FX (SFX) and its owner, professional detailer Steve Pasztor, are in the business of helping hobbyists maximize the appearance of their vehicles, from a classic Pontiac to a late-model G8 and everything in between.
"As a hobbyist myself, it's my passion to educate and help others unlock the potential in their cars' finish, and then maintain it," says Steve. "In addition to formulating products that broke new ground in the car-care industry, such as our proprietary liquid carnauba and synthetic polymer waxes, I detail cars for discriminating owners who demand perfection. Over the years I've found that from a technical perspective, many enthusiasts don't know the basics of achieving a glossy finish or how to properly maintain it once achieved."
Follow along as we guide you through the basics of renewing the finish on an '02 Firebird Formula, owned by Brenda Neyra of Mesquite, Texas. In addition to cruises and shows, Brenda routinely bracket-races her Bird. Bought used in 2007, the Navy Blue Metallic Formula has 48,000 miles and a few preexisting cosmetic issues. Just as the natural renewal of spring arrives, so too will the rebirth of this Bird.
Note: According to Showroom FX, the proper procedures for washing your car can contribute greatly to the success of the detailing. HPP has included a review of proper car-washing techniques as part of this story. (See Proper Washing Techniques.)
Proper washing will gently...
Proper washing will gently lift and whisk away the dirt and debris from the surface without rubbing it into the finish. Two components are necessary to achieve this-a top-tier car wash concentrate and a wash mitt. SFX markets its own car-wash concentrate (PN SFX-06, retail $8.95 for 16 ounces) and either the Microfiber Wash Mitt (PN SFX-M2, retail $7.77) or ShMITT Car Wash Foam Mitt (PN SFX-M2, retail $11.99). Just two ounces of the car wash concentrate creates an abundance of suds that will easily cover the largest Pontiac. Steve relates, "In developing the car-wash concentrate, I went through iteration after iteration with my chemist-the combination of cleaning power, suds, slickness, and finally, fragrance had to be just right. Creating a wash solution that removes dirt and grime without stripping the finish off of the surface was extremely challenging."
After a final rinse, Steve...
After a final rinse, Steve pulls the Bird into the outside bay to inspect it. Note how the water is "sheeting" down the door and quarter-panel. This indicates that the wax or polish has either lost its ability to adhere to the surface or had previously been stripped by washing with a too aggressive chemical. Look closely at the left edge of the front fender for the swirl pattern in the finish.
For proper drying, Steve uses...
For proper drying, Steve uses a large Microfiber Waffle Weave Dry Towel (PN SFX-B40, retail $8.49) that is an 80/20 blend of polyester and polyamide. These towels are super absorbent, and the deep waffle texture with "micro-hooks" grabs, lifts, and holds grime and dirt away from the surface, allowing the surface to be dried without introducing swirls or scratches. Before drying, he will remove any contaminants that still remain in the clearcoat by using a clay bar. SFX recommends Clay Magic's 100-gram "mild" clay bar (PN SFX-01, retail $8.49) as it will remove contaminants without taking off any clear or single-stage paint.
Claying a car is highly recommended...
Claying a car is highly recommended to prepare the surface as a clay bar is great at removing brake dust, bug residue, acid rain, and overspray. Steve applies pressure to the clay bar and "glides" it back and forth over every surface, including the panels, glass, wheels, and mirrors. He uses his wash mitt and soap to lubricate the surface before using the clay bar, but a detail spray or mist like SFX offers (PN SFX-05, retail $7.95) works equally well. Steve cautions owners: "After gliding the bar across a portion of a panel, inspect the bar for contaminants. If found, knead the bar to find a clean clay area before continuing. And by all means, if you drop the clay bar on the ground, replace it."
After claying and rinsing,...
After claying and rinsing, Steve uses the microfiber waffle-weave towels to dry the Formula from the top to the bottom; he then opens the doors, hood, and rear hatch to allow additional water to drain before absorbing it from those areas. Once the car is dry, he inspects it for paint defects. Unfortunately, there are several areas a body shop will have to address, including a defect from when the previous owner had the Suncoast Raptor hood painted. Paint is starting to delaminate on the roof, there are swirl marks in all of the panels...
...and there's a large paint...
...and there's a large paint run on the fender. Though normally it could be wet-sanded out, it also has fisheyes in the clear from contamination during the paint process, which go down to the color coat. Therefore, it requires repairs that go beyond the scope of this article. Note that the clearcoat is starting to peel just above the molding on the fender.
Since a heavier cutting compound...
Since a heavier cutting compound will be necessary to remove the deep swirls and defects in the clear, Steve will leave the Ryobi buffer that we showed you how to build last month ("Budget Buffing," June '10) on the shelf and use a more powerful Porter Cable 7424 XP variable speed polisher (P/N SFXPC-305, retail $129.95) in conjunction with a Lake Country Manufacturing 7-inch, purple "Kompressor" hybrid, heavy-compounding foam pad (PN SFXP-K00, retail $7.99) and Meguiars M105 Ultra-Cut Compound (not pictured, PN M105, retail $27.49). Pads for the Porter Cable are also available in 4 and 5.5-inch sizes for tighter spots.
Steve begins by lightly spraying...
Steve begins by lightly spraying the purple pad with some detail mist; then applying a few circles of Meguiar's M105 and setting the Porter Cable polisher speed on 3. He applies moderate pressure to the buffer; after an initial pass, he increases the speed to 5 for the second and third pass. He then applies additional M105 and takes two more passes on speed 5 with light pressure.
During initial buffing, Steve...
During initial buffing, Steve discovers a driver-side fender scratch that runs halfway back to the door. He is able to catch a fingernail on the scratch, proving that it's deep, but he determines that it doesn't extend into the color. He uses a sanding block with 2,000-grit wet/dry sandpaper on the red side and 3,000-grit on the grey portion to carefully sand the scratch. For illustration purposes, Steve used 3M blue tape to segment the fender and highlight the section of the panel that is being worked on.