Lots of people seem to ask the same questions - "what products to use?”
Lots of people have also been asking if anybody knows of a polish that will remove swirl marks from their paint, and have been bombarded with replies such as "Autoglym Super Resin” - Super Resin polish will NOT remove swirl marks from BMW paint, not unless you spend 3 days rubbing it in - it simply masks them. It is a polish containing fillers and is nowhere near abrasive enough to remove swirl marks from BMW paintwork.
So, the first lesson is to understand what it is you are working with. There are 3 types of paint on cars. Soft, Medium and Hard.
Soft paint is found on the likes of Fiat, Honda, Mazda, Lexus and Nissan.
Medium paint is found on the likes of Ford, Citroen, Saab and Volvo.
Hard paint is found on the likes of BMW, Volkswagen, Audi and Mercedes.
If BMW paint was soft, then indeed something like the Super Resin Polish would be very good. But BMW paint isn’t soft, so something more aggressive is needed.
Now don’t get me wrong, Super Resin Polish is great for bringing out the shine on a car, but it is not going to be a long term solution.
If you want perfect results sit back and read... I hope this guide will cover every question you may ask.
In the last 3 years I have spent thousands on car detailing, and some products I will be recommending out of personal choice, and some simply because I can’t find anything better. I will point them out as I go along.
First things first -
What you have to understand is how swirl marks and marring of the paint are caused. By poor washing. Car washes and the brushes at jet washes should NEVER be used. I would also advise never to use 'hand car washes' where somebody will wash your car by hand and dry it for you for a few quid. Simply because you don’t know how clean the water is, how clean their cloths are, and those water blades they use to dry the car? - Just as bad as a car wash. The idea is that NOBODY other than you should be washing your car. Because nobody other than you will do it with enough care.
So, to the washing technique.
A first stage in washing would be snow foam. I only tend to use this during winter months when the car is very dirty from the grit and salt on the roads, but there is no harm in using it all year round if you wish.
The idea of snow foam is simple - It’s like a pre wash for your car.
You jet it on, let it sit, and then jet it off. It should take with it the most harmful layer of dirt.
Some people don’t see the point in snow foam and argue that a good jet wash first would be more than enough. I personally like snow foam as I find it does lift a lot of the dirt off prior to washing.
My personal choice of snow foam is Valet Pro PH Neutral
I haven’t tried any others, and I don’t intend to. Valet pro is cheap, goes a long way and is PH Neutral so it won’t strip any wax protection off your car.
Whatever foam you buy, if you buy any at all, remember that you only need a TINY bit per application and that if you buy a larger quantity like the product in the link then a pump dispenser will make life much much easier.
You will also need a special applicator for your snow foam
Again, personal choice but it is well made and does the job. You get what you pay for with these.
Prime example of when to use snow foam –
A site I’ve been working on during the summer months involves a trip down a dirt track. One day it rained so much the track flooded, leaving me with a muddy car.
This could cause major swirls in the paint if not removed properly prior to washing with the mitt.
So we apply some foam...
Let it sit for a few minutes and then jet it all off...
You car should now be 90% clean....
So now your car is snow foamed. Now we can move onto the main washing.
Firstly I hope you have two decent buckets. Because you will need them.
The idea is simple. You have one bucket with your shampoo in and one bucket of clean water. Dip your wash mitt in the shampoo bucket, wash a section of car, rinse the mitt in the clean water, dip back into shampoo bucket and continue washing. The idea is to keep the shampoo water you are rubbing over your car as clean as possible, hence the bucket of clean water. Any dirt should be left in this and not in the shampoo. If my description wasn’t clear enough just Google 'two bucket wash'.
Ignore the bit of cloth on the floor. Your cleaning cloths and mitts should NEVER touch the floor.
The cloths and mitts you use to wash your car are also just as important, if not more. Sponges are a MAJOR no-no. The dirt sits on the surface of a sponge and is dragged across the paint. Sponge = swirl mark factory.
You will need a lamb’s wool wash mitt. In the winter months or if the car is really pitted I use the green microfiber one for everything below the bump strips on the doors and bumpers. Any cloths for between door shuts ect ect should also be microfiber.
The brand of wash mitt is not important, as long as it is nice and fluffy.
Shampoo is mostly down to personal choice.
At the moment I'm using Megs NXT Generation Car Wash
I find it offers good lubrication between the wash mitt and the paint, however I think I'll be testing other products out once the Megs has been used. Megs does set a good bench mark though so if you're stuck with what shampoo to use try the Megs first.
Now you should all know the basic wash method, but I'll run through it quickly just to be sure.
1st – Apply snow foam and let it sit for a few mins
2nd – Rinse the snow foam off
3rd – Clean wheels (separate bucket of water for wheels)***
4th - Wash roof and windows
5th – Rinse roof and windows
6th – Wash bonnet, upper parts of doors, boot lid
8th – Wash all lower parts such as bumpers and lower door areas
9th - Rinse
10th – Dry
*** The idea of washing the wheels first is simple -
Imagine it’s a warm day. You wash the car body and then wash the wheels. While you’re cleaning the wheels any water marks will have chance to start drying into your paint. So if we wash the wheels first, that way as soon as you’re done washing the body, you can start drying, avoiding those unsightly water spots!
This brings us onto alloy wheels -
When buying an alloy wheel cleaner you don’t want something too acidic.
My personal choice is also the choice of many other detailing enthusiasts and many high class detailing companies - Bilberry wheel cleaner. It smells lovely, isn’t too harsh on wheels, and lasts forever.
It can be diluted as far as 1:5. I bought the large size 2 years ago, and washing upto 3 cars a week I've still got over half left. It offers real value for money. Remember you will need a spray bottle to mix and spray it in also.
Brushes are down to personal choice when it comes to wheels, it all depends on the design of the wheel. I use a set up like this...
Whatever brushes you buy, remember one basic need.
You want something long enough to clean right the way through the wheel...
So that’s the basic wash covered.
You should now have a clean car.
One last thing worth noting. On the rear wheel arches they have quite a large lip, and you will be amazed how much dirt can collect in it. It’s like a rust magnet.
Here is the lip on my rear arch, see how I’ve got my fingers in it?
Take the end off your hose pipe so that the water is flowing freely. Position in the wheel arch so it’s flowing into this lip and then with your free hand get your fingers stuck in there! If you’ve never cleaned it before you will be amazed how much dirt is hidden in there!!
Now for Drying
Chamois leather = bad.
Water blades = bad.
Deep pile microfiber = GOOD!
Chamois drag on the paint too much, and this friction causes marring, especially on darker cars. Water blades are even worse.
You want something as soft as possible - hence the microfiber.
The best one I have found is..
It gobbles up water and should dry an average sized car without needing to wring it once! This choice of towel is down to personal choice but also common sense. Very large, super absorbent, wears really well (had mine years) - what more could you ask for?
So that’s you washed and dried. This should be the routine you use EVERY time you wash your car.
Now on to the more advanced stuff...
Claying & Polishing
Prior to polishing you should clay your car.
A good claybar will remove tar spots, deep down dirt and other grime that normal washing and polishing will not. It really is an important part and should not be missed. Not claying would be like varnishing a floor without vacuuming it first.
I've always used the Megs Quick Clay Kit
However I think your brand of clay is down to personal choice. Again if you’re new to detailing try the Megs, as it does what it’s supposed to do without any fuss.
So now your car is washed and the paint is free from more bonded deposits.
Onto the polishing....
If you are wanting to remove swirl marks then there really is only one solution - a machine polisher.
The polisher itself is down to personal choice. If you are new to machine polishers I would advise on a dual action polisher, as there is then minimal risk of you causing any damage to the paint with it. A general rule of thumb is you get what you pay for. If I was buying another machine polisher I would buy the G220 again without a doubt.
Your machine polisher, pads and polishes can be bought in a kit specially set up for hard paint such as BMW's
The Menzerna polishes and pads that are supplied in that kit are superb, and left my car with this finish....
On the BMW paint I found that the 'polishing' pad didn’t do much. I went over the car with the 'cutting' pad firstly to remove the swirls, and then brought out the shine with the 'finishing' pad. I didn’t use the 'polishing' pad at all.
Your paint is harder than you think, so don’t be scared like I was of stripping it. Allow 5 - 7 slow passes with the 'cutting' pad, and the same with the 'finishing'.
Now you will need cloths to wipe off the polish once you have covered a section. Again - Deep pile microfiber such as...
An auto masking tape is also very handy, as it prevents you from getting polish stains on seals and trims.
So that’s us with perfect paint. How about a bit of protection?
In my personal opinion, there really is only one product upto this task.
Coillinite 476s. http://www.cleanyourcar.co.uk/wax/co.../prod_207.html
Two coats of this stuff will leave you car beading water like this for months...
The best way to apply this wax is one section at a time. So in a shaded area with cool paint, apply to roof, while it’s drying on the roof apply to the bonnet. Then polish off the roof while it’s drying on the bonnet. Don’t try to apply to more than two panels at a time, because if it dries too much it is much harder to buff off.
A good way of testing that the wax is ready to be buffed off is simple. Wipe it with your finger. If it leaves a greasy smear then the wax needs longer to set. If after a swipe with your finger you are left with clear paint then the wax is ready to be removed.
You will need something suitable to apply the wax with. I advise Megs Microfiber applicators
Some people prefer foam applicators to the microfiber ones, so again it is down to personal choice. The foam ones are quite cheap to buy, so why not get both and decide for yourself?
The deep pile cloths I advised for removing the polish during machine polishing your car are also ideal for buffing off wax.
So that’s us washed, polished and waxed. Let’s not forget the tyres though.
Tyres & Trims
I've tried many tyre gels and sprays, and none match up to Megs Endurance tyre gel.
It delivers exactly what it promises. It may seem expensive at first, but again a little goes a long way so it offers real value for money. I tend to buy cheap car sponges and cut them up to use as applicators for this product, then simply throw them away once used!
You could if you want go on forever, and start buying special waxes for the alloy wheels, I've never bothered though so I can’t really advise on that area.
Plastic trims and rubber surfaces are tricky to dress in the sense that I've not yet found a product for exterior trim that I am truly satisfied with. However the best I have found is Autoglym Vinyl & Rubber Care.
Spray it onto a soft duster and apply, rather than spraying it onto the surface directly.
I will be trying other products once the Autoglym has run out so will advise on this further when I find one I am truly happy with.
So that’s the outside done.
A few pointers to remember...
Keep all cloths and mitts as clean as possible. After use I run all my cloths through a 40 wash cycle in the washing machine to remove all traces of products and keep them like new. After each wash of the car my wash mitts and drying towel go through a rinse setting on the washing machine to keep them as clean as possible too.
Remember that the cleaner your mitts, cloths, towels and water is, the less chance you have of inflicting new swirl marks.
Once polished properly, if you follow the wash method I have described then your car should stay pretty much swirl free, and should only need a quick polish once a year thereon after. Autoglym Super Resin would then be suitable, as you shouldn’t have any major swirls if you have been washing properly and don’t want to use the machine polisher too much.
Remember that once you have gone to all this effort to rid your paint of imperfections to never let anybody else wash it. So when leaving at garages for services remember to tell them you don’t want your car cleaning.
Nobody will clean your car with the attention it deserves other than you.
Your heart really needs to be in it all year round if you want perfect paint.
A brief cover of interiors.... Common sense mostly but you'd be surprised how many people can lack it!
First things first, the results are only going to be as good as the tools you use. A good vacuum cleaner is vital!
I'm using our Kirby here as an example, but as many may find the idea of a £1000 vacuum cleaner a little too much, there is one basic need.
A nice long, thin crevice tool for between seats.
A soft dusting brush for roof liners, controls and other delicate areas.
Upholstery tool for seats.
If you have a 'turbo brush' or in the Kirby’s case a 'zip brush' these are ideal for floor mats.
May look a bit tame when they’re off
But once in use they’re exceptional for grooming the pile and removing deep down dirt.
Remember to pay special attention to the details.
If when you’ve cleaned your windows, you’re left with bits of fluff on the surrounding trim, don’t leave it there!
Something worth remembering though... The brush on the Kirby is horse hair or something soft like that. Some cheap vacuums have dusting brushes that resemble a yard brush, so be careful yours isn’t too rough because you don’t want to damage any of the more delicate trims such as roof liners.
Get down those seats too!
Numatic Henry vacuums offer a superb range of 'no fuss' tools ideal for car cleaning, and if you own a Dyson the Dyson 'Car Cleaning Kit' also comes in quite handy.
The following interior products are down to personal choice and opinion....
On interior surfaces the Autoglym Vinyl & Rubber Care comes into a world of its own and is simply superb.
Again remember to spray it onto a soft duster first rather than directly onto the surface. On darker surfaces it can leave a slightly greasy finish, so don’t go too wild with it.
Autoglym Fast Glass is also superb for cleaning windows
This product should be used in a shaded area, as if it is hot and sunny it can dry to windows before you have fully polished it off and leave them quite streaky.
When washing seats and carpets I have always used Vax AAA 3-in-1 shampoo in my machine. This is simply because it’s what we use in the house as we have wool carpets. Always found it does a great job without leaving any nasty residues or smells
As for a machine for washing, you simply can not beat a Numatic George
George also comes with the same range of dry use tools as the Henry, so if you buy a George he will be ideal for both wet and dry car cleaning.
If you have bad staining, try pre treating with some Autoglym interior shampoo before using the machine. It is also GREAT for removing dirty marks from the inside roof liners
This is the results it gave on a friend’s MK3 Golf roof liner... all I did was spray on, rub in and then wipe with a damp cloth...
I am of the opinion that you can not properly clean an interior without a proper extraction machine such as the George. A bit like cleaning your clothes. They need to be washed and then rinsed to get the dirt out.
On lighter interiors such as mine..
you will find that it is hard to clean the seats without leaving water marks.
There is an easy way around this.
Once you have cleaned the areas you can get to with the machine, take a bucket of water and a white towelling cloth. The areas of the seat that are not damp need to be damp. So wipe over any remaining dry areas with the cloth. The seat will go darker once it is damp, and the whole seat needs to be the same shade of damp. That way when it dries out you won’t be left with water marks. This does not apply to dark coloured interiors.
Remember that it’s all about the details. You know that old saying “Look after the pennys and the pounds will look after themselves”? Well your car is the same. Look after the tiny details and the bigger picture will look after itself. And remember to improvise. If you have fat fingers then a damp cotton wool bud is great for cleaning between air vents on the dash and in and around electric window buttons.
I think that’s just about everything covered... I'll add more as I think of it though
And remember – If you’ve done everything listed in this thread your car should now be mint.
Letting anybody else clean it once it is in this condition would be ...