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Old 03-15-1999, 06:04 PM
Lee Scheeler
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In this segment of the detailing process I will address washing technique. To sum up what we were doing from last time...you have your car in the shade, using a 100% natural mitt/brush, have rinsed it thoroughly, are using cool-luke warm water in a bucket of high quality car wash (just a capful or so to a couple gallons as too much soap will devour wax) , and you have your 3 separate mitts at the ready. You also remember that you don't want to grind at anything that wont come up easily with the regular wash. Cleaning the wheels and tires is another commonly abused area of the car. Just as household cleaners will ruin the look and possibly damage the finish of the paint, they will do exactly the same thing to your wheels! Virtually all wheels on Mercedes are painted and/or clearcoated. That finish is just as tender as the one on the hood, fenders, roof, etc. Don't do anything to it you wouldn't do to your hood! This tender finish is subject to some of the harshest conditions anywhere on the car. It gets coated with ultra-hot bits of dust from the brake pads that will actually eat into the paint given enough time and accumulation.(if it will eat into a metal brake rotor over time what will it do to your finish?) Using a specialized and PH-balanced wheel cleaner (like Meguiar’s or P21S) is a must for someone looking to preserve the factory finish. Unfortunately household cleaners like 409 and SimpleGreen can destroy that delicate paint quicker than the brake dust. Either of those can be used on the tires, but only the tires. Remember that wheels cleaner is for wheels, tire cleaner is for tires. Tire cleaner can be damaging to wheels and wheel cleaner generally isn’t strong enough for tires. While we are on the topic of tires I have noticed that certain silicone or petroleum distilate based tire dressings (ArmorAll or Son-of-a-gun) can be a real headache to clean up after next washing. A dressing like Lexol's Vinyl-X (for the wet look just apply and forget about it, for the matte/concours finish buff off with a clean rag after it has dried for a minute) or Mother's Back-to-Black gives all the look but doesn't turn your tire-mitt into a sludgeball. In addition to washing the vehicle top-to-bottom you want to use linear strokes that run in the direction air travels over the car. This way if you accidentally cause swirls or light scratches they are far less noticeable than from a circular pattern. It is also important to never let the soap dry on the finish. Rinse frequently while washing only 1 section at a time. How big is a section? Well, that depends as much on you and the conditions as anything else. A section should be as much area as you can comfortably cover without any of the soap drying. (hood, trunk, top, etc) Another point to mention is that when you have washed a section and are dipping the mitt back into the bucket give a few agitating shakes to dislodge any particulate that has worked its way into the nap of the wash-mitt. Better that it end up in the bottom of the bucket than sanding your finish… Even after you are done with an individual area (washing and rinsing) it is a good idea to go over the car one last time in a top to bottom "finishing rinse". *Note, if you are using a pressure washer or a commercial car wash with a pressure sprayer do not spray the radiator directly. Those things put off enough force to bend the cooling fins on the radiator and hence damage its heat shedding capacity. Then again, real pros generally try to avoid commercial “self-washes” and automated car washes entirely. In my opinion you should NEVER use those automated car washes on a car that you car about in the least. Company cars, off-roaders, and that ilk are what they are designed for. Other small touches that make a difference would be using your headlight washers before you wash as they can become clogged over time and disuse. Also if you periodically wipe down the antenna while it is fully extended you remove the grease, grit, and grime that it accumulates. While all of this may seem extreme or overly time consuming, once you have made it routine and have a system of sorts established it saves your time and headache in the long run. Be sure to look for upcoming posts on drying, paint cleaning, waxing, and interiors. Hope this helps...Lee

[This message has been edited by Lee Scheeler (edited 03-15-99).]
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