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Brush up on detail brushes

April 14, 2010
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Editor’s Note: This article is taken from a previous issue of Professional Carwashing & Detailing®. If you would like to submit an article or topic idea for the Management Tip of the Week, please e-mail Editor Kate Carr.

Some of our most important tools as detailers are brushes. In the detailing profession, shop owners and employees are always working on certain areas of vehicles which require some sort of brush to complete a cleaning step. It's not enough to have a vacuum and a wash glove -- a brush is often the right tool for fine work.

The type of brush depends upon the application. Different areas of vehicle require different cleaning techniques. Here are some suggestions for choosing the right brush for each area of a car:

* The engine compartment. A number of brushes can be used in the engine compartment. The one you choose depends upon the physical layout of the engine area and the amount of dirt and soil present.

The brush used for most of engine cleaning tasks is called a "tampico brush." Tampico is a natural fiber that's fairly soft when wet. In most cases, the brushes will not mar or scratch a vehicle's finish if used properly.

These brushes are probably readily available from your local supplier or distributor. They are generally made in two or three different handle lengths, and you may need all three in your shop. You'll often need to vary the handle length according to the amount of reach that is required.

These brushes are extremely helpful around the shop, and not only in the engine bay. They also work for the tires, wheel wells, grills, rocker panels, lower extremities, etc.

* Spokes and mag wheels. The second most frequently used brush in prepping any vehicle for a detail is a spoke-type brush, sometimes referred to as a mag wheel brush. The primary use for this brush is for all types of wheel cleaning -- wire, alloy, etc.

These brushes are generally 9 to 14 inches in length and have a loop of fine to medium nylon bristles. This brush is extremely effective when cleaning wheels that have small holes or tight spaces.

Again, however, these brushes are very versatile. They can be used in the engine bay for those hard-to-reach tight places where dirt and grease may be lodged.

* Canvas, vinyl or convertible tops. Another brush to have around the shop is a medium to stiff nylon scrub brush. These are used primarily on canvas, vinyl or convertible tops, but they will effectively clean most types of non-painted tops.

* Tires and whitewalls. Raised white letters on tires also often need special care. A brush for this job has either a plastic or wood handle with short, stiff brass bristles.

You may want to use these brushes occasionally on whitewalls as well, but steel wool with soap also does a superior job.

Interior cleaning

You'll find that problems posed by interior cleaning demand a different set of brushes from those on the outside. The right brushes will enable you to do a professional job on the following areas inside a car:

* Carpet, upholstery, etc. If you shampoo your interiors by hand instead of a shampoo machine, you will need a number of brushes to complete this task. You will need two different size medium- to stiff-bristle nylon scrub brushes to cover the larger and smaller surfaces of your vehicle's interior.

The larger brush for this job is similar to the brush used for the canvas and vinyl tops. It usually has a handle or grip.

For those harder to reach places you need a smaller brush, preferably with a longer handle, approximately, 6 to 8 inches long. The smaller interior brush is similar to what is commonly sold in stores as pot scrubbers.

These two brushes, if not available from your supplier, can usually be readily purchased at your local hardware or discount chain store.

* Interior fine work. The final step in an interior detailing procedure, which is going over your dash vents, dash area, console area, window and door switches, etc., demands another brush. This detail brush is a natural-bristle, part-cleaning brush which is very soft and therefore perfect for these delicate tasks.

If this particular brush is not readily available, there are alternatives, some of which many of you may already use. Horsehair and china bristle soft paint brushes also do a fine job, and they are generally easy find.

Exterior cleaning

The final stage of the detailing process, the exterior, also requires special types of brushes. It's important to choose the right brushes for these steps because abrasive ones may damage a car's finish.

For example, here are a few words of caution for those detailers who still use toothbrushes to remove wax, compound or polish residue from a vehicle's exterior trim: Do not automatically assume that when you are using a toothbrush and making contact with the vehicle finish that you are not scratching it. Toothbrushes come with soft to hard bristles, and thus aren't highly recommended by many detailers.

There are many choices of brushes which are far superior to toothbrushes and do a much more professional job on the outside of a car. Horsehair and china bristle-type brushes are much more professional and effective and won't scratch the vehicle's finish if used properly. They are generally available from your supplier, though some of them may have to be trimmed down to suit your needs.

Use extreme caution

Finally, it's important to remember that all of these brushes, particularly the exterior type, should be used with extreme care and caution so as to not scratch the surface you are cleaning. Even the best brush can damage a fresh coat of paint or new leather interior if it's in the hands of a careless detailer.

By combining these guidelines, a varied brush selection and your professional experience, the brushes you choose will assist you in performing thoroughly professional details.

Skip Reisert owns Skip's Detailing & Accessories, Inc., Woodmere, NY.

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