People often ask me how I make and keep my cars looking so picture-perfect. "What wax do you use?" is the question that comes up most often. Unfortunately, it's not quite that simple. If you want the perfect shine, you have to do a little work, and you have to work to keep it maintained. If your car's paint is relatively new and in excellent condition, getting the perfect shine will be far less work than with a car that's five or more years old with heavy oxidation.
The process I'm about to explain came from years of experimenting with dozens of polish and wax combinations to discover what products produced the best results. After a few years of trying my process on the cars of family and friends, I concluded that it works on all car finishes that are in good condition, but has the most dramatic effect on dark colors.
Six perfect shine requirements
The perfect shine comes when the car's paint finish is in good condition, free of surface contamination, polished, glazed, protected and waxed. Let's look at each of these requirements individually.
• Maintain good paint condition
For the first 12-18 months of a new car's life, the paint is relatively oxidation-free and in good condition. If you maintain the new car's paint with regular washing and protection, oxidation will remain minimal, and cleaning the paint will be a minor task. At a minimum, you should encourage your clients to wash their vehicles semiannually, with a goal to give it some attention every week.
• Remove contaminants
Under normal daily driving conditions, debris from the road (i.e., tar, oil, bugs, etc.) will lodge itself on a car's paint. The longer this debris is allowed to remain, the more difficult it is to remove. This is just one reason that regular washing is so important.
While outside, cars will also collect other contamination. (Birds, bugs and neighborhood kids seem to have a natural attraction to beautiful cars.) These contaminants must be removed; you can't wax over them and expect to get a show car finish.
Polishing is necessary to remove minor blemishes, including surface scratches, swirl marks, pitted areas (minor road stone nicks) and scuffs. When polished, the paint finish will feel perfectly smooth. Your hand and polishing towel will literally glide over the surface. Feeling a perfectly polished car is a stimulating experience for most car nuts.
Glaze is a term that's grossly misused in detailing products. Glazes are paint treatments used to fill small surface scratches and swirl marks. To a painter, glaze is the term used to describe the process of restoring full paint gloss.
Paint is protected when it's sealed from the elements. Synthetic sealants offer the best protection. Synthetic coatings are five to ten times more durable than the carnauba waxes. They offer extended protection from the elements and create a super-slick surface. The synthetic protection is an acrylic sealant. I have not found a polymer sealant that works.
Waxing is the final step of “the perfect shine.” We're not talking just any wax here; we're talking about a pure, natural carnauba wax. Pure carnauba waxes don't have cleaning properties or synthetic compounds added. They are made from a blend of carnauba waxes, beeswax and natural oils. A quality show car wax gives paint depth and warmth. I know, I know, it sounds like we're talking about a fine wine or something. Just don't underestimate the value of a great show car wax when it comes to the final results of your car's finish.
The perfect shine
The perfect shine is a simple process that reliably achieves the best shine possible on any paint finish. I'll share with you my personal tips that keep my cars turning heads. It's NOT very difficult to maintain a perfect shine on a daily driver. Follow these steps and product recommendations:
• Step 1: Wash & dry
Wash the car twice with a high concentration of carwash solution. I recommend a gloss shampoo. If the car is excessively dirty, using anything other than a carwash solution will harm your paint.
• Step 2: Clay
After washing and drying, examine the car's paint with your hand. If the paint is not perfectly smooth, use a paint-cleaning clay system and clay lubricant to remove the surface contamination.
• Step 3: Repair paint damage
When the paint is clean and free of surface contamination, examine again for minor surface damage. If you find heavy scuffs or surface scratches, repair these flaws with a fine rubbing compound or scratch remover. If the paint has swirl marks and other minor micro marring, use a swirl remover polish.
I also use swirl remover polish to remove any surface hazing created by using rubbing compound. You can polish by hand or machine. I prefer to work by machine, as it works faster and delivers better results.
• Step 4: Restore finish clarity
Now it's time to glaze the paint to bring out its full gloss potential. For this I recommend a swirl-remover polish formula.
Swirl-remover polishes are designed to remove fine swirl marks, not the heavy paint damage removed in the previous step. If the paintwork is already in perfect condition, you can skip this step.
• Step 5: Seal and protect
Once perfectly polished, the paint is ready to be sealed and protected. Use something industrial rather than something “over the counter” and you’ll see it in the results.
• Step 6: Make it pop!
The final step, the literal icing on the cake, is waxing. You may be asking, "After polishing and sealing, why wax?" The answer lies in the richness of color, depth and clarity that only a high-quality carnauba wax can bring out on a polished surface. For this job I reach for carnauba wax which is a true show car wax.
Compared to other show car waxes of similar formula, Carnauba Wax brings out a warmth and depth on red and yellow that I have not been able to duplicate with any other wax under $70 per can. On black and dark blue cars, the paint looks like a reflection in a pool of water.
On steps four through six, I use a quality foam applicator to apply product.
Maintaining a car's perfect shine
If you've finished the six steps to the perfect shine, you'll need to do some light maintenance to keep it looking great. If it's a true show car (toy), tell the customer to keep it covered. Even while it's neatly tucked away in the garage, you should encourage your clients to keep the car covered. This keeps dust and pollutants off of the beautiful finish, and the wax won't evaporate as quickly (yes, wax evaporates).
Suggest to your customers that you do a quick detailing on the car after each outing. Choose a good detailing spray containing no protection or a carnauba wax detailing spray. A good detailing spray will restore shine. A carnauba detailing spray will replenish the wax lost through evaporation. Quick detailing will normally take no more than 5-10 minutes.
You can apply a fresh coat of wax as often as you like. I recommend reapplying wax monthly, or whenever the car needs to look its very best.
Plan to repeat the perfect shine process two to three times a year to keep the car's paint in perfect showroom condition.
How the perfect shine works
There's no particular magic to my process; however, at least two of the ingredients are key. Finish preparation is the most significant function of the process. The paint finish must be refined through several grades of polish. This is how jewelry makers create gems of radiant beauty.
To my knowledge, all polymer sealants are based on an emulsion system containing petroleum distillates. As a result, even the mildest petroleum distillates remove polymer sealants.
Likewise, carnauba waxes contain petroleum distillates. In waxes, petroleum distillates are used to soften the carnauba, which is rock hard in its raw form, so it can be blended into a paste or cream. The carnauba wax formula uses a highly refined petroleum distillate, much the same as that used in the manufacture of cosmetics (i.e., lipstick wax). The solvent content carnauba wax does not affect the cured sealant.
David Peregrim is the owner/operator of Ricochet's Rapid Detail, LLC, together with his wife, Lucia Piccolino-Peregrim. He has been detailing cars since the age of 13, and professionally since 1998. Peregrim can be reached at email@example.com.