I noticed that people here often come asking about what products, methods, orders, tools and so on are best for taking care of your car. I figured I would make an FAQ for this forum, if a mod thinks its worth reading maybe they can make it a sticky or something. In any event let’s get started...
Few things about washing, the biggest thing is probably identifying what you are trying to accomplish with the wash. The most common answer is "clean" but clean is a relative term.
*If you are completely making over your car, use dawn soap. It will not harm your car and it will strip old wax. This is a great way to start out your cars make over.
*If your car is incredibly dirty and you are not in the mood to apply any waxes or polishes use a product like Meguiars Gold Class car wash or Meguiars 62. It will remove most/any dirt safely.
*If you car has all ready been waxed and you are simply maintaining that "just waxed" look then avoid using the two washes previously mentioned. Instead go out and buy Meguiars Hi-Tech Car Wash number 00 in the professional series. It will remove dirt and not touch the wax, really a great product.
*To avoid scratching your car during a wash make sure you have a CLEAN (meaning not left outside in pool of dirty wash water) 100% sheep skin wash mitt. Do not use anything other than sheep skin, it costs a little bit more but it is well worth it. This is one of the few things I go to Wal-Mart for.
People always ask about the best way to dry your car. Most people just use chamois but if you are an obsessed detailer you may not be satisfied with the job they do.
*After you have completely washed the car and rinsed all the suds away mist the car (if your hose has the capability) and then proceed to use a low pressure flow over the roof of the car. The water should "sheet" off and leave the car relatively dry.
*Water will be left behind, so clean up what remains with a micro fiber towel or the Absorber. The Absorber is a "super chamoi" that works pretty well. Just be careful not to get any dirt in it!
*If you are really anal you will go into the garage and pull out your old mans leaf blower and blow out every single nook and cranny on the car. This is what I do, you'd be surprised at how much water gets stuck in those. Especially on the Mustangs honey comb grill and scoops.
*Follow up the leaf blower with a micro fiber towel (can be purchased at Wal-Mart but they are cheap ones, for the highest quality go to http://www.pakshack.com
The first thing you need to do is identify the scratch. If it is a paint scratch and scratched all the way down the primer you are in trouble. If it is just a scratch in the clear it is fixable, but will take some effort and maybe the use of a power tool.
*As much as I love the Meguiars line, Scratch X is a hunk of junk, go buy the #9 in their professional series, it is a great product that can safety be applied by hand.
*If you are really anal like me, you will go to Sears and spend 50 bucks on a halogen lamp and work on the car at night. This allows you to see every little flaw in the paint, thus effectively eliminating them. I warn you now, though, if you try to remove them all at once you will go mad.
*If the scratch is deeper than the clear coat you may need to have a professional do it. This is way out of my league as it may require the use of a rotary buffer and/or a repaint. Best advice to avoid this is to park a safe distance away from the rest of the world and don't make any enemies or crazy girlfriend/boyfriends.
*Keep in mind it is very important that you use the LEAST abrasive product possible to get the job done. Don't use Meguiars #83 without trying the #9 first. The abrasives in such products can damage your paint, and even though it may not show up immediately it will show up later. Be careful and make sure you rub the products in until they are virtually gone.
A lot of people ask what the purpose of using a clay bar is. Simply enough, it is just to remove any contaminents from the paint. Even washing with the most potent car wash will not get these little contaminents out of your paint. When you wax the car, you are just sealing them in and damaging your paint.
*Clay bar the car after you wash, it is made for surface prep, meaning you are getting the surface ready for polishes, scratch removal and waxes. Think of it as starting with a new coat of paint.
*Some people like to use soap and water for lubricant, others like to use the product the clay bar came with. I personally use Meguiars Overspray Clay with #34 for lubricant. It works very nicely.
*Popular brands of clay are Mothers, Meguiars and Clay Magic. All will work fine.
*Just be sure that you have washed the car before your clay, if you are doing a total make over, this is where the majority of your time will be spent so don't forget it.
*When you wipe off the residue left behind by the clay (use a micro fiber towel) your surface should feel smooth as glass.
*You know that you have gotten the surface ready by when there is very little lubricant on the paint and the clay bar is gliding rather easily across the surface. If you run into rough spots, keep rubbing them with it until smooth.
*Clay bars work great for bug and tar as well, just don't forget to cover up the spot with polish and wax, as clay bars remove wax as well.
Most people think that it is the wax that makes your car shine, well it isn't. The wax helps out, but the magic happens with the polishes.
*Zaino is a great polish or glaze if you want to call it that. Anybody considering ordering it should do so without seconding guessing.
*Meguiars #7 is also a great polish; it goes on easily and comes off nicely as well. It is safe to apply by hand or by a dual action polisher.
*When you apply polishes, you want to get a very even layer to achieve a matte and even look. If you are doing it by hand, buy the Meguiars yellow foam pads, and if you are doing it by hand buy a Porter Cable (will discuss PC later).
Everybody’s favorite step. Waxing is great because that means after you finish this, all you have to do is maintain your cars new look.
*There are many different waxes out there. In my experience you get what you pay for.
*Products like Turtle Wax and Zymol are not any good, at least the cleaner waxes aren't.
*Meguiars #26 works wonders, it is one of the easiest products to apply and remove. It really works well with the #7 as well. It also beads water like you would not believe.
*If you applied ANY polishes what so ever do not apply ANY cleaner waxes such as Zymol or Meguiars Gold Class. You will remove all the polish and you will want shoot yourself afterwards (trust me).
Maintaining is easy, but it can be tedious. Unless your car is a garage queen, products like the California car duster are useless.
*Buy a bottle of the following, Meguiars Quik Detailer, Meguiars Quik Wax and Meguiars #34 Final Inspection.
*Apply the detailer to areas that just have things like pollen on them and wipe clean with a micro fiber.
*Follow it with the quik wax to restore any shine that you may have lost, this product rocks.
*The #34 is for hardcore dirt and grime, if it gets too much for one spray and wipe to handle, WASH YOUR CAR. You will scratch it otherwise.
*Bird droppings, bugs & tar - I hate all three of these equally. If you get bird droppings on your car, remove it immediately. Spray it with #34 LIBERALLY and let it sit for a while. Then spray it off with the hose, follow up with a wash of the Meguiars 00. Be very careful with bird droppings, they are full of harmful acids and will eat your paint. They can also scratch your paint! For bugs and tar I like to use the Meguiars bug and tar remover wipes. A common misconception (partially their fault for calling them wipes) is that all you have to do is wipe it with the wipe and it will come right off. This is not true, you need to rub it in vigorously and then let it sit. After a minute or so try picking at it with your finger, it should come off. If not get out the quick detailer and try again. That should do it.