North American Turbocoupe Organization

Detailing your TC
andrewjs18 Offline
Body & Wheels
By Dave Stewart

First of all, to quote my friend Jeff Sparkman, “There are no shortcuts”. Products claiming to be a quick, easy cure-all for neglected surfaces only produce quick, easy money for the manufacturer of the product. In my writing I reference Meguiar’s products because that is what I have used for nearly 20 years with extremely satisfying results. I think they have the finest and most comprehensive collection of car care products available, but there are certainly other manufacturers (Zymol and Mother’s being a couple of them) that make excellent products as well.

STEP 1: Where to wash the car

Select a shady place - one that will remain shaded until the car has been completely dried. If the car has been in the sun prior to washing, park it in the shade and allow the exterior surfaces to cool to a point where the car isn’t hot to the touch before washing.

STEP 2: Washing the car

Tools Needed:

(1) Water hose with nozzle
(2) 2 buckets - one is a wheel & chassis bucket; the other for washing the body
(3) Lamb’s wool wash mitt (body washing) and a cotton washcloth (wheel washing)
(4) Wheel detail brush (on a TC, for cleaning the fins in the wheel openings)
(5) Long handled, long soft-bristle brush (for tires and fenderwells)
(6) A quality car wash solution, such as Meguiar’s Soft Wash Gel
(7) Cotton towels for drying

Before starting, remember this: Always use a wash solution made for washing cars. Leave the dishwashing soap under the kitchen sink - it is made for washing dishes, not cars. Car washes have surfactants in the solution that “float” the dirt away from the car’s surface, thereby minimizing the chance that dirt particles will scratch the surface on their way to the ground. Dishwashing detergents contain enzymes made to break down proteins and oils, which your paint will not like. (Oil is the primary ingredient in your car’s paint). Stripping the oil from the paint will eventually lead to a faded finish that looks washed out.

Okay, I’m off my soap box now, so let’s wash the car: Start with the wheels first. While this may sound backward, you don’t want the rest of the car to dry while you wash the wheels. Don’t use “spray on / hose off” wheel cleaners - while the damage done by these products may not be immediately evident, it will show over a long period of time with repeated use. Use the cotton washcloth to wash the face of the wheel and accessible surfaces; use the detail brush for the hard to get areas. Wash the tire with the long handled brush, followed by washing the fenderwells with the same brush. When I rotate the tires on my Turbo Coupe, I wash the back side of the wheel / tire assembly as well as a thorough detailed cleaning of the fenderwell and suspension pieces. If you encounter any greasy grime while cleaning the fenderwells or suspension pieces, a cleaner such as 409, Fantastik, Simple Green, etc. may be used to cut the grease.

Next wash the body: In the second bucket, prepare the wash solution with cool water. Rinse the car thoroughly to loosen and remove as much dust / pollen / caked-on mud / dirt as possible. Start with the roof, then proceed to the hood and trunk. Wash and rinse one panel at a time - don’t let the soap dry on the car. Rinse the mitt with clear water after washing each panel, more often if your car is really dirty. Don’t return a dirty mitt to your wash water. Wash the sides, then front and back, down to the belt line. After all body washing is complete, wash below the beltline, and rinse the mitt VERY often. This is where most of the abrasive dirt from the road is, and you don’t want to distribute it to higher, more visible surfaces on your car. Finish the washing process with this rinse procedure: Remove the nozzle from the hose, turn the water on at a slow to medium rate, and flood each panel with water to rinse. This does two things: One, it removes all remaining soap from the surfaces and seams; two, the surface tension of the water will allow a “sheeting” effect to take place, thereby removing most of the water and leaving a much drier surface than if you were to rinse with a nozzle.

One tip I almost forgot: If insects are plastered across the front of your car, take an old pair of panty hose and soak it with 7-Up or Sprite. Wipe the soaked panty hose over the bugs, and they will come off with virtually no scrubbing. This works better than any bug remover product I have tried, almost all of which are just mineral spirits.

To dry the car, use soft cotton towels. Use one towel to “sweep” the water from the horizontal surfaces, then use another towel to re-wipe and dry. Dry all of the glass completely, then proceed to the sides and front and back. To remove water from those stubborn crevices that leach water several hours after you wash the car, use an air hose to blow the water out. Wipe the wheels dry (the air hose also does a good job here for removing bulk water), and wipe the fenderwells dry. Complete drying by wiping out the door jambs and the hood and trunk jambs.

Be sure to machine wash your mitt and washcloths / towels after you finish the job.

Step 3 : Cleaning, Polishing, Waxing

This is probably the hardest section to write, since the condition of any given car can vary from abused to pristine. Start by determining the condition of your car’s finish. If it has been terribly neglected, you can at least improve the appearance by starting with medium cut cleaner application(s) and gradually stepping up to a fine cut cleaner. Just remember this: the paint on your car is less than half the thickness of a sheet of paper, and coarse, aggressive cleaners will easily cut through the paint - use extreme care. I would try a couple of applications of a medium cut cleaner in lieu of using a coarse cleaner.

If your car’s finish is only lightly oxidized, with very minor scratches or swirls, use either Meguiar’s Medallion Premium Paint Cleaner (black bottle), or Meguiar’s Swirl Remover (beige bottle). Follow the directions carefully, and remember to flip to a clean surface on the removal towel often.

You now have a clean surface that is free of oxidation. If your car’s surface is new or is in like new condition, this is the point where you start. It’s time to apply a polish. Meguiar’s defines a polish as a “paint food” - it contains oils that revitalize the paint’s health and appearance. It doesn’t contain abrasives designed to remove oxidation. That is the job of a paint cleaner. Meguiar’s Show Car Glaze is the product I use, and it can be applied either by hand or by buffer. Again, follow the directions shown on the bottle.

The final step is to apply a protectant. Basically, there are two ways to go here: Carnauba wax and synthetic wax. I recommend either type of wax, depending on how you use your car and where it is mostly parked. Carnauba waxes are best for dark colors if your car is stored indoors or under cover and doesn’t see extended periods of direct exposure to the sun on hot days. They produce the deepest finish appearance (great since dark colors have superb depth quality), and provide good weather protection. Carnauba waxes, however, will actually melt if the car is exposed to extended periods of sunlight on a very hot day. I know - it happened to my car. That is why I switched to Meguiar’s Medallion, a synthetic based wax. Synthetic waxes provide excellent weather resistance, as well as excellent reflective qualities for lighter color cars.

Step 4 : Trim Care and Detailing

This is where most people stop, but it’s the step that makes the difference between a clean looking car and a car that looks new. Let’s start with the glass. I use Clear Vue glass cleaner (it’s a clear liquid in a clear bottle with a black top and black label). It contains a small amount of acetone, which helps cut the oily road film from the exterior surfaces of the glass. It also helps remove the hazy film from the interior glass surfaces caused by solvents evaporating from the vinyls and plastics inside the car. Just don’t use it on painted surfaces.

For clear plastic items such as headlamp and taillamp lenses, I use Meguiar’s clear plastic cleaner followed by Meguiar’s clear plastic polish. Meguiar’s also makes a clear plastic detailer in a spray bottle which will produce similar results. If your lenses have any minor scratches or discoloration, I would recommend the 2 part system, one of which comes in a small blue bottle and the other which comes in a white bottle.

For the black trim at the beltline, the rearview mirror housings, and all plastic or rubber window trim, use Mother’s Back to Black. While the name of the product may imply that it is only for black surfaces, it can be used on any color and will almost work miracles for revitalizing a faded plastic piece. Apply this product as you would a wax - let it dry after application and then buff the surface with a clean, dry cloth. The rubber trim around the side windows will dirty your application towel quickly, so keep a couple of application cloths handy when applying here or on any rubber surface. The red insert stripe on your Turbo Coupe’s beltline trim really stands out after using this product. Be sure to clean the crevice on either side of the red stripe well, since a lot of dirt hides here on TC’s. After the Back to Black treatment, use whatever wax you use on the paint on the beltline trim for a really deep gloss. Back to Black also works very well on the front fenderwell plastic liners. The rear fenderwells are painted black, so you may want to apply some fresh paint here each time you rotate your tires (after a thorough cleaning and drying, of course).

Last, but certainly not least, is the wheel and tire detail. I use the same wax I use on the body for the wheels (be prepared - this takes a while with all of the detail found on a Turbo Coupe wheel). If your wheels are pitted or if the clearcoat is starting to peel off, you may want to consider having the wheels refinished. An otherwise perfect car will look pretty grungy with pitted / peeling wheels.

For the tires, I use Meguiar’s Intensive Protectant, which I find to be far superior to Armor All, Son of a Gun, or equivalent products. It produces a better initial appearance with an even color throughout, and an application lasts about 3 times longer than the other products.

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