I want to relate what I’ve learned about the maintenance of the cosmetic aspects of our classic cars, and maybe cars in general. This relates only to what I’ve learned. I’m sure that many of you have your own tried-and-true exterior/interior maintenance methods and they work for you—so enjoy the article and maybe you’ll pick up a tip or two. If not, happy motoring!
Mike Howem, detail guy at formerly Only Yesterday (C.A.R.S.) has been my maintenance mentor since March 2009 and he has provided me with many valuable tips that I’ve put to use since my AMX was repainted a long time ago.
Exterior paint. First, Mike advised me that waxing a car can be a complicated or simple matter. First, you really have to look closely at the condition of your paint to decide what direction to take. Most cars that I see have many scratches, both large and small. You can buy the combo cleaner/wax and it’s a one-step process. The problem with this process is that you may not be satisfied with the results, as it’s a one size fits all result. Mike’s opinion is that it’s not the wax that makes the car shine; it’s the polishing of the paint and/or clear coat. He recommends a multi-step approach, consisting of a slightly more abrasive polishing agent, to a less abrasive polishing agent, then finally a wax coat. Of course, this depends on the condition of the paint. You may even have to clay the paint, too, depending on how long it’s been since the paint has been clayed. He likes Presta brand polishing products, and of course, there are others. As far as wax is concerned, his favorite is Mother’s carnauba paste wax. Apparently, most, if not all liquid waxes are silicone-based, which means that over time a buildup of wax can occur and it can cause paint smear, paint/materials/metal deterioration. He doesn’t like the use of Simple Green anywhere near the paint, as it can stain the paint if not washed off immediately. You can purchase Presta brand and other exterior products from www.tricitypaint.com, which is the body shop worker’s store to shop at. Again, these are his opinions.
Exterior brightwork. Most of us have two types of exterior metals: chrome and stainless steel. Mike likes Blue Magic paste for stainless steel. Chrome—it depends on what you want to do. If you haven’t done it in a while, either liquid or paste wax used on chrome is a great protectant. If you just want to do a touch up, then your typical detail spray will suffice, like most of us already do.
Engine compartment. Mike recommends waxing the paint areas of the engine compartment. Paint gets dirty and if you have any spills, they can be easily wiped up. We’ve all seen engine hoses that are very bright and wet looking. If you have a ‘60’s car, you know they didn’t look that way from the factory. I use Costco spray (I believe it’s called Sprayaway) for both windows and hoses.
Tires. Previously, I used whatever glossy Costco brand of tire enhancer was available. Unfortunately, this and many spray-based products are silicone-based, enhance the build-up of silicone, and don’t really make our tires appear to be black. Mike advises buying a can of grease and wax remover and use it liberally on the black part of the tires. You’d be shocked at what comes off! After numerous swipes of the product on the blue paper towel, it’s time for a silicone-free tire dressing. Mike likes P+S High Gloss Silicone free tire dressing, #L12, or Diamond Pro Triple S Dressing, #DP 549.
Interior. Mike likes a wet rag and wipe down for the plastic and vinyl parts—that’s it.
Well, that’s what I’ve learned for the past six months. What are your detailing secrets?