Exterior car detailing: Shining up your treasure on wheels!

Exterior car detailing: Shining up your treasure on wheels!

When after ten years the ravages of time take their toll on your beloved car, it is high time for exterior car detailing. Consequently, the following question is: DIY or having it done? The only right answer appears to be “that depends”. Indeed, it all depends on what you want to achieve by car detailing. Get an overview on exterior car detailing and its potential effect in this brief manual.

More than just a car wash

Exterior car detailing vs car washAn exterior car detailing is quite something else than just taking your car to the car wash. A lot more is involved. Plan at least a weekend for freshening up your car. It will take some work to turn the scrapheap candidate into a shiny treasure on wheels you never want to part with.

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Exterior car detailing – What is your goal?

A relevant question with respect to exterior car detailing. Upgrading your own car in order to experience full pleasure and joy of your own conveyance? Value enhancement with the prospect of sale? In case the latter applies, it depends on the actual condition whether or not you should give this project a DIY try.

1. Remediable visible deficiencies on the car

Remediable visible deficiencies on the carA professional external detailing can remedy the following deficiencies on your car:

1. General condition: mossy window rubbers, polluted paintwork, wheel rims and plastic components.
2. Paintwork damage: dull paint, shallow scratching, slight and small rust patches.
3. Damage of components: dull headlights, cracked windows, brittle or broken rear lights, crooked and dented bumpers.
4. Bodywork damage: hail dents, parking dents, deep rust holes.

2. Washing brings it all to light

bodywork damageBarn finds or used cars which have been waiting a long time for a new buyer come with a thick dust layer which must be removed completely to make sure what else awaits you.

The good news is: a polishing treatment is one of the following measures, so at this stage it is safe to proceed in a more or less rough manner.
This means: first comes the high-pressure cleaner, then the foam gun and ultimately the scouring sponge in order to remove all persistent filth from the bodywork.
Subsequently, the car is thoroughly wiped dry to enable an assessment of the car without any calcium deposits.

how to clean aluminium rimsIdeally, wheel rims are removed and rinsed separately in a tub. Aluminium rims are difficult when it comes to cleaning. A hard brush will do away with brake dust. The aluminium wheel rims will afterwards be up for polishing, which will remove possible superficial scratching.

dented plastic bumpersAll damage on plastic bumpers, rear-view mirrors and protection rails must be repaired. Make sure that they are all installed properly. Also bumpers might have to be completely removed to determine whether or not the component is salvageable. If not, a spare part can be bought at the nearest recycler.

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As a rule they have plenty of bumpers and rear-view mirrors available.

3. Polishing – the right way

Exterior car detailing via polishingBefore telling you how to correctly polish your car, we tell you the wrong way first: never apply an angle grinder on paintwork. Attacking the paintwork with this heavy artillery will certainly cause serious damage which only can be remedied by fully repainting the car.

For a beginner in polishing, manual work is adequate to attain satisfactory results. You need:

– cotton cloth
– silicon cleaner
– for very dull paintwork: 400 grit polishing compound
– for average paintwork: 2500 polishing compound
– for finishing: 3500 polishing compound.

If you really want to use a grinder, be sure to borrow a professional one.

Take care: a polishing grinder is only suitable for flat surfaces. On the bonnet, side panels or the roof, a grinder can be used. Wings, wheel arches and everything with edges and corners should be polished manually. Otherwise you run the risk of polishing all the way down to the primer layer.

clean the car with silicone cleanerWhen the car is clean and dry, it is first thoroughly cleaned with the silicone cleaner. Therefore, all traces of grease and smallest dust particles are absorbed. Otherwise new scratches may occur when polishing.
Now, the entire car is polished manually in the grit order 400 – 2500 – 3500. You will be amazed how quickly breathtaking results will show.

Very important: after polishing, the paintwork must be sealed right away. Otherwise a single bout of rain will eradicate all the work. Polished paintwork is extremely susceptible. Therefore, immediately after the final polish, clean again with silicon cleaner (no water!) before washing it completely.

Upgrading plastic parts

Upgrading plastic parts on carUnpainted bumpers or radiator grilles become as good as new with an intensive treatment of plastic cleaner.
This agent penetrates the surface, dissolving an ultra-thin plastic layer, turning dull gray into rich black.
The effect is visible immediately.

Polishing headlights

Upgrading plastic partsThis always provokes the question: is polishing dull headlight covers legal?

Opinions differ, but honestly: the safety risk of those few micrometres of plastic worn away by polishing is negligible.

What you get is an attractive clean car front – and the fully restored lighting performance on the road. Therefore, polishing headlights can be considered as a safety-relevant measure.

how to replace rear lightsRear lights and turn signals are so cheap that detailing them is not worth while.
Generally, they are fixed with a few screws and can quickly be replaced.
On a polished car, a new rear light battery for a durable functioning is the finishing touch.

Exterior car detailing
– All else only for the really courageous ones and professionals

wheel arches rustWhen deep rust is affecting the wheel arches, even the best polishing compound is of no use. The car is spoiled and practically unsaleable. As long as the metal is not completely corroded through, filling might bring it one step closer to a perfect look. Nevertheless, filling implies painting afterwards. You have to be certain about what you are doing here, otherwise the only option is going to the professional car painter.

how to fill bars and  sillsAll in all, filling is a value-driven repair. Filled cavities tend to develop rust after a few months. If you wish to remove the rust permanently, a complete replacement of the affected component is unavoidable.

Be careful with rust patches on carrier beams and door sills. These hollow, tubular components corrode from the inside outwards. An external filling attempt does not really solve anything and is misleading with respect to the safety condition of the car.

Get a guinea pig before starting on your own car!

Look in the small ads for very cheap cars. Indeed, complete cars come at £30 – £50. You can try your hand at everything with respect to manual detailing on these objects. Rather make beginner’s mistakes on a cheap car than ruining your own vehicle.

Maybe better leave it to a professional after all?

Exterior car detailing at workshopIn his first ten exterior car detailing attempts even the most motivated laymen will not attain the level offered by a professional car detailing & valeting service provider.

If the car is to be sold, a professional treatment is the better option, at least for high value models. With a professionally polished, spot- and scratch-free car you will obtain a value enhancement compensating for the investment.

The only risk remaining is that you’ll fall in love with your own car all over again and won’t give it away after all. ☺

Foto: janon kas, Krasula, Memory Stockphoto, KITTI_PHIT, PrimaStockPhoto, Kwangmoozaa, IVL, SARIN KUNTHONG, Adam J, Aleksandr Kondratov / shutterstock.com

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