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The Perfect Shine

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#1 Autopia Expert

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Posted 10 November 2006 - 01:08 PM

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.  As it happens, I stumbled on this process quite by accident.  I had applied a carnauba wax over a synthetic sealant on my Guards Red Porsche 944 Turbo.  When I pulled the car out of the garage into the bright sunlight, I could not believe my eyes.  The finish was noticeably deeper, richer and more vibrant.  The paint had taken on a new depth, like it had a clearcoat finish.

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.  With the ability to achieve consistent results, I decided I would give the process a name, The Perfect Shine.  This chapter outlines The Perfect Shine Process.

<table border="0" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="3" style="border-collapse: collapse" bordercolor="#111111" width="100%" bgcolor="#CCCCCC"><tr><td width="100%" valign="top" align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine1.jpg" width="423" height="282" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top">
All of the pictures in this chapter were provided by Chis Hays, who documented the process on a friend's Honda S2000.</td></tr></table>
<h3>SIX PERFECT SHINE REQUIREMENTS</h3> The perfect shine comes when your 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.

<h3>Good Paint Condition</h3> For the first 12 to 18 months of a new car's life, the paint is relatively oxidation-free and in good condition.  If you maintain your 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 wash your car weekly.<O:P>  If you don't have time to wash weekly, use my Quick Detailing process.

<h3>Contamination-free</h3> As you drive your car, debris from the road (i.e., tar, oil, bugs, etc.) will lodge itself on your 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, your car 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.

<h3>Polished</h3> 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.  There's nothing quite like the polished fenders of a curvaceous Porsche, Ferrari, Viper or Corvette.

<h3>Glazed</h3> 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.  In The Perfect Shine, ultra-fine polishes are used to refine the paint finish to achieve or restore full gloss.

<h3>Protected</h3> Paint is protected when it's sealed from the elements.  As we've discussed in previous chapters, 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.  In The Perfect Shine process, the synthetic protection is an acrylic sealant.  I have not found a polymer sealant that works.  I will explain why later.

<h3>Waxed</h3> 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.

Now that you know the six requirements for The Perfect Shineâ„¢, I'll share with you my personal tips that keep my cars turning heads.  The first thing to know is that I treat my toys differently than my daily driver.  It's very difficult to maintain a perfect shine on a daily driver, unless you only drive it a mile or two a day.  Show cars (toys) are easier, because their job is to stay beautiful.

<h3>THE PERFECT SHINE</h3> The Perfect Shine is a simple process that reliably achieves the best shine possible on any paint finish.  Follow these steps and product recommendations:

<b>Step 1: Wash & Dry<br></b>Wash your car twice with a high concentration of car wash solution.  I recommend a gloss shampoo.  If your car is excessively dirty, you can use Dawn dish-washing liquid.  If you do, be sure to rinse thoroughly.
<table border="0" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="3" style="border-collapse: collapse" bordercolor="#111111" width="100%" bgcolor="#CCCCCC"><tr><td width="100%" valign="top" align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine2.jpg" width="424" height="467" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top"> Use a quality car wash.  If your car is really dirty, like this Honda S2000, mix a strong batch of wash water.</td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top" align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine3.jpg" width="423" height="282" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top"> Dry the car thoroughly with a drying towel that will not scratch or swirl your car's paint..  The next step will be to examine the paint closely.</td></tr></table>
<b>Step 2: Detailing Clay<br></b>After washing and drying, examine your 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.

<table border="0" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="3" style="border-collapse: collapse" bordercolor="#111111" width="100%" bgcolor="#CCCCCC"><tr><td width="100%" valign="top"><p align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine4.jpg" width="423" height="307" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top"> Use plenty of Sonus Glyde Clay Lubricant and rub the clay lightly over the paint finish.  Use a Sonus Der Wunder Polishing Towel to dry and buff the freshly cleaned paint.</td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top" align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine5.jpg" width="424" height="289" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top">
Inspect your clay frequently to check for hard particles, which should be picked out.  Re-mold the clay when it gets dirty to expose fresh clay. </td></tr></table>
<b>Step 3: Repair Paint Damage<br></b>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, like Sonus SFX-1 Restore Polish.  If your paint has swirl marks and other minor micro marring, use a swirl remover polish, like Sonus SFX-2 Enhance 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.

<table border="0" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="3" style="border-collapse: collapse" bordercolor="#111111" width="100%" bgcolor="#CCCCCC"><tr><td width="100%" valign="top" align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine6.jpg" width="424" height="375" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top">   As you can see in this photo, Chris has his work cut out for him.  The swirls, cob web effect and surface scratches are so bad that the paint finish looks dull and flat.</td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top" align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine7.jpg" width="424" height="312" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top">Chris is applying Sonus SFX-1 Restore to the whole car to knock down the swirls and light scratches.  This work can be done by hand (with a lot of work), but is best done with a car polisher. </td></tr></table>
<b>Step 4: Restore Finish Clarity<br></b>Now it's time to glaze your paint to bring out its full gloss potential.  For this I recommend a swirl-remover polish formula like Sonus SFX-2 Enhance Polish.  Swirl-remover polishes are designed to remove fine swirl marks, not the heavy paint damage removed in the previous step.  If your paintwork is already in perfect condition, you can skip this step.

<table border="0" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="3" style="border-collapse: collapse" bordercolor="#111111" width="100%" bgcolor="#CCCCCC"><tr><td width="100%" valign="top" align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine8.jpg" width="423" height="282" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top"> Chris polished the entire car with Sonus SFX-2 Enhance Polish and then followed with Sonus SFX-1 Final Finish to bring out this crystal clear finish.  The Sonus Der Wunder Polishing Towel buffs off the polish residue with ease and won't put swirls back in the paint finish.</td></tr></table>
<b>Step 5: Seal and Protect<br></b>Once perfectly polished, your paint is ready to be sealed.  For this I use a product that's been protecting my cars since 1987, Klasse All-In-One.  The Klasse acrylic formula has proven its quality to me again and again.  Klasse All-In-One is a one-step acrylic resin that cleans, lightly polishes and protects paint with a durable acrylic finish.  The best way to apply Klasse All-In-One is with a microfiber applicator.  Klasse All-In-One contains cleaners that remove previous layers of Klasse All-In-One.  If you wish to apply additional Klasse acrylic protection, you can apply one or more coats of Klasse Sealant Glaze.  Klasse Sealant Glaze does not contain cleaners; it is a pure acrylic sealant.  Additional layers of Klasse Sealant Glaze will increase protection and finish depth.

<b>Step 6: Make it Pop!<br></b>You're almost there.  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 P21S Carnauba Wax.  P21S Carnauba Wax is a true show car wax.

Compared to other show car waxes of similar formula, for the money P21S offers the best final finish.  P21S 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 (except Klasse Sealant Glaze, which requires a microfiber applicator).  For final buffing of the P21S Carnauba Wax, I use a Sonus Der Wunder Buffing Towel.

<table border="0" cellpadding="3" cellspacing="3" style="border-collapse: collapse" bordercolor="#111111" width="100%" bgcolor="#CCCCCC"><tr><td width="100%" valign="top" align="center"><img border="0" src="http://guidetodetailing.com/article_images/PerfectShine9.jpg" width="424" height="302" align="center"></td></tr><tr><td width="100%" valign="top">
The final Perfect Shine results on this Honda S2000 are nothing less than stunning.  Chris put in a full day of hard work, but the results speak for themselves.  This sports car is ready to show!</td></tr></table>
<h3>Maintaining Your Car's Perfect Shine</h3> 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), keep it covered.  Even while it's neatly tucked away in the garage, you should keep your car covered.  This keeps dust and pollutants off of the beautiful finish, and the wax won't evaporate as quickly (yes, wax evaporates).

Next, plan to do a quick detailing on your 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 to 10 minutes.

You can apply a fresh coat of P21S wax as often as you like.  I recommend reapplying wax monthly, or whenever you want your car to look its very best.

Between washes and after washing, I recommend using Sonus Acrylic Spritz or Sonus Carnauba Spritz.  Both products will restore shine and protection.  The Sonus Carnauba Spritz contains the same grade carnauba wax as P21S Carnauba Wax.  If you keep your car garaged and covered, this is a great detailing spray to maintain the concours finish.  If your car is a daily driver, use Sonus Acrylic Spritz, which contains polymer protection.

The Klasse protection will last 5 to 6 months.  Plan to repeat The Perfect Shine process two to three times a year to keep your car's paint in perfect showroom condition.

<h3>How The Perfect Shine Works</h3> 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. The key ingredients are Klasse All-In-One and Pinnacle P21S Carnauba Wax.  The reason these two products work together, where others do not, is actually pretty simple.  Klasse is an acrylic resin coating.  It's not a petroleum- or water-based product.  It's an acrylic.  When it dries, it dries hard.  Most synthetic sealants are polymers based on the element silicone. 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.  Zaino Show Car Polish is the only polymer sealant that I'm aware of that can be successfully layered (a new application of Zaino Show Car Polish does not remove previous applications). 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 P21S 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 in P21S Carnauba Wax does not affect the cured Klasse sealant.  By conducting side-by-side durability tests, I have proven Klasse remains solidly intact.

If you're a car appearance fanatic, creating "the perfect shine" is akin to
finding religion.  The technique discussed here is not the only method,
it's simply the process I discovered that works for me and has been proven by
hundreds of other detailing fanatics.

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