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  1. #1

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    Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Hello,

    I just bought this 2005 Saab 9-2x Aero. I`ve been looking for a full year and finally found a Saab Aero 5-speed that has not been modded, one owner, and low miles.

    The good news is that it only has 56k miles and it is mechanically perfect. The bad/weird news is that it literally seems like it has never been washed. There is a brown film over the entire car, particularly in the lower panels. The pictures are after it was washed. It almost looks like it has cosmoline all over it, but I think it`s just years of accumulated road grime.

    I will have the front bumper/hood/rear bumper painted/replaced, but I need to clean up the rest of it. The backstory is that we will be surprising my sister with this car to replace her totally beat up/rusted 180k mile 2002 Subaru WRX. The Saab Aero is a luxury version rebadge of the Subaru WRX, so it is the exact same car but everything is much nicer (condition and car wise). I want to make this car perfect before we give it to her.

    I have tons of products and a porter cable DA, but I`ve never dealt with a car with this much built up gunk on it.

    My question is: What is the best way to remove this film? I plan to clay/compound/polish/etc. -- but would appreciate any advice on the best first couple of steps to eliminate this grime.
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  2. #2

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    petrp- I`d first do a Chemical Decontamination. I`d use ValuGard`s "ABC" system, but there might be others that`ll work (AFAIK you can`t get the effective, if somewhat risky, FinishKare version any more). Just *don`t* expect a Ferrous Contamination Remover to do it, or at least don`t expect it to do it *all*. I mention this because it seems like a lot of people are expecting "iron removers" to remove other stuff that they`re not designed to deal with.

    Get most of the gunk off of it and then use either clay or a Decontamination Towel to do the rest before you start with the compound.

    You did check that the seams at the bottoms of the doors aren`t rusting out, right? The stains around the rockers in that second pic prompt my Q. Other than that concern, I`m confident that the right Decontamination Chemicals will make a HUGE difference; I`ve cleaned up vehicles that looked quite a bit worse, at least I can tell that`s a silver car and its trim is still pretty black (not chalky white). Seriously, that could be a *LOT* worse (and would still clean up OK). I wish my Tahoe had started out that nice, my `93 Audi too.

    For the wheels, I`d consider replacing/refinishing them instead of spending endless hours with little to show for it.

    Oh, and that`s really great of you to help your sister out this way!
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  3. #3
    Civicclutch's Avatar
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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    I would say start with an iron remover to get the iron particles and expect use a lot, and use a tar remover as well(I like mckee`s tar max tar remover, but there are others) also use 3d pre soak as well

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  4. #4

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Looks like it’s been driven up and down a red clay dirt road for a quite a while
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  5. #5

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Quote Originally Posted by Fishroes View Post
    Looks like it’s been driven up and down a red clay dirt road for a quite a while
    So basically you`re saying that the car has already been clayed

    I think you may be on to something with that. I`ve been deeply pondering Accumlator`s comment about rust -- hadn`t thought of that as a possibility until he mentioned it. It doesn`t look like rust to me, but that comment has me thinking. I would take a much closer look at the door bottom right now if the car was home rather than in the repair shop. The same color stuff is on the wheels as on the body, and it`s much worse on the bottom panels than the top, so a extended period of time being driven on red clay seems like a very good possibility.

    Thanks to everyone for all the feedback so far -- I`m digesting all of it and every post has been very helpful -- hoping more thoughts will continue to come in.

  6. #6

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Could it be the brakes were metal to metal for a while and it’s rust from that. I have seen it on other vehicles in the past


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  7. #7
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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    I know it’s going to be difficult but try to avoid letting harsh degreasers or other products sitting on rubber/plastic pieces. These pieces are probably already dried out from exposure to the elements and hitting them with caustic agents will further deteriorate them.

    I would start with a normal wash with Reset and see what it looks like afterwards, then use a tar remover. CarPro Trix might be a good product to start with.
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  8. #8
    dansautodetailing.com Stokdgs's Avatar
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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Its a Saab, they have very few rubber trim pieces, etc...

    I`m a little worried at your middle picture - that seam to the left of the door, it might just be red something in there, but it could also be rust, so look in there with a good led flashlight, etc...

    I would wash it with Meguiars Super Degreaser first, to get as much gunk loosened and hopefully able to be rinsed and blown off with a pressure washer if you have one.. If you decide to use this product, you need gloves, as it will remove all the oils out of your hands quickly.. We can talk about dilution rates if you decide to go this route...

    Then a good wash, then, perhaps one of those decontamination iron removers things, or just wash, clay bar it a lot, you will go through a few of those by the looks of your pics...
    You need a good claylube or hopefully you can use clean, after its been degreased and washed, soapy water, and hope it won`t cause the claybar to break down..
    The blue Claymagic bar that has been around for decades is a good all-around bar that is very efficient and predictable...

    All this prep work may cause the paint to not look as good as original, especially if the cleaning reveals a lot of paint defects, or you put some in unintentionally, using a claybar, etc., to help you really deep clean the paintwork..

    If the wheels look like they are coated with brake dust for eons, I would try Meguiars Wheel Brightener, or something similar, and see if that helps to start removing the red dust.. You cannot leave this on for very long, so you have to be absolutely sure that you are going to be able to follow through.. You need one of these -- https://www.autopia-carcare.com/dayt...l#.XE_o4FWQH3g

    Just mind what you are doing with it and do not place yourself directly in front of it when you are pulling the brush back out of the wheel openings, as it will carry the dirty brake dust/soap/etc., water straight back and ruin your shirt, etc...

    If you decide to clean the wheels off the car, you will still need a good, stiff, plastic brush to do it from the back side; there are many to choose from at the Autopia Store here..

    Dan F
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  9. #9

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Thank you very much for all the great feedback. I`d like to ask a different question while I digest and look into all the suggestions.

    Additional Question: What does the group think about just letting the body shop handle it? They are already painting the hood and front and rear bumper, I could just have them polish out the rest of the car and I guess fix what doesn`t come out perfect. I don`t know anything about their skills in polishing. When I talked to the shop as I was dropping it off, he thought it was no problem to polish out the rest of the car, but I have no idea how much he knows.
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  10. #10
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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Quote Originally Posted by peterp View Post

    I want to make this car perfect before we give it to her.
    That looks to be a challenge, specifically the wheels. It seems like you should reset your expectations about what you have to work with and what can be done. Are you in a position to have the car completely re-painted? If not, I`d attack and try different products until you find something that`s working. The car does have that general "I wash it once a year, whether it needs it or not" appearance to it.

    How is the car mechanically? What needs to be done there?

  11. #11

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    peterp- VERY few bodyshops can stop rust in the lower door seams, if that`s indeed what`s going on. VERY FEW. I`ve stopped it in a few instances, but don`t expect such work to turn out OK overall. Not trying to be a downer, just sayin`...

    I`ve never met anybody at any bodyshop who was remotely dialed-in when it comes to polishing paint, and I`ve known lots of good bodyshops. That`s just not what they know how to do (any more than I know how to spray paint or do bodywork, at least to a decent standard).

    All this talk about what to use to preclean it...avoiding damage, etc. makes me *SO* glad I have ValuGard`s ABC (well, the "A" and "B") on-hand. I know...nobody`s gonna buy/use it, but gee..it`s *made* to do this kind of work safely. Tested/approved my all the major automakers. Easy-peasy, nearly idiot-proof (and I don`t just mean "Accumulator-proof", it`s made so dummies won`t mess things up). If it`s "too mild" I`d just clay/use a decon. towel while those products are dwelling. OK, OK..I`d drop that topic now

    The wheels almost *have to* come off, if only to fully inspect the vehicle`s condition and to make sure they will in fact come off if/when need be (flat-tire time isn`t the moment to discover they won`t come off).

    But the first thing I`d do is go out and inspect the lower seams of the doors for rust. [Heck], I`d spend an hour or more looking the car over for rust even if it didn`t look neglected. Knowledge is good, even if it`s bad news.
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  12. #12

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Thanks for all the feedback guys. I went to the shop this morning to look more closely, and there is definitely no rust anywhere. Sorry I didn`t have better pictures in my original post, but wasn`t even thinking of rust as a possibility at the time I took them, and then the car was gone.

    I think this cleanup is probably above my skill level, and it`s going to be 6 degrees here tomorrow, so I`d have to find a day where the weather cooperated (I did manage to clean up the engine a bit when it was 45 degrees on Sunday). Based on all this, I`m just going to have the shop do the work. I talked to him at length today and he is going to have a detailer he uses regularly do the cleanup, and then he will do the bodywork after. Is the detailer he uses the best? I don`t know, but my rationale is that the shop has committed to delivering a perfect car when it is done, so they can kick it back and forth between the body shop and the detailer all they want based on what can be cleaned up. He seemed very confident that the original paint will clean up.

    All the great feedback here is not for naught. I will use some of this information in cleaning future cars, it`s just that the logistics didn`t work out for this project. I particularly like the ABC system, but wish they sold in less than gallon jugs.

    Quote Originally Posted by tom p. View Post
    How is the car mechanically? What needs to be done there?
    This car is an enigma. Mechanically, the car is near perfect. Even the interior is perfect. The leather on the drivers seat is very dirty, but the rest of the interior is perfect, the carpets look brand new. Everything is 100% original. The door gaps are perfect. It was well serviced, he just wasn`t into cleaning it (to say the least).

    I`m proactively having the timing belt changed (it`s not due for another 50k based on miles, but is overdue based on age), the water pump replaced as a "while they`re in there" proactive measure. Front brake pads/discs/calipers replaced, an exhaust repair. Replacing the plugs, cleaning throttle body and a few other proactive things are being done. They are also going to clean the underbody/chassis.

    I`m having all of the mechanical work done before they touch the body, so I still have some time if I want to change direction, but I think on this one I will probably just have them do the work. If there undercarriage cleanup isn`t up to my expectations, then maybe I`ll reconsider.

    Thanks again for all the amazing advice!
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  13. #13

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    peterp- Understand completely. Just keep your fingers crossed (and your eyes wide open) about the shop`s Detailer being OK. You`d be surprised how many successful "Detailers" deserve those scare-quotes.

    I`m just glad it`s not rusty Between that and the good mechanicals it`ll be a great car for your sister and all this Autopian-nutty detailing talk is really beside the point; she`s gonna have good transportation now.
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  14. #14

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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    Quote Originally Posted by Accumulator View Post
    peterp- Understand completely. Just keep your fingers crossed (and your eyes wide open) about the shop`s Detailer being OK. You`d be surprised how many successful "Detailers" deserve those scare-quotes.
    My fingers have never been more crossed. I`ll see how they do on the undercarriage refresh to see if we are on the same page.

    Quote Originally Posted by Accumulator View Post
    I`m just glad it`s not rusty Between that and the good mechanicals it`ll be a great car for your sister and all this Autopian-nutty detailing talk is really beside the point; she`s gonna have good transportation now.
    I`m hoping it will be like new when we deliver it. She should freak out. Her current WRX has dents all over it, it`s rusty both on the body and undercarriage, and the only thing that works reliably is the "check engine" light. She loves it because of the performance of the manual 5 speed and turbo, she doesn`t like the newer WRX`s because they are too low to the ground for snow (she spends half her time in NY), so we haven`t been able to convince her to part with it. The Saab is the exact same car as the WRX, but everything is better -- 3 years newer, 100k fewer miles, heated seats, leather, climate control, rocking stereo, better looking, and this one is one owner with good maintenance history. It`s going to take a bit of work, but this story will have a happy ending.
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  15. #15
    Civicclutch's Avatar
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    Re: Need advice on how to clean up 2005 car that seems like it was never washed

    I live in Wisconsin, and reading posts it seems like you dont but I`m gonna ask anyway,were do you live

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