View Full Version : How to maintain your car's finish in-between polishing sessions

Michael Stoops
Apr 18th, 2008, 11:56 AM
How to maintain your car's finish in-between polishing sessions (http://meguiarsonline.com/forums/showthread.php?t=23388)

This discussion came up recently so I thought I'd make mention of what I do to my car after I've polished it to perfection (or as close to perfection as I'm able to achieve), so here we go:

First off, the picture below is of my 2004 PT Cruiser Turbo (purchased new end of December, 2003) just after finishing a multi day process that included washing with Gold Class, clay with the Smooth Surface Clay Kit, M80/W8006 pad on the DA to remove all defects, two coats of M21 Synthetic Sealant (24 hours apart) and two coats of M16 Carnauba (12 hours apart). I went a bit crazy on the 21 and 16 because I was going to be driving the car to Prescott, Arizona for a show and I wanted it to look good when I got there, and be easy to clean up too. The drive was going to about 450 miles, one way, through the desert so I knew it would get dusty, to say the least. Keep in mind this picture was taken March 13, 2007, so just over a year ago.

When I got to Prescott the car was covered in dust, especially the rear hatch because the aerodynamics of the car just churn the airflow back onto the car, depositing large amounts of dust. So, what to do. I took the bulk off with a California Duster, touching the surface as gently as possible. This still left a fair amount of dust behind, so liberal amounts of Last Touch Spray Detailer and several microfiber towels were used to remove the rest. The car looked great. I stayed in Prescott for a long weekend, then drove home. Of course the car was covered again but at home I could wash it properly.

So here's my routine:

Washing Basically one of two ways, either two buckets with Grit Guards in them or one bucket with a GG and clear water and a foam gun for soaping up the car. Heavy rinsing to start, of course. Gold Class, NXT, Super Soap or #62 being my car washes of choice. I only use a natural lambswool wash mitt and I rinse it often during the wash process. Sometimes I'll even give it a blast with the hose to clean it out if I'm feeling extra Car Crazy. The mitt is always machine washed and hung to dry in the garage, then put away as soon as it's dry. You gotta be clean to get clean.

Drying I always do a final nozzle-off-the-hose rinse to sheet as much water as possible from the finish. Then I use Water Magnet waffle weave drying towels to blot up the rest of the water. It's probably overkill but I'll use as many as three of four towels to dry the car.

Simple enough, right? Just using extreme caution in everything I do. But here's where it gets interesting. We don't get a lot of rain in SoCal so there isn't always a need to wash every week. But being in or near the desert we have a lot of dust, and with a few gazillion cars on the road we get a lot of fallout as well. To combat this I do the following on a regular basis, sometimes as often as 3 or 4 times a week:

Quick Detailing I'm using Ultimate Quik Detailer and Ultimate Wipe microfiber towels these days, but prior to their introduction I was using Last Touch and Supreme Shine towels. The key is to do this before the dust accumulation gets to be too extreme. Use plenty of QD and plenty of towels. Don't think you can get away with a light spritz and one towel. Fold the towel in half, then in half again. Spray the QD liberally onto the surface and gently wipe it off, then flip the towel and wipe again. When you see the towel start to show a line of dirt, flip it around and use a different section. With it folded properly you'll get a couple pairs of first wipe/second wipe sections out of it. But if you use a good amount of QD you'll get the towel pretty damp rather quickly. I'll go through 4 or 5 towels to wipe down this car, and it's a smallish vehicle. Just wipe enough to get the dust off, don't go crazy trying to buff it like a pair of army boots.

Waxing I'm sure I wax more often than I need to, but I enjoy it. But I only wax after I've fully washed the car. I never wax after just doing a QD wipedown, even if the car looks clean. I wash and dry as outlined above, then apply whatever wax/sealant I'm in the mood for either with a clean 9006 pad on the DA (liquid wax/sealant) or by hand with a clean Hi-Tech foam applicator (paste wax/sealant). I always do this in the garage on cool paint, allow sufficient hazing time, then remove with a clean microfiber or three. Yeah, I go through a lot of towels!

So, in the 13 months(roughly 56 weeks) since the above picture was taken I've washed the car maybe 18 times (give or take) and performed my QD wipedown perhaps 150 times or more (3 times a week for 56 weeks remember). Now that sounds like a lot of touching of the paint, doesn't it? But surely all that rubbing, all those QD wipedowns, have left their mark, right?

Well, here are a few pictures I took of the car this morning. I have not polished it at all in more than a year. I've just been really, really, really careful. Oh, and my light source for these shots is the sun, on a bright, clear day. Harsh, huh?

The hood:

The C-pillar:

The rear hatch:

In all honesty, if I go over the entire car with a very critical eye, there are some very small marks present. But I have to go hunting for them. Otherwise, using good products and good techniques will keep your car looking great for a very long time.

Apr 18th, 2008, 01:11 PM
Nice write up Mike!

That just goes to show that car can remain swirl free for a long time if cared for properly. :bigups<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" /><o:p></o:p>

Apr 18th, 2008, 03:13 PM
Amazing... and encouraging! Now that I have a better grasp on the "Do's" and "Don'ts", I think it's time to de-swirl my car Scottwax2and follow the M-I-O (Mike-in-Orange) regimen! :bigups

J. A. Michaels
Apr 18th, 2008, 03:13 PM
Great write up Mike. Following those steps are the key to a well maintain swirl free finish. By the way your Cruiser looks great as always.

Andy M.
Apr 18th, 2008, 04:04 PM
Nice write up Mike, thanks for taking the time. Your car looks great. The wheels you have on there aren't original are they? They really look nice on your car.


Apr 18th, 2008, 04:26 PM
Very well kept Mike:bigups
Thanks for sharing

Michael Stoops
Apr 18th, 2008, 05:16 PM
Nice write up Mike, thanks for taking the time. Your car looks great. The wheels you have on there aren't original are they? They really look nice on your car.

101impalaNo, those are after market wheels. Velox Performance VX6r to be precise - 17 x 7 at a lightweight 14lbs a piece. And the Velox factory color is almost a dead on match for the Chrysler factory paint on my car! In fact, I've seen body shops do a worse job matching body panels!

Thanks for the feedback gang!

Apr 19th, 2008, 10:28 AM

Nice job. I was going to ask why you would apply #16 over #21 before a road trip??? It seems #21 is much slicker and should shed dust and debris easier than #16. But by the end of the write-up it seems to make sense, the added protection from the cross country sand blasting, sure seemed to hold up well in the last pics from a year later.

Thanks, very informative.

Apr 22nd, 2008, 12:02 PM
Well done Mike! Car looks great for not being polished in that long a time. How many miles a year do you drive it?

Michael Stoops
Apr 22nd, 2008, 12:36 PM
Well done Mike! Car looks great for not being polished in that long a time. How many miles a year do you drive it?

Just shy of 9,000 miles/year.

Apr 22nd, 2008, 12:43 PM
I used #80 on the D pillar of my Jeep last summer and it doesnt have one swirl in it to this day. Ill be doing the entire Jeep this summer sometime and hopefully Ill be able to keep it looking good for along time now that I have my process down pat. :)

Sep 21st, 2008, 01:17 PM
Thank you, thank you, thank you for this write up. In the nine months of owning my dark blue metallic truck, I wash weekly because I've been afraid of all dusters and spray and wipe products. I had some light scratching issues with quick detailer in the past and haven't used it since. I live in the country and drive a good 20-25 miles daily, so dust accumulates quickly, especially on the tailgate. I've really wanted to give a duster another try, and thanks to this write-up, I'm gonna try a California duster/UQD attack to fight dust build-up.

Benny B
Jan 20th, 2009, 04:37 PM
great thread mr. mike!!!

Jan 20th, 2009, 05:36 PM
I really enjoyed reading this thread as it shows that keeping a swirl free finish can be done

Jan 20th, 2009, 05:52 PM
Wow, That is really cool. I try to be careful when I do mine, wash it as much as the weather allows and I do alright, but that looks real good.

I bet that car hasnt seen snow in that year either huh? JK

Michael Stoops
Jan 21st, 2009, 06:47 AM
Wow, That is really cool. I try to be careful when I do mine, wash it as much as the weather allows and I do alright, but that looks real good.

I bet that car hasnt seen snow in that year either huh? JK

Hmmmm........ you could say that has SEEN snow, if you include looking up at the local mountains. But has it actually been IN snow? Ah, no. :D

Jan 22nd, 2009, 03:08 PM
i corrected my car about two years ago (2007), but because of the weather over here we can never do the touchless wash, bit to risky, so would rather it sit dirty than risk inducing damage. he is a picture from recently (careful washing as the paint is on the soft side), its clayed twice a year and polished and waxed every few months. A common product in the uk is autoglym srp which has the ability to ever slight defects and mask any others. after this the least aggressive method is recommended.


Mar 12th, 2009, 02:03 AM
Wow, Mike awesone write up.
And I agree, the Volvo CX90 (black) that I use to drive with the Meguiar's trailer to events in belgium is keep in the same maintenance way like your PT cruiser and he looks always very nice and shining

Mar 13th, 2009, 07:13 PM
awesome review of your car maintenances after not being polished for that long...
really great to hear your car can still be swirl free.. :]

Feb 25th, 2010, 09:27 AM
I like how you documented this. I noticed the same thing with my car. I bought it in September of 2008 and up to Sept. 2009, it still had very little marks and swirls. I mean, of course it had a few road scratches down below but the paint quality was very good. I washed 2-4 times per month, clayed and waxed probably 4 times, and just overall kept a good eye on my paint's condition. So it CAN be done, it just takes time and work.