Recently in Detailing Category

I had to spend a few days in Arkansas, so I loaded up the vehicle and made the 10+ hour drive from Badgerland to Hogville (Big Ten/SEC reference there, in case you missed it). When I left Madison, the weather was rainy and chilly - in fact, if I remember correctly, I hit a bout of freezing drizzle/rain on my way out of town.

Well, as soon as I hit St. Louis, the weather turned gorgeous - it was 70-degrees, sunny, and absolutely beautiful. When I arrived in Arkansas, I immediately went for a run - even at 5pm, it was still 72F and fantastic. I couldn't wait for an opportunity to ride my bike, but the sun was quickly setting, and I had to be "at work" (I was working from home) the following day, so I couldn't take advantage of the nice riding weather. I'd have to wait for the following weekend.

I did get to go out and run each weekday morning, and it was absolutely superb - at 6:15am, the temps were in the low 50s; as the sun rose, the mercury rose to the low 60s. It was so nice! I was salivating at the thought of what the weekend had in store.

As my luck often goes, the weather turned ugly on Friday. Low 40s, windy, rainy, and downright miserable. A quick check of the forecast showed no chance of improvement for the weekend. ARGH. I went out and rode anyway... I woke up at 6:30, loaded up the bike and hit the park for 30-odd miles of outdoors riding, followed by 12 miles of running. And even though it was drizzling, windy, and miserable, it still beat riding the trainer, so I enjoyed it for the most part. After nearly 4 hours of being out in that mess, my toes were numb, my nose was running more than my feet, and I was ready to head inside.

I had some ants in my pants, though, and decided that if the weather was bad, I'd take the afternoon to detail my car. For those not in the know, I sold my VW and bought a truck - a 2003 Chevrolet Silverado LT 4x4 with the Z71 package. I found it with just about 40,000 miles on it, and got a splendid deal. The only downside? It's black.

Why is that a downside? Simple. I'm more or less a perfectionist with the worst case of OCD when it comes to owning a car - I can't stand the thought of my car needing any type of maintenance, or going neglected and in need of a detailing, or any other type of service. And no other color is as hard to keep "clean and pristine" as is black.

I'll admit that I burned out on detailing for a while (being the editor of a magazine devoted entirely to detailing products and processes will do that), so I swore I'd never own a black vehicle because I know how difficult it is to keep them looking good. Silver or white is the way to go - those colors always look good, even when you've let the detailing/waxing slide a bit.

But, as mentioned, I had the itch to "do something" so, I ventured out into the 35F, windy, and misty weather, washed the truck and brought it inside to start the detailing process.

I mentioned I'm OCD when it comes to detailing; you'll see why as you read on. After washing the truck, I clayed the paint to remove any surface contaminants. Clay is like an "exfoliant" for your paint - it lifts embedded debris from the surface, including things you can't see, such as airborne pollutants, rail dust, and other nasties. It doesn't remove any swirl marks, scuffs, or damage, but instead leaves the surface butter smooth. Clay has been around for ages, but it can be a bit tricky to use, especially if you purchase a lower-grade of clay. It's also a time consuming process, as you have to do it entirely by hand, and you clay every square inch of the car.

After claying, I washed the truck again to remove any clay residue. I then broke out my new pride and joy - a Griot's Garage Random Orbital Buffer. Holy cats - buffers have come a long way over the past few years.

As the editor of Guru Reports, I feel I was somewhat responsible for helping people become comfortable with using a random orbital buffer. We reviewed and highly recommended what was (at the time) the best random orbital buffer around - the Porter Cable 7424. People tended to shy away of these "professional" buffers because they feared such things as burning their paint or introducing swirl marks/hologramming/hazing/etc.

After much education (including posting videos, tutorials, write-ups, and conducting several training sessions around the country), folks started to embrace the Random Orbital (or DA (Dual Action)) buffer, and soon enough, you couldn't browse a detailing forum without people raving about how awesome the 7424 was. It was a pretty cool experience.

Well, some time ago, I lent my trusty Porter Cable 7424 to a friend, and I haven't seen it since... so, I contacted another friend to get the "hot scoop" on buffers for 2010. He recommended the Griot's buffer, so I broke-down and bought one.

The thing is a MONSTER. Wow - power to spare, yet easy to maneuver. And, it does the work of a rotary (a more complicated, more powerful buffer that can burn paint and cause swirls/holograms/etc) without any of the risk.

As soon as I fired-up the fire-engine red buffer, I knew I was in for a treat. My old 7424 would "bog down" if I really put my weight into it; this new buffer didn't even hiccup. I quickly removed some major swirl marks, spiderwebbing, and holograms. Coupled with one of the new Lake Country HydroFoam pads and some Meguiar's #105 compound, I had my black paint looking more or less flawless!

A word about the Meguiar's #105 - back in the day, Meguiar's had some killer stuff. Then they went through a period where they seemed to lose focus and their products suffered a bit, in my opinion. Gone was the awesome "ease of use"; their compounds were finicky and difficult to remove. So, I was quite hesitant to give them another shot, but Bret convinced me to try it, so I bit the bullet. And, the new stuff is incredible. It's easy to work with, provides unbelievable results, and wipes off without any effort. Win!

After a few passes with the #105, I switched to a finer foam pad and used Meguiar's #205. Once again - stellar results. The paint was really starting to glow; reflections were crystal clear, the color was as deep as I'd ever seen it, and the defects were all but gone.

I followed-up with a quick buffing with Zaino's All-In-One product on a super soft buffing pad. Bret indicated that the Zaino AIO wouldn't really do much for the paint other than give it a good final cleaning, and he was right. My green buffing pad showed "rusty" coloring when done, and the paint was absolutely brilliant.

Gave the truck a final wash in preparation for my favorite sealant of all time: Zaino Z2 Pro. Zaino's sealant isn't a wax; it's a synthetic protectant that shines and lasts like no other product I've ever used in my life. I was a skeptic of the stuff at first, but I'm now a believer and true convert. I won't ever use anything other than Zaino for protection.

3 hand-applied coats of Zaino Z2 Pro with ZFX catalyst, followed by a wipe-down of Zaino's new Clear Seal product, and I was done. Well, nearly... I then dressed the tires and trim, polished and protected the chrome, and detailed the interior. Nothing like spending 12 quality hours working on the new vehicle...

So, what did it look like? I took some photos on Sunday; the weather was still overcast and gloomy, but you'll get the idea:



I really like the truck so far. As mentioned, it has low mileage - just about 40,000 on it or so. And it's nicely optioned with: leather, dual heated seats with memory, onboard information system, dual climate control, Bose stereo with 6-disc CD and XM, push-button 4x4, and a bunch of other gadgets.

A few weekends ago, I treated it to a full tune-up: coolant flush, transmission flush & filter change, fuel filter change, air filter change, oil/filter change, flush of the differential fluids (used Royal Purple - nice stuff!), brake fluid flush, and a full tune-up. I must say the mileage difference is a shock... I get about 15mpg vs. 45mpg with the VW Jetta...

And finally, here's a shot of some of the tools that made my detailing experience so positive - there's nary a swirl, scuff, or hologram anywhere to be found, thanks to these guys:


What's that? You want to give it a try for yourself? No problem - here's the shopping list that I'd recommend. These products should fit 85-90% of people's needs, regardless of the car's color or make.

Buffer: Griot's Garage 6" Random Orbital Buffer

Pads: Lake Country HyrdoTech pads and Lake Country traditional foam pads

Clay: Clay Magic Blue

Scratch/swirl remover: Meguiar's M105 (use with "blue" HydroTech pad from Lake Country)

Polish/fine swirl remover: Meguiar's M205 (use with "tangerine" HydroTech pad from Lake Country)

Final cleaning/polish: Zaino All-in-One (use with "green" or "white" pad from Lake Country)

Wash solution: Zaino Z7 - top notch wash. Super awesome stuff.

Protectant: Zaino Z2 Pro and don't forget the ZFX catalyst/activator. Definitely use ZFX.

Last Step Product: Zaino CS - this stuff is amazing. Wipe on, walk away - 9+ months protection.

Quick Detailer (for wipe-downs between steps): Zaino Z6 - smells great, works even better.

For towels, I prefer to use high quality microfiber towels - not the kind you can buy at Target or WalMart, but really nice ones. The good towels won't marr or scratch your paint... Wayne, over at Wayne's Towels has some of the best towels I've ever used, and he's a super nice guy.

So, there you have it. My recipe for a stunning detail - even on a black car! I'm not sure that I'll ever feel like doing another "wax test," but it sure was fun to detail with some quality stuff again. I can't say enough good things about that new buffer and the Meguiar's polishes... wow. Thanks for the info, Bret - I owe you one!

If the sun comes out, I'll take a new photo and share it... for the time being, here's a bad "reflection" photo from the tailgate. It's hard to get a decent photo when it's gloomy and overcast.


Update: the sun decided to poke out for a bit here near the end of the day, so here are a few additional photos, in the sun.



The hood, reflecting the trees and power line:


And, here's me, in the side door (it's a tad dusty; I drove the truck today):


About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Detailing category.

Big Boy - RIP is the previous category.

drivers is the next category.

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March 2010: Monthly Archives