Answering Your Questions- More Detailing FAQ's

Well it’s summer and that means it’s Concours and Wash & Shines season. I hope that many of you who asked about how well your car would do in competition actually will enter and find out. In the beginning, many of the cars we helped prepare for concours events did not place very high; but we must realize that concoursing and showing your car is a process of constant and never ending improvement. So enter and then don’t be afraid to ask the judges specifically where you could have done a better job. Then you’ll be that much ahead to winning the next time.

Now to this month’s main topic. Those who have been reading our articles for some time know that every now and then we take the opportunity to answer some or the more commonly asked questions, as well as some unique ones. So let’s go for it.


Q. How long does a particular wax last?

A. I hear this question all the time, and as simple as it sounds, it is awkward to answer because of the many variables. So now, when anyone asks, I ask how long does their shoe shine last? Along with a confused look, the reply is usually that it depends upon how often the shoes are worn, whether or not they are buffed regularly and whether they get dirty or wet in the rain. At which point I look at the inquirers and nod my head as they realize they just answered their own question. The point is that it does depend on many variables, which only the owner knows. Wax last only up to the day it wears off. What you have to compare is how long one wax lasts vs. another one on the same car under the same conditions.

Q. How do I remove stickers left behind after old wheel balance weights have been removed?

A. This is one of my greatest daily frustrations when detailing cars; more than two thirds of my customer’ cars have this problem. The simple answer is not to leave them on in the first place. When your wheels are rebalanced, it is the technician’s job to remove not just the old weights but also the double stick tape holding them on. If he doesn’t, you must remind him of that. Immediate removal is important because you know how hot wheels can get under braking, especially the front ones. This literally bakes the glue in and once the glue is baked in, it is nearly impossible to remove completely, especially on the Porsche Fuch alloys’ anodized lips. To remove any leftover adhesive tape, first soak it with an adhesive solvent (i.e. 3M Adhesive Remover). Continue spraying until the tape becomes soft. Then scrape off as much as possible with your fingernail or a soft wooden stick (like the ones from ice scream).Spray again and repeat until all the adhesive is removed.

Q. How do I get my tire dressing to look good and last more than a couple days?

A. First, realize that the look and durability of a dressing depend on the tires themselves. If your tires are scuffed, they will never look great, no matter what you do. Second, you must thoroughly clean the tire walls. Third, you must use a quality tire treatment product. Now, I know what you are thinking, “why should I clean my tires if they aren’t whitewalls?” The answer is for the same reason that you wouldn’t wax a dirty car. You must use a solvent based cleaner followed by a quality all-purpose cleaner to clean the tires thoroughly before applying any dressing. Also, use the above mentioned procedure to prep. brand new tires thoroughly to remove the waxy film all tires have. NOTE: If your wheels are anodized (i.e. Porsche Fuchs), do not use an all-purpose cleaner on your tires. It will run down onto your wheels and stain them. For more information, see the November 2004 article- Caring for Your Tires and Exterior Rubber.

Q. My engine cover has a bump on it. What is that from?

A. This is one of those unique questions that I can really relate to. Some years ago, I took my BMW to a mechanic for a tune-up. When I picked the car up, it had one of those “bumps” right in the middle of the hood. Well, as you may have guessed, it drove me crazy because I knew it wasn’t there before. But I couldn’t prove the shop did it. I learned to live with it by not looking at my hood very often. Several years later, a friend asked me to look at his car’s hood for him. It was déjà vu. The same bump as mine. This time, however, when we opened the hood we discovered a ratchet underneath. Voila! Now you know what causes those mysterious bumps on engine covers. Just don’t ask me where “crop circles” come from.

Q. How do I clean the gear numbers on my shifter?

A. First try a soft toothbrush with an alcohol based window cleaner and suck out with a wet/dry vacuum cleaner (if you have one) and then buff out with a clean towel. If this doesn’t get all the dirt out, substitute a weak all-purpose cleaner (or a leather cleaner). The reason you want to use a weak cleaner is that a strong solution can dissolve the painted numbers (i.e. older Ferrari shifters).

Q. When I wax my car, I put on three coats of carnauba. Is this better than just one coat?

A. Not really, but your arms will start looking more muscular. Remember that it takes carnauba 48 hours to cure. By curing, I mean letting the solvents in the wax evaporate. Otherwise, the solvents in the second coat of wax just dissolve the 1st layer. It’s wasted effort. You wouldn’t put a second coat of paint on your house over a 1st coat that is still wet, right?

Q. Can I wax over a synthetic sealant?

A. Yes, but make sure it’s in that order. Because the nature of the sealants is to bond to the paint. Then you can layer carnauba wax over it as desired.

Q. When is the proper time to use my instant detailer?

A. The only time is when your car is clean. And it’s only clean right after you wash it or when it’s covered.

Q. Why can I remove some water spots off my door but the ones on my hood don’t come off?

A. Probably because some of the spots are mineral deposits (like the ones from a lawn sprinkler) while others are actually etchings in the paint from acid/alkali rain. The mineral deposits can usually be removed but the etchings require aggressive correction procedures which don’t always remove all the damage.

Q. When should I cover my car?

A. Just like using the instant detailer, only when your car is clean. Covering a dirty/dusty car can do more harm than good by promoting scratches when the material is moved over the paint surface when installing and removing the cover.


As always, should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. May the wind be always at your back and may you achieve your pursuit of detailing perfection!