Exterior Vehicle Detail

In addition to liking a vehicle that works well, I also appreciate a clean and well-detailed automobile. Taking a page from the Canadian Tire Spring / Summer 2012 automotive catalogue playbook, I decided to try my hand at an exterior detail.

The test subject was a new-to-me Chrysler Town and Country van. Minivan stigma aside, if I’m going to drive one, it might as well look good. The previous owner had taken good care of the unit, but I was after a bit more flash and sizzle from the paint. Call me old-school.

The process started with a good wash and then a dry with some microfiber cloths. Experience has proven that skipping the drying step will leave water spots, which equates to more work later on, so don’t skip the drying step.

Touted to remove contaminants like road grime, tar, tree sap, bird droppings, bug splatter and industrial fallout, I decided to give the Meguiar’s® Clay Bar kit a shot. The clay bar system comes with a spray cleaner / lubricant. It did indeed remove some contaminants, and it didn’t take too long to hit the side panels and the hood. The clay bar removes these particles from the paint surface to leave a smooth surface.

Meguiar's Clay Bar Kit

Honestly, I don’t think I would run the clay bar over tar or tree sap, or anything really nasty for that matter. Spray Nine is my chemical warfare weapon of choice for tree sap, and Fantastic works for tar. Be forewarned that either of these products will take off wax as well as the aforementioned contaminants.

Once I was satisfied that the paint was as clean as I could get it with the clay bar system, I was ready to try out power polishing. I’ve watched others polish cars, but I’ve always been a bit hesitant to try it myself, for fear of burning the paint, or rubbing through in spots.

My tool of choice was the Simonize 17.5 cm variable speed polisher / sander coupled with Autoglym Super Resin Polish. As opposed to a wax, polish is slightly abrasive, so it can eliminate imperfections such small scratches, water spots and swirls.

Simoniz 7-in Polisher and Sander

The polisher comes with two terry cloth buffing pads, which seemed to work fine. I discovered some tricks to ease and simplify the polishing operation. Firstly, put a small blob of polish onto the buffing pad, and spread it out over the panel surface to be polished. Set the machine on a medium low speed. The idea here is to have the polish spread out a bit, so that it doesn’t get flung and splattered over glass and other freshly-washed or polished areas.

Keep the machine moving, and don’t apply excessive pressure. The weight of the polisher by itself seems to apply the correct amount of down force. Some people will polish with the entire pad flat, and others will have the pad on a slight angle. I chose the later method, and it worked out well.

With hindsight, I should have changed the buffing pad half way through the job, as it seemed like the pad plugged up a bit with the polish. While the minor plugging didn’t cause any direct problems, it just seemed like the polishing took a bit longer as I progressed past the half way point of the job.

Once the area in question has seen the polisher, the resin polish is allowed to dry, like a conventional wax. Finish the process with a microfiber towel, and the shine really comes up.

Autoglym Super Resin Polish

I found power polishing to be a whole lot less work than rubbing down the van by hand, and after getting over my initial fear of wrecking the paint, I liked how the job progressed quickly and smoothly.

As promised, the Autoglym Super Resin polish did give the paint a deep lustre. I have nothing but good things to say about the Autoglym line of products, as I have been very satisfied with all that I’ve tried.

I finished off the job with some Autoglym Instant Tyre Dressing. This product goes on with a milky look, but dries to a nice matte, non-sticky finish.

Auto Glym Instant Tyre Dressing

The overall results? I wouldn’t want a professional detailer to critique the finished product, but overall the job turned out fine for a backyarder.

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