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  1. #1
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    Car detailing - tips, tools, products

    This is a common topic on car forums so it seems we need a detailing thread as well.

    Spring is here and my Saab is in desperate need of a detailing job. I have used a clay bar and wax on other Saabs in the past but I am looking for some more professional results. Please share how you detail your car and any of your favorite tips and tools/products you use.

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  2. #2
    Steve
    spoolin' thin air mt.aero's Avatar
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    '02 9-5 Aero, '89 900S
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    Im detailing the 9-5 right now too, so I guess Ill tell you how I do it. IMO, the best way to get professional results is to use professional supplies. I use Meguires Mirror Glaze products. They have always worked great, so I have no need to get anything else. Ive been doing one body section at a time per night so it doesnt take up my entire weekend.

    Here is a list of my supplies.
    -Wash bucket x2 (one with soapy water, one plain rinse water)
    -Wash mit (synthetic micro fiber)
    -Meguires NXT car wash
    -Meguires clay kit
    -spray bottle (water with a few drops of car wash)
    -2000 grit sandpaper
    -blue painters tape
    -Meguires Heavy Cut Cleaner
    -Meguires Medium Cut Cleaner
    -Meguires Fine Cut Cleaner
    -Meguires Swirl Remover 2.0
    -Meguires Cleaner Wax
    -Meguires Synthetic Sealer
    -ICE wax
    -Random orbital buffer
    -tons of micro fiber towels

    Its a lot of stuff to get and not cheap by any means, but you will get amazing results. Start with the wash and then clay it and wash again. Remember to use the two-bucket wash method. Its also best to remove as much trim as possible from the car before you wash to make it easier to buff. Tape off anything you didnt remove and dont want wax on. Now you get a chance to inspect the paint and decide what product to start with. Each panel will be different. Just like sandpaper, you need to work in steps from heaver cutting to finer cutting (and no skipping a step) Experience is best at letting you know what product to start with, but you can just start with the finest material you think will get the scratches out. If it doesnt do it all, then step up. If you cant feel the scratch with your nail, the cutting compounds will work great. If you can feel the scratch with your nail, its time to wetsand. I only wetsand if the scratch is in the clear. If its in to the paint, it will need more work than sanding and that would be for another thread altogether. I know its scary to sand the finish of your car, but lucky for us, Saab uses a really thick clear coat. With the 2000 grit, it would take a LONG time to sand through the clear coat, so dont worry too much. I spray the area Im sanding constantly with the water and soap mix to lubricate and clear all the sanded material away. I sand until I cant feel the scratch anymore. You may still see it slightly, but the next steps will take care of that. Then its on to the buffer, using a different pad for each compound I work my way through them. If I sanded I start with the heavy cut cleaner and working down to the sealer. It really is pretty easy and is only time consuming. When done, you will have that deep wet paint look. Its pretty awesome!

    Using the buffing compounds with a random orbital buffer, I dont see any way that anyone could screw it up. If you are worried you might screw it up, it would maybe be worth hitting up a junkyard and get a used door or hood for cheap to practice on. (especially the sanding part)

    If you are detailing your paint for the first time, its going to take a few products to get the mirror finish. Even just the swirl remover has amazing results. The amount of product and time just depends whether you want the car to look good from 10 ft away or 10 inches away. Since my car is black, its a real PITA when you want it to look good up close.

    Good luck and let me know if you have any further questions.

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  3. #3
    Steve
    spoolin' thin air mt.aero's Avatar
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    and just a FYI, before I picked up my orbital buffer, I have used the swirl remover by hand with pretty good results. It just takes a bit more time and a couple more beers!

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  4. #4
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    Thanks for all the detailed information! It sounds like it could take a whole day but the results are well worth it. Now I just have to wait for an overcast weekend day with reasonable temperatures because I need to do it outside.

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  5. #5
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    About 7 hours and some detailing products later, my Saab looks pretty good again. This is my list of things I used:

    • Meguiars Smooth Surface Clay Kit
    • Meguiars Ultimate Polish
    • Meguiars Ultimate Liquid Wax
    • Random Orbital Buffer
    • Masking tape
    • Microfiber towels

    The Ultimate wax isn't cheap (US$23) but I thought to give it a try. If you spend so much time doing the job, why not use the best products? Not sure if it is all marketing talk but the results were great.

    The polish was very good at removing the swirl marks and most of the scratches. Some scratches were a little deeper so they didn't come out completely. Next time, I'll need to try the scratch removers as mt.aero suggested. It was a good learning experience and I am sure my detailing skills will improve over time. But right now, I am pretty happy with the results.



    I started with a car wash at the local DIY place to get all the dirt off. I was fortunate to be able to use a warehouse at my work because my 1-car garage at home is not the best place to do this. I also didn't want to do this outside with sun and dust everywhere.



    My paint was all hazed over and I was embarrassed to look at it in direct sunlight. It's 6 years old now and most likely never has been detailed by the previous owner. There were many swirl marks from regular washing which is common. This Nocturne Blue color easily shows imperfections in the clear coat and many indents from rocks and grit were very obvious.






    • Wash car
    • Remove surface contaminants with clay bar kit
    • Tape off most of the trim
    • Polish with buffer and by hand
    • Remove polish residue by hand
    • Apply wax with buffer and by hand
    • Remove wax residue by hand
    • Use buffer with wool bonnet for final buffing

    You could see improvement with every step. The paint surface felt like sand paper before I started and is amazingly smooth after it's all finished.





    Part of the glass sunroof and the paint. Pretty close to a glass surface finish.





    It's not 100% perfect yet. There are still quite a few marks on the roof from what looks like tree sap or bird droppings. And there are still some rocks marks on the hood but hopefully all of that will come at with the next detailing job. But it looks so much better than it did before and it was worth it. It's not particularly difficult but it requires attention to detail, good detailing products, time and a bit of hard work.






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  6. #6
    Steve
    spoolin' thin air mt.aero's Avatar
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    Stunning Wulf! Its so rewarding when you are finished, but detailing can be an addicting, never ending battle, so prepare for that.

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  7. #7
    Frank
    Administrator nordwulf's Avatar
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    Thanks! I wasn't really looking forward to it at first but I really got into it as worked progressed. I clayed and waxed other cars before but never did the polishing step. And it really shows a difference on darker colors. Silver or white are easy colors to take care off but they also don't really have the satisfaction of a wash or detail job.

    I really didn't understand the difference between a swirl remover and polish. I think they are basically the same kind of thing, right?

    This was the first time I used a buffer. It takes some time getting used to but it definitely makes the job easier. Next time, I may apply the wax by hand because the stuff I used doesn't take much effort to apply. It's basically wiping on and clean up the residue. And it also doesn't stain plastic trim.

    Meguiars Ultimate Liquid Wax - Our most advanced hydrophobic wax! We've re-set the bar with a pure synthetic wax that provides extended protection with amplified reflectivity that won't leave a white residue on trim & plastic. Meguiar'sŪ ThinFilm technology delivers our easiest application & removal... even if you have to wax in full sun! Cross-linking synthetic polymers form our longest-lasting protective barrier, amplifying reflections for incredible depth & mirror-like shine. Meguiar'sŪ Ultimate – Our bar is simply higher.
    It's amazing how essential the clay bar is for the first step.


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  8. #8
    Saab Fan alwaysSaab's Avatar
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    Congratulations! The paintwork of your car looks like new! I am impressed. I guess the dents from flying pebbles etc will still be there? Actually not very clear what is that "clay kit" for as "ultimate wax" will be able to remove surface contaminants?

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  9. #9
    Jared
    The young one J-Rod's Avatar
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    I detail cars with two of my friends and I haven't done any buffing with an electric buffer...but I think I'll experiment on my brothers car with it. (he's getting the front end repainted soon anyway haha) If I do good there, I'll go to my car, then if I do good again, I'll start offering it as a detail service.

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    I don't drive fast...I fly slow

  10. #10
    Frank
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    Quote Originally Posted by alwaysSaab View Post
    Congratulations! The paintwork of your car looks like new! I am impressed. I guess the dents from flying pebbles etc will still be there? Actually not very clear what is that "clay kit" for as "ultimate wax" will be able to remove surface contaminants?
    There are still a few very small dents in the hood but the clear coat damage is mostly gone.

    Not sure where you got the information from about the Ultimate Wax removing surface contaminants. I didn't see that in the product specs. I don't really believe in all-in-one products that promise to do everything with a single product. It's like using deodorant, aftershave or perfume without washing first. It'll work for a while but just doesn't do a good job.

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