By Rick Prevette
With the weather getting ready to turn colder it’s time to get out and put a nice fresh coat of wax on our ride. However, before we jump right in and treat our ride’s paint and chrome with a new shiny coat, we are going to invest some time in properly cleaning the surfaces before waxing.
Clean the paint? When I wax, doesn’t the wax clean the paint as I am putting it on? In a word — no. Unless you are using a one step cleaner & wax product, waxes and sealants are for protection, not cleaning.
Now, I’d guess some of you may be asking — “Exactly what does this mean, cleaning the paint? Isn’t washing the car good enough?” Well, washing the car is a necessary step, but it is only the first step. By washing, you are removing the obvious dirt and dust that your ride has collected. However, you are not removing the surface contaminants that are still clinging to the paint. These contaminants include rail dust, acid rain residue, brake dust residue, stubborn road grime, etc. In fact, the next time you wash your car, run your hand over the finish and you may feel the grittiness caused by these contaminants.
You may also be asking “Why should the paint be cleaned before waxing?” Basically, the cleaner the surface, the longer the wax or sealant will last and the better it will look. If it has a clean surface to cling to, you will get the maximum performance from your wax or sealant. Cleaning the paint also removes the old wax. These days, many of the waxes are not very compatible with each other. This means that if you apply one kind or brand of wax over a different one, you may not get the gloss and protection that you expected due to a poor interaction between the two products.
The first thing we need to do is remove any rail dust. Rail dust refers to those very fine particles of iron that become embedded in your ride’s paint. They reveal themselves as tiny pin point brown dots and will have a rough or gritty feel. Our concrete streets contain a high amount of iron. As you drive, very small amounts of the road surface is worn away. The iron particles are kicked loose and embed themselves into your ride’s paint. Rail dust is found most prevalent on the front of your ride, behind the wheels and on the rear panels.
If the rail dust is not removed, the tiny particles of iron will continue to rust and eat their way down thru the paint and into the body of your BMW. Fortunately, it is fairly easy to remove. Simply take an automotive clay bar, flatten it into about a 2” by 2” pancake, spray an area to be cleaned on your ride with a clay lubricant and then rub the clay bar over the area. The clay bar will grab and pull the iron particles out of the paint. As you notice the clay bar becoming dirty, fold and knead the clay bar onto itself to continually bury the removed iron particles and expose a fresh surface of the clay bar. Wipe the surface dry as you finish and move onto the next area.
Now that you’ve removed all of the rail dust, let’s perform a final cleaning and polishing of the paint. For this process, you will use a pre-cleaning lotion which will leave the paint literally squeaky clean. This is a very mild cleaner and polish that will remove the remaining surface contaminants as well as very minor surface imperfections and swirls. You will obtain the best polishing results by using a buffer to apply the pre-cleaning lotion. If you do not have a buffer available, your polishing results will not be quite as good, but you can still accomplish good cleaning results. Machine buff or hand apply the pre-cleaning lotion and rub it over the paint finish. Allow it to form a haze and then buff off with a clean, dry microfiber cloth. Be sure to use a fresh clean microfiber cloth on each new panel section.
Now you are ready for waxing. Choosing and applying the correct type of wax or sealant is important. I will provide you with some insights into this in our next article of “The Joys of Detailing”.
Enjoy your ride . . .