Exterior Detailing 101

This is going to be a three part series into exterior detailing. Our test subject is my sisters Black 2000 Toyota Camry with many paint imperfections and blemishes. After the detail is complete I will detail my Spyder which has the same paint code and post the corresponding pictures but I may take it one step further then the Camry which is not necessary but optional.

Let us first evaluate at our test subject.

You can see that there are many surface defects namely swirl marks (cob web effect) and some minor abrasions and deep scratches otherwise the paint is in relatively good condition without too much oxidation.

Before we start the one thing that is more important than anything else is your preparation and willingness.

1. Make sure you remove any watches, belts and rings. Basically anything that is metal or otherwise that can damage the paint. Also wear some comfortable cotton clothing.

2. Keep a positive mental attitude and don’t get distracted. If you are detailing outside there is nothing more annoying then neighbors snickering and passing passive aggressive comments about your obsessed detail. If they say do mine next I am bringing my car over then tell them to bring their wallet over too.

3. Patience and planning are important. Make sure you set aside time for the detail including breaks in between and make sure you drink plenty of fluids. If you don’t finish then start again tomorrow but what ever you do don’t be in a rush. Make sure you research the products you are going to use a few days before hand and have a plan of attack.

If you detail it right, take your time and use the right products your detailed finish will last more then 6 months and maybe even up to a year so the extra time you put in will actually save you more time then the guy down the street who has to wax his car every three months.

The detail is broken down into three stages.

1. Surface preparation
2. Polishing and protecting
3. Maintenance

Surface Preparation:
This is an easy first step which involves washing and claying the car.

1. Washing: This wash is different then the Maintenance washes. Here we are using a liquid detergent to breakup the oils from the left over sealant or wax.
Use a few ounces of Dawn in a bucket and fill it with warm water and make some suds. Use a wash mitt that is specifically used for washing cars. Rinse the car down first with water from a hose to loosen surface dust and then wash the car using the sudsy Dawn with your wash mitt starting from the top of the car to the bottom. And last don’t forget to clean inside the wheel wells.
Rinse and let it air dry or you can use a chamois to speed up the process.

2. Claying: This process involves removing imbedded paint contaminants. These contaminants can range from a number of things like industrial fall out, exhaust emissions and rail dust but none the less every car has contaminates that only a clay bar can remove. It is vital to remove these contaminates for the health and preservation of your paint and so that what ever sealant or wax you use bonds to the paint effectively. It makes paint more vibrant when the detail is complete and less dingy especially on white colored cars.

You are going to need:
1. Quick detailing spray or you can use a 1/2 ounce of woolite in a spray bottle mixed with distilled water. This is your lubricant.
2. Clay bar: You can purchase this at your auto store.
3. Micro fiber towel. We will discuss latter on in the maintenance part how to choose a good micro fiber cloth.

1. Spray the clay bar with the lubricant to soften it up a bit and then spray a small section of the paint of about a square foot. Be liberal with the spray and rub down the section with the clay bar. As you go over the surface the bar should glide smoothly and not get stuck. If it feels like its tacky then apply more lubricant. You should go over the area a few times and if you listen closely you will hear a faint scratching sound. That is the sound of contaminates being magically lifted from the paint and suspended in the lubricant.

2. Do not let the area dry out and when it’s still wet wipe the area down with the micro fiber cloth. Just remember that you don’t need to use any pressure when gliding the clay over the paint and you don’t need to spend so much time in one area. A few good passes back and fourth is good enough and you will also notice the clay getting wider, flatter and thinner and what you need to do is constantly fold the clay as you go along. After some time you will be able to do bigger sections at a time to the point where one panel can be clayed at once.

What ever you do please do not drop the clay bar on the ground otherwise it is useless. Also when you are done place the clay in a small zip lock bag and spray some lubricant in it and seal it as you will be able to use the same bar for your future details until it gets so dirty that you have to through it out.

Special note: The surface preparation should not be treated a stopping point as the car is now left open to the elements so if you plan only to clay bar and not polish please add protection in the form of a sealant or cleaner wax. It is still strongly advised that you continue to step 2 .
This concludes the surface prep.

Polishing: The Idea here is to use mild abrasives suspended in a solution so that it can gently remove surface oxidation, smoothen the finish and remove the appearance of swirl marks or remove them altogether if you are using a rotary. We are not going to discuss compounding because most of us have fairly decent paint that only needs polishing.

Polishing Methods:

1. Hand Polishing: Efective at removing oxidation and some light swirl marks but it will never give you the results of machine polishing. It is the most labor intensive.

2. Orbital polisher: This machine spins on an eccentric rotation mimicking hand motion. The cheap type is what you find in an automotive store which doesn’t do much work and the Porter-cable which does a very good job at removing paint defects and it has to ability to round out swirl marks and polish the finish to a high luster. This machine is also fool proof and will not harm your paint with bad technique. You can also use the orbital to apply waxes and sealants to save you some time.

3. Rotary or circular polisher: This is what the pros use. It is not for everyone but as long as you are of average intelligence and not a goofball like Steve Marten in the Jerk you can do this as long as you know what to do and what not to do. It will give you the best finish hands down as long as you use the right pad and product.

You’re going to need:

1. Menserna get acquainted kit $20 which includes
. Intensive Polish IP
. Final Polish FP
. Two High Quality MF polishing cloths
. Two High Quality MF polish applicators.
This is a real barging and introduces you their line of products which is the best stuff I have ever used. If you chose not to use this kit then substitute with your favorite polish or swirl mark remover and get some MF towels.

2. Fill an old spray bottle with distilled water and label it. Please no tap water as it has minerals that can cause problems.
3. Fill another spray bottle with one part distilled water and one part alcohol and label that.
4. Blue 3M tape if you plan to use a rotary.

If you plan to do machine polishing then use a polishing pad and not a compounding pad. The Lake Country white pad is my recommendation. If you are going to do the two step Menserna then you will need two polishing pads


Hand polishing: Use the applicator pads and apply a small bead of polish on the paint and work one square foot sections at a time. You want to rub with up and down motions and not circular. Removal is the same for machine polishing.

Machine polishing:
1. Priming the pad: spray some distilled water on to the polishing pad and saturate it lightly then add a few beads of IP polish and spread it using your fingers.

2.Apply a small bead of product to the surface of the paint and spray some a light mist water over it and visualize a 2ft by 2ft section and work the polish into the paint until it hazes and dries but if you wish to work a little longer you can spray some water on the area and continue to polish. You don’t need to use so much product and after the pad is primed with product you need not add the product to the pad just add a small bead to each new 2ft by 2ft section and the pad will pick it up.

3. When the product hazes and is starting to turn into powder then stop. Do not let it dry out completely or let it turn to dry dust. It should feel like slightly moist talcum powder. At this time take the Alcohol and water and spray it on the surface and remove it using the polishing cloth.

4. Inspect the finish and go from there. If you use the IP then you will notice a dark glossy finish and there will be a reduction of deep swirls and all you will have left are buffer swirls that look like micro thin scratches. Always shine a light on the surface before and after so you know the difference.

Before IP

After IP

5. Now its time to use the FP which is nothing more then repeating the above. When you finish a hood for instance with IP then go directly to FP to complete panels one at a time rather then the whole car with one product then with another. Also make sure use a dedicated pad for the product you are using because you don’t want to cross contaminate products so this means you need two polishing pads. The FP will burnish the paint to a high gloss and will remove the buffer swirls from the IP. The result is short of spectacular.
After FP

6. Use an MF buffing cloth as the last step which is different then the MF polishing cloth to remove some of the haze and let the shine and luster come through.

Special note: nothing reveals swirls better then florescent light and no matter how hard you try you will not be able to have a blemish free finish so don’t go over board otherwise you wont have any paint left. When you look at the finish in the sunlight you will see little to no swirls.

Make sure there are no other cars in the immediate area when you are machine polishing because you will have some splatter.
If you have paint chips and deep scratches they will be more visible now because the white polish will embed its self into the defect. After a wash or rain the white residue will disappear. It is strongly advised that the chips and deep scratches be repaired with touch up paint.

This is the process in which a sealant or a natural wax is used to protect the paint from the elements. It also adds a characteristic shine and some depth. Basically it’s the icing on the Cake.

Sealants: these are man made chemicals which bond molecularly to the paint. They have been used for years but are now more popular then ever because of its protection, durability and shine. The only disadvantage with Sealants is that they lack the depth of a natural wax. There are new sealants that have been introduce that mimic the carnauba look and I am trying one of them called Wolfgang deep gloss paint sealant. Let’s see if it lives up to the manufactures claims.

Natural waxes: These are mainly Carnauba based and there is a difference in quality from one brand to the next. Some of the more expensive ones will give you a better finish then any sealant but they are not cheap. Waxes do not last very long 2-3 months maximum and after a few washes they decline rapidly. Keep in mind that Sealants are better then the cheap off the shelf carnauba waxes.

Before we add the protection we must prepare the surface. The car needs to be washed to remove polish splatter and residual product. Please read how to do the wash in the maintenance section.

This is what you need.

1. Sealant or Carnauba wax: we are going to use Wolfgang’s deep gloss Sealant
2. Water bottle
3. Alcohol plus water bottle
4. MF buffing towels
5. MF applicator pads.
6. Q tips

1. Now that the car is washed there will still be some left over polish in the edges of the doors, seals and gas cap. You will need to saturate your Q tips with the Alcohol and water and go over those edges to remove as much dried up polish.

2. Take a MF cloth and do an alcohol plus water wipe down on each section before you apply sealant or wax.

3. Sprits the MF applicator pad with water and apply a dime size amount of sealant to the pad and apply to the paint.

Read the products direction of application as some recommend up and down motion while others a circular method.

4. Read the directions on the product to find out the curing time and remove the haze using a buffing micro fiber cloth. Most sealants do not require you to buff to a shine just removing the haze is good enough.

Special note: All of the mail order boutique products like Zaino brothers excel in every way especially in the criteria of slickness and shine compared to off the shelf products available in auto stores. It’s commonly misunderstood that they are more expensive when in reality they work out cheaper considering that the finish last longer and a little of the product goes a long way.

This concludes polishing and protecting

Here are some pictures of the final result in direct sunlight so you can see the imperfections better.
If you look closely you will notice white spots on the finish which are nothing more than multiple paint chips that show very easily because like I mention before they are embedded with polish and will be highly visible. You have to remember that this car was abused and was only waxed once when it was new with an off the shelf one step cleaner wax. This car still has many deep scratches all the way to the primer so what ever could be done was done and the white specks will disappear after one or two washes.

Here you can see the gloss. It is different than Zaino brothers in that it doesn’t reflect like a mirror which is good thing if you prefer the warmth of carnauba. Also keep in mind that this is one coat and I am impressed with the slickness. If I applied multiple coats then the gloss would be even better.

Here are pictures that are out of direct sunlight and are a better representation of the finish.

Remember the abrasions and scratches from our evaluation.

Enjoy the Cherry Blossoms


This concludes detailing 101. In many ways this detail better then a most average professional dealers because they are usually in a rush to complete your car and the products that they use is not only inferior to the ones we discussed here but they are also harder on your paint because they need to increase their profit margin in the shortest amount of time. Keep also in mind that they may induce holograms from using a high speed rotary with improper technique and an abrasive wool pad then cover it up using a glaze. The real pros that detail high end cars are expensive can charge $300 or more for a perfect detail and even then they don’t layer the sealant or wax.

Here are some links to some great products.

These two stores have everything you need. Please PM me for a 10% discount code.

This one is the best and you can learn about the products usage but unfortunately no discount code.

This is a good place to get MF towels cheap.

Rotary usage:
This is not for everyone but at the same time it’s not hard to use as long as you use the right pads, product and understand how it’s used. Take note that you can burn paint if you’re careless.
Here are some links; please read up before you decide to use the Rotary otherwise use a PC random orbital as its fool proof but remember that you will not get the excellent results of the Rotary.

This long thread has some helpful tips

Meguiar’s Video; you will need Real Player Take note on how the operator uses the machine.

You will need:

1. Rotary polisher which can be purchased here http://www.harborfreight.com/cpi/ctaf/Disp…temnumber=46507
2. Backing plate http://store.premiumautocare.net/6-inch-fl…e-circular.html

3. Polishing pad 7 1/2 Inch Advanced C.P. White Polishing Pad http://store.premiumautocare.net/adv…foam-pads.html

Black 2000 Spyder

Machine: Rotary buffer (Chicago Electric)

Products used:

1. Zaino brothers Clay bar
2. Menserna Intensive polish and final polish
3. Klassi All in One Acrylic cleaner x1
4. Wolfgang Deep gloss Sealant x3

Comments: This car was more oxidized then I thought especially in the back, it also had minor swirls that were taken out with the Menserna polishes. Instead of washing the car after the polish I tried a product called Klasse All-In-One which is an Acrylic cleaner and sealant which cleans the surface and leaves behind a non shrinkable acrylic shield that helps the sealant bond to the surface plus it enhances the look of the Sealant. After trying this product it is no doubt the easiest and best product I have ever tried as it leaves a shine behind that will last for months and can be used as a last step product if desired but I don’t think it can be layered so a true sealant is required. This is the stuff that the pros use and you should too.

The Wolfgang Deep Gloss Sealant does mimic to some extent a natural carnauba finish but the one thing that I noticed is that it darkens the car unlike Zaino which gives black a silvery plastic finish. I am impressed with this sealant as it makes the black jet black and shiny and looks like no other black on cars that I have seen. Certain areas away from direct view do not reflect light and give the car a certain mystique that I cannot describe. I have had a hard time taking pictures of the car even in direct sunlight because it’s so black that it absorbs most of the light and does not represent what you will see in person.
This is the best I can do for now and will try if possible to take better pictures. So far I have observed people dropping their jaws when they see the car.

Here is a better picture

This documentation in no way replaces the Toyota MR2 Repair Manuals. The purpose of this content is only to provide supplementary information to fellow MR2 enthusiasts. Midship Runabout and its contributing authors will not be held responsible for any injury or damages that may occur as the result of practicing any of the methods or procedures described within this website. Article and photo submissions are property of the contributing author.

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