Subaru WRX STi (Part 1)

This Clean & Protect detail was performed as part of a quarterly maintenance plan for a customer who had recently returned from what must have been an 'Epic' road trip! He had accumulated an impressive amount of mud and general grime, and was wanting to safely clean the paint while still retaining his vehicle's "swirl free" finish.

This Subaru WRX Sti was sold "brand new" in New Zealand in 2004 and was snapped up by its current owner at a mere 6-months old. He has fastidiously maintained the vehicle throughout his ownership, and as you will see - despite the surface muck, the paint is in fantastic shape.

A 1,000km journey across some of New Zealand's most enjoyable roads can leave a rally-bred road weapon looking decidedly dirty.

And of course, where the rubber meets the road, the mud accumulates the most:

Remedial Tutelage:

Improper wash technique is the primary cause of swirl marks and random deeper scratches on paintwork. If someone were to take a sponge and a 'bucket of suds' and wipe clean a vehicle in this condition, they would inflict damage that would take hours of machine polishing to correct. Everything performed in this section is done with the sole objective of minimizing that damage.

Wheels & Arches

Given the state of the vehicle, the client elected to have the wheels removed for cleaning. There is an additional cost incurred for this service, but can add significantly to the end result.

With the wheels off, we had the opportunity to clear out the wheel wells with Meguiars Super Degreaser (diluted at 4:1) and a stiff bristled brush.

It also allows us to ensure that the brake calipers are completely clean.

The tyres were also scrubbed with Super Degreaser, and the rims cleaned with Meguiars NXT Shampoo and a microfibre work cloth.

They were then treated to a top-up coat of Poorboy's Wheel Sealant which serves to protect the bare alloy of the inside rim and helps to prevent etching, pitting and oxidization.

It was also applied to the painted surfaces on the wheel face.

And refitted, looking like new again.

Trim & Grilles

Next up, we addressed the buildup of dirt and old 'wax' in the panel gaps, vents, door and boot shuts and around the various badges and fuel cap. Tools employed were Meguiars All Purpose Cleanser, and a Slide-Lock detailing brush.

Foam Bath

The vehicle was next treated to a bath of Meguiars Hyperwash Shampoo applied via an Autobrite UK Foam Lance.

This generates a thick 'blanket' of soapy foam which covers the entire vehicle.

The foam was left to dwell on the vehicle for 5min which gives it an opportunity to dissolve the grime and let it gently slide from the vehicle's surface.

The car was then rinsed clean at a medium pressure.

Hand Wash

With as much dirt as possible removed from the vehicle without direct contact, it was time to complete the wash process with a hand wash via a Lambswool Mitt and Meguiars Shampoo Plus.

A lambswool (or microfibre) mitt should always be used for 'contact' washing of a vehicle's painted surfaces. Particles of grit and dirt on the paint are the primary cause of swirls on modern vehicles with clear 'coat paint'. Regular sponges cause the grit to be trapped against the surface of the paint and dragged across it. (Even worse still are the brushes at self-service or automatic carwashes.) The plush mitt however will draw the dirt away from the paint surface, deep into the fibers of the wool, thus preventing it from inflicting further damage.

Also notice the separate buckets for 'wash' and 'rinse' action. This is the safest and most effective way to clean a vehicle's paint. The Mitt is soaked in the 60° C Shampoo Plus solution which has a "Low-Suds / High-Lubricity" formula and then worked over the vehicle. After each panel, the Mitt is cleaned off in the 'rinse' bucket, dislodging any dirt picked up off the car, before being re-soaked in the shampoo.

Again, look at the state of the rinse bucket after completing the wash…

The two-bucket-method really does work! Next, the car is rinsed off again at high pressure, and moved inside for claying and drying.

Clay Treatment

The final step in ensuring a perfectly clean paint surface is the removal of bonded contaminants with a detailing clay bar. This can include tar spots, tree sap or industrial fallout, all of which contribute to making the paint surface rough to the touch and dull to look at. In this instance, Meguiars Mild Detailing Clay was used with Meguiars Last Touch (diluted 1:1) as lubrication.

The clay was soaked for 10 minutes in hot water to soften it slightly ahead of use.

A reasonably large amount of contamination was removed from just this section of the bonnet.

The vehicle was then given a final rinse off with the pressure washer and then patted dry with a Sonus Der Wonder Microfibre Drying Towel.