Recently we were provided with the opportunity to engage in some charity work and offer a scholarship providing a "Complete Curriculum of Correction" to a decidedly agricultural recipient.
This Subaru Impreza Wagon was purchased new in 2003 and the owners have put it to good use as a general workhorse on their Pukekohe farmlet, with daily commuting into Manukau thrown in for good measure. From a distance, things weren’t looking too bad:
However, as you near the vehicle, you begin to get some idea of the task ahead:
The wheel rims appeared to be in especially poor condition:
Direct sunlight showed a long history of abuse by automatic carwashes, with heavy swirling of the paint evident all over the vehicle:
And even more disturbing, several areas covered in particularly deep scratches:
The first step in resolving any kind of deep seated blemish is always to wash away the exterior dirt and grime. Not only does this provide us with the opportunity to fully appraise the 'raw' state of the paint surface, it ensures that any corrective action taken will result in the best possible finish, free from any marring that may be caused by contamination of either the paint itself, or the polishing material.
To begin, the engine bay is detailed. It was in no better state than the vehicle’s exterior:
We tackled this with Meguiars All Purpose Cleaner:
Before going near the paintwork, we prefer to ensure that any extremely dirty areas of a vehicle (that require concentrated cleansers and/or degreasers) are properly addressed. Accordingly, as well as the engine bay, the wheels and wheel arches are given some attention. In this case, the condition of the vehicle warranted removal of each wheel and comprehensive cleaning with Meguiars Wheel Brightener, diluted at a ratio of 10:1.
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.
And the front arches:
The vehicle was next treated to a bath of Meguiars NXT Shampoo applied via an Autobrite UK Foam Lance.
The foam was left to dwell on the vehicle for 5min which gives it an opportunity to dissolve the grime and loosen it from the vehicle’s surface.
And rinsed clean.
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.
If you consider the use of two buckets 'overkill', consider the state of the rinse bucket after completing the wash:
Would you consider wiping your car with anything soaked in the left bucket?
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, a Meguiars 'Quick Clay' bar was used with Meguiars Last Touch (diluted 1:1) as lubrication.
It's a source of constant amazement just how much contamination remains on a vehicle's surface after comprehensive washing!
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.
With the vehicle's exterior now in a perfectly clean and dry state, it was moved inside to begin a thorough examination of the condition of the paint and to determine the type and quantity of correction that would be required to produce a perfect finish
At this point, we get to see and understand the true and unadulterated state of the vehicle bodywork. Without the benefit of any (defect masking) wax and under the unforgiving twin 500W Halogen lights, things were not looking good!
As you can see, the paint has suffered significant damage over the past few years. It is incredibly difficult to capture on film the extent of the swirling on the paint. It almost looks like it has been scrubbed, top to bottom, with steel wool! Of more concern, however, were the much deeper scratches (that look to have been inflicted by the family dog jumping up against the doors), dings, and even paint transfer from various parking 'incidents'!
This vehicle would pose a real challenge!