What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You!

I noticed today that a friend’s pickup has really fogged up headlights. When I mentioned it, she had no idea what I was talking about, and assumed I meant they were just dirty.

Once I showed her what headlights are supposed to look like, it made more sense, and I’ll be fixing them this week for her by doing a headlight restoration to remove the oxidation and get them shined up.

Foggy/Yellow headlights are more than just an eye sore. They are a potentially dangerous situation that can drastically reduce visibility at night, especially here in Montana in rural areas. You need the maximum amount of light coming from your headlights to make sure you don’t end up with a deer-shaped hood ornament.

Uncorrected headlights that are foggy and yellow can block as much as 80% of the light that is supposed to be coming from them. You wouldn’t take a brand new car and duct tape 80% of the headlight off, right? It would be really dangerous. Driving with foggy headlights has the same effect.

This is a picture of a headlight, before and after restoration. The before picture is actually clean, despite the surrounding area.

Headlight Restoration Before and After

So, what should you do? If you’re so inclined, there are a variety of DIY headlight restoration kits out there that you can try for about $30-40. These may or may not be effective, depending on the severity of the damage, your tools and skill set, and the quality of the kit. Optionally, you can have them professionally restored. If you’re reading this from my service area, give me a call and we can make an appointment to get yours corrected. I charge $60 to do the work. If you’re not in my area, doing a search for “headlight restoration” in your area will lead you to a qualified company.

Don’t wait, check your headlights and if they need it, get them corrected as soon as possible.

Davis Auto Detailing becomes Adam’s Premium Car Care Products Dealer

I’m happy to announce that I’ve become Montana’s only Adam’s Premium Car Care Products Dealer! This allows me to bring professional detailing products to my clients and customers, the same ones I use to detail vehicles.


Why buy Adam’s?

There are a few reasons why it makes sense to buy a professional level detailing product like Adam’s.

  1. Made in the USA – which is a very rare thing in today’s economy. The company is located in Colorado, and everything they sell is made in the USA, so it’s great to support this kind of company.
  2. Small Company – they are small company with great people, and they provide outstanding customer service, beyond what I’ve experienced with pretty much any other company.
  3. Protect Your Investment – Today’s vehicles are complex and expensive. Using the wrong car care products can wreak havoc on the finish. Each of Adam’s products have been carefully researched and developed to provide the best results while being safe for your finish.
  4. 110% Money Back Guarantee! If you’re not satisfied with the products, Adam’s will give you your money back, plus 10% for your trouble. You can’t go wrong with that, right?

Shop Now!

While I do recommend that my customers have their cars detailed regularly (by yours truly, of course,) I realize that some people are just more DIY. That’s cool, I’m that way myself. Why not get the right tools for the job so you can do the best job you can and protect your investment? It may cost a couple of extra bucks than the Made-in-China stuff you can pick up at the local store, but trust me, the results are impressive, and with the guarantee, there’s nothing to lose. Plus, since I’m local and mobile, you can save the hassle of shipping, and see the products before you buy.

So, take a look at the product selection I’m offering. I’m not currently carrying every single item they sell, but sticking with the most popular products at first. If there are products you’d like to order, just contact me, and I can get them for you quickly.

How to Properly Wash Your Car

In my last post, I hope that I established that you should NEVER take your car to an automated car wash, and I hope you’re convinced.

Bucket of Soapy Water

I also promised that even though I’d love to have the chance to show you what professional detailing can do for your vehicle, I’d show you how to properly wash your vehicle yourself.

Before we start, I should note that it’s always best to wash your car OUT of direct sunlight, so if you can find a shady spot (not under a tree, unfortunately,) or wait until later in the afternoon when the sun isn’t as hot, that’s best.

Step 1: Get the Right Supplies

While I have some great professional level detailing supplies and tools, it’s pretty easy to find DIY versions for you to use at home.

  1. Buckets – pretty self-explanatory, you can get them for a couple of dollars at your local discount store, or if you have a couple of large bowls or plastic containers, that’ll work just fine, just make sure they are large enough to accommodate enough water. Notice I’m saying bucket (s), plural. I want you to have one with soap, and one to rinse.
  2. Water Hose – again, self explanatory. It helps to have one with a sprayer head on it so you can start and stop the flow of water, and vary the pattern as needed.
  3. Car Shampoo – do NOT use dish washing liquid. Just like the car washes, they are designed to work quickly to remove dirt and grease chemically, and they will do the same thing to your protective polish and wax on your car. Pick up some car shampoo that’s listed as mild. Below is an example from Meguiars.
  4. Wash Mitt – You’ll see people using sponges a lot, and I don’t like that because there is nowhere for the dirt/sand to go as you’re washing. I prefer a wash mitt instead. I use a big fluffy lamb’s wool mit, but you can use one of the commercially available ones like the one shown below (they sell similar items at stores like Wal-Mart and Target.)
  5. Drying Towel – if you’ve got some CLEAN old cotton towels around that are soft and aren’t “shedding,” you can get away with using those for the most part. I like to use a real drying towel, they hold the water better and do a better job. I’m not a fan of the lamb’s skin chamois (shammy), they don’t dry that well, and are hard to clean.
  6. Scrub Brush – for the wheels and tires, a soft bristled brush will work great, and you can use one from the house, just make sure it doesn’t have any residual chemicals on it. I wouldn’t use any that you want to reuse inside.

Step 2: Wet Down the Car

Take your hose and put it on spray. Generously get the entire car wet, including the wheels, tires, wheel wells, etc. This is a good time to concentrate on getting off any “big stuff” as well so there is as little dirt as possible.

Step 3: Soap the Car

After you’ve filled the bucket with the proper amount of car shampoo and water, you’re ready to put soap to paint. Dip your wash mitt into your soap bucket, and starting at the top of the car, begin to soap/wash the surface gently. As you do, be cautious with any excessively dirty areas, and rinse frequently. I like to use the “clean water” bucket to rinse, never putting a dirty mitt back into the soap bucket until rinsed. If there is a lot of debris on it, you can also use the hose to rinse it out. It sounds like a lot of work, but if there is dirt/sand in the mitt, you’re back to the sander analogy. So, the process is SOAP bucket, car surface, RINSE bucket/hose, SOAP bucket, car surface. The rule is to never put the dirty mitt back into your main soap bucket.

Work your way all around the car, soaping and washing completely. If it’s hot or the soap is drying quickly, you may wish to soap and rinse in sections.

For the tires and wheels, you can use your brushes to completely wash the edges of the tires, the wheels, and inside edges of the wheel wells.

Step 4: Rinse the Car

Rinsing is easy, just get a steady stream of water flowing and be generous with the water, rinsing completely all of the soap from the car, working from the top down. Make sure you get the cowl (front bottom of the windshield) and any other nooks and crannies.

Again, if it’s a hot day, you may wish to alternate between soaping and rinsing in sections on the car.

Step 5: Dry the Car

The first step here is to make sure that there is no residual dirt, oil, or grease on the car before you dry. Walk around the car and double check. If you find anything, simply repeat the soap and rinse for that area.

Start on the side of the car you expect to be dry first. This might be the side in the sun, or the side you rinsed first. Work from driest to wettest. I like to start with the windows to make them easier to clean later, and I usually dry the outside, then use the towel to do a quick wipe on the inside. This it a first swipe on the inside, you’ll clean up both sides later with glass cleaner.

Work your way around the vehicle, drying everything except the wheels. I like to use a separate towel for the wheels as it’s easy to miss a little bit of dirt that could contaminate the towel. Once the wheels are dry, you can walk around and pick up any drips from the panel gaps, etc.

Step 6: The Final Details and Waxing

I won’t spend a lot of time on this step because there are so many variations and methods, but it’s good to do a final polish/wax, and dress the tires.

There are a lot of options for waxes out there.  A good non-commercial product is Meguiar’s, shown below, and they have several different options. You want a basic one step polish/wax that will give your paint some protection.

The polishes and waxes I use are of a little higher quality, and I’d recommend you come see me a couple of times a year for that added protection.

For the tire dressing, there are a lot of things on the market, most of them are oil based, which can damage the rubber and don’t look good for very long. I recommend using something that’s water based, like Griot’s dressing. Griot’s makes some good stuff for the entire car, so you can’t go wrong there.

Well, there you have it, a DIY hand washed car, all the clean without all of the scratches! I hope this will help you keep your paint looking new and car clean. When you’re ready for some professional help, or even some pampering, give me a call, and I’ll take care of you!

Until next time!

How You’re Ruining Your Car at the Car Wash, and What You can Do About It!

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you’re slowly killing your car at the car wash, $6 at a time! There’s a dirty little secret in the auto industry, one that I’m surprised very few people actually know about (I guess that’s why it’s a secret, huh?) Here it is: AUTOMATED CAR WASHES RUIN YOUR CAR!

So, the it’s not a secret any more, but let’s get to the heart of what’s happening, and why I believe (and pretty much everyone but auto paint shops and car wash owners agree,) that you should never take your vehicle through an automated car wash. That includes so called “touchless” washes.

Let’s start with the traditional automated wash systems. They are a series of big “soft” brushes that slap against your car to get the dirt off, in combination with soap, spray on wax, dryers, etc.

Here’s why these are ruining your paint:

If I told you that I was going to go out to your driveway and get it clean by running a belt sander over it, you’d probably punch me in the face. But, when you go through the car wash, you are basically doing the same thing. The dirt, sand, oil, soap, and water basically make a semi-liquified sand paper, that each time the brush touches your car, it scratches the clear coat, creating small scratches over the entire surface. In some cases, the damage is severe.

A Car Wash is Like Sand Paper

A Car Wash is Like Sand Paper to Your Paint

If you think the “touchless” washes are any better, think again. First of all, at least here in Montana, there is often an attendant at the wash that “helps” to pre-wash the vehicle by using his own sprayer, and most of the time he’ll break out some sort of brush. This is a nice added bonus, but with terrible results, it might help get the dirt off, but at a huge cost to your finish.

Secondly, in order to remove dirt without physically touching the vehicle with some sort of apparatus, a combination of very high pressure water, along with really harsh chemical soaps have to be used. This combination quickly removes all of the protective waxes and polishes that might be on your paint, exposing it to the elements. Even if you opt for “the works” car wash where a little spray wax is applied, you’re still not getting much protection. At the end of some washes, you have “hand drying” workers. Let’s face it, they have about a minute to get your car dry, and the towel they are using has been on every car that day, so it’s likely you’ll end up with some bonus scratches from your “touchless” wash experience.

“Come on Dude, what’s the big deal? My car looks clean, and the paint looks fine!”

Here are a few different things that happen to the finish:

  1. Paint Swirls – the little (and sometimes not so little) scratches all over your paint. You can see these easily on a really sunny day, or if you shine a bright light across the paint.

    Like liquid sand paper, car washes create microscopic scratches throughout your paint!

    Like liquid sand paper, car washes create microscopic scratches throughout your paint!

  2. Water spots – particularly with touchless washes, you’ll often get water spots and dried “wax, soap, and rinse solutions” on the paint.

    Harsh chemicals and incomplete drying can cause water spots on your paint.

    Harsh chemicals and incomplete drying can cause water spots on your paint.

  3. Trim and accessory damage – most likely, it’s not as bad as this guy, but antennas, mirrors, and wipers can feel the damage.

The damage the car wash is causing is a bit like cancer, it slowly eats away at the vehicle a little at a time (with each trip through) without you knowing it, until it comes time to sell it and you realize you need a $3500 paint job to fix it.

So, what to do? Well, of course, I’m going to tell you that your best bet is to call me and have your vehicle professionally washed by hand, right? Hey, this is my blog, and I’m allowed to do that. That’s probably the best answer actually. Have your car professionally detailed with hand washing, dry, and a protective wax put back on it to protect the finish. Especially during the Winter, when options are scarce for washing your car yourself. Even if you hire another company, PLEASE do your car a favor and avoid automated washes.

But, if you’re more of a DIY person, what you need to do is learn how to properly hand wash your car in your driveway (or garage even). In my next blog entry, I’ll give you the tools, tips, and tricks to get that done, so check back soon!