So you’ve landed yourself the car of your dreams, but how do you ensure it always looks its best, whilst protecting it for the future? For many, detailing and even correct cleaning processes are a dark art.
To find out what’s involved when it comes to elite car care, we got in contact with Dan Fowler at Reflect Automotive Detailing. Based in Essex, the company began in January 2019 and stemmed from a passion for providing truly elite cleaning services, which has proven popular.
Cleaning the correct way
“The wash process is designed to ensure the vehicle’s paintwork is as free from dirt and debris as possible before the physical washing begins,” Dan explains. “The first step is to focus on the wheels and tyres, as these are the point of contact with the road. These areas are affected by brake dust and dirt from day to day driving, so targeting them first ensures they don’t contaminate other areas later. For this stage, I use non-acidic cleaners from Autobrite Direct, my favourite being Britegel.”
Once these are addressed, it’s onto any heavily soiled areas, such as the engine bay, fuel filler flap and door shuts. These are suitably cleaned to again minimise the risk of debris transfer onto the paintwork. For these grimy areas, Dan prefers Jaffa Clean, again from Autobrite Direct.
Next is the first of two pre-wash stages, as Dan applies a Citrus Wash APC (All Purpose Cleaner) to break down and lift road traffic film. This is then rinsed off in preparation for the second pre-wash stage: snow foam. “This is an effective, non-contact pre-wash designed to remove dirt prior to the contact stage wash. A pH-balanced foam such as Magifoam (AD) creates a thick, active layer that slowly falls from the vehicle, taking with it dirt and debris.”
Elite car care finish
The contact wash stage is perhaps the most important and it’s also the easiest to overlook when it comes to elite car care. Dan prefers to use a two-bucket method, with a soft lamb’s wool mitt, grit guards within the buckets. It’s used with a pH neutral, lubricous shampoo such as Purple Velvet, from Autobrite Direct. “This process consists of a bucket containing clean water and a separate bucket containing our own wash solution,” tells Dan. “The idea is the soft mitt will collect debris within its long fibres and this will be held by both the shampoo and mitt fibres. It is then rinsed regularly in the clean bucket, transferring dirt into and not back into the wash solution.”
With the wash stage complete, the vehicle is dried using a combination of soft, safe drying towels, such as AD’s Hustler. At the same time, a filtered warm air blower removes moisture from the panel gaps.
How often should you get your car detailed?
Once your car has been cleaned to an elite standard, the obvious next question may be how often you should wash it afterwards. But as with most elite car care processes, that question is more complex than it sounds. “There are a number of factors that may dictate the maintenance schedule of a detailed car,” confirms Dan. “These include the durability of previously applied products, the number of miles covered, as well as environmental factors such as weather conditions or temperatures.”
When it comes to simple cleaning, Dan recommends a weekly or fortnightly safe wash using pH neutral shampoos and non-acidic products. As to how often your vehicle is fully detailed is defined by the type of product applied and that is the key to maintaining elite car care. “A quality sealant such as Supersonic Nano can last up to 12 months with the correct regime, whilst some ceramic coatings can last for years.” Dan informs us. “If you’re looking at paintwork correction/machine polishing, the process should really be performed once every few years with the safe wash process previously outlined.”
A fundamental point of elite car care is the quality of products used, as Dan has highlighted. Acid-free and pH neutral products are crucial to ensure your vehicle’s exterior surfaces are protected. “We have seen the damage that can be done by the use of caustic traffic film removers and acids used at some roadside car washes,” Dan reveals. “These chemicals can not only degrade or completely remove any protection products that may have been applied but they can also cause discolouration and staining. Non-acidic and pH neutral products are also kinder to both the user and the environment, as most are biodegradable.”
With that in mind, Dan’s main advice for maintaining a level of elite car care is to “avoid cheap, nasty car washes at all costs. If you have any doubt or queries then please contact a professional for advice.”
What do you think of the finished article?
The cost of elite car care:
Prices can vary massively depending on how far the customer is willing to go with their vehicles, but a basic mini valet starts from £35 and enhancement packages from £250.
If you are keen to try some of these techniques out for yourself, enter our free competition to win the Colossal Autobrite bundle worth £350. There are plenty of products up for grabs, don’t miss out!
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