Caring for your paintwork

As mentionied in the photographic post below, we had a Club day yesterday, with Drew taking us through the do’s and dont’s on proper paint car and maintenance, as well as a little bit of DIY rectification work as well. To cut a long story short, good quality products and proper techniques will allow you to care for your Saab’s paintwork without too much trouble.

Drew is a rock-doctor and hole-digger from 9 to 5. The rest of the time he divides between sourcing bargain parts on Ebay and fixing up his fleet of Saabs to a remarkably high standard. He’s mechanically gifted, but his true talent lies in body repair, painting and finishing. He knows his stuff, so you can take the following to the bank.

Unfortunately I didn’t snap off any pictures during the session. Ben, perhaps you could email me some to add to this post?

Anyway, here are Drew’s tips, slightly embellished for posterity. They cover washing your car, polishing for regular maintenance, polishing for defect repair and machine-polishing for defect repair:

Paintwork Maintenance & Rectification
A Few Handy Tips

– never use an automatic carwash – they severely abrade paintwork. The brushes frequently get clogged up with junk and consequently are whipping the junk accross your paint at high speed. A recipe for paintwork disaster. Jetwashes are OK.

– never let bird excrement dry on the paint surface, as it will cause etching of the paint film. Clean it off with water as soon as you see it, then hunt the bird down and kill it (OK, I added that bit).

– use a good quality detergent wash – eg. ‘wash & wax’

– do not use household detergents – they remove wax and accelerate oxidation

– use a good quality soft sponge – eg. Oates Sudshine. Replace it frequently as they can clog up with grit etc.

– do not use a nylon brush, as they have a tendency to scratch (the car wash principal)

– change washing water frequently to avoid concentration of contaminants

– rinse sponge frequently to avoid concentration of contaminants

– do not wash your vehicle in direct sunlight – ensure the paint is cool before washing.

– start washing from the top down – ie. cleanest to dirtiest.

– don’t wash wheels with the same sponge due to presence of metallic particles, etc

– do not allow soap or water to evaporate on your paint, as residue may cause etching of the paint film.

– wash and rinse small sections

– rinse with hose from top down

– final rinse from top down with slow water stream to reduce water beading – makes drying much faster. A hint here, take the spray nozzle off the end of your hose. Just have the full hose opening letting through a fat, gentle stream of water. The water will go on thick, but it’ll come off thick too with little beading and less to dry off.

– dry with a good quality chamois – eg. Oates Enka-Fill

– only use chamois to dry exterior paint – not wheels, underbonnet or internal surfaces.

Polishing by hand – normal maintenance

– the objective of general paintwork maintenance is to protect the paint surface using a wax or a glaze, preferably in liquid form

– select a good quality wax or glaze. Use a trade-quality product such as 3M, PPG, Farecla, K&H ‘Optic’ range or Meguiars. Avoid the use of ‘cheap’ products like Repo, Turtle Wax, etc

– ensure vehicle has just been washed and is free of dust /dirt /grit

– do not attempt in direct sunlight – ensure paint surface is cool before commencing

– use a fine cheesecloth or similar soft material to apply polish

– strictly adhere to manufacturers instructions

– apply masking tape to windscreen rubbers, badges and textured plastic parts so that they don’t contaminate the polish or become loaded with polish, which may be hard to remove

– apply polish using a circular motion, changing polishing surface frequently

– work in small sections (eg. ¼ roof / ½ bonnet & boot / 1 side panel at a time)

– do not allow polish to dry on surface, unless specified

– wipe off with clean cheesecloth / soft material, changing polishing surface frequently

– contaminants such as tar, tree sap and other stubborn contaminants should be dissolved using a wax & grease remover (PPG Prepsol is a good one)

Polishing by hand – defect removal

– minor rectification of paint defects can be accomplished by hand – eg. oxidation, light scratches, removal of fallout, etc

– procedure same as above, using a light abrasive polish or cleaner wax

– use a trade-quality product which is specific for the intended purpose. Avoid harsh products such as Repo Cutting Compond or T-Cut, as they are too abrasive

– attempt defect removal using a light abrasive polish first. If that fails to remove the mark, attempt using a coarser grade polish. Once removed, work backwards from coarse to fine grade polish, finishing with a non-abrasive wax or glaze

Polishing by machine – defect removal

– best left to professionals who have specific tools and knowledge of the job. If in doubt, seek the advice of an experienced tradesman

– avoid use of ‘Supacheap’ type buffers, as they can severely damage paint in the hands of an amateur. Generally speaking, they spin too fast for the job. They’re like an angle grinder with a pad on the end. A proper automotive buffer is a specialised tool, not cheap.

– avoid wool-faced buffing pads, as they run hot (burning), clog easily (scratching) and have an undefined edge unsuitable for polishing near crease lines, trims, panel edges, etc

– best results are achieved by using a good quality foam-faced pad on a machine rotating at no more than 2500rpm

– mask off trims, panel edges, rubbers, plastic parts, etc, to avoid damage (e.g. you don’t want to hit any rubber trims and be buffing the paintwork with rubber)

– work from the top down

– complete one panel at a time, washing each panel when commencing work

– the rotation of the machine should be away from the edge of a panel or creaseline, not onto it

– only use enough polish to keep the buffing face wet and running cool

– change pads every 2-3 panels or when the pad starts to clog. Foam pads should be washed thoroughly in warm soapy water and rinsed clean

– do not use a buffing pad for more than one type or grade of polish

– do not allow polish splatter to dry on paint surface or trim

– wash thoroughly when complete, finishing with a glaze or wax

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