Questions & AnswersTop of the Line detailing experts have advised auto enthusiasts and professionals for over seventeen years. We can answer questions on any aspect of automotive, aircraft, marine, or fleet detailing. We can substantially improve your detailing results. We tell you how to make a tough job a lot easier. We can also help you turn a seemingly unsolvable problem into a success.
Common questions range from "What's the best way to care for leather" to "How can I take decals off paint?" If you're having trouble getting the results you want, this section may answer your questions, or gain the confidence to figure them out for yourself.
- I have been detailing for 10 years, both professionally and as a hobby. I recently purchased your Cyclo polisher. I have been able to attain "better than average" finishes on cars. Both compound and polishing processes pose no problems but, I really have trouble with the glaze and sealer drying up, sticking to the finish and smearing causing black blotches. The end result is not pretty. The glaze and sealer are supposed to be idiot proof, so will I ever get past these inconsistencies? I am open to ideas or straight up advice.
You are performing too many steps, using too much product on the pads, and using products that are incompatible. Paint preparation and waxing should be a very simple process requiring no more than two steps; three at the most on cars with severe problems. Clean up the process and make it simple. Select products that are formulated to be used together.
1-Step Method for Swirls & Light Oxidation: Apply Hi-Temp Paint Perfection Glaze one-step cleaner/wax sealant with an orbital polisher and a polishing or cutting pad.
2-Step Method for Light Scratches, Swirls & Moderate Oxidation: Apply Hi-Temp Smooth Cut Swirl Remover with an orbital polisher and polishing or cutting pads. Follow with a Paste Wax, Liquid Wax or Wax Sealant by hand, or orbital polisher and a finishing pad.
3-Step Method for Scratches, Acid Rain Etching & Heavy Oxidation: Apply Hi-Temp Medium Cut or Extreme Cut Paint Leveler with a rotary polisher and a polishing or cutting pad. Follow with Hi-Temp Light Cut using an orbital polisher and a polishing pad. Top off with a Paste Wax, Liquid Wax or Wax Sealant by hand, or with an orbital polisher and a finishing pad.
- I was wondering if it is ok to apply polishes with a terry cloth bonnet and the Porter Cable orbital polisher. If not, should I only use foam pads for polishing? I would like to use terry cloth because the polish manufacturer recommends not using foam. I think terry would have better cleaning action.
I believe foam is much cleaner for orbital polishing. It has a smooth surface that creates a consistent, smooth finish. Terry just clogs-up and wastes product. Use it to remove the polishing residue. Your product and the action of the polisher will do the work no matter which pad you use, but foam will require less clean-up. Your product manufacturer may have thought you were using a rotary (high speed) polisher. Foam creates a LOT of heat on a high speed machine.
- I'm confused by the term "clear coating" because I'm being told it can be applied by a detailer but I always understood it to be a sort of clear paint. What are the relative merits of each for our gold color Acura RL? It's garaged, driven very little, but collects the usual California city air junk. We want it to look smashing all the time.
You are absolutely right. The term is confusing. I find several detailing terms are used for different jobs, or to describe different products. There are two types of clear coatings. Clear coat "paint" is non-pigmented paint used to protect the color coat and is already on 90% of new vehicles. It is permanent, highly susceptible to scratching and needs a protective coat of wax.
A Paint Sealant is a liquid polymer wax that can be applied to most any surface. Paint, metal, fiberglass, gel coat, etc. Paint sealants are temporary, but the most durable of waxes. Application can cost $50.00-$150.00 with a warranty. NEVER pay more, because you can apply a professional quality paint sealant at home. Your decision is to choose the type of wax that best protects and enhances your vehicle, and whether you want to do the work yourself.
Carnauba Waxes last about 2 months, and can be layered for optimal effect. They also create a tremendous amount of depth on dark colors. One-Step Liquid Cleaner/Waxes save time by adding light abrasives to the wax, but do not contain as much protection. Paint sealants last about 6 months, but can be a bit difficult to apply on dark colors.
All waxes except the one-step varieties should be preceded by a Paint Preparation Product to eliminate surface imperfections. This process is the "key" to a wet-look shine.
- I have an old Lincoln Continental that was unfortunately stored in a barn for a number of years. The mice used this car for their home. It smells very bad. I have cleaned out all the nests and used dog and cat urine eliminator in the car, almost two gallons to date. The smell is better but still persists. Do the Odor Bomb products work to eliminate these odors and which one is best?
In order for a product to work properly, it MUST have been formulated to kill the bacteria for urine and pet deposits. You must also treat all contaminated areas. This includes every square inch of your engine compartment, trunk, and interior.
The finest product we've ever found is our Un-Duz-It. This anti-microbial will completely eliminate all animal waste odors if it can reach them. This includes interior padding, engine compartment insulation, the undercarriage, etc. Mice run everywhere and leave contamination all the way.
Pressure wash the undercarriage with a little chlorine in the water. Rinse well to remove all traces of the chlorine. Use a hose nozzle that dispenses soap and flush out engine compartment with a little soap and chlorine. Rinse well to remove all traces of the chlorine. Finish by spraying with the Un-Duz-It when dry. Also, if you can get to the air intakes under the hood, take them out and disinfect.
Use the chemical on the interior first, with spraying and injecting. Do the same for the trunk. When done with all of this, use an Odor Removal Bomb. If any spot is missed, you will notice in a few days. Use your nose to track it down. Repeat the process in that area. Finish by shampooing the entire interior with a professional Hot Water Carpet Extractor. This may be done by a professional detailer.
Let the vehicle air for several days with all doors open and back seat pulled out. This is the same degree of cleaning you would use to eliminate cigarette smoke contamination.
- I have been detailing for years and have never had a problem with wheels, but I have heard that some cleaners can permanently damage wheels. There are so many different types of wheels. How do I know which cleaner to use without calling each manufacturer and cross referencing with each ingredient?
There is a very simple solution to your problem. Trust your supplier and read labels. Professional wheel cleaners are effective, economical and job specific. If the label says "Safe for all Wheels" then it is. If the label says "Do not use on clear-coated wheels or aluminum", then don't. If a wheel cleaner contains Hydrofluoric Acid, don't EVER use it!
Most OEM wheels are clear-coated (painted). Aluminum may, or may not, be clear-coated. If you do not remove any black oxidation with an aluminum polish, then the wheels have a clear coating on them. If they are not clear coated they will require a wheel cleaner that is safe for bare aluminum. Any wheel cleaner is fine for chrome. Top of the Line has Wheel Cleaners for every type of finish and the labels are clearly marked as well.
Don't forget to check your Wheel Brushes! They are also designed for different wheel finishes and styles. A brush designed to clean chrome will severely scratch clear-coated wheels.
- Do you have anything that would remove brake dust stains from carpet?
Washing wheels on our carpet were we? I must admit I've never had a customer with that problem. Start with a Citrus Degreaser then shampoo with our Rug Renew professional carpet cleaner (do not dilute). Or... you could try a wheel cleaner!
- Today I found some blue stains on the leather of the inside of the driver-side door. I tried to remove them with a leather cleaner but the blue stain wouldn't come off. I even tried 409 cleaner! If these methods couldn't remove the stains, does it mean they are a color dye? Any helps will be greatly appreciated.
You are very fortunate you did not make matter worse with the household cleaner. These types of products are powerful cleaners and can strip the color. The stain indeed contains some type of dye and has become a permanent part of your leather. There is nothing you can do to remove the stain, but you can re-dye the leather interior a darker color. Had the spots been lighter than the original color, it would have required a simple touch-up by a professional.
Leather is a comfortable and beautiful upholstery, but it damages easily and is difficult to repair. Abrasion is the number one cause of leather damage, with UV radiation a close second. Abrasion damage results from coarse fabric (such as jean pockets) sliding across the surface.
Leather Conditioners are your best defense. They contain oils that keep the hide soft and flexible enabling it to stretch without cracking. Conditioners also contain UV protection to resist fading and cracking.
- What is the best way to clean the interior side of windows? There seems to be a film that's impossible to remove.
Most Glass Cleaners do a mediocre job of "cleaning." Non-streaking formulas, typically, remove only light soil. You probably have some vinyl protectant residue on the glass, or a film caused by the deterioration of the dash material. Oily fumes are released as vinyl ages. Try a Glass Polish to scrub the surface. Then apply a water-based Vinyl Protectant to the dash. The protectant will seal the dash, and prevent additional UV damage. Never use a solvent based dressing on an auto's interior. It will only speed the deterioration.
- I am retiring my 88 Olds and just ordered a Chrysler 300M. It comes with a clear coat. How can I prepare and maintain the best finish?
"Clear coat" is nothing more than non-pigmented paint. It was originally designed to protect metallic paints, but is now applied to all colors. It is extremely thin, and easily scratches. Never rub the paint with abrasive material (compounds), or anything that holds dust or soil. This includes dusters, nylon brushes, natural chamois, heavy car covers, and bras. Substitute with Cotton Towels, Mitts & Sea Sponges, clear coat-safe Paint Levelers and light washable car covers. Maintain the clear coat with a high-quality wax applied four times a year, a light surface polish twice a year, and wash by hand.
- I have dried tree sap all over my car's hood and roof. It won't come off with tar removers, or any amount of scrubbing.
Old tar, tree sap, and paint over-spray can be easily removed with a miraculous new product called Automotive Clay. As you rub it across any type of surface (paint, glass, plastic, metal, rubber, vinyl) it instantly sticks-to and pulls-off all contamination that is stuck to the surface.
- I was thinking of getting a bra for my car and wondered if it could damage the paint?
You are 100% correct. Auto bras cause a tremendous amount of paint damage. They trap dust and grit, and vibrate in the wind. It's no different than rubbing your paint with sandpaper. They also cause uneven fading because the paint under the bra is not exposed to the sun.
- How do you clean a stained, white canvas convertible top?
You start with a Fabric Spot Remover, let it soak for a few minutes, scrub with a stiff brush, and finish with a strong dilution of a professional-strength Carpet/Fabric Shampoo. If this does not completely remove the stains, add a little kitchen cleanser (the powdered kind containing bleach), scrub with the brush, let stand a few minutes, and rinse. When the top is dry, spray with 303 Fabric Guard every two months. This will protect the fabric from UV damage, future stains, and make it water resistant.
- Is it true that some of the new auto paints do not need wax? Is there any type of wax that lasts for 5 years?
ABSOLUTELY NOT on both counts. The secret to paint protection is common sense. If paint can deteriorate in two years, how could something out of a bottle last five years? Liquid Carnauba Waxes last a few weeks. Paste Carnauba Waxes last a couple of months with pampering. Even Paint Sealants will only endure six months of washing. Because wax protection is essential to guard against UV damage, wax often and wash by hand with a Mild Shampoo. NO WAX can withstand automated car washes.
- I've waxed my car, but it still looks dull. Is it the wax?
A true wax should be nothing more than a protective coating with a little color enhancing. A smooth, flawless shine is only achieved by pre-cleaning the paint, before applying the wax. Swirls, light scratches, and oxidized paint are major causes of dull paint. Swirl Removers or "pre-wax cleaners" that utilize mild abrasives, can safely and easily remove surface contaminants. Once they are removed, the paint regains its depth and gloss. Then wax is applied to keep it that way.
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