In the detailing world, tradition often clouds the innovative breakthroughs that our industry has made over the years. Products, techniques, you name it – it’s all changed. We talk a lot about what you should do regarding car care, but not a lot about what people used to do. As for a little change of pace, here are 4 outdated detailing techniques and modern innovations that put them to shame.
Where to begin. As previously mentioned, chamois are pretty much a sham. They tend to push water better than absorb it, and their high-maintenance natural composition makes for a terrible drying cloth. Worse, however, is that when using a chamois to dry your car, you’re putting your finish in potential harm. Unlike microfiber towels, chamois are basically a solid (animal skin) towel with no terry cushion whatsoever. Get a rock or a few dirt particles under there while drying you car and… well, you know. Switching to microfiber gives you the advantage and safety of increased absorption, plus the added benefit of plush fibers that lift dirt into the towel rather than dragging it across the finish. Your Grandfather may still love chamois, but trust me, it’s time for a change.
2. Jumping to Machine Polishing Too Early
In the event that your car gets a few minor surface scratches, do not consult the internet. 90% of forums will recommend a heavy polish and the use of a machine buffer to solve your paint problems. In fact, a good amount of detailers will, too. Somewhere along the line machine polishing became all the rage, but it’s extremely overused in car care today. The biggest problem is using a machine when you simply don’t need to thanks to modern polishing products that do a lot more work than those of the past. Most problems (light scratches, oxidation, etc.) can be corrected with a hand polishing procedure or a paint cleaning product like Pre-Wax Prep that does significantly less damage to your paint than a machine would. Think about it, where do you think those circular swirl marks came from? A machine buffer. At the end of the day, over-polishing is a terrible misfortune in our industry and it should be avoided – especially with new cars. Most of the time it’s just overkill. The train toward proactive car care is here, so jump on.
When trying to revive the appearance of vinyl, leather, rubber or plastic, the traditional product of choice had the word “dressing” in it. Now think about that for a minute. Dressing is a coverup and that’s exactly the sham (sorry for being repetitive) these products are trying to pull on you. Rather than nourishing the surface to bring out it’s natural luster, softness, or sheen, with a dressing you’re essentially globbing an artificial shine to the surface you should be revitalizing. The solution then is actually quite simple – conditioning. Conditioners are absorbed by porous surfaces like leather or vinyl and deliver them the nutrients and moisture they need to look as close to new as possible. Unlike dressings, most conditioners have UV protection against the sun’s rays (leather and vinyl’s worst nightmare). The choice here is obvious, it’s better to improve a surface’s condition than to simply mask (or dress) its blemishes.
4. Applying Wax With Your Hands
In all seriousness, if you’re applying wax by rubbing your palms together and spreading it across the surface, you’re being taken for a ride. Not only does this wacky technique waste A TON of wax, but it’s not so great for your car. Applying by hand almost guarantees uneven application, and potentially can lead to damage if you forget to take a ring or bracelet off. If applying by hand meant a better shine, sure, I could see some benefit, but the fact is that it doesn’t. You’re still applying the exact same product, just in a nasty, inefficient, and ineffective way. I don’t know about you, but when I’m detailing I don’t exactly yearn for a slime-like greasy substance to cover my hands. Thankfully, with the modern creation of applicators, we no longer have to reduce our wax application process to that of barbarians. While some suggest microfiber, foam applicators are the absolute best tool for applying wax to your car. Microfiber absorbs too much and can get messy, while foam is light and formable, leading to a much more even application of sealants (and even polishes). As a side note: if you’re applying wax with a high-speed machine, I sincerely ask you to stop. It’s simply not needed. At all. Ever. Stick to foam, I beg you.
At the end of the day, it’s important to know that there have been and continually are advances in car care. A lot of old techniques have been replaced with technologies (like the Grit Guard) that create a safer process for keeping your car clean. Combine that with innovative car care products and you’re good to go. Stay tuned to Behind the Detail for continuous updates in both product and process advances, and remember we’re here to help (firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook, or comment below)!