Carbon fiber detailing is not extremely hard. It doesn’t require a professional and you can actually get very good results…if you know what you’re doing.
Many times you’ll see the trim, a hood, a spoiler, and sometimes even panels of the car decked out in carbon fiber. The carbon fiber, beyond adding a sense of “flash” to the car, serves as a lightweight, stronger alternative to steel. Many people want to see carbon fiber more prevalent in cars today because of the fact that it’s 2/3’s lighter than steel and it allows more opportunities for engine development and efficiency. So why aren’t whole cars made out of carbon fiber then? Cost is one, waste is another.
If you’ve noticed, carbon fiber is usually saved for the higher end cars, not for the average Joe. That’s because currently carbon fiber is more than 10x more expensive than steel. With all of carbon fiber’s benefits, it’s not cost effective for manufacturers to offer many carbon fiber options.
The other issue regarding carbon fiber is that it does not recycle well. Recycling carbon fiber is difficult, and even if a solution was made available, reusing the materials again diminishes it’s structural integrity greatly. There’s another benefit for steel. Steel is nearly 100% recyclable and can be used just as well the second time as it was the first. So even if we get the cost of carbon fiber down to an usable cost, the amount of waste build up would be another issue to contend with.
Carbon fiber is made much like paper-mâché. Carbon Fiber comes in spools of strands thinner than human hair. You can then weave these strands together like yarn into cloth to make it into a structure. This structure is then molded and coated with a gel coat. The gel coat acts much like the clear coat on any vehicle. The only difference is that the gel coat is noticeably softer than clear coat. Because it’s softer, the approach to correcting it must be done so with caution.
Carbon Fiber Detailing
Carbon fiber detailing from correction to protection isn’t much different than that of normal paint detailing. You’re going to want a good fine polish, a polishing machine if the correction calls for it, and a long lasting durable sealant. Pretty standard equipment.
First, you’ll want to assess your needs. How much correction is necessary? If you have swirls or a fair amount of hazing, I’d probably suggest just going strait to using a machine. Anything less, feel free to give it a shot with just the polish, a foam applicator, and some muscle.
If you’re going to require a machine, you’ll want to tape the edges of the surface. Taping the edges and any emblems or metal will protect the pad and the surface from accidental buffing. Then grab a medium foam pad for your machine. I wouldn’t recommend using wool, it’ll be too aggressive. Once that’s done, use a fine polish. Spread it around and begin with a few light passes of the machine. Remember, gel coat is soft, so you don’t need a hard application. Check your work every couple passes to check if it’s done.
Once all the polishing has been completed, feel free to remove the tape and rinse the surface. Then go right into sealing it. Sealing the carbon fiber is going to resist this hazing and and other contaminants from etching the surface.
Hopefully carbon fiber will become more prevalent in our lives in the future. It’ll be good for decreasing crude oil consumption by increasing car efficiency. When that time comes, we’ll all need to know how to clean, prep, and protect carbon fiber. The tools are roughly the same, an applicator, a machine, a sealant, and if you can, a nice carbon specific polish or glaze. The surface is similar to that of paint, but it is a little softer so you’ll want to be careful.
If you have any thoughts or concerns, please feel free to leave a comment or tweet us @drbeasleys!