We all remember the
sage words of Mr. Miyagiʼs first ersatz karate lesson from the iconic 80s
coming-of-age flick,The Karate Kid:
"Wax on. Wax off," he told the perplexed Daniel-san as his young disciple eyed
the row of old jalopies the master had tasked him with polishing. Thatʼs
very Zen, as they say. But, if you are truly interested in the fine art of
waxing your car you might do better to heed the words of another, present day
sensei, Vincent Chin of Bimmerzone.com, when he says the key to the perfect
shine is "Preparation, preparation, preparation."
Vince is an old hand
at the art of bringing out the best in a carʼs finish and treats his 2008
650i (nicknamed "Heidi" after another kind of German supermodel) to this beauty
regimen regularly. "Waxing," he tells us, "is the easiest part and comes last."
First, he recommends a good, basic wash using "the two-bucket method." Begin by
dowsing the car with the hose, preferably in an area away from direct sunlight. "While
washing the car, never let the paint dry," he says. "Water from the tap is not
pure; it contains additives that will leave water marks if it dries." Have one
bucket full of soapy water and the other full of clear. Use a professional grade
sponge to pick up some sudsy water and scrub the car, but never return the
sponge to the soapy bucket before first rinsing it in the clear water. That way,
you will always "grab new soap" and avoid putting back on the car the same dirt
you just removed.
If you stopped there
and merely dried the car with a chamois, you would have accomplished a basic
maintenance car wash, good enough for the average car owner. But for fanatics
there is still a problem, or rather, thousands of them. Look carefully at the
sunʼs reflection in the carʼs finish. Around it, like the fuzzy halos
surrounding the stars in Van Goghʼs Starry
Night, the sun reveals countless tiny, hairline scratches etched in
the paint. The job of eradicating these scratches is work- and time-intensive
and is assisted greatly by the application of some really cool, high-end car
wax...but that comes later. First, you need to remove any remaining grit and
dirt from the paint with the use of a clay bar.
"When you first look
at a clay bar," Vince muses, "you think ʻReally? Iʼm supposed to rub
this thing on my car?ʼ" The bar he pulls out from itʼs tin is not new
and resembles a lump of yellow Silly Putty, veined black from previous uses. As
the directions say, you are meant to run the clay bar over the paint "until
smooth and silent." The trick is to listen for the dirt being picked up, a faint
sound similar to that made by a squeegee. Obviously, though, you should not
completely neglect your sense of sight as some of the grit you are going after
may be visible to the naked eye. Though branded clay bar lube is available,
Vince prefers to keep the paint wet using the hose on ʻmistʼ as he
runs the bar over the paint surface.
Next, wipe down the
car with a drying towel or synthetic chamois, drying top-to-bottom until "super
dry." This requires a little elbow grease and frequent chamois wringing. At this
point your paint should be silky smooth, but the chamois will have left behind
little pieces of itself. Vince recommends using a California Car Duster to
remove this fine dust and mentions that going over the car with the duster is
actually a good idea every day. Anywhere you see smudges or smears, remove them
using paint cleaner and a microfiber cloth. "Always use a professional
grade cloth," says Vince. "Donʼt ruin all your hard work now by rubbing it
with a rag or an old t-shirt."
Now stare at the sun
spot again; those pesky little scratches are still there. Itʼs time to
bring out the heavy artillery -- the high speed buffer. Because the buffer will
remove a layer of clear coat, Vince advises against a rotary polisher for the
amateur. "A rotary," he says, "will cut right into the clear coat and is not so
forgiving." He opts instead for a dual action polisher for safer performance. He
uses two compounds and two foam polishing pads in the two-part process: first,
Meguiars Mirror Glaze m105 on a high density orange pad for cutting, then
Meguiars Mirror Glaze m205 on a less dense gray pad for finishing.
He begins by applying
the m105 to the orange pad in a cross-shaped pattern. "Ever wonder why the pros
charge $500 or more to correct damaged paint?" he asks with a grin. "This is it."
He sets the polisher at 2000 RPM and places the pad on the trunk lid before
turning it on. This, he explains, is to avoid unnecessary splatter. He then
eases the polisher across the carʼs surface in a criss-cross pattern. Just
as with your electric toothbrush at home, the point is not to press down hard
but to let the polisher glide. He incrementally increases the speed as he goes,
trying to find the setting that works best. "The harder your paint, the more
cutting power is required," Vince explains. He estimates polishing should take
about a half hour per panel, adding up to roughly a six- hour job. "The key is
patience and lots of it," he says with a bit of a sigh.
Once every panel has
been thoroughly polished with each pad and compound, the car must again be
rubbed down with a microfiber towel and hit with the duster. Only now is it
ready for waxing. Break out the Zymol! "This stuff was invented for Ralph
Laurenʼs Bugatti," says Vince, rubbing the buttery wax between his
fingertips. "Itʼs meant for people to use on their Bentleys or Ferraris."
But now through Bimmerzone.com, this body creme for your car available to the
lay hobbyist for the low, low price of $200 an ounce! "Is it really worth that
price? I donʼt know," says Vince with a shrug. "Does it do a kick ass job
of shining your car? Yes!"
You apply it with your
hands like finger painting your car. "The heat from your hands activates enzymes
for it to become wax," he explains. One particularly refreshing feature is that
there is no need to avoid getting the wax in seams and trim. It is made of all
natural ingredients and will rub right off with a buffing cloth. This makes
waxing your car a bit more carefree and fun. Vince hands me the jar so I can try
it. I dip my fingers in and pick up a small portion. "Easy," jokes Vince, "Thatʼs
about $5 worth youʼve got there!" It smells and feels like some expensive
hand lotion from a menʼs grooming shop, so there is no urgent need to wash
it off when youʼre done. Imagine the compliments youʼll get on how
great your hands look...and the way the rain seems to run right off them!
Vince and I go over
the entire painted surface of the car with the wax, letting it stand for a
while, but never long enough to dry before following up with the buffing towel.
The Zymol produces a deep, sumptuous shine, and the 650i now gleams like
quicksilver in the dimming evening light. "Most wax manufacturers tell you
their product will protect your car for six months, and maybe thatʼs true.
With the Zymol it will be protected and look incredible for that length of time."
Even old Mr. Miyagi
would be pleased. Though your car may not be a Lotus, with Zymol
you can still detail the paint "lotus style."