Shop Detailing your BMW
Special Thanks to John Branca
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."