How to maintain your vehicle paintwork and decide which protective coating best suits your requirements


04 Jan
04Jan

It’s been a while since I last posted on the blog, and after a series of questions that have come up from customers over the past year, I thought I’d address some of the issues raised relating to maintenance and protection.

I am fortunate that 99% of the cars I work on are in the customers private grounds. This allows me to work effectively without being restricted by the legal constraints imposed by French regulations of how we are able to wash our cars. For those who do not know, it is against the law in France to wash a car outside your property where water can run into or across a public road or footpath. The reason for this is that the French drainage system does not separate Eau pluvial and waste water, therefore if you start cleaning your car with chemicals and water enters a roadway drain, you are putting contaminants into the system. This is the reason that the French use car washes or jet washes, and finding car shampoo in car accessory shops is nigh on impossible, unless bought from a specialist detailing business.

When customers contact me, I like to start by asking a number of questions. What is the purpose of your contact? Are you selling the car and need a cost effective service without any concern for long term paint protection? Is your car your pride and joy but a bit long in the tooth and needs bringing back to a respectable condition again without breaking the bank? Do you want your vehicle to have a factory looking gloss finish and be protected for up to 2 years? Do you clean it yourself regularly but want it in a condition to be able to maintain it yourself without major effort?

All the above are important criteria. Knowing what the customer wants or needs helps me advise what service would best suit their current and future expectations. It’s no good offering a ceramic coating costing upwards of €600 to someone who is selling their car next week, but if you can offer a protective coating that gives upwards of 6 months protection rather than a wax which lasts for 3 months, then that may be something the customer would be interested in and choose to have done.

If you want a detailer to work on your vehicle, be specific in what it is that you want done. Our job is to make your car look great, but it will take time. Quality has a price, and of course you should expect to pay for that, but bizarrely I’ve had people call me with multiple car collections who refused to pay €120, and others with vehicles valued at going on €100,000 that ask for discounts! It’s interesting that people will happily pay thousands for a holiday, a hundred for a meal and drinks for two, but shy away from paying the equivalent of a cup of coffee and a croissant a week to keep their vehicles looking good and protecting their investment.

So if you decide to use a detailer, there is a cost associated with it, after all we’ve invested in a multitude of tools. Polishers, polishes, microfibre cloths, decontaminants, tar removers, wheel cleaners, brushes, coatings etc. All of our AutoMOTO Detail offers include machine polishing as this gives an optimum gloss finish to the paintwork, but this is a once a year at most job, and so is claying, which is another part of that preparation for excellence of finish.

If you find the right detailer, and by that I mean someone who is interested in you, your vehicle, your needs, and has a passion for their work, (and this will be obvious) you’ll love the result, however, if you choose not to go down that route, how can you look after your own car better and keep it looking good?.

Well, we’re back at the start point again, and unfortunately restricted options, and in this case the best of the two self care options is the ubiquitous jet wash. I would counsel against using the automated washes as those brushes cleans thousands of cars and are micro scratching your paintwork with every rotation!

Start by cleaning the car thoroughly, using the initial jet wash to remove surface dirt. Then go onto the next program. This should be application of shampoo, and whilst still wet, use a microfibre mitt ( circa €5 at most supermarkets, Norauto or Feu Vert shops) to manually remove the dirt from the paintwork, but be sure to work in straight lines not circles to avoid scratching. Rinse again, use the spray wax afterwards if you want to, but when you leave the wash, be sure to dry the car. Invest in a drying towel and use it. Leaving a wash without drying the car on a hot day will burn water spots onto your paintwork. I had a friend do that on a 30C day and it took 4 hours to remove the water spots!

Your car is now clean(er) dependant on how good a job you did, but how will you keep it that way? The traditional way would be to wax the paintwork. Don’t confuse polishing and waxing. Polishing is done to remove scratches and embellish the paintwork, but doing it too often will remove part of the protective clear coat protecting your paint, that’s why it’s a once a year exercise, or is utilised specifically to try and remove scratches or swirls.

What you can do as often as you like though, is to add a protective layer to your paintwork, but which should you use and why? Here’s a simple breakdown of what does what.


Wax- is a sacrificial protective layer designed to protect your paint against dirt and the elements and to give a nice deep shine to the paintwork. Generally it is applied by hand in a cross-hatch pattern and then buffed off. It’s time consuming to apply and remove, and dependant on conditions it may not last more than a couple of months, but it looks good and if you like working on your car regularly you may even enjoy doing it?
Sealants- These are polymer synthetic coatings which may give 3-6 months protection. Easily applied and then wiped off they are efficient coatings and easy to work with.
Hybrid wax/sealants- As the industry constantly seeks to provide better products  this relatively recent combination is a pretty good one. You spray lightly onto the vehicle then wipe off, taking care to remove all product otherwise you may get smearing. This is a pretty good option, doesn’t cost the earth and gives circa 4-5 months protection.
Si02 Quartz ceramic- This contains some of the chemical components that are part of full ceramic coatings costing 10x the amount, and gives high gloss levels, high levels of hydrophobicity (water dispersal) and well in excess of 6 months protection. When you consider this is a fraction of the price of having your vehicle ceramic coated, but offers several of its advantages, it’s a good product which I can personally vouch for, having had it on my own and customer vehicles for many many months. Care required when applying due to potential smearing.
Ceramic coating- This is at the top of the tree regarding protective qualities. Insane levels of gloss, water and dirt that just seem to fall off the paintwork (surface is too slick to adhere to) and a protection that can easily last over 2 years! Not really a customer oriented product as it requires garage conditions for application, time to cure, and usually 2-3 coats for maximum protection. Ideally paintwork should be in optimum condition prior to application as whatever the condition of your paint at the time of application will then be sealed there for potentially years! Don’t believe the hype that says ceramic coatings are scratch proof, they are not. They are scratch resistant, but like other coatings still require maintenance, regular washes, and bi- monthly top up sprays to maintain optimal performance. They are however an amazing product that my customers are still coming back to me months later saying how great their vehicles are still looking!    

SUMMARY So you now have a better idea of how to look after your vehicle. Whether you choose to use the services of a detailer, and have them propose and supply the best products for your needs, or be a weekend warrior and wash and maintain your own vehicle, hopefully these pointers will have been of assistance, and of course AutoMOTO Detail would be happy to work with you should you be looking for a quality, professional paintwork embellishment or valeting service.
Cheers
Paul

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