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Wacky from Waxing

Las Vegas is a great place to live. We moved here for a variety of reasons. One was the weather. No hurricanes, not a lot of rain. In fact, other than the intense summer (dry) heat, Las Vegas has a very hospitable climate.

While some would say that the lack of rain is one of the good things about Las Vegas (it is in the middle of a desert after all) there are some disadvantages as well. The largest one would be dust. Vegas is a dusty town, and a little wind will move more than enough dust to cover pretty much everything, cars included.

My car is black. I like black cars. That Darth Vader thing is cool to me. But dust and black cars don’t mix. Actually, they mix quite well, but the look of a black car covered in fine beige silt isn’t nearly as sinister as when that black paint is gleaming like the Dark Side of the Force. (OK, too many Star Wars references. I’ll stop.)

This past weekend was car-waxing time. I have tried to find a decent detail shop in Las Vegas, but haven’t. There are plenty of places to clean a car, but I wanted a real paint stripping, polishing and waxing, not a spritz with a hose and some Turtle Wax, followed by a vacuum. I finally came to the realization that the only way to get my car waxed the way I wanted to was to do it myself.

A friend had recommended detail clay as a start, followed by a mild polish and then a few coats of wax. He went so far as to recommend a place to purchase them, a web site called Top of the Line. They have an incredible variety of products, and they are all top notch. Even better, if you read the site, there are some great detailing tips. Better still, call them and they will recommend specific products for your car and climate.

I had ordered a bunch of stuff (and am still shocked at how inexpensive it all was) from them a few weeks previously, and had planned to start the process when we got back from a bunch of garage sales.

First step was washing. This was easy enough. A little car soap, my wash rag, and some water.

The next step was claying the entire exterior of the car, including the glass. If you have never used detail clay, it’s amazing stuff. All that dust had accumulated and attached itself to the paint where a mere washing and waxing wouldn’t budge it. In bright light my car almost looked like it had a metallic finish, which it doesn’t. The detail clay removed it all, and with very little effort. Claying removes everything but the paint, including any dirt, and wax, and most other contaminants. It also does an amazing job of removing old wax from textured areas like trim, rubber, etc.

The claying took about two hours and my arms were a little tired. But I knew the big job was ahead of me: polishing.

After stripping the paint, it’s a good idea to polish it. The obvious reason is to give it that gleam, but a good polish will also remove or diminish small scratches, swirls, and lines. The “light cut” polish I was using did just that. My car is a few years old and has a few minor battle scars that the polish didn’t remove, but I didn’t really expect it to remove them all.

One thing that “Top of the Line” warned me about was using too much product. She said that most folks slather it on like frosting and not only waste a lot of it, but make their job much harder since anything not sued must be wiped off. I put on the absolute least amount I could stand and it worked great. Sometimes less is more.

After polishing the entire car twice, it was time for paint touch up.

This is the only part of the entire process that was disappointing. The results weren’t quite what I expected, but I’m also not a professional. Plus, that applicator brush is small, and some of the scratches and pits were rather large. I think all the previous polishing had my hands shaking a bit anyway.

After the paint was applied and dealt with, I was done for the day. My arms, were very tired and my legs weren’t far behind.

The next day was wax day. “Top of the Line” sells a black wax that’s perfect for dark cars, but the lady I spoke with on the phone didn’t want to sell me any since they had a new formulation coming in soon. She told me a decent wax like the Zymol I already had would work fine in the meantime while I waited for their new formulation.

Two coats of Zymol and a few trips around the exterior with an old toothbrush and I tell you, that car was stunning. The black was black again, and shiny. Shinier than it ever had been since I have owned the car. It was about twelve hours of hand-rubbed work, and worth every bit of pain and soreness in my arms. Even Mrs. Vargas, who doesn’t appreciate cars nearly as much as I do, was impressed.

Sometimes it’s nice to be able to pay people to do things, but some things are best done yourself. Not only is the job done the way you want it done, but you have the satisfaction of doing the job right. Kind of a win-win.

Sure, owning a black car in a dusty climate is a bit difficult, but if you can get it clean and keep a coat of wax on it, there’s nothing like it. Henry Ford was onto something.

Published Mon 11/14/05 at 4:01pm

Categorized in Activities, Journal

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