We don't follow. We innovate

We don't follow. We innovate

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Do You Need Paintwork Coatings For Your White Vehicle? 

Most owners of white vehicles are accustomed to a horrible-looking vehicle if its not washed very frequently, especially during the current rainy spell. If you can't stop looking at any great looking white car on the road, and you don't know the car owner/s, you wouldn't know what they did to maintain the vehicle in such a condition. 

Many car owners have been led to believe that all those paintwork protective coatings (PPC) will "keep their cars looking nice". The only way for your vehicle to "look nice" consistently is to wash it as many times as possible weekly regardless whether its waxed or coated. 

To get straight to the point, you can consider PPCs for your white vehicle IF:

1. Vehicle is washed with car shampoo 3 times a week or only with water daily. This is almost impossible for most office-dwellers/corporate guys and gals....OR   
2. You can only wash once weekly, don't care about light stains and demand the "best possible layer of something" on your paintwork just to make yourself feel great. And when you wash the vehicle at a car wash, you don't care how its washed as long as it looks bright, white and clean after washing. 

What can these PPCs do for your white vehicle? 
1. More durable and more intense water repellancy vs regulars waxes and sealants. 
2. Reduce the presence and build-up of blackish/dark stains after exposed to rain vs regular waxes and sealants. Due to the formulation of certain waxes and sealants, some of them can cause more staining which is most noticeable on white vehicles. 

Yes, there's only 2 points above because in reality, the PPC cannot do anymore for you, regardless of the grandiose marketing stories you have read.  You have to wash very frequently to enjoy a nice-looking coated vehicle. This is the most high-end "final layer" of stuff you can apply on your paintwork. 

For genuine car enthusiasts who will do anything for their white/light-coloured vehicles, I suggest the following unorthodox approach which not many detailers will mention to you. I am talking to you from a consumer point of view. If I own a white vehicle, and appearance is important to me, this is what I will do to my own car. 

1. Correct and optimise the white paintwork for the best looks possible. 
Most new local, Jap and Korean vehicles have sub-standard paintwork lacking in visual gloss and is usually blur (Protons, Mazdas, Subarus, Fords etc).  Use the bulk of your budget to partially/fully correct this problem first. It's laborious, time-consuming and certainly not cheap. Always strive to correct the paintwork to the highest degree that your time and budget will allow BEFORE applying any waxes, coatings etc. On a daily driven vehicle, you don't need maximum correction. This effect will be very long-lasting, and each time after a good wash, HEY!...your corrected paintwork looks way better than a non-corrected blurish paintwork that's been coated. Do not allow anyone to lead you into showcar levels of "paint correction" unless its for a super expensive genuine showcar that remains indoors most of the time and professionally cared for.   

2. Your final layer.  
After the above step, what you apply as your final layer will depend on your budget, time and hidden motivation/aspiration. Some owners love super expensive carnauba waxes, some are contented with locally-made waxes, and some will go for sealants. The others will only talk about all the above while feverishly scouring the Net for info on coatings instead but not daring to take the plunge. Our Singaporan neighbours have totally different preferences. 

The simple answer:  On a white vehicle, it's not an important issue. 

Once your paintwork has been corrected to a certain extent, it'll look as good as the quality of the clearcoat will allow it. Now, even if your "final layer" is a very high-end coating, it will never produce a substantial, jaw-dropping , eye-popping visual improvement on a paintwork that already looks great. Don't fall prey to video clips on YT. 

We have a white Myvi owner (Robert) who washes his paint-corrected car daily. He doesn't blindly accept Meguiars "teachings" and all the brand-centric "advice" in detailing forums. He uses only a cheap RM20 product on his Myvi (very embarrassing to many enthusiasts)  Wow!....what a gorgeous looking white car. Consistently clean and looking great. Of course, using a paint protective coating (PPC) will make his car washing more pleasurable looking at the water beads dancing away like crazy. But since he is washing daily, he feels no need for such a product. And he is 100% sure he can wash daily cos he's a retiree with loads of time. He comes to my place daily. 

To sum it up, the secret to a consistently great looking paintwork (especially on white vehicles) is frequent WASHING. 

Thursday, 8 January 2015

All you need to know about your Anodized Aluminium Trim

On some current Continental vehicles and especially older ones, you'll certainly see these shiny trims. Many local car owners, enthusiasts and parts retailers often mistakenly refer to it as "chrome". The actual name is Anodized Aluminium.

Unsealed/bare aluminium is a soft material and therefore easy to machine and can be polished to varying degrees of shine. However, it is prone to oxidation and therefore, all your elbow grease and time in polishing up a great shine on your unsealed aluminium trim will be gone in a few months when it starts to dull and blur again. When you polish it, your cloth becomes black. It requires consistent polishing to look at its best. Being a soft material, unsealed aluminium is also highly sensitive to scratches/abrasion/scuffs etc, marring its polished looks. Heard of the term "Brushed Aluminium" finish? That's aluminium that has been polished to a semi-satin look with lateral polishing lines visible. Unsealed aluminium is also widely used on Harley Davidsons and every American hotrod.

This BMW's old BBS rims sourced from the UK are "unsealed aluminium".
Polished by Pro Detailers to the owner's required level of gloss.

To preserve the aesthetics of a piece of polished aluminium (mirror-finish, brushed look, satin look etc), it will be subjected to a process where the aluminium, in combination with a variety of chemicals and electricity, will produce a layer of extremely hard and transparent "anodized layer". Where your car's paintwork is protected by a layer of transparent and resilient clearcoat, the soft and sensitive aluminium is now protected by a layer of rock hard transparent anodization. This is Anodized Aluminium. It can be colourless (pic above) or coloured (red, black, blue being popular colours) as seen on your mountain bike's brake handles (example). When you rub any type of polish on it, there are no black marks on your cloth (unlike bare aluminium).

1. The super-hard transparent layer protects the aluminium's intended finishing/looks without worries of oxidation that leads to dullness and the need for repolishing.
2. It protects from car washing scratches and daily wear and tear. Sounds great.

1. Most materials that are very hard also tend to be brittle, and hence, prone to cracking.
As years go by, the anodized layer has been known to develop micro-cracks/fissures, and micro-pitting that are not visible in the initial stages. Later, you'll start seeing loads of scratches on these trims as though someone or some animal has been pawing crazily at it. These are not scratches. These are the fine cracks (pic below) that allow your car wash shampoo solution, rain water and moisture to seep through to UNDER this cracked anodized layer. That explains the commonly seen whitish fungus-like stuff on your trim that can never be totally "polished away".

2.Cost of replacing deteriorated anodized aluminium trims is very high. This is one of the major headaches while restoring an older vehicle.

As all metalworking websites will tell you, Anodized Aluminium is not polishable. They are referring to the aluminium underneath that's sealed by the anodized layer and hence, un-polishable.
However, the anodized layer can still be machine polished using abrasive compounds to remove any contaminants on TOP of this anodized layer. If the problem resides UNDER the layer, machine polishing is certainly useless.

Technically, the correct method to gain access to that aluminium underneath is to chemically strip the anodized layer. Then you can start polishing the bare aluminium to your heart's content.
To strip via DIY style is hazardous as it involves extremely caustic chemicals, and requires removing the trim from the vehicle to avoiddamaging the paintwork. Sounds easy until you try it on your own car, and even worse on old classics where clips might not be easily available if any clips do break during removal of the trim.

Alternatively, there is a crude but workable method, albeit being highly labour intensive and tiring.

1. Mask the surrounding paintwork.
2. Sand the anodized aluminium trim by hand or by any type and size of sanding machine. Sand until every milimetre of anodization is gone. Laborious.
3. Machine polish the bare aluminium to your desired looks and seal it to reduce/prevent future dulling. Do not spray automotive clearcoat on it as it'll peel off in the future. There are many specialised products that can seal bare aluminium but its way beyond the scope of this article.

Using the crude method to avoid other issues and to minimise cost, you can expect something like this....an OEM look

Look at the whitish, hazy blurness of deteriorated Anodized Aluminium. Hand-polishing using your favourite Autosol or equivalent is virtually useless.

Look at the results after extensive work by Pro Detailers. The challenge is to avoid OVER-polishing in order to revert this piece to its OEM appearance.

Lovely results based on a practical and realistic technique. Truly an OEM look on this Harley sent to Pro Detailers from Osaka, Japan.