PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part XII


First and foremost, you have to understand that when it comes to the polishes and cleaners that you use, you don’t want to use anything that is abrasive, NEVER! Now to address Industry Terms that quite often are confused and used to mean the same thing. Polishes and Glazes. These are not the same yet many detailing pros will use them as if they are the same. In one day, depending on their mood, they could quite easily use both. Maybe in the morning it’s glaze and then after lunch, for the same job, they will call it polish.

Whatever you do and which ever product you are using, you must ensure that it is not abrasive. Don’t get caught trying to use a product because it is faster. If it’s abrasive, you could cut straight through the clearcoat. The only good thing that can come out of that is that at least you finished the job in half the time. Get ready to go to court though, because it is quite likely you will have made your customer quite mad.

A polish is a minimally abrasive cleaner and luster process. A cleaner, more aggressive than a polish, contains chemical cleaning agents. The very worse in abrasives, is going to be a compound. You can use these on older vehicles that do not have clearcoat and will get the job done quite quickly. This of course if you are removing rust and need to take the pigment all the way down to the metal.

The use of compounds on a clearcoat is fatal. The minute particles of pumice, which gives the compound its cutting action, cut little holes in the clearcoat. What you will get as a result of using this are swirl marks that are difficult to remove, and sometimes impossible.

Okay, one more post to go and you will be one of the most informed Auto Detailing professional in your area.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part IX


To further prove my point about the car washes or the use of detergents, professional car detailers (PDR Technicians) will use detergents to specifically remove the wax or polish because they want to strip it down to the clearcoat so that there is no foggy buildup or lumps. So if they are using it to remove the waxes on purpose, then it’s counterintuitive to think that it’s okay to use detergents if you don’t intend to follow it up with a good wax or polish.

So hopefully I have driven it home, this idea of not using a detergent. Just to be sure, you don’t want to use a detergent unless your intention is to wax or polish your vehicle right after the wash. These waxes or polishes do more than just make your vehicle look good, they also serve as a protective coat that deflects debris while driving. It could be debris such as stones which might otherwise chip the finish. It also resists scuffing by somebody rubbing up against it in a parking lot. You can compare it to your kitchens floor. When you put a good wax down and drag a chair across the floor, your floor will not be scratched up. If you have no wax on that same floor and drag the same chair across it you will scratch the floor. The same is said for your car. If you drag something across the un-waxed car, it will scratch the paint. These are just the simple truths.

To wash clearcoats there are several types of washes that you can use. These will all be in liquid form Read Full Report. You never want to use a powder form of any of these washes, no matter what the label says. These tend to not dissolve in the water and the hardened undissolved granules or chunks will scratch your vehicle because they have become an abrasive.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part VIII


Now I suppose you would like to know what products you can use for washing your vehicle. First you have to make sure that when selecting a product that the label says something about the type of clearcoat that your vehicle has.

You have probably heard that you can use dishwashing soap to wash the car, and you yourself are probably guilty of it. Think about it, dishwashing soap is used to remove the grease from your dishes, at the very least, this dishwashing soap is removing the wax and/or the silicone. Silicones are available in many vehicle polishes and in some car waxes. If you use dishwashing soap, then you are essentially removing them, which means every time that you use the detergent you have to reapply the polish or wax. This could be pretty awful if you simply don’t have the time to apply either of these.

The very same de-waxing happens every time you put your vehicle through commercial or coin-op car washes. The objective of these car washes is to turn out clean vehicles. These car washes are so rough in application that you can be absolutely sure that your polish or wax is gone. I remember a time that I was so excited about my new car that I swore I would keep it as clean as possible every single day. I would squeeze it into covered parking spaces and when that wasn’t possible, I would cover the entire vehicle. Basically, it became an obsession and the car never went without a wash for more than two consecutive days. As a result, and not too long after, my hood was peeling as well as the top of the car. The clearcoat was peeling, not the polish or wax that I never put on after the wash. After all, in my defense, the sign did say final wax just before the giant blow dryer blew it dry. I’m hoping I’m not the only one who has done this.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part VII


When washing or waxing your clearcoat, under no circumstances are you to use any products that are abrasive. Not ever. You must be absolutely sure of this. I cannot emphasize this enough. Any abrasives used with scuff and scar its surface.

The only change to this order is that when your vehicle is taken to a body repair shop, they will use a wet sand process with very fine 1,500 to 2,000 grit rating. Wet sanding enhances the clearcoat finish by removing sags, dust, and other flaws. Once the flaws are removed, the new clearcoat finish is allowed to dry anywhere from 72 hours to 30 days to cure, then, when cured and dry, it is cleaned with a non-abrasive cleaner and then polished. Following that will be the waxing process.

If you are the detailer of this vehicle, and you have had plenty of experience in sanding clearcoat, then you can use a wet sand on the clearcoat to scuffs and scars when literally every option to remove these has been tried. In other words, this is your last ditch effort to fix these blemishes with the purpose of returning the clearcoat to its original new condition.

You need to be absolutely sure that you really have done this on several vehicles. If you have only done this on one car and that was really just watching it being done, you could cause more damage than good and get yourself in a whole lot of trouble with the car owner. Never be so big for your britches that you agree to do something that you know full well you are not skilled enough to do. Not only do you look ridiculous, but your customer can sue you and you could lose everything. I’ve seen it happen and the end result is devastating.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part VI


Now that I have you hooked on the somewhat scientific proof by using a window analogy, let’s get you back to the window.

For a new car, the clearcoats protection from ultra-violet rays, keeps the car from fading the way the older cars do. So essentially, if you have a newer model vehicle that has this heavy duty clearcoat, then what you essentially have is a ‘solar window.’

Now it’s your responsibility to keep that solar window clean to maintain the color finish, which the industry calls Distinction of Image (DOI). Basically, the DOI is the deep gloss that you are trying to maintain in your vehicle’s finish.

Now that I have explained this I want to tell you how you can check this on your own vehicle. Take a newspaper or magazine over the finish, if you can read it from its reflection in the finish, then you have depth in clarity in the finish. You will get this same result when you are polishing or waxing the clearcoat, you look into the finish for a reflection of yourself. If there are any detailing or clearcoat flaws, they will show up in your reflected image as wavy or imperfect.

When you are detailing a car, obviously what you are looking for is a slippery wet finish. When you see one of the street racing cars, where so much work has gone into the looks, and of course the engine, the color is quite amazing. Very shiny and wet looking, almost as if you could put your hand into a pool of water. What you are looking at is the window of the clearcoat finish. This amazing look is very difficult to explain, if for instance you were on the phone trying to describe it. What you are left with though, is the result of the clearcoat finish and, if the words are lost in the description, then all you have to do is to look at it to see the beauty that is the clearcoat.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part V


What is imperative is that you understand the type of clearcoat that you have on your vehicle. Knowing this information is the first step to understanding how to care for the vehicle.

As of today, there are four basic clearcoat systems and tomorrow there could be six. There are urethane, polyurethane, polyester, and fluorine high-tech clearcoat systems. All are applied to vehicles pretty much the same way, layer after layer. The vehicle starts with the primer coat of against the metal, then one or several coats of color. This would be considered the base coat and as you will note, it can be very thin. Then finally the clearcoat which as you may already realize is very thick.

The color coat can be quite thin in clearcoat finishes because its only purpose is to introduce the color it’s on. This is different when comparing it to the finishes on older vehicles because the color is contained in the final paint layer. The color is pretty thick because it is both the color carrying layer and as the final, protective top coat.

Today’s clearcoat is almost twice as thick as the combined thickness of the primer and the color based coat. It’s not unusual for the clearcoat to have three times the thickness of the color (pigment) coat and sometimes more.

In the next post, we are going to talk about how clearcoat is, or can be, compared to a solar window. First we will think of clearcoat as a window. As viewed through the clearcoat window, the base coat is dull. What illuminates and causes it to have luster are the properties in the clearcoat. Among those properties are screening agents which screen out ultra-violet rays which, in the conventional vehicle finishes, because they don’t have it, the color is bleached out and stripped of its original color.

There’s more, follow me to the next post.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part IV



So now that I have scared you into washing your vehicle every weekend, now we need to discuss what you should use on your weekend washing. The three most important things to remember are to use the right technique, right products, and the right tools.

The most basic and fundamental truths are that you never, not ever, wash your car in the sun; second is to never wash your car when it is hot. Like after sitting out in the summer sun or going for a drive that has heated up the hood and front side panels.

The first thing that you should do if your car has been just sitting in the sun, is to cool the car off with plain water from the hose. This rinsing will clear away the heaviest of atmospheric pollutants and also the rinsing pre-rinsing cools the finish.

If you don’t pre-rinse the vehicle before washing it then you are adding to the damage already done. You’re adding yet another chemical to the already myriad of chemicals already there.

Let’s talk about why; the chemical activity of many car wash solutions, which includes the detergents causes a chemical reaction that will either leave streaks or burn your finish. So you absolutely must pre-rinse and I’m not talking about a little bit of water here. You need to bring a deluge to your car full of nothing but clean water. Again, the objective is to get rid of as much of the possibly abrasive material, as you can.

Clearly, you can understand that the more that you know about your clearcoat and how to manage it, the better off you will be for having a vehicle that will sustain the sands of time and still come out looking as good as it did the day you bought it.

Next we will discuss the types of clearcoat systems there are.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part III


So how do you protect clearcoat from environmental damage? Well first understand that this type of damage should be a real concern for the newer vehicle car owner. While this type of damage exists for the more conventional finishes, it’s far more obvious for the clearcoat finishes.

Examples of environmental damages are if you commute a long distance for your job, or just live in a metropolitan area, your clearcoat is exposed to carbon black from other people’s exhaust will build up over time. In addition, if you live near or drive to an airport then you are subjected to the jet fuel fallout that happens. To this list you can also include states in the Eastern and North Eastern industrial zones. In a continuous fluid state this industrial pollution continues its journey farther south every day, every year. With this environmental damage you can include Acid Rain. No, not Purple Rain. The most common place for Acid Fog is in Southern California. In the industrial north, you will find Acid Snow. Don’t forget the early morning Acid Fog. Basically, every type of precipitation carries with it the threat of Acid fallout which results in clearcoat damage.

If you are not washing your vehicle frequently, then you subject it to more acid fallout. A light rain, morning mist, fog or dew mixes with these Acid particles and creates the moisture that is now on your vehicle. All that you need now is the sun to bake them into your finish. You don’t need a whole lot of sunlight for this baking process to get busy destroying your finish. After all, it is said that some of the most damaging sun is the sun that is behind the foggy clouds. Surely you can see that if you subject your clearcoat finish to this day in and day out acid damage, then you are destroying your finish coat.

There is only one way to prevent this; you must dedicate yourself to washing your car daily. Hopefully, this description will pop up in your mind when on the weekends, you’re just too busy to wash your vehicle.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part II


So now that you have met the Mr. and Mrs. of urethanes and polyurethanes, which are commonly referred to as the ‘Clearcoats’ because they are the see through final top finish overlying the pigmented paint layers and are more forgiving than the pigmented finishes of days gone by, and yet, they require more care.

Faults in the clearcoat finishes can be more easily corrected than you could do with the vehicles of old. Older vehicle finishes are pigmented finishes which are enamel, lacquer, acrylic or other conventional finish that doesn’t lend themselves well to corrections. Because of this, scuffs, scratches or worse are more serious as you are getting these directly onto the color or pigment of the car. There’s no protection on these older vehicles, when scratched or scuffed you are, in fact, penetrating the color and these types of damages can actually change the vehicles color in that spot. Again, this happens because the final coat of protection for older vehicles, is the pigment, not a clearcoat.

When working with the clearcoat, many scuffs or minor scratches, will never reach the many layers of color, of the vehicle. With the clearcoat finishes these types of scuffs or scratches are far less obvious than the same damage on an older vehicle.

The clearcoat does come with its own set of problems as it is more vulnerable to casual damage and environmental damages and degradation. In order to maintain the clearcoats luster and impregnability, the newer vehicles with clearcoat will need to be washed more frequently, certainly no less than once a week.

So when marking or scratching the newer vehicles by something as simple as placing your coffee cup on the top of the car or for a woman their purse when dragging it off the top, it leaves a mark. Repairing this type of damage is much easier to repair than when the scratch is in the top, color layer of conventional paint as would be found in older vehicles.

Keep following me, our journey is still moving forward.

PDR Technician: A Journey Through Clearcoat Maintenance For The Detailer Part I


Time and modern invention have changed many things in our society from computers to car finishes. The trick in all is to try to keep up or even, if possible, get ahead of these changes see here now. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the Paintless Dent Repair industry will prove to be the most important thing you can do to ensure that you are ready for these inevitable changes. Stay connected to our blogs because we will give you every bit of cutting edge information that will keep you in the know.

So back to clearcoat, changes have happened to the coating that goes onto vehicles and will make a huge difference in how you detail say a new Mustang compared to a Classic Mustang. These high-tech vehicle paints that you will find on the newer cars differ fundamentally from what you would find on older cars in their construction and in the way they must be cared for and detailed.

The simplest way to explain this is that the final layer of finish on older models, and some even today, is a pigmented paint. Detailing on this type of paint, you will be working directly on the vehicles color, the paint layer that gives a vehicle its color.

When using polish or cleaner, the color will come off onto your polishing cloth or buffing pad if the aging paint is oxidized. This wouldn’t happen if the vehicle you are working on is clear-coated.

On vehicles that have a clearcoat finish, the paints color layer is protected by a clear, colorless polyurethane or urethane final finish. The urethanes are the Mr. and Mrs. of high-tech vehicle finishes.

Follow me over to Part II so that we can continue our ‘Journey’ into clearcoat finishes and how they apply to you in your PDR and Detailing business.