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Hi Everyone,

I have been seeing some recent activity over the past few weeks around here regarding what are quality products and how to wash your mustang. I figure this post could serve as a good reference for newcomers. Believe it or not this is the short version of this post as there is a lot to consider. I will break this review out into two main sections separated by bold header text. First will be product categories and second will be high level how to wash your car.

Popular Products for Exterior Detailing:

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of product categories and for newcomers it can be a bit confusing. First off, I am not sponsored by any of the products mentioned here, nor am I saying these are the only products you can buy. The products mentioned though are intended to provide examples of high quality products in each category from very reputable companies. Finally, there are a lot of exterior product categories out there. I am not saying you need all of them, but I wanted to go over a lot of these categories to help you pick and choose what you feel like you need. Remember you can always slowly add over time. If you are looking for a reputable place to buy from then detailed image or autogeek are two great places. They usually run promotions and have a wide array of quality products (for the most part).

1. Shampoo: The heart of every exterior detailing kit is a quality shampoo. A matter of debate is ph neutral/balanced vs regular shampoos. Some people call it marketing hype, others view it as a safer way to clean your car. I personally I prefer ph neutral shampoos. I find them to be a safe way to clean your car and a way to not cause premature wear to your protectant (wax, sealant or ceramic).

-Product recommendations: CarPro Reset or Gtechniq G Wash.

2. Pre-wash/foam cannon: Pre-wash, commonly found in use of a foam cannon/foam lance these days is becoming a popular tool. The reason why is that it serves a purpose while being fun to use. The main purpose of a foam cannon is to provide a quick way to break down grime on your car making the actual hand washing portion of the car significantly easier.

-Product recommendation: Gtechniq W4. Works in a foam lance, a pump sprayer or a foam cannon. If you are looking to hook up to a power washer, detailed image or Adams makes a great array of cannons and lances that provide great on the fly adjustability.

3. Wheel Cleaner: Wheels are arguably the dirtiest spot on your car. A mitt + soap is not enough to remove the harmful fallout/iron deposits, so a quality wheel cleaner is important to have for your wheel type to give a deeper cleaning.

-Product Recommendations: Shine Supply Cool Guy Wheel Cleaner. CG is the best wheel cleaner I have used. It doesn’t smell and when you are done your wheels will look like you have some sort of protectant/polish on them. I have NOT tested this as a fallout spray for the body so I can’t speak to that, but given it is ph balanced there should be no problems. Gtechniq W6. W6 is a great multipurpose ph neutral fallout spray. Works great on your wheels, tires or body work.

4. Tire Shine: Tire shine is a cosmetic deal. Having a clean body and dull tires can look weird. Slapping some tire shine on a freshly cleaned car really boosts how your car looks.

-Product Recommendations: Anything that is under $10 with a no sling formula is interchangeable. If you want a difference making tire dressing, then I recommend Gtechniq T1. T1 is a long-term tire dressing.

5. Protectant: Paint Protection Film (PPF) + ceramic coating is the best way to protect your car; however many people don’t go that far for one reason or another. A quality protectant for your car is important. They don’t just make your car look better, but they help protect you UV exposure, dirt, water and other common elements.

-Product Recommendation Spray: Gtechniq C2. This is a very quick and easy to apply sealant that has impressive results considering what it is. It can be used on its own or with a ceramic. A single coat protects you for up to 8 months, though honestly it is so quick and easy to apply that I do it every 2-3 months.

-Special note: Spray twice per panel. Use a microfiber buffing towel to buff the product in/around, then use a separate microfiber buffing towel to buff away any residue. First time using C2 I recommend going around the car twice to build a good base coat.

-Product Recommendation Wax: I will give two choices. One for convenience, one for better results. Both can be used by hand or with a buffer. If buffing by hand I love the Wolfgang hand pads. They have a cutting side on one side and a finishing side on another. Meguiar’s M105 & M205 is a great combination of polishes. Another great option if you want only one polish as opposed to two would be Gtechniq P1. P1 is probably the best all in one polish I have used. It takes on the property of the pad, and it is surprising what you can remove with P1.

6. Tar Remover: Many people love a two for one, a bug & tar remover will never do as good a job as standalone product made for each category. If you have a ceramic coated car then you may not break this out often, but on untreated cars shampoo is not enough a lot of the time.

-Product recommendations: Stoner Tarminator, Gyeon Tar Remover and Gtechniq W7. Stoner Tarminator is not ph neutral so do not use on cars with a ceramic coating as it can cause premature wear. Gyeon and Gtechniq are both ph neutral/balanced so they are coating safe.

-Special notes: All have similar uses. Spray onto desired area, let dwell for 2-4 minutes, rinse off with hose/power washer. Repeat as necessary. In extreme cases use a microfiber buffing towel to agitate then rinse away. Important to not apply on hot paint and direct sunlight, but most people are stuck with the sunlight so keep your sections smaller in applied area and watch it more closely. You want to remove this before it dries.

7.Bug Remover: Same reasons above.

-Product Recommendations: CarPro Bug Out or Gtechniq W8 Ver 2 (NOT ver 1). Both are ph neutral.

-Special notes: Same as the above.

8. Quick Detailer: QD’s are handy in a couple of areas and are more useful with treated cars. First, after you are done drying your car you can use a QD to remove light water marks left behind as well as add gloss and slickness to your cars body work. Second, they are great for light dustings, light clean ups (mostly for ceramic coated cars) and spot touch ups (like when a bird dumps on your otherwise clean car).

-Product Recommendations: Gtechniq’s QD.

-Special notes: Spray a little sparingly on a freshly dried car and liberally on a car that is getting a spot fix clean/dusting. Change your buffing towels often when cleaning/dusting. Remember a microfiber towel can have 8 clean sides when folded properly.

9. Glass: Glass is often one of the most frustrating parts of a car to clean for newcomers. The combination of a quality cleaner and glass cleaning towels is a game changer in terms of getting streak free results.

-Product recommendations: Gtechniq C6 or Stoner invisible glass. Pair with Detailed Images glass towel or Gtechniq’s MF5.

10. Trim & Engine bay: Grey plastic, gloss plastic and carbon fiber are all popular exterior trim pieces. Having a product that helps protect it from dulling and can revive/give it some pop is important.

-Product recommendations flat grey trim: Stoner Trim & Shine. This is non ph neutral so it is not coating safe, but it does a great job given how inexpensive T&S is. If you wanted to consolidate on product, Gtechniq T1 can be used on flat grey trim to give it some pop. Finally, if you are looking for a long-term solution then Gtechniq C4 trim restorer. This requires prep and is an actual coating.

-Recommendations for gloss plastic/carbon fiber: If the area has not faded then Gtechniq C2 makes a great protectant.

-Recommendations for engine bay: It really depends on the material. For flat plastic I love using Stoner Trim & Shine, if carbon fiber bits exist under the hood I just use a quick detailer. If you want to go a step further, I love using Gtechniq C5 Wheel Armor. C5 is a legit coating, but works great on carbon fiber trim under the hood as it is rated to handle temperatures in excess of 500f.

11. Fallout Spray: Generally speaking, a Fallout spray is used 2 times a year as part of a decontamination wash. The main benefit of using a fallout spray is that it removes harmful fallout/iron deposits in your cars body work. Because a fallout spray is used only a couple times a year for your cars body work, most people tend to use a wheel cleaner that is also safe on the body work of your car (ph neutral/balanced).

-Product Recommendations: Gtechniq W6.

12. Clay: Have you ever run your fingers over a clean car and it felt like there were small contaminants over the car? Claying can make that smooth. Claying is a great way to remove harmful contaminants from your cars body work. The pairing of a fallout spray and claying are major components of a decontamination wash.

-Product recommendations: Nanoskin Glide with Nanoskin fine foam mitt and hand strap. The Nanoskin fine foam mitt takes me about the quarter of the time that conventional claying takes. No kneading, no real special storage and easily cleaned.

-Special notes: There are two quick things here for claying. First off, DO NOT clay unless you are willing to polish after. Claying can cause minor marring in your car’s body work. Polishing is how you correct that marring. Finally, when claying a car be liberal in your lube. Spray your 2’x2’ box generously and spray your mitt as well.

13. Wash Mitts/Pads: Not all wash mitts, pads and sponges are created equal. There are different styles, naps and materials. Many have their preferences, but I personally prefer the style of mitt found in Gtechniq’s WM2 mitt, which is very shaggy, sometimes a blend in materials used and has thousands of fine fibers. I find this style of mitt glide very well, lift dirt away from car and most importantly release dirt better than many other styles.

-Product Recommendations: Gtechniq WM2, Shine Supply Microfiber Madness, Gyeon Smoothie and Luxury Microfiber if you want to be more on a budget.

14. Towels: Technique is always the most important thing in detailing, but quality towels certainly go a long way in helping prevent micro swirls over time. Towels aren’t just used for drying though, having good quality product towels for buffing or glass cleaning are also important as they can save you time.

-Drying Towel Recommendations: Rag company, Gtechniq and Luxury microfiber (specifically their edgeless sucker towels) all make a solid line up of paint safe drying towels.

-Glass towel recommendations: Gtechniq MF5 or Detailed Images glass cleaning towel. You will want 2 per car.

-Product application/buffing towels: If you find a microfiber buffing towel on detailed image or autogeek it will serve you just fine. How many you need really depends on what products in this list you will be going with. A good general rule of thumb is 2-3 microfiber buffing towels per product that requires them. If you want a specific recommendation then Gtechniq’s new mf1 towels that are tag and edgeless are my new favorites. Please note, wash them twice before using.

15. Metal Polish: Using a metal polish not only makes the applied area pop more, but also provides some protection. Metal polishes when combined with a fallout spray can also remove some seriously imbedded crap from your exhaust pipes as well. Important to note that make sure the polish you buy covers your metal type and finish.

-Product recommendation: Optimum Metal Polish or Gtechniq M1. They both cover a wide array of metals/finishes. Both are pretty easy to work with, and less is more in terms of application.

16. Brushes: Tire brushes, wheel brushes and exterior detailing brushes (boar’s hair brushes) serve a real purpose in making quick work of hard to reach areas or difficult to clean by hand wheels.

-Product Recommendations Tire Brush: Buff n’ Shine tire brush. Cheap and effective at cleaning your tires when paired with a quality wheel cleaner, tire cleaner or all purpose.

-Product Recommendations Wheel Brush: EZ Detailer Brush is a fantastic brush that gets into the tightest areas of the most troublesome wheels. A must for getting into tight spots and cleaning back in the back of your wheels.

-Product Recommendations Exterior tight spots: Pretty much any boar’s hairbrush will do. Use spots on the exterior include lug nuts, wheel spokes, engine bay, door jambs, key holes…areas like that.

-Special notes: If buying a pack of boar’s hairbrushes for exterior and interior use, designate them. You don’t want to use your engine bay brush on your leather seats to say the least.

17. Buffers & Pads: A quality buffer can pay for itself very quickly. Even the safest of buffers when paired with the right polish/compound and pad can give incredible results. Probably one of the most important pieces of equipment as it is necessary for quality compounding, finishing, or prep work to doing a ceramic coating.

-Product recommendations: I am going to keep this 100% novice because there is A LOT to consider here from buffer to buffer. Plus if you aren't a novice then you probably have a preference. If you are brand new, do not own a buffer, have virtually zero time behind a buffer and have deep concerns about damaging your paintwork then something like a Porter Cable 7424 is for you. For back plates I recommend Lake Country 3 and 5 inch back plates. For polish, Meguiar’s M105 & M205 or Gtechniq P1 work well. For pads Lake Country yellow, orange, white and black CCS pads will cover most things you come across. I recommend getting multiples of each pad in the correct size for your backing plates. For a very beginner intended buffer you will be surprised as to what you can remove/correct with it.

-Special notes: Don’t just start with the most aggressive pad when cutting. Start with a lighter cutting pad then work your way down to a more aggressive pad if needed.

18. Microfiber Detergent: Not a necessity, but in my experience having a detergent specifically made for the grease, grime, and product a microfiber towel/mitt will come across in detailing does make a difference. A quality microfiber detergent will also extend the life of your towels and mitts.

-Product recommendation: Shine Supply Microclean. In extreme situations you may need to soak before running a wash cycle.

19. Buckets: When I was in high school/early in college I used cheap 3.5 gallon buckets that would break about once a year on me. Having quality buckets that can take a pounding is important.

20. Power Washer: While a power washer is not a necessity, it does make a difference when cleaning your car over a conventional hose. They really make a difference when working foam/prewash, bug removers, tar removers and blasting away grime that a regular hose could not do.

-Product recommendation: Karcher makes a great line of power washers for those looking to invest in their first power washer. Growing up I wasn’t a fan of gas power washers. The main reason why is maintenance. Electric power washers are quieter, have enough power to remove dirt on impact and require less maintenance. Know your nozzle’s/wands though before using.

-Product recommendations: 5-gallon buckets should be your norm. Detailed Image sells individual buckets with grit guards or packs of 2. Not saying you have to go with DI, but it is an example of what you should be looking for. How many buckets you need will depend on your cleaning method.

How to wash your car:

There are a lot of methods out there for cleaning cars. Two most popular methods are the 1 and 2 bucket method.
-The one bucket method: This is where you have one 5 gallon bucket, load it up with your shampoo solution and wash mitts. Each wash mitt has two clean sides to it. Once both sides are soiled you set it aside (not the ground) and grab a fresh mitt. Repeat until car is clean. The upside is that you only need one bucket for the body work of your car, the down side is you will need more mitts as you will not be rinsing them for reuse on the same car.

-Two bucket method: In this method you will have two 5 gallon buckets with grit guards. One for wash filled with shampoo and one for rinse filled partially with water. The idea here is you will reuse your wash mitts on the same car as they get soiled. How this works is once you use both sides you will rinse the mitt out in the rinse bucket and agitate on the grit guard to break free grime collected. You will then fill it with shampoo in the wash bucket and continue. For this method I save one mitt for the top 50-70% of the car pending soil level and one for the remaining lower level where the grime is higher.

Regardless of what method you choose I recommend having at least one separate bucket, ideally two, filled with your shampoo designated wheel/tire cleaning. Now for going over washing your car this will be a basic wash if you will. This will not go over a decontamination wash because I anticipate most people don't go that far when cleaning their car, and for those who do a decontamination wash you really are only doing it twice a year.

When cleaning your car start by trying to rinse off as much lose grime as you can with your hose/power washer. If you are using a foam cannon once you are done rinsing you will hit your car with the foam. Allow it to dwell a few minutes, but not dry. Once dwelling is done blast your car with water once more and be thorough in rinsing your foam away. I usually go around a car twice for rinsing away foam as the stuff really gets into all the tights spots. If you lack a foam cannon, then you would just move onto your wheels. The reason why I start with my tires and wheels are twofold. One, I don’t want to blast product back onto a clean body. Second, many wheels today can be time consuming to clean. How you clean your wheels really depends on what products you have deemed necessary. For argument's sake let's say you have a tire brush, wheel brush, wheel cleaner/fallout spray and a mitt in a separate bucket loaded with soap.

Spray the wheel and tire with your fallout spray/wheel cleaner. Let dwell for 2-4 minutes then begin agitating with your wheel and tire brushes. I generally start with my wheel brush on my wheels then move to my tire brush for my tires. Once done take your wash mitt and go around the wheel/tire once more. Finally, rinse your tire/wheel clean. Repeat these steps for each tire/wheel. Once finished with my wheels I move onto exhaust tips. The process for exhaust tips is spray with your wheel/fallout spray, let dwell, agitate with soapy mitt, rinse clean.

Now that your wheels are done you will start using your bug and tar remover. Spray the applicable areas and let dwell, but not dry. Rinse away the residue. Repeat as necessary, but if I have to go more than twice in an area you have two choices. First, you can hit it a third time and agitate gently with a microfiber towel. It should make very quick work of anything left. The second option is just wait till you go over it with a soapy mitt as it should make quick work of any residue on a cared for car. Remember, if working in sunlight, work in smaller areas. If working in sunlight think the hood as two sections, the front end as two sections, the applicable spots on a single door as a section. Do not just spray all applicable areas at one time and work from the top down when spraying.

Moving on from your bug and tar remover, it is now time to shampoo the car. You will work your way from the top of your car down. Odds are you will deal with sunlight so work with it as best you can. Usually if cleaning your car outdoors one half of the car will be in the shade usually so as you work your way down handle the shaded side of the car first as it will dry slower than sun exposed areas. You will find that you will end up working in sections as you go from the top down. Think Roof, windows, trunk lid – then the front end +hood – then one side of your car so on so on. How dirty your car is, how large your car is and how quickly you can work with quality really depends on how large each section is. Be sure to rinse away your soap before it dries. This will usually happen when you are done with a mitt, but like I said, you will find that you will end up working in chunks to your specific set. Literally rinse and repeat here, the only differences will be in the bucket method you choose to deploy. If using the two bucket method I will rinse the car before washing the mitt.

Now that your car is clean it is time for drying. You will start with the cars body work, next tires/wheels then finally door jams. For the body work of your car work from the top down and be sure dry the areas in the sunlight first. I will give two methods here. First, the blower method. If you have something like a metro blaster unit I like to have a folded towel draped over me while I use my metro blower. I use the blower to get the majority of water away, then use an MF2 or MF4 towel to remove the leftover residue. The second method is towel only as most people do not have a blower to aid in your drying. With towels I like to have two on me to start. One for bulk water absorption and one for the left over/fine water absorption. You still work in the same method, but you don’t have the aid of the dryer/blower. You will also be swapping out towels pending the size of the car and saturation of your towel. Be very mindful to not let your towel hit the ground. Microfiber is clingy and you don’t need to have debris from the ground being rubbed into your paintwork. Having spares is important because you are bound to drop a towel, or have one hit the ground at some capacity. Once you finish trying the body work of your car move onto your tires, wheels, and exhaust. The last area I tend to try are the door jams and engine bay. I also like to have designated towels for just my tires/wheels/exhaust and engine bay.

Once the entirety of your car is dry this is really where the products you choose come into play. Generally speaking here is the order I will work in, usually.

  • Quick Detailer to remove any light water marks.
  • Glass cleaner on the exterior of the glass to remove any left over watermarks. If cleaning the interior of the glass, start with the interior glass cleaning prior to exterior washing.
  • Tire Shine: I like to give T1 10-15 minutes to dry in between applications. During that time I will move onto step 4, protectants, then back to my tires to see if I need to touch any area up.
  • Protectant application. Whether you are using a wax or sealant spray this is usually when I apply my sacrificial protectant. If waxing by hand or buffer you will probably take a break to check your tire shine.
  • Metal Polish for applicable areas: Less is more in terms of the amount of product you put on your applicator pad. I usually like to swap buffing towels every two wheels. I recommend once you are done buffing all the wheels, exhaust and other applicable areas that you do a once over to ensure there isn’t any left-over product.
Congratulations your car is now cleaned and protected at a basic level. Keep in mind that you will not be applying metal polish or your protectant every car wash unless you are going very long times without cleaning your car. Ideally you would clean your car bi weekly, but I can’t think of many people that have that kind of time. Realistically most people should be able to afford once of a month at the least. If you can manage every month you will be a step ahead of most average Joe’s.
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