Spring-cleaning For Cars

By Mark Maynard

September 2, 2015 6 min read

There's nothing like summer weather in February to get San Diego drivers motivated to put a shine on their vehicles. For the major exterior wash, I run my 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid through the closest carwash -- that doesn't scour the surface with rotating brushes -- and let their crew dirty up a washer-load of towels. Then when I get home I do the fluff and buff with the products I prefer.

Here are several new products that get the Maynard's Garage Recommendation.

*Wheel Works

There's a trend in tire and wheel cleaners allowing some products to be used on both surfaces (and more). That's an advancement from the early days when each was use-specific and tires had to be protected from wheel cleaners and vice versa. It's easier now with dual-surface formulas, such as Eagle One's A2Z Wheel and Tire Cleaner. It works well on both surfaces and also on vinyl and other plastics.

Eagle One (a Valvoline company) has added a 64-ounce (half-gallon) jug of wheel and tire cleaner with a hose and trigger sprayer. Compared with the 23-ounce pump spray bottle, the jug's smaller sprayer head is easier to aim into recesses and can be sprayed upside down.

A2Z's foam loosens grease, grime and brake dust and restores tires to a clean black. On wheels, it is effective in loosening dirt buildup in corners and hard-to-reach places. Eagle One says the acid-free formula is safe for all hubcaps, tires or factory-coated wheels. And it can be used as a pre-wash on the lower panels of the car and in wheel wells.

After spraying the wheel-tire surface, it helps to use a brush with soft bristles to scrub the ridges and outlines of the tire and to get deeper into the wheel angles and around lug nuts. Then rinse with water, give a little more brushwork and towel dry.

The half-gallon jug is $14.49, and the spray bottle is $6.49, but the 64-ouncer may be the better value. While Eagle One claims there's cleaner for 40 wheels, I got carried away and treated the fender wells and vinyl trim around the wheels and lower body.

Buy it at AutoZone, Advance, O'Reilly and Kmart.

*Tire Tuxedo

Your vehicle is not ready to go out until its tires are dressed.

New from Griot's Garage is Black Shine, $10 for a 15-ounce spray can. It is intended for tires, trim and wheel wells, but I also used it under the hood on plastic pieces, the engine shroud and hoses. And a light spray to the factory brake-caliper housing leaves them looking less like cheap pot metal, which classes up the wheel presentation. And overspray on the wheels easily buffs to a shine with a microfiber towel. It is a water-resistant formula for extended appearance after rain and car washes, Eagle One says. The aerosol delivers an even application, and the fine spray is effective in getting the product into the ridges and outlines of the tire's sidewall. The level of shine depends on how long it is left on before wiping off. Leave it on for 20 seconds, and the tire has a flat, rich appearance. Leave it on for 20 minutes for a glossy shine. I prefer the au naturel look to my vehicles' tires, but I like a shine on the vinyl and plastic trim, including the mirror housings. It's easy to get both with Black Shine, but it is essential to clean the surfaces first.

Find out more at http://www.griotsgarage.com or by calling 800-345-5789.

*Surface Prep

The professional detailer's mantra for a fine paint shine is: Clean, Clay, Polish, Protect. The challenging part of that tenet had been the clay work. Old-style clay bars were a remarkable method to restore luster and smoothness to paint. But the bars were messy to use, and if the piece of clay fell to the ground, it had to be pitched because of potential sand or debris getting into the clay and then being ground into the paint.

Clay has evolved now to an artificial product and is available in several forms, including pads and sheets. And now there is the Eagle One Surface Prep Mitt -- and it works like magic to easily scrub away the embedded environmental bits of bird poop, tree sap, metallic particles and watermarks. The soft, rubbery surface cleans paint, chrome and plastic (even headlight lenses).

The mitt must be used with a "lubricant," Eagle One says, but not water. A lubricant for most non-professional DIYers is a spray detailer such as Eagle One's excellent Wipe and Shine Detailer. Spritz the surface of the vehicle in small sections, rub lightly with the mitt and then buff dry with the microfiber-back of the mitt or another microfiber towel. And if the mitt gets dropped, just rinse it off. But don't leave the mitt in the sun or somewhere hot, because the rubber will melt.

The mitt has a wider surface area than a piece of clay and speeds up the process. It can be used on up to 20 vehicles, Eagle One says. To understand the benefits of claying, run a hand over the surface of the vehicle before using the mitt and then over the same area after. Even bad paint will be improved, but decent paint on newer vehicles will be as smooth as a baby's glutes.

The mitt is $25 (available in spring), and a 23-ounce spray bottle of Wipe and Shine is $6.49, at most AutoZone, Advance and other stores that sell automotive car-care products.

Find out more at https://www.eagleone.com or 800-832-6825.

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