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Gary's PT Cruiser Cleaning Tips

Gary's PT Cruiser Cleaning Tips

Gary is a proud owner of a 2003 PT Cruiser GT as well as the owner of Perfect Auto Finish (www.perfectautofinish.com), a professional auto detailing company based in the Chicago area.


Tip #7: Paint Chip Repair Made Easy
None of us can avoid those darn paint chips. They annoy us every time we wash our car when we see them. They also seem to grow in size and dimension every week.

Well, we can do something about it, short of a costly body shop visit. Here are some things you will need first: factory touchup paint, a pack of artist brushes (you can buy these at any craft store for under 5 bucks) a can of Acrylic Lacquer thinner, old rags, piece of cardboard, and a small container.

I tell people is to wash their car first. The reason for washing is that many times a blemish may be removed during the cleaning stage, thus you won't not need to touch it up.

Begin by taking some of the thinner and pour a small amount into a container. Shake your touch up paint well (most factory paint is thick).

Have your small piece of cardboard and an old rag next to you. Put about a dime size amount of paint on the cardboard, pick out a brush the correct size that will match the size of the chips you are working on.

The problem with the brush supplied with the paint is that it is large enough to paint your garage doors, NOT your chips. Always remember this, "less is best". You can avoid those unsightly "blobs" by using less paint.

Take your brush and put it in the thinner, dab dry. There will still be enough thinner in the brush to thin the paint. Apply the brush to the paint, moving it around. You will be thinning the paint just enough to make it easy to work with.

Now go to your chips and lightly touch them. *NOTE, the paint will dry fast on your brush; you might only get to one chip at first before the brush gets dried out and the paint gets stiff. Just simply start process over again, and move on to your next chip.

Once you get the hang of it, you might get 2-3 chips done before you need to thin again. After 24 hours, you have the option of putting a coat of clear on (nail polish works for this as well) which you can get at an auto supply store.

Some have told me that leaving it just with the paint works fine, without the clear. Try a hidden area with the clear first and see how it looks before you move on.


Tip #6: Detailing Made Simple
How many times have you walked down the aisles of an automotive store only to be confused, perhaps overwhelmed at the multitude and assortment of car care supplies?

I started hosting detailing clinics all around Chicago because of that very reason. My focus has always been to educate the consumer and teach them not only how to buy their detailing products, but also how to use them. By following a few simple guidelines you will be able to detail like a pro in no time.

First, let's start with car wash soap. Many companies are marketing their soap with additives and enhancements making it sound like something you would use in your bath tub rather than your car.

I have found them to be no better than the average car soap. Some have a slight difference in concentration, but the best bang for your buck is Meguiars.

NEVER USE LIQUID DISH DETERGENT to wash your car during regular maintenance. It will remove all wax/sealant you have on your car. I have heard of many people making this mistake. Now, if you are planning on giving your car the full treatment and full detail, by all means, detergent would be the route to go.

Most scratches are introduced to the finish during the washing and drying. Make sure you pre-soak your car first. You can put whatever soap you are using inside a garden pump sprayer. Let the solution soak on the finish, it will loosen up contaminants easier.

After you wash and before you dry, look at your finish.

Ask your self a few questions before you go on. Do you have dirt or other contaminants on the finish that the wash did not remove? Do you see some scuff blemishes, minor scratches or other abrasions IN the finish?

For on surface dirt, you should use a clay bar (see my clay bar tip). For blemishes IN the finish, you should use a paint cleaner.

If you wash properly, use a clay bar maybe twice a year, and use paint cleaner when necessary. You will find it easier to apply your finish coat.

I always use a sealant for my final step. A sealant will last six times as long as a wax. The only time I can see a reason to wax is if the car is seldom driven, or the owner prefers to wax once a month.

So there you have it, detailing made simple. Buying high quality detailing products does not have to be complicated nor should it be expensive. The five basic items I sell represent eighty percent of everything I use on customers cars.

The basic "core" supplies you should have is paint cleaner, sealant, microfiber towels, a clay bar, leather conditioner, and a water based dressing.


Tip #5: Engine Compartment Detailing
Everyone knows how oily and filthy an engine compartment can get. On dated cars with carburetors and distributors, many people just covered those components with a plastic bag and pressure washed the engine.

With computer chips and more electronic equipment under the hood, one small mistake can result in a costly repair. Here is a tip for basic engine cleaning.

Start with the underside of the hood. Take a nylon brush and go over the inside hood liner, it catches all the soot and dirt from the engine. If you have an air compressor, blow air on the liner first.

Next, use an all purpose cleaner like Simple Green. Spray some on the inside of the metal part of the hood. Use a bucket of water and an old rag to wipe off and clean. Then use a cleaner wax to finish off the hood.

Working on the engine by hand may take a little longer but it will save you headaches in the long run. Simple green, shop rags, and a bucket of water will get most of the parts clean. Use common sense. Clean hoses, metal and plastic parts. STAY AWAY FROM WIRES AND ELECTRICAL CONTACTS.

Engine Gunk is fine for heavy grease build up, but instead of spraying it off, use a damp rag by hand. You are better off changing buckets of water more often and using more rags. (shop rags are cheap and are great for messy work, NEVER USE A SHOP RAG ON YOUR FINISH, NOT EVEN A CLEAN ONE!)

Once you have cleaned the engine you can use the cleaner wax on the metal frame portion like you did on the inside hood.

The final step is you should spray a water based dressing on all plastic/rubber components under the hood. (NEVER USE A SOLVENT BASED DRESSING, AS IT CAN IGNITE FROM THE HEAT OF THE ENGINE)

Use the water base dressing liberally and allow to air dry, don't wipe it off. It will dry to a high gloss and protect your engine and enhance the look of your beautiful PT Cruiser engine.

I added a high quality professional water based dressing to my line of products. "Ultimate Dressing" 24oz spray bottle for 10 bucks. Look for it on my web site soon. It is perfect for engines, tires, rubber trim and molding. It also has UV protection so you can apply it to your dash.


Tip #4: Interior Detailing
Most of us spend a great deal of time inside our car. Here are a few simple hints on keeping your interior looking great.

First thing I do is removed everything from the car, mats, anything inside doors, under seat. Do a "quick vac" making sure you hit the mats. Here is something you should have, a small air compressor.

Using forced air to blow out vents, under seats, inside the console, dash, etc, you won't believe the amount of dust and air-borne pollution that settles inside your car. After you use the air, vacuum again.

If you want to clean you carpet, many stores carry a line of "dry" spray foam carpet cleaner you can use with a shop vacuum, I would NOT use spray chemicals or cleaners, because the shop vacuum will not "suck" the product from inside the lower fibers. Then the product will lay dormant and mold, and start to "gum up" from the floor of your carpeting.

Using a nylon brush to agitate the carpet works to loosen stubborn dirt as well.

Clean your leather with leather cleaner, a horsehair brush works best, second option is a simple rag. Once the leather is clean, condition it with a quality conditioner, to prevent it from drying out.

Small detail brushes with my secret glass cleaning formula works great to get areas your hand can't get. Just use a damp micro-fiber towel on the instrument cluster. Don't forget the doors, kick panels, and chrome.


Tip #3: The Myth of High Speed Buffing
I have had may people come into my shop asking if Buffing is part of my full detail.

Their are two basic types of buffing machines used on a professional level. One is the High speed rotary, the other is a Dual Action Porter Cable. The first one (High speed) should only be used for serious paint correction. By that I mean defects like surface scratches, and swirl marks.

Whenever you used this machine because of how abrasive it is on the finish, you are "cutting" through the clear coat while you are smoothing out the defects. Using this process on a continued cycle will destroy your finish. In the wrong hands it will cause damage instantly.

On the other hand, the DAPC, is much safer, easier to use, and can be used on a regular basis on your car. (assuming you are using the proper product and pads)

The difference on the two types of machines is this. The high speed creates heat, needed to break down cutting compounds enabling them to work. The danger is they can also cut through your finish in the blink of an eye. The DAPC, not only rotates, but oscillates on its access, so it does not build up heat.

It is fantastic for applying wax/polish or sealant. If you go to a detail shop, be aware of these two machines, ask them what they use. Education is your best tool.


Tip #2: Clay Bar Preparation
Everyone wants to keep their Cruiser in top condition, but if you drive it everyday, like most of us it is subjected to all kinds of contaminants.

Biggest complaint I've heard is "how to get out surface scratches". First lets talk about how they got there. Most of time its from improper washing/drying. When the car is not prepped properly, all you do is work existing dirt into the finish.

The clay bar is the best solution to ensure proper cleaning BEFORE you polish/wax/seal. Most people never heard of clay, and if they have they don't know how to use it. After you wash your car, before you dry, feel it with your hand.

A simple test is to put your hand in a plastic biggie and gently move across the finish, if it grabs a little, you have fine particles of dirt that you did not remove while washing. HOW TO USE CLAY. First get yourself a fresh bucket of soapy water. break off a small piece of clay in your hand, (clay works best with lots of lubrication) lather a small section of your car, dip the clay on the water, spray the clay with quick detail spray, gently work the clay in a side to side motion. (don't press to hard, it works well with gently pressure)

After 4-4 strokes, spray again, lather, and do another section. Keep dipping clay in bucket, keep spraying with QD, work side to side. You will see (and feel) the finish getting cleaner, your hand will start to get the hang of it (if the surface gums up, it is not lubricated enough).

Once you get it down, its easy. The key is lubrication, gentle side to side motion. also, after a few sections, press the clay in your hand in and out, making a fresh surface. It looks and feels like play dough, so you can made a new surface by working it.

One piece will do the whole car. IF YOU DROP THE CLAY THROW IT OUT, USE A NEW PIECE! It will pick up dirt from the ground and become a hazard, working like sandpaper. after you do the whole car, wash car again to remove clay residue, dry with large micro fiber or high quality 100% cotton terry towels. Proceed to polish/wax/seal. Discuss this topic


Tip #1: Streakless Window Cleaning
Get your self a 32oz bottle sprayer, put two shots (app 2 oz) of Denatured Alcohol in it, (from at any hardware store). Then fill your bottle with distilled water.

This is a the best solution for cleaning windows. No more windex, or cleaners with high ammonia content. Next, get yourself a simple net type of sponge at any food store about $1.39/ spray a little solution on the window. Use the net sponge and move solution all arounbd the trim and glass. (unless you are spider man, our hands are not shaped to get around these tight corners)

The net will loosen the grime in the tights spots. Then spray a little more solution on the glass, wipe with a micro fiber towel, and your glass will be the envy of all. Discuss this topic


More Cleaning Tips are on their way! Check back often!


Visit Gary's website at www.perfectautofinish.com for more.

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