MAINTENANCE | A GUIDE TO A LOVE & HATE RELATIONSHIP
Irrespective of the service you receive, an overwhelming majority of those who own anything on wheels fail to realize one thing: maintenance. The one "big ticket" item that I try to articulate to my clients is the art of maintaining what you just invested in. I hate to say it, but maintenance will always become more than half the battle. Remember the ceramic or glass coating you had applied over a year ago?
How about the countless amount of hours that went into paint correction, textured-leveling, and wet-sanding on your vehicle, thus producing a mirror-like reflection in preparation for your next auto show? Well, all the labor and precision that went into creating a defect-free finish will be all for nought if maintenance is tossed aside. There's nothing more soul-crushing than leaving maintenance on the back burner.
While it may seem like a case of simple logic, the art of maintenance is often treated with secondary importance and should really serve as a disclaimer. In my experience, I often come across other professionals that treat clients like a revolving door in the sense that as soon as they receive an extensive service, the client is left to fend for themselves. This, in my opinion is completely inexcusable. Below I list a short, comprehensive guide to maintaining some of the most highly-requested services in my industry.
If you aren't already familiar with the category, I suggest you read my FAQ page with the question entitled "What are coatings, and why should I invest in one?". Coatings, by definition, are sacrificial and are categorized as a long-term solution against your outdated and short-term solutions of protection (waxes, sealants, ceramic sprays, etc.) Okay, so if they're a "long-term" solution, why should I have to do anything? A very valid point. The truth of the matter is that coatings still require maintenance. While coatings are made to protect from a variety of harmful variables such as excessive heat (UVA/UVB rays), tree sap, industrial fallout, acid rain, chemical staining, bird droppings, and either the intentional or unintentional levels of marring (fine scratches, swirls, etc.) the molecular bond that exists on top of your clear coat needs to be as resilient as the day it was initially applied.
While it may seem odd, coatings are akin to that of oral hygiene. Hopefully, you brush your teeth on a daily basis. When you stop taking care of your teeth altogether, then you run the risk of inflicting harm such as tooth decay, gingivitis, etc. The same concept rings true with your coating. A proper maintenance wash consisting of a two-bucket method will help preserve and protect your hard-earned investment. Periodically, it's highly recommended to treat the coating with a dedicated maintenance solution to reinforce the resiliency of the molecular structure that bonds to your clear coat. By exercising these steps, you'll continue to reap all the benefits and rewards that come from having superior protection.
1-2 WEEKS OF HAND WASHING & EVERY 1-2 MONTHS FOR A PERIODIC MAINTENANCE SOLUTION
1) A THOROUGH THREE-BUCKET HAND WASH EVERY 1-2 WEEKS.
2) A DEDICATED MAINTENANCE SOLUTION TO REINFORCE THE MOLECULAR STRUCTURE OF YOUR COATING EVERY 1-2 MONTHS.
3) A PERIODIC INSPECTION OF YOUR PAINTWORK TO ADDRESS ANY SPOTS THAT AREN'T PERFORMING OR ANY DAMAGE THAT MAY HAVE SURFACED SINCE THE INITIAL APPLICATION.
In this day and age, a great deal of manufacturers are now producing "imitation leather", or PU leather. This level of polyurethane isn't as resilient and consists of a split leather configuration making it more fragile against staining, dye transfer, and other unmentionables. As such, protection is paramount and it's reassuring to know that some of the most reputable detailing suppliers are producing leather-specific coatings.
Much like that of hydrating your skin with creams and oils, leather should be treated no differently. While everyone has a different cycle of maintenance, using a trusted leather conditioning product like Dr. Beasley's leather conditioning cream, Leatherique, or Leather Honey Leather Conditioner should be applied once every few months to help hydrate the pores while reducing the potential of blistering, cracking, staining and fading. Other leather-specific coatings are mentioned in my other blog entitled "Leather | Antiquity to Present".
A THOROUGH CLEANING OF THE HIDE SHOULD BE DONE ONCE EVERY 3-5 MONTHS
A DEDICATED LEATHER CONDITIONING PRODUCT SHOULD BE APPLIED ONCE EVERY 2-4 MONTHS
AN APPLICATION OF A COATING IS RECOMMENDED UNTIL A SECOND APPLICATION IS NECESSARY
1) AN INITIAL CLEANING OF YOUR LEATHER IS THE KEY TO A HEALTHY INTERIOR (PLEASE NOTE THAT HEAVY ALL-PURPOSE CLEANERS SHOULD BE AVOIDED AS THEY TEND TO ACT AS AN ABRASIVE, WHICH IN TURN CAN DETERIORATE THE DYE AND OUTER PROTECTIVE COATING FASTER).
2) TO KEEP THE LEATHER LOOKING NATURAL AND FEELING SUPPLE, A DEDICATED LEATHER CONDITIONING PRODUCT SHOULD BE APPLIED EVERY 2-4 MONTHS OR SOONER DEPENDING ON YOUR CLIMATE.
3) FOR ADVANCED PROTECTION AGAINST HEAVY USE, A LEATHER-SPECIFIC COATING SHOULD BE APPLIED TO PREVENT STAINING AND OTHER FORMS OF CONTAMINATION.
UPHOLSTERY AND CARPET LINERS
Often considered to be the most difficult category to maintain, upholstery and carpet liners have the reputation of falling victim to staining of many descriptions, and in some cases, these stains can reach a "point of no return" if not addressed with some sense of immediacy.
Believe it or not, no matter how skilled the technician is, no amount of specialized tools or dedicated cleaners will be able to completely remove every conceivable stain. Although, I will give everyone in my industry the benefit of the doubt since we always strive for perfection. Just as I had mentioned with respect to leather, upholstery and carpets have a tendency to discolor over time, especially since the residual oils within our skin darken and discolor the original shade of fabric. If you should live in a more unforgiving climate such as New England, the upper Midwest, or anywhere along the East coast, continue to monitor the condition of your seats and carpet liners since snow and ice often get mixed in with road salt (sodium chloride).
A winning solution is to not only treat every stain with a sense of immediacy, but it's recommended to apply fabric-specific coatings that add a barrier of protection the next time you should find yourself in a pickle. This is especially true for those who have vehicles that carry children, act as daily commuters, and service vehicles that become exposed to the elements.
A VACUUMING OF YOUR UPHOLSTERY AND CARPETS SHOULD BE DONE ONCE A WEEK
ANY SIGNIFICANT STAINING SHOULD BE DEALT WITH IMMEDIATELY IN ORDER TO PREVENT PERMANENT DAMAGE
A FABRIC COATING OF SOME DESCRIPTION IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED AND SHOULD BE APPLIED ONCE EVERY 1-2 YEARS
1) CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE CONDITION OF YOUR UPHOLSTERY AND CARPET LINERS ON A MONTHLY BASIS. A WEEKLY VACUUMING OF SOME DESCRIPTION SHOULD BE APPLIED SO AS NOT TO ACCUMULATE EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS OF DEBRIS, WHICH CAN LEAD TO AN EVEN LARGER HEADACHE IF LEFT OVER A LONGER PERIOD OF TIME. (THIS IS PARTICULARLY CRUCIAL DURING LATE FALL AND WINTER).
2) IF HEAVY STAINING IS PRESENT, TREAT THE STAIN WITH HOME-MADE REMEDIES SUCH AS SOAP AND LUKEWARM WATER, LAUNDRY DETERGENT, OR REACH FOR AN ALL-PURPOSE CLEANER ALONG WITH A STIFF-BRISTLED BRUSH AND AGITATE THE AREA.
3) AS A PREVENTATIVE MEASURE, APPLY CARPET AND UPHOLSTERY-SPECIFIC COATINGS SUCH AS GTECHNIQ I1 OR 303 FABRIC GUARD.
Your wheels are the first line of defense against the road. All too often, I have clients that bring in a vehicle that isn't necessarily classified as a work truck or service vehicle, but other components of the wheel have already reached a state of complete degeneration. Barrels and calipers are sometimes caked with so much contamination that the only treatment is to use acidic-based cleaners which I try to shy away from.
Unfortunately, most owners only focus on the areas that are most visible to the naked eye (rims, tires, etc.) What we have to understand is that wheels are 3-dimensional. Wheels contain many different components, so maintaining them should consist of using a dedicated bucket exclusively made for wheels, and wheels alone. Yes, there are coatings that are specifically formulated for wheels, too. Again, protection of any description will ease the cycle of maintenance. This is especially pertinent to painted wheels, aftermarket, and others that are classified as high-performance.
A THOROUGH CLEANING OF YOUR WHEELS ARE RECOMMENDED ONCE EVERY 1-2 WEEKS
AN APPLICATION OF A WHEEL-SPECIFIC COATING IS RECOMMENDED UNTIL CLEANING AND PROTECTION CHARACTERISTICS START TO TAPER-OFF (WATER REPELLENCY, EASE OF CLEANING)
1) WHILE IT MAY BE TEDIOUS, INSPECT YOUR WHEEL SYSTEM (WHEEL FACE, BARRELS, CALIPERS, ROTORS, TIRES AND WHEEL WELLS) ON A WEEKLY BASIS. ALL OF THESE AREAS CAN EASILY ACCUMULATE EXCESSIVE AMOUNTS OF CONTAMINATION QUICKLY.
2) IN SOME CASES, A DEDICATED CAR WASH SHAMPOO WILL REMOVE MOST CONTAMINATION. FOR HEAVY COMMUTERS OR THOSE WHO DRIVE LONG DISTANCES, A DEGREASER SPECIFICALLY FORMULATED FOR WHEELS SHOULD BE USED. PLEASE NOTE, NOT ALL DEGREASERS ARE UNIVERSAL, SO BE SURE TO CONTACT ME FOR CLEANERS THAT WORK FOR YOUR PARTICULAR TYPE OF WHEELS.
3) WHEEL COATINGS SUCH AS GTECHNIQ 5, KAMIKAZE STANCE RIM COAT. GYEON Q2 RIM, AND MANY OTHERS CAN BE USED TO ADD SUBSTANTIAL PROTECTION.
VINYL WRAP AND PAINT PROTECTION FILM (PPF)
Not every detail outfit is measured the same. Quality control does vary depending on who you do business with. When it comes to vinyl wrap and paint protection film (PPF), make sure to inspect the corners and seams of each panel where the material had been applied. If any peeling should occur, these are the areas that normally need to be addressed. A seamless application should include tight edges that overlap any given area, especially secondary areas such as door handles, marker lights, trim, and other areas of the like.
Lastly, the detailing industry is now gaining a lot of traction since paint protection film and vinyl wrap have their own dedicated line of products that coat the material, thus adding extra resiliency. Interestingly enough, vinyl wrap can be treated like paint in many ways, such as removing minor scuffs, swirling, light scratches and other insignificant levels of marring. Again, incorporating a two-bucket washing method will dramatically reduce the potential of instilling any levels of marring.
When it comes to maintaining these other forms of protection, treat them just as you would your paintwork. Again, employing the same two-bucket method when washing will help to ensure a long and healthy life.
1) CONTINUE TO MONITOR THE RESILIENCY OF YOUR VINYL WRAP OR PAINT PROTECTION FILM (PPF). IF ANY PEELING, BUBBLING, OR FADING SHOULD OCCUR, CONTACT YOUR INSTALLER AND SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT TO HAVE IT ADDRESSED AND FIXED. VINYL WRAP AND PPF EACH CARRY A WARRANTY PERIOD, SO BE SURE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS IF ANY EYESORES SHOULD DEVELOP.
2) AS MENTIONED ABOVE, EMPLOYING A 2-BUCKET WASH METHOD IS ALWAYS RECOMMENDED. BE SURE NOT TO APPLY EXCESSIVE PRESSURE WHEN WASHING, SINCE THE POTENTIAL OF MARRING CAN OCCUR (THIS IS ESPECIALLY TRUE WITH VINYL WRAP).
3. VINYL WRAP AND PAINT PROTECTION FILM COATINGS ARE NOW MAKING GREAT STRIDES. SOME OF THESE ARE USER-FRIENDLY AND CAN BE APPLIED ON YOUR OWN.
All in all, maintaining what you love is a chore, there's no doubt about it. If you plan on establishing a long-term relationship with any ride, you'll come to find that maintenance will outshine that of the initial work that was done. The longer you stay ahead of the curve, the harder it will be to replace your hard-earned investment. There's something disembodied and mystical about taking care of what you find valuable. At Blackstone Detail, this is what it means to drive in confidence. Maintenance is a marathon, not a sprint.