Some Q and A
Having your vehicle detailed on a regular basis helps reduce deterioration of the finish. Older vehicles had single stage paint finishes that easily oxidized and reduce over time. Today's vehicles mostly have clear coated finishes which can still oxidize, lose shine, and peel (also known as clear coat failure). Cleansing, polishing, and waxing can help reduce these harmful effects and prolong paint life. Not to mention a regularly detailed car can hold its value better and best of all can look great. A vehicle is a very expensive investment, why not keep it looking its best!
"I would rather risk perfection then risk paint."
A principal I follow closely in regards to detailing.
There are many things that seperate myself from other services. The first that comes to mind is my knowledge and passion for detailing. Most shops can get your car "clean," I concentrate my efforts on getting your vehicle close to perfection as I can. I detail your vehicle as if it was my own, and being that I am my own worst critic, you can be rest assured that my service equals quality. Other services concentrate on how many vehicles they can complete in a day, which limits the time spent on yours, and essentially affects the quality of the outcome. Most detail shops will "buff" your car, but will do it so quickly and unskillfully, they can harm your finish more than improving it. They often leave buffer swirls and holograms due to improper techniques with the buffer and polishes Other shops will excessively reduce the finishes' clear coat with over-aggressive methods in order to get the job done quicker. I will use the least aggressive method to get the job done. They also use polishes or waxes that contains fillers, to "fill swirls or scratches in," this way it leaves the shop looking excellent but after a couple of days water will wash these fillers away leaving your finish the way it was when you took it in, or they use a one-step product that half polishes and protects to save time and money. I separate all the processes individualizing each step of polishing and waxing/sealing.
The honest answer is no. I do not think within reason that "100% perfection" is obtainable. I do what I can to SAFELY get the paint condition to close to perfection as I can. (i.e. removing defects such as scratches and swirl marks) Some defects are simply not going to be able to removed even as minor as some may seem.
While a next to new car or brand new car may not need high reconditioning, it still needs to be maintained. Constant upkeep will help keep your vehicle looking new for as long as possible. If polishing is not needed to remove defects then a light cleanser can be applied after clay barring, then a wax or sealant applied to lock the beauty. Remember that although vehicles have clear coat, the clear coat still has to be protected from the elements.
Is there anything wrong with automated car places/carwashes?
There are plenty of things wrong with those places. The machine washes these days are not using "brushes" anymore, so they advertise "brushless washes," but they are using foam pads that collect dirt off of each car that goes through and then those dirty foam pads rub and batter your finish. After your vehicle goes through what I call the "tunnel of death" there is usually someone at the other end waiting to use a dirty rag to clean what the carwash missed and dry your paint inducing swirls and scratches at the same time. My advice is to avoid these places or use them as an absolute last resort.
The best way to wash the vehicle is through PROPER hand washing.
Automotive clay bar is pretty much just that, a bar of clay made specifically for automotive finishes. Whether your car is less than month old or years old, the paint is subjected to constant exposure to industrial fall out, tar, bugs, brake dust, exhaust, overspray, and general pollution. Washing and even polishing is not effective enough to remove these harmful contaminants from your paint. Clay barring the vehicle will "pull" these items from the paint leaving the finish as smooth as glass and improves overall clarity. Claying also ensures that waxes or sealants bonds to the surface properly increasing the durability of protection.
Waxing mainly refers to adding a layer of wax to increase shine and protect the paint. Polishing (a.k.a Buffing) is using chemical and/or abrasive polishes to reduce scratches, remove oxidation, remove swirl marks, and improve the appearance of the finish. Hand polishing is possible but machine polishing is 10x more effective and faster.
What are swirl marks?
Also known as "spider-webbing," swirl marks very fine scratches in the clear coat of paint finishes that appears to look like spider webs in circular patterns. Swirl marks are highly visible under direct sunlight or powerful artificial lights such as the ones found at gas station pumps or street lamps. Swirls usually occur due to improper washing techniques and/or using abrasive materials when touching the paint. In order to remove swirls polishing is necessary to level the clear coat safely to where swirls are no longer visible.
The answer is yes AND no. Scratches are essentially removed paint from the surface. Depending on the severity of scratch (how deep and wide) the clear coat around it can be leveled (either wet sanded or polished) to reduce the appearance of the scratch. Some scratches are simply too deep to reduce safely, general rule of thumb, if you can catch the scratch with your fingernail it is too deep to polish out completely. Touch up paint can be applied to these types of scratches and sanded to level out the paint, this process is however very tedious and time consuming to do properly.
Sealants are synthetic and chemically engineered polymers used for paint protection. It has similar characteristics as traditional waxes such as improving appearance and adding a protective barrier against the elements but that is as similar as they get. Generally, sealants have more durability (how long it lasts on the paint) then waxes. Sealants can last anywhere from 4-6 months depending on environmental conditions and other factors. They can last longer during summer heat having a much higher melting point than traditional waxes.
I often hear of dealers selling this "service," my advice is not to buy the service as it is an exaggerated gimmick. Some say this "sealant" they apply will last a year or even longer, if there was truth behind it and that sealant actually existed I would already have it in my hands. Truth is, there is no miracle product that will last that long under normal outside conditions, the best way to protect your finish is to keep it waxed or sealed on a regular basis.
I believe washing, waxing, and polishing should be done "as necessary," but if I had to give time recommendations, I suggest washing your vehicle once a week, waxing once every 1 to 2 months, and semi-deep polishing twice a year. I would also HIGHLY recommend clay barring your vehicle at least twice a year as well. Keep in mind that these recommendations are subjective due to differences in environmental conditions and how vehicles are kept.
This is a term I practice everyday to ensure the protection of my vehicle. Thinking about parking under a tree to shade your vehicle from the sun and heat? You may want to think again. Trees in the spring, summer, and fall constantly emit tree sap that blows from the wind. The sap drops maybe large and noticeable then again trees also release sap that is almost like a mist or fine particles. Sap is very harmful to the finish. I DO NOT recommend parking your car under or near trees if possible. Another reason not to park near trees or even street lamps, are because of the friendly creatures of nature---birds! Bird bombs (excretements) are very acidic in nature. If they land on the paint finish they can literally etch the paint horribly. If you become a victim of a bird bomb, remove it as soon as possible! Another practice I suggest is "distant parking." Basically, park away from other vehicles (even if it means walking extra), unwanted dents and scratches from other people is not something that you would want on your vehicle!
HOPE THIS WAS HELPFUL