Clay bars only remove contaminants embedded in the paint, however, so what do you do about scratches? Sometimes, a coat of wax will fill light scratches and revive the shine. Try a light coat on a small area to test. If it doesn't work, you'll need to break out the big guns.
Polish is a very general term referring to a range of products that remove or fill in scratches, usually by means of abrasives. Other names you'll see on parts stores' "wall of wax" are cleaners, cleaner wax, swirl remover, and glazing compound-clever terms, but they are all types of polish. Most brands market their polishes in steps from mild to heavy, so you'll probably have to buy all three and experiment-be sure to start with the mildest formula first, though. Polishes can be applied by hand using a foam applicator or by machine. Apply the polish and buff until the scratches fade; it should take less than a minute. Then wipe the residue off with a microfiber towel. If the scratches are still there, move up to the next higher formula. Keep moving up until the scratches are gone. Smooth out any areas where you used the rough stuff with a final coat of the mild formula prior to waxing, and your paint will look a mile deep.
Someone described wax to us awhile ago as a coating that keeps the paint from drying out. Paint, like most other materials in your car, will oxidize, fade, and break down over time. Wax is like a moisturizer for your paint. More than that, it provides a layer of protection against the sun's UV rays, dirt, and grime-all the crap you want to keep off your car. The best waxes are made from carnauba, an oily substance that comes from the leaves of a palm tree native to Brazil. Did you ever notice the way water beads up on some plant leaves as if they were waterproof? Some brilliant guy decided to put this stuff on his paint, and it worked.
Paste wax requires more effort to apply, but the finish lasts longer than liquid wax. However, we prefer the liquid stuff. It goes on quickly, and we don't mind waxing our car more than twice a year. Apply wax with a soft sponge applicator, wait for it to dry to a light haze, and wipe the residue with a microfiber towel.
Protect your freshly polished car with a coating of wax.
The clay bar is an alternative to liquid polish. To use it properly, spray an area lightly
Just like with wheels, metal polish works really well on trim pieces, too.
Make no mistake, we're not advocating bling in Car Craft, but tire shine is good stuff. Like paint, the rubber used to make tires also oxidizes and breaks down over time. When that starts to happen, your once-black tires start to turn an unappealing shade of brownish grey. Not cool. Tire dressing shields the rubber from the environment and slows the aging process. We like the stuff made with silicone that you wipe on rather than spray on; that way you avoid coating the wheels with it as well. Pour a few drops on an old cloth or rag and wipe it on the tires.
You wouldn't want a glossy paint job taking up space next to dull-looking trim, would you? The same polish you use to clean your wheels can often put a shine back into your chrome and stainless trim. Put a small amount on an old towel and wipe until the shine comes back. Oftentimes the towel will be jet black by the time you're done-it's amazing how dirty these parts can get. Some newer cars have rubber and vinyl trim in addition to or instead of chrome trim. We like to use tire dressing on those parts that are more susceptible to environmental damage, especially from sunlight. While you're at it, you can wipe your weatherstripping with tire dressing, too. That will help keep it from drying out and cracking.
Though we've heard of some people who wash their cars every day (not a good idea, by the way), the more realistic method of keeping your car shiny in between washings is to use quick detailer. If the car is dusty, wipe it first with a car duster, spray on the quick detailer, and wipe it dry with a microfiber towel. It's fast and easy. Be sure to use the softest towels possible, though, in order to avoid scratching the paint.