car care products
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Story and photos by Paul Williams

There are hundreds of car care products on the market. Shelves of them stacked up to the ceiling greet consumers at automotive supply stores. Many of them are excellent, and I’m often asked to recommend waxes, tire dressing and the like. Here are some that I regularly come back to – my standbys, so to speak. I have no trouble recommending these, but I’m sure there are lots more that provide superior results, so this list is by no means the last word. Most of the products below can be purchased as big chains like Canadian Tire or Home Hardware. Some are harder to find, requiring a website visit or a phone call to track them down.


Car wash (shampoo)

Meguiar’s Deep Crystal Car Wash (1.89 L, $9.29) is the one I use. This is easy to find – it’s the only pink one on the shelf. It’s a straight shampoo (no wax) that does a nice job without leaving residues on the car’s finish. It’s also excellent value, giving 63 washes from its 1.89 L container (30 ml concentrate per four-litres water). Use it with a Sundance synthetic lamb’s wool wash mitt; easy on your paint and wallet at $4.99. Most car shampoos do a good job, but read the back of the label to find how much you need per bucket. Mother’s Car Wash, for instance, is a good product, but it’s $11.99 for 946 ml and also requires 30 ml per four-litres water. That’s good for only 31 washes.

Polish and wax

There are a range of excellent polishes and waxes on the market. Polishes are very mildly abrasive, and remove surface blemishes and grime; natural waxes enhance and protect the shine from your polish. The highest quality wax is carnauba, which is obtained from the leaves of a palm tree known as Copernica Cerifera, found in Brazil. Some waxes are pure carnauba, and some include a percentage of carnauba. If you want superior results, strip the old wax off your car using a mild detergent (Dawn, for example), dry the car thoroughly, then apply polish, and buff (just do this once or twice a year). Follow this by applying wax on top of the buffed, polished surface. I like Meguiar’s three-step system of deep crystal cleaner, polish and wax ($11.99 each), although I often use only the polish and wax after washing. These are liquids, and very easy to work with.

Another polish and wax I use (liquid polish and paste wax; pure carnauba) is P21S. Their products have been recommended by luxury German car companies for years. An excellent car care set includes polish, wax, wheel cleaner (very effective), shampoo and applicator. It comes in a nice plastic case and is available from Marcor automotive 1 800 263-8621, for $80.00. You can also order the components individually. See the products at www.p21s.com.

Finally, another standby of mine is Crystal Glo. This is an acrylic Paint Treatment (you use it instead of a polish and wax) that you’ll love for its ease of application, easy buffing with no residue, and superior results. Crystal Glo is a Canadian company (based in Concord, Ontario) and its products have received numerous awards and endorsements from car clubs and shows (it’s a secret weapon for many car dealers). Use this and you may go acrylic forever. Crystal Glo can be ordered online at www.crystal-glo.com, toll-free at 1 800 263-0887, or purchased at Home Hardware stores. Crystal Glo is $19.99 for a 470 ml bottle. A car care kit is good value for $39.99.

For removing scratches, Meguia’r ScratchX, at $14.99 can be very effective.

Chamois

Natural or synthetic is the choice, and I recommend the synthetic Simoniz Drying Cloth at $14.99. There are others on the market that use a high-tech sponge-like material, but they bind on the car. Natural chamois are damaged by wringing out the water. No, the Simoniz Drying Cloth will impress even die-hard natural chamois-users.


Polishing cloths

Simoniz offers a 40 cm x 40 cm polish and dust cloth for $6.99 that’s excellent. Crystal Glo also supplies a fine polishing cloth with two in a package for $6.99. I’ve used the Crystal Glo cloths for two-years, and they’re still in good condition.


Metal polish

I use Flitz. I’ve tried them all, and Flitz is it (although AutoSol is another good choice). Flitz is a blue paste that you apply in very small quantities. It’s excellent on chrome, aluminum and other shiny surfaces. I’ve seen it do wonders for dull alloy wheels with surface corrosion. Use a very soft cloth to get the best results. Flitz is available at Home Hardware stores.


Tire dressing

It’s Meguiar’s again. The product is Endurance, which you apply with a sponge applicator (purchased separately). Surely the most fragrant of car care products (I don’t know why), Endurance is the best because you apply it by hand, thus ensuring it goes only on your tires and not on your wheels or paintwork. After treatment, give the tires a quick rub with a dry cloth to remove surplus liquid, and enjoy the deep, black, results that as the name suggests, endure for weeks. Furthermore, unlike some other tire products, this one doesn’t turn your tires brown. It’s $14.99 for 296 ml, and one bottle will last you a long time. Apply it with the little Carrand Contour Wipe, $1.99.

But if you prefer to spray, Turtle Wax Wet ‘n Black Tire Cleaner does a fine job on tires, black rubber trim, and black bumpers. It gives a shiny look to tires, but a rich, matte, result on surfaces that are more absorbent, like rubber bumpers. It’s $7.99 for 950 ml. For trim, spray it on a cloth, then apply.

Another really nice tire product is from U.S.-based Stoner, called More Shine Less Time (MSLT). They sent me a sample and it was terrific, very easy and fast to apply, but Stoner detailing products have been a long time coming to Canada. Canadian Tire is now bringing them in. Stoner makes a nice glass product called Invisible Glass for $6.99, as well. Check www.moreshine.com for their full range of products, which you can order online.


Leather cleaner and conditioner

I’m still a fan of Lexol. I’ve tried several, but Lexol’s cleaners and conditioners really bring out the colour and soft texture of leather. The results last a long time, too. I know many of the high-end car companies recommend Lexol, and you won’t go wrong with their products on your fine leather (use it on your couch or living room chair, as well). It’s not for suede, though. Lexol is not widely available in Canada, although Porsche and Lexus dealers often carry it in their parts department. A trick is to check out equestrian stores.

Tar and grease removal

Goo-Gone is a citrus-based “goo” remover that is excellent for removing tar, grease, and anything sticky that’s affixed itself to your car. This stuff is also good for removing glue residue from stickers and tape. However, don’t use it on your exterior painted surfaces — it’s not a polish! It’s never hurt the paint when I’ve used it on my car, but I touch up with polish and wax after use. Goo Gone is $8.99 in a spray, but I like the 240 ml bottle. Another useful product is Simple Green. This non-toxic cleaner is good for a range of cleaning chores. It’s often the first thing I use, as it doesn’t seem to hurt anything and often produces surprising results. For jobs that require something with a skull-and-crossbones on the packaging, I bring out the Castrol Super Clean. It’s biodegradable, but industrial strength, and can shift a surprising amount of tough grime. You can clean engines with this stuff. $5.49 for a 946 ml bottle. As with all cleaners, test in an inconspicuous location if you’re not sure of the product.


Detailing

I don’t really know what Mother’s California Gold Showtime is, but spray it on, buff it off, and your car sparkles. It takes only a couple of minutes, and is the liquid equivalent of pixie dust, I guess. Showtime gets rid of fingerprints, smudges, dust, water spots, and somehow intensifies the reflectivity of your car’s shine. It’s not like a waterless wash, or anything like that. It’s the final touch to earlier cleaning work. Showtime is $8.79 for a 473 ml bottle, and lasts for ages.

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