My 2007 4Runner
My 1999 4Runner
The following is a walkthrough of the process, products and results of a fairly thorough detailing I performed on my two 4Runner vehicles recently.
Prior to this detailing session, and at least for a few years straight, I had been hand polishing and waxing using a variety of the the
Griot's Garage line of products...most notably their Fine Hand Polish and Best Of Show Liquid Carnauba Wax.
While I do like these product alot and can recommend them, I wanted to try my hand at machine polishing and to try a synthetic liquid sealant finish rather than
a wax based product.
Polishing the paint, or more accurately the clear coat, of a vehicle is the primary means to eliminate swirl marks and obtain maximum gloss out of the
vehicle's finish. I would have to say that this polishing step is more important than which last step product (lsp), e.g., the wax or sealer, that you use.
You will see this is the case in the pictures below whereas after the final machine polishing step is completed, the gloss is at such a level you would
be hard pressed to tell weather there is wax or sealer on the vehicle or not. The lsp can then be used for it's primarily purpose which is to protect the paintwork.
While there are lsp's out there that include fillers to hide or mask swirl marks, I have not chosen to use such a product. They may make your swirls
disappear in the short run, but after a number of washes you can expect them to return. Correcting them through polishing is the way to go.
As always, I performed an imense amount of research before deciding on which products to purchase. In the end, I chose to go with
Flex-Elektrowerkzeuge Power Tools for the machine polisher and Zaino for the sealant.
Flex XC 3401 VRG
Dual Action Polisher
Machine Polisher / Buffer:
I knew right away that for machine polishing duties I wanted a dual-action polisher rather than a circular type rotary buffer. While a circular rotary
offers superior paint correction ability, it comes with a few drawbacks. The rotarys high power and direct drive motor create much heat and if not in an
experienced hand can easily burn the paint. Holograms and buffer trials are other effects that may be experienced by the unexperienced user.
Like mentioned above, I take good care of the paintwork and the level of correction available via a rotary buffer is not what my particular vehicles
would need by any means.
So a dual action random orbital machine polisher is what I wanted. There a few good choices out there.
The Porter Cable (PC) 7336/7424 at 3.7 amps, is the most used by far. It started out as a woodworking sander and gained popularity in the automotive world of detailing about 10 years ago.
Other choices include the Ultimate Detailing Machine (UDM), at 4.2 amps, is currently just an upgraded Porter Cable. The Griot's Garage Random Orbital includes a lifetime guarantee but uses some proprietary parts. The
Meguiars G-110 Dual-Action Machine Polisher at 4.2 amps has 14% more power than the original PC and is about that much more in cost as well. The Megs G110 would be my choice if it were not for the
relatively new Flex product.
The Flex XC 3401 VRG Dual-Action Polisher is what I ultimately went with. While the above four
products are typically described as dual-action (DA) machines, in reality they are simply just random orbital (oscillating) only type products. While
they appear to both rotate and oscillate (two / dual actions), the rotation is of the free-rotating type and not the forced rotation type like the Flex XC 3401 VRG. They won't
rotate while under load. The Flex is a true dual action machine. It has a forced circular motion combined with random orbiting oscillations which are
said to provide 90% of a true rotary machines cutting ability while nearly eliminating the side effects of burn through, holograms and buffer trails.
Cost wise the Flex machine is double the price of a PC but I feel it is well worth it.
Some features of the Flex product that helped my decision were the:
7.5 amps / 900 watts of power. Can handle extreme loads without bogging down.
True dual action, forced rotation and random orbital oscillation.
Bale-style handle which provides an easy to control, natural hand positioning.
Variable speed trigger, while all the machines mentioned above including the Flex include a multi selection speed switch, the Flex product additionally
offers a variable speed trigger which allows a controled gradual ramp up acceleration of speed to the desired max selector setting thereby avoiding splatter of polish.
13 foot power cord, eliminates the need for extension cords.
Pre-installed 5.5 inch padded velcro backing plate which is soft and cushioned for uniform pressure distribution.
8mm of orbital movement.
FLEX seven-fold microprocessor electronics. with consistent speed control by tachometer generator, soft start, accelerator trigger switch,
restart protection after power interruption, overload protection, temperature monitoring, and speed selection.
Spindle lock for easy removal of backing plate.
Quality shut-off carbon brushes: if the carbon brushes wear down, the motor will be automatically switched off and thus protected from damage.
Removable, ergonomic SoftVib side handle knob grip. Isolated from the machine housing by damping elements, noticeably reducing vibration.
The PC type machines can bog down under significant load and virtually stop oscillating all together.
This is touted as a safety feature and makes it so that you cannot
burn your paint at all. The Flex however, with its significant power increase and forced rotation does not bog down and can perform significantly
greater paint correction as a result. You should treat this power with the respect it deserves but by the same token need not fear it nearly as much
as a true circular only type buffing machine.
Lake Country Collapsed Cell Structure (CCS) High Performance (HP) DA Buffing/Polishing Pads.
These particular pads are sized at 6.50"x 1.25". This is a nice fit on the 5.50" backing plate as it allows a 0.50" of pad overlap around the velcro backing plate.
These pads improve polish performance by slowing and controlling the rate of polish absorbtion. The pads are created with a beveled edge to allow user
more control when polishing at an angle. They feature a 3/8" setback of velcro material which helps to center the pad and provides extra flexibility when
polishing in curved body panels.
The pads are color coded which indicates the level of "cut" they provide. I chose to go with the following colors:
Yellow for Cutting - Applying compounds or polishes to remove severe oxidation, swirls, and scratches.
Orange for Light Cutting - Firm, high density foam for scratch and defect removal.
White for Polishing - light cutting power for fine polishes and pre-wax cleaners.
Black for Finessing - No cut for final jeweling or even applying waxes or sealers.
They do make other colors as well and here is what they would be used for:
Purple: This is a foamed wool pad for the most serious cut possible before turning to wet sanding.
Green: for heavy polishing
Blue: for finessing, zero cut.
Red: for finishing, zero cut.
Here are the polishing compounds from coarsest to finest that I will be using. This will be my first opportunity to try the Menzerna and Zaino products.
3M 39002 Perfect-It ll Rubbing Compound Fine Cut 3M-39002
This is the most coarse compound that I will have on hand for this detail. I plan on using it in combination with the Yellow polishing pad.
It is marketed to safely and effectively remove grade 1200 or finer sand scratches, other fine scratches, medium oxidation, coarse swirl marks
or water spots, while leaving a fine finish. This is not a new purchase and I had it already as it is excellent for hand compounding applications.
If I didn't already have this product I would have went with Menzerna Powergloss POS34A which would have had one step more cut or more
like 3M's Perfect-It III Extra Cut rubbing compound 05936. All three of these products dictate using a follow up product to bring out the
highest level of shine after their more agressive level of compounding.
Menzerna PO91E Intensive Polish (IP)
This polish removes grade 2000 grit sanding scratches. I intend on combining this product with the orange polishing pad.
Though it is said that no follow up polishing is necessary after using IP, I intend on following up the application of IP with FPII for even
more refinement and shine.
Menzerna Micro Polish PO87MC Final Polish II (FPII)
This finishing polish removes grade 2500 grit and finer sanding scratches. I intend on using this product with the white polishing pad.
Some people report that following up FPII with Menzerna's PO85RD (removes grade 3000 grit and finer sanding scratches) will bring out an even
finer level of shine, and maybe if I had a black colored vehicle I would try this final jeweling step, but for now I will just finish up with FPII.
Zaino ZPC Z-PC Fusion Dual Action Paint Cleaner Swirl Remover
While I plan on using the above three products on my 1999 Imperial Jade Mica 4Runner, which as of this writing is 9 years old, I do not intend
on using this Zaino ZPC product in conjunction with the above polishes. Rather is going to be used on my one year old 2007 4Runner as a one step
polish and paint cleaner. I intend on using this product with the white polishing pad, but may use it with the black if it appears to agressive on white.
This product, as with the others, uses a diminishing abrasive system. This means that them polish acts more agressive at first then breaks down
finer and finer to finish off with no further steps needed. It is water based and contains no fillers or oils. The Mezerna products are oil based.
Beacuse ZPC is water based and contains no oils it may/will turn to a powder and dust the vehicle.
Griot's Garage Fine Hand Polish
I had this product on hand already as it what I primarily used before machine polishing. This will be used for hard to reach areas of the vehicle
such as under the hood, the liftgate and door jambs, the gas filler cap area, wheels and door handle areas that will still need to be hand polished.
car shampoo, clay, clay lube
quick detailing sprays
Car wash, detailing clay, clay lube, quick detailing sprays:
Zaino Z7 Z-7 Show Car Wash
My bottle of Mother's California Gold car wash was running a little low so
I figured why not try some more of the Zaino line of products. Zaino Z7 Show Car Wash gently cleans your car without using harsh detergents, alkali or
acids. Plus, special water-based lubricants buffer the paint to prevent scratching and reduce the risk of swirl marks. I think the main thing to note
here is that you should always use specifically designed car wash soap for washing your vehicle. They will not strip off and remove your coat of wax
or sealant like a dishwashing or similar type of product will.
Griot's Garage paint cleaning clay bar
If you haven't clayed you vehicle yet you really need to try it. The clay removes contaminants bonded to the paint and leaves it silky smooth.
You need to clay a new vehicle as well as an old one.
Griot's Garage Speed Shine
This is a quick detailing spray product that I primarily use as a clay lubricant so that the clay bar moves over the vehicles surface with no drag.
Zaino Z6 Z-6 Ultra Clean Gloss Enhancer Quick Detailing Spray
Again, this is a spray detailing product. I won't be using this one as a clay lube but rather it will be used between layers of sealant as a shine
enhancer, between vehicle washings when there is little to no dust/dirt on the vehicle and as a lubricant while drying the vehicle after washing to
reduce any chance of wiping induced marring or swirling while increasing gloss levels.
Zaino Z8 Z-8 Grand Finale Spray Seal
Since I am trying many of the Zaino product I figured I would give this one a try. It is not really an everyday quick detailing spray but rather
an occasional gloss booster and includes polymers to top off the sealant protection of the Zaino system.
miscellaneous detailing supplies
100% cotton & microfiber cloths
applicators, sponges, etc.
Miscellaneous detailing supplies:
Meguiar's Endurance Gold Class Endurance Tire Protectant Gel
This is the original, not the high gloss, formula. This stuff really does last weeks and even will survive through a rain shower or two. I find it
to be very time consuming to apply especially to tires that have a ribbed design on the sidewall such as the Bridgestone Revos I currently run.
I won't be buying this product again because of that reason.
Meguiar's Natural Shine Natural Shine Vinyl & Rubber Protectant
I have had this bottle around for a while now but this is the first time using it. My inital reaction is that it has a much higher gloss level than
I would have expected it to have as it is labeled as a "natural shine" product. Though I am sure the shine level can be buffed down with a dry rag,
I haven't tried that yet. Being a liquid it is much easier to apply.
Although the bottle has a spray cap, I apply via pouring the product onto a sponge applicator to avoid overspray onto the rims.
Simple Green APC All Purpose Cleaner
Great for cleaning the wheel wells, suspension parts, engine, etc.
Blue Painters Tape
For masking off porous trim that would otherwise absorb the polish, wax or sealer and become dull or lighter in color as a result.
Distilled water and 91% Isopropyl alcohol (IPA)
This will be mixed into a 50/50 solution in a spray bottle to be used as a cleaning solution for wipedowns before, during and after polishing.
Used before polishing it removes any traces of wax left that the Dawn wash and/or clay was unable to remove, thereby keeping your polishing pad free
from that type of contamination. Used inbetween polishing steps this removes any fillers or oils that would act to mask swirling. Used after
the final polishing step and just before the lsp is applied will again leave your paint free of any fillers, oils, and polishing dust that will adversely
affect your final wax/sealer coat.
When performing a full detail only, this will be used as a heavy duty wash product to remove the old wax or sealant.
1Z Einszett Cockpit Premium Interior Plastic Cleaner 16.9oz
A safe interior cleaner that leaves a matte finish. Citrus scented.
Stoners Invisible Glass, Glass Cleaner
I was previously using Griot's Garage glass cleaner and liked it
alot. I figured I would try this as it is much cheaper, available locally so no shipping costs, and gets good reviews.
Griot's Garage Lint Free Disposable Window Cleaning Towels
These towels have no glues to break down when wet and leave behind no residue. Made of polypropylene instead of paper, they leave behind NO LINT.
Sized at 12" x 13" each, you can do your entire vehicle with just two.
Two (2) buckets.
Two bucket method. 3.5 to 5.0 gallons each. One with clear water only for rinsing the mitt/sponge and one for the soapy wash water.
You will need to use four (4) wash mitts each time you wash the vehicle. One for the wheels. One for the roof, hood, liftgate and windows.
The last two are to be used one each lower side of the vehicle and the bumpers. Sheepskin still reins king but can be pricey. I use one sheepskin
and the rest are 100% Cotton Chenille. I give them a full machine washing after each useage.
Lots of choices here as well. Some prefer 100% made in the USA cotton bath towels or waffle weave microfiber. Currently I am using the "absorber"
synthetic chamois. It will not scratch your finish but be sure to use with very little pressure. They will really soak up the water.
Very easy to ring out completly. They last forever as well. Again, give them a full machine washing after each useage.
Griot's Garage 100% Cotton Buffing Cloths
I always use only pure 100% cotton made in the USA cloths for things such as wax removal and quick detailer spray applications.
Microfiber is qucikly replacing 100% cotton as the top choice for polish and wax removal. I must say that for hand polishing
and for polish removal I find they work great. For wax removal I prefer the 100% cotton still. The microfiber did however work great for removing the
Zaino Z2 sealer. One thing to keep in mind that is once you use a particular microfibre cloth for abrasive polishing or polish removal, do not use that
particular cloth again for wax/sealer removal even after washing. Traces of abrasives can linger deep within the fine fibers and marring or swirling
can be the result if re-used to remove your lsp.
Tire Dressing Applicators, Foam Wax Applicators, Microfiber Applicators
Lake Country Snappy Clean Citrus Pad Cleaning Powder.
Specially formulated cleaning/degreasing solution keeps buffing pads clean, soft and supple.
This water soluble solution is biodegradable and comes in convenient 1.25 oz. packets.
I used half a packet in about 2.5 gallons of warm water to soak and clean my pads after a detail.
The product does work very good. I definitely would buy more in the future.
Storage Containers - Rubbermaid Fashion Clears 4.9GAL. 19QT. Clear Storage Box #2222-00-WHT, 11.10"w 9.00"h, 16.10"l.
If you have a one car garage that is not only for detailing but also doubles as your woodshop, metalshop, paintshop, etc. You will need to keep at
least your microfiber towels and applicators in sealed containers. Anything that gets on the microfiber such as sawdust or metal shavings will not
come off with simple washing like it would with a cotton cloth, so store them properly. These containers also make it real easy to bring the detailing
supplies inside the house during the winter months when you want to avoid the extreme temperatures or potential freezing conditions that can occur in
an unheated garage like mine. These Rubbermaid containers offer ample storage and the see through clarity makes identification of contents easy.
The snap on lids fit tightly eliminating the potential for contamination. This size also fits perfectly on my shelving units.
Zaino Z-2 PRO and
ZFX Flash Cure Accelerator Additive
Zaino ZFX ZFX Flash Cure Accelerator Additive
Zaino has been around for a while and some years back I wanted to give it a try. But for correct application you must let their products cure properly,
which before ZFX flash curer, took many hours if not a full day. If leaving product on a vehicle for that amount of time, you would need acccess to a
garage or else you would subject the vehicle to dust/dirt while waiting for the product to cure. Now using ZFX in combination with Zaino sealers,
Z2 Z3 or Z5, near instant cure times can be had. This enables you to layer the Zaino sealants for the ultimate in shine and protection.
Using ZFX you can layer 3 coats of product per 24 hour period.
Zaino Z2 Z-2 PRO Show Car Polish for Clear Coated Car Finishes
Like I mentioned earlier, this is my first try using a sealer rather tha a wax. I would usually use a natural carnuaba wax based product, but I
have been wanting to give a synthetic sealant type product a try and see if the durability is any greater and/or if the protection would last longer.
Z2-Pro, being optically perfect and containing no fillers, lets the true color and clarity of your paint show thru so using after a thorough
claying and polishing is a must. Z2 Pro does not leave any dust behind after using and also does not stain your plastic or rubber trim. Using ZFX
with Z2 allows the product to be layered thereby increasing the protection and gloss levels.
Preparing the Flex XC 3401 VRG machine polisher for use:
While performing extensive research on which machine polisher to purchase, I found that may users of the Flex machine were running into some issues, that
with some preparation can be easily avoided. Neither of these "fixes" are part of the instruction manual or the literature shipped with the product.
First of all, the bolt holding the padded velcro back plate in place may be found to be a little loose. We will be removing the bolt anyway to perform
the second fix, but to avoid this bolt coming loose in the future the simple addition of a locking type washer will avoid this issue.
Issue 2, the felt ring that can be found on the machine after removing the back plate has been found by many others to rub against
the rotating backplate. This felt ring, which is there to act as a blocker for dust and particulate matter (polish/wax), will quickly burn up and sometimes
spit out black particles onto the vehicle. Obviously you want to avoid either mishap and lubricating the felt ring is what the sole north american
distributer of this product, who is also the authorized repair agent, recommends to avoid this problem. After removing the backing plate with the supplied
allen wrench, I applied Liquid Wrench L1004 Super Oil, which is a light grade non-detergent
white mineral oil based machine oil. I give the felt ring a quick coating of this oil before each use. Like I mentioned earlier, when re-installing the
back plate, use a lock washer to ensure the bolt does not loosen or back out during use.
addition of a lock washer
(not included with purchase)
backing plate removed
velcro backing plate
white felt ring
white felt ring
back plate installed
oiled felt ring visible
I must start off by saying that I hand wash my vehicles only and they have never been run through a car wash. Proper washing/drying is the key to reducing
swirl marks and extending the time between full detailing sessions. To avoid the dealer installed swirl mark option, I went so far as to special order my
new vehicle and specify that it NOT be dealer prepped in terms of washing/waxing, etc. Well, I was special ordering anyway to get my 4R without the
sunroof and with the factory navigation, but this is a valid reason to do a special order as well. Remember that the longer a new vehicle
sits on a dealers lot, the more they have the opportunity to install those swirls. They wash their vehicles multiple times per week to have them looking
clean for prospective customers and you can imagine that they will not be using proper detailing techniques and products to say the least.
You might be saying to your self that you don't have a garage, hose, driveway, or that it is too cold, etc. to do you own proper hand wash.
If you really want to avoid the swirls, that is no excuse. In the past what I used to do was to fill my own 5 gallon bucket with warm water and
car wash shampoo/soap and bring it to the coin operated self service car wash places. Bring your own sponge (lambswool or equivalent) as well as your
100% cotton or microfiber towels. You can even get 5 gallon car wash buckets with leakproof screw tops to avoid spillage on the way there.
Once there at the self serv car wash, you will need to use the machine for two separate cycles. The first cycle will be to simply hose down and
rise your vehicle. Then when fully wet, use your own sponge/bucket/warm water/soap to clean the vehicle. After washing, start the machine for another
cycle to rinse off. Remember use nothing at this place other than their sprayer, don't ever think of using their bristle brush even for the wheels.
Hand Washing Supplies
As you can see, proper tools and technique is key here in that you do not want to do anything to mar or swirl the finish. A 3.5 gallon bucket will be the
minimum size you will want to use and 5 gallon is the preferred size. I like to use warm water regardless and especially in the winter months. You want
to use a very soft sponge such as a lambswool or chenille wash mitt. You will need three to four of these wash mitts for each wash and always machine wash
them after each use. Fill your bucket about 2/3 of the way before adding the car wash soap. Then add the soap at the manufacturers recommended ratio,
then add more water to the bucket. If you add the soap first to the empty bucket, then add water, you will wind up with way too much bubbles and not
enough water to hit the desired water to soap ratio.
Now you may have heard of many techniques to use to wash your vehicle such as a snow foam pre-soaking or the two bucket with grit guard method, etc. The
key is to avoid grinding dirt into the paint at all costs. One method is to use a pressure washer with a foam lance and snow foam for pre-soaking, or a
pressure washer alone, to get as much dirt off the vehicle as possible before even touching it with a sponge. I have not tried that at the current time.
The method I currently prefer is the two bucket method (TBM or 2BM), one with the soap mix and one without. The one without the soap mix is to rinse off
the sponge before putting the dirty sponge in your soap bucket thereby keeping as much grit as possible off the vehicle.
My technique begins with washing the wheels first. Thouroughly washing the wheels and tires takes some time. If you did this last, the water on the
vehicle would begin to evaporate and leave water spots on the finish before you begin to dry off the vehicle, which is something you want to avoid.
I don't really use any special chemicals to wash the wheels, as if they are waxed or sealed properly they clean up very easily. To clean the tires
I will spray them first with APC, and then use a tire brush to finish up. While spraying the tires with APC, I spray down the wheel wells also, letting
the cleaner dwell for a while while I work on scrubbing the tires. When finished and before moving on to the vehicle body, be sure to dump out the water
and start fresh. Also, set that first sponge aside and begin using clean mitt number 2. Semi-metallic brake dust is not something we want to chance
rubbing onto the finish.
Moving on to the body, the goal is to keep the sponge as clean as possible. I rinse it off with a spray from the hose after each time it touches a particularly
dirty section of the vehicle, but always shake it off in the rinse bucket before it gets dipped back into the wash bucket. Starting with a clean wash mitt,
I start from the top down. After washing the roof, hood, liftgate and the sides from the beltline up (rinsing the sponge frequently too), I would set that
mitt aside and begin with fresh mitt number 3, for the lower sides and rocker panels. If the vehicle is especially dirty, going with mitt #4 when needed
is prudent as well.
During the wash while you are focusing on a particular section, periodically go back and spray down sections that you already finished working on. You want
to keep the water moving in order to avoid water spotting.
Drying: Immediatly begin drying the vehicle after completing the wash so as to avoid water spotting. As stated above in the detailing supplies section,
for the bulk of the drying task, I use the Absorber synthetic chamois. If certain panels are drying quickly on their own, it can be helpful to spritz
the area with a quick detailer while drying to aid in lubrication and keep the chamois/towel from marring the finish. The Absorber, absorbes tons of
water and wrings out easily and completely to use effectively on the next body section. Be sure to dry the door/hood/liftgate jambs and the wheels. For
these areas, as well as the mud flaps, side tubes and tow hitch, I will switch over to 100% cotton towels. When drying the jambs, have a spray bottle with
a water and car soap mix handy to clean up these areas and dry at the same time.
Time spent on hand washing, 2.5 hours.
Glass Cleaner and
Lint Free Disposable Towels
Begin by cleaning the interior vinyl and plastic parts first. For this detail I am trying a new product which gets great reviews.
1Z Einszett Cockpit Premium Interior Plastic Cleaner.
This product is designed to safely clean and protect all clear and colored automotive plastic interior fittings such as dash, trim, door panels,
navigation/audio screens, steering wheel, and pedals, while leaving a matte finish. I must say that it does work well and leave a matte finish, but I am
not quite sold on these cleaner products. I wipe down the interior with each wash and therefore it never gets dirty whereas it would need a store bought
cleaner. I think I will go back to either using clear water or a woolite/water mix which is more than enough to clean up the levels of dirt my vehicle's
see. I don't like the glossy look to my dash and therefore haven't been using a protectant type interior product. For the 1999 this was fine as the
dash had a type of finish that looked great without anything on it at all, almost the sort of shine that a soft leather has to it. Now with the 2007 and it's
dark gray / black dash panel, it looks almost too dry. I am thinking on trying some
303 Aerospace Protectant which is said not
to be greasy or oily and to leave just a little shine, which is exactly what I am looking for.
Then I take care of all the interior glass...all windows, rearview and vanity mirrors (dont forget the two cargo area mirrors), nav screen, and dashboard
gauge panel. Again I am trying a new product Stoners Invisible Glass, Glass Cleaner.
I use this in combination with Griot's Garage
Lint Free Disposable Window Cleaning Towels. These products I would definitely buy again. The glass cleaner works great. I have even began using it on the
inside of the house where I have quite a few large mirrors, no streaks and no leftover film. The lint free towels I have been using for years now. I only
need two of the towels, to do the entire interior of the vehicle.
Next up is to pull the rubber floor liners out and wash them off with the leftover wash water from washing
the vehicle. Give them a good rinsing and let them dry while we go back and do a thorough vaccuming of all the carpeting.
To maintain a dust free interior I use the California Dash Duster. This duster
fits perfectly in the driver side door pocket of both the 3rd and 4th generation 4Runners. I have one for each of my vehicles. The primary purpose for
this is to dust the gauge cluster plastic which when cleaned by any other means is scratched very easily and will soon become cloudy.
Time spent on interior cleaning, 30-60 minutes.
I spent far too much time on this detail to fit in a full engine cleaning like I wanted to. The weather turned cold very quickly and I think I will
leave this section here to be updated in the spring. My procedure will be to begin with a warm engine, spray all underhood areas liberally with Simple
Green APC, let the solution dwell for a few minutes, hose off using a brush where needed. After drying, I plan to use Meguiar's Natural Shine
Vinyl & Rubber Protectant on the hoses, rubber and plastic parts.
Clay Bar and Clay Lubricant
Now that the vehicle is clean, we need to remove embedded contaminants. Even a brand new vehicle will have contaminants embedded in the clear coat. Most
new vehicles are shipped to the dealer at least partially by railroad. Sharp bare metal iron dust particles created by friction between train wheels and
the train track settle on the finish, embedding itself in the clear coat. These particules, if not removed, will rust and corrode when exposed to air and
moisture. Claying the vehicle surface removes rail dust as well as brake dust, industrial fallout, overspray, etc. If we went directly to the polishing
stage the polishing pad would shear off the contamination leaving part of it below the clear coat surface where it will cause further damage. Claying
pulls the embedded particules out of the clear, eliminating the problem and leaving a very smooth glasslike surface.
I have been using the Griot's clay bar for some time now and see it as an essential step in the process. Griot's clay bar is larger than most other brands
at 8 ounces. This size makes claying go faster. When claying you want the vehicle to be warm enough to keep the clay bar soft, but not, too hot as in
direct sun, because then the bar becomes too soft and can leave clay behind on the surface. You work on a 2' x 2' area at a time and spray the surface
with a quick detailer (QD) product or clay lubricant, to make the clay glide over the surface. If the surface is too hot the clay lube dries too quickly.
Rub the area you are working on till it feels totally smooth, then dry with a 100% cotton cloth as you don't want the clay lube to dry on the vehicle.
After working on a particular section, fold the clay over onto itself and knead it back into a flat shape. This exposes a fresher clean section of the clay.
Be very careful to not drop the clay bar. If you do you will need to throw it out and dirt will stick to the bar and be impossible to remove. If you
dragged it on the surface like that you would scratch it for sure. A single clay bar will last for around at 8-10 full vehicle uses, depending of course
on how contaminated the vehicle is.
I really like the Griot's clay as well as their Speed Shine quick detailer as a clay lube. When storing the clay bar put a few squirts of lube in the
jar to keep the bar from drying out.
Time spent on claying the full vehicle including the wheels, glass and jambs, 2.0 hours.
Preparation for polishing:
After a thorough washing we move on to the preparation involved before polishing. When polishing, particularly when using a power buffing machine, you
want to avoid getting the polish on any porous or matte type trim. My 1999 Toyota 4Runner SR5 Highlander 4WD has as standard equipment the slim line
black textured unpainted fender flares and mud flaps. If you get polish on these you can expect they will turn a faded or whitish color that will be very
difficult or at least time consuming task to correct. You can mask these off with blue painters tape, but since they are so simple to unbolt and remove
completly from the vehicle I usually do just that. Also this is a great time to clean up underneath the flares as you can see by the pics below how much
dirt remains and this is even with the fender flare edge trim mod.
after initial wash
to avoid contact with polish
revealing plenty of dirt
If possible try to work in a controlled environment, i.e., a garage, to avoid and dust or debris falling onto the vehicle after the wash stage. Mask off any
trim that you feel will be marred by the polish such as emblems, unpainted flares, bumpers, black sections of the grille, window mouldings, exposed weather
stripping, sunroof trim, roof rack mounts, mud guards, etc. On my 2007 Toyota 4Runner Sport Edition 4WD I removed the license plates as well as the plates
cover painted sections of the vehicle.
50/50 Isopropyl alcohol
and Distilled Water mixture
Now that we have the vehicle all masked off, and just before beginning polishing, I do a 50/50 IPA wipedown. This is a solution comprised of 50% distilled
water and 50% Isopropyl alcohol (91% stregnth) mixed in a spray bottle applied directly to the vehicle's painted surfaces and wiped off using a 100% cotton
cloth. It is used as a cleaning solution for a wipedown before, during and after polishing. Used before polishing it removes any traces of wax left that
the Dawn wash and/or clay was unable to remove, thereby keeping your polishing pad free from that type of contamination.
Time spent on the preparation stage, 1.5 - 2.0 hours. Approximately 30 minutes for flare removal, 45 minutes masking, 30 minutes for IPA wipedown.
So now we move on to polishing with the Flex XC 3401 VRG Dual-Action Polisher. Prep the polisher as described above by lubricating the felt ring and
checking the tightness of the bolt holding the backplate to the machine. When placing your pad onto the velcro backplate, be sure to get it as
centered as possible to avoid an out of balance situation and excessive vibration when the machine is working.
ZPC Fusion / White pad
Menzerna FPII / White pad
Menzerna IP / Orange pad
3M Perfect-It II Fine Cut / Yellow pad
Griot's Fine Hand Polish / Microfiber
You always want start out with a test area first, for example a section of the hood sized at 1' by 1', and try to find the least agressive polish and pad
combination that will correct your paint issues before moving on to the rest of the vehicle. There is a finite amount of clear coat on your vehicle and
you do not want to or need to remove more than is necessary to achieve the desired results.
On my 1999 4Runner I found that a more agressive combo was going to be needed than that needed on my 2007 4Runner. Some reasons for this are as follows:
paint color - darker colored paint (1999's Imperial Jade Mica 6Q7) shows swirls/scratches more than lighter colored paint (2007's Titanium Metallic 1D4).
age - 9 year old 4Runner vs 1 year old 4Runner.
previous detailing history - though both are maintained stringently, they have not been machine polished in the past.
storage conditions - currently with a one car garage, the 1999 has been kept outside since bringing home the 2007 1 year ago.
Keeping a vehicle outside is subjecting it to more paint harming conditions such as rain containing acid that evaporates in the sun on a vehicle's
surface which then etches the contamination into the clear coat.
During the testing phase on the 99, I first tried Menzerna Micro Polish PO87MC Final Polish II (FPII) on a white LC pad. As expected that wasn't nearly
going to have enough cut to get rid of all the marring on the vehicle. Next up was Menzerna PO91E Intensive Polish (IP) on an orange LC pad. While this
combo worked great on removing swirling, it was unable to remove etching from bird bombs, acid rain and deeper scratches.
Keep in mind that any type of scratches that you can feel with your fingernail are not going to be removed via buffing with an orbital.
You would have to move up to a rotary with a wool pad or even wetsanding. You can use buffing to round over the edges of a deeper scratch and
minimize the problem. This works as a scratch with sharper edges scatters light but one with rounded over edges reflects light back to the viewer making
it appear shinier. Also keep in mind that if deeper scratches are completly through the clear coat and into the paint or primer, nothing will correct
this other then a respray.
Finally my most agressive combo on tap was used, 3M Perfect-It ll Rubbing Compound Fine Cut 3M-39002 on a yellow LC pad. This removed all but the worst
etching and deeper scratches. I decided that this is what I would start with.
Beginning with 3M fine cut on yellow will remove the heavy stuff but is not going to end up with the best finish. This agressive compound and pad combo
will give a quicker cut but leave the finish somewhat dull. So a multi-step process was in order. I did the entire vehicle with the 3M on yellow,
then the second pass with IP on orange, followed up with a third pass of FPII on white. Some hardcore detailers would say that a fourth final jeweling
step of Menzerna's PO85RD, or equivalent, on a black or blue pad would give the absolute best finish but the above 3 steps was enough for this detail.
For the 2007 4R, a less agressive combo was in order. Sticking with the Zaino line, I wanted to try Zaino's Z-PC Fusion Dual Action Paint Cleaner and
Swirl Remover. With it's diminishing abrasives that start out more agressive and breakdown to finish up as a finer polish, I was looking forward to a
one step process, especially after the three step process used the week before on my 99.
To begin polishing I like to spritz the pad with one shot of distilled water in a spry bottle. Do this as needed to keep the pad moist. No matter the
polish being used, you do not want to use too much product. Four drops slightly larger than a pea, evenly spaced on the pad is all that is needed.
Start out with a slower speed to spread out the product on the vehicle in a space sized no more than 2' x 2'. Make about two passes with this slower
machine speed. Then ramp the machine's speed up to 5 to 5.5 and make about four to six passes moving the machine slowly, about 1 inch per second, across
the panel you are working on letting the machine do the work. You can push down on the panel with approximately 5 pounds of force on average, going up to
10-15 pounds of pressure for problem areas when called for. For the oil based products, IP and FPII, you will see them go clear at the mid-point of this
process which means they are fully breaking down, dont stop now, make a pass or two more when clear using this now finer polish, then drop the speed back
down to the 2 to 2.5 range and go for another two final passes to finish up.
When you finish a body panel, give it an IPA wipedown, to clean off any oils (oil based products) or dust (water based products), and inspect the quality of
your work. definitely do this between each of your polishing combos to check and see if the marring and swirling has been removed and the level of
gloss desired has been reached. This also removes all traces of product so as to not contaminate the next level of polishing with the last levels
abrasive powder residue. If you have portable halogen lights, use them to aid in the inspection phase to confirm if all swirling/marring has been removed.
If you don't have those lights, try to move the vehicle out into the sun for further inspection. I don't have the lights and since I was working
much of the time during the night I was unable to use the sun. I proceded directly into the sealing stage as it looked perfect but I must note that the
following day when I was able to view the vehicle outside it became apparent that some spots were not 100% while they looked perfect in the garage.
I really liked the Menzerna and Zaino products described above. I would buy them again but with the minimal amount of product used, these are going to last
for a really long time. As for the 3M Fine Cut compound, I felt it dusted a little too much at times caking up if too much product was used. When used at
a high speed it broke down very fast and created the most dust. I would like to try Menzerna Powergloss POS34A in it's place in the future.
As far as the Flex machine is concerned, I can say that it is definitely a high quality product. Never missed a beat. I don't have anything to compare it
to but it worked as I hoped it would and I have had no problems with it so far. Minimal vibrations and I could not get it to bog down regardless of how
much pressure I applied to it. I did the three levels of polishing on the 1999 back to back, the machine never got too hot and I did run it hard
sometimes bringing it up to full level 6 speed. The variable speed trigger was a very nice feature as was the trigger lock. It felt very balanced
and handling was very good using the bale style handle. I did not use the SoftVib side handle as the bale style handle was so nice.
Time spent on machine polishing, 5.0 hours for each product/pad combination. I am sure this can be done faster with more experience.
Take a look at these next few pictures. The gloss level produced by a proper machine polishing should look as if it already has wax on it.
before applying sealer
before applying sealer
before applying sealer
There are indeed areas of the vehicle that you cannot or do not want to use the machine polisher on. These include the wheels,
areas under the hood, the liftgate jamb and door jambs, the gas filler cap area, and the areas under the door handles. Since this is a full detail, these
areas will still need to be polished, but done so by hand.
Griot's Garage Fine Hand Polish
applied with a microfiber cloth and removed with another microfiber cloth, works very well for these applications. Pay particular attention to areas,
such as the gas filler cap area, which appear to not have been clear coated. The paint will show up on your polishing cloth in this area and you do not
want to remove too much.
Time spent on hand polishing wheels, 2.0 hours. That's polishing only, not including the 3 separate coats of sealant.
before polishing wheels
after polishing wheels
after polishing wheels
after polishing and sealing wheels
Time spent on hand polishing the hood/tailgate/door jambs and gas tank door area, 2.0 hours.
Time spent on applying & removing 2 coats of sealant to the same hood/tailgate/doorjambs and gas tank door area, an additional 2.0 hours.
polished & sealed
polished & sealed
polished & sealed
gas tank door
So now that we have a swirl and mar free finish we will apply the lsp or last step product. The final finish is only going to look as good as your
prep and polishing work, so do not rely on the lsp to correct any issues you have left at this point. As you know by now I have chosen a synthetic sealer
rather than a natural wax. I am hoping for at least a longer lasting product if not additional protection as well with the ability to layer on multiple
coats of product.
Zaino Z2 Pro
was chosen for the sealing duties. Again, this product contains no fillers, cleaners or abrasives and is optically perfect allowing the beauty of the
underlying paint to shine through. It even contains a sunscreen, called Ultra-Guard UV(40), which will protect against shrinking and fading caused by
sun and ultra-violet light. It is said that Z2 Pro will not stain your plastic trim or rubber parts, so I won't be masking them off again. This product
has the ability to be layered for even greater results. You can apply up to 3 layers per 24 hour period, but to do so it must be fully cured. Zaino makes
a Flash Cure Accelerator Additive product called, Zaino ZFX,
which they recommend using. ZFX is marketed to offer reduced surface distortion, enhanced polish flexibility, and improved bonding,
promote cross-linking, reduce drying time, increase gloss factor, extend durability level, and instantly cure to allow multiple immediate layers of Zaino
Start the process by filling one of the four empty 2 ounce bottles included with the ZFX kit, with 1 ounce of Z2 sealant. To that add 5 drops of ZFX and
shake for a minute to mix. Set it aside for half a minute for it to begin activating. I have decided to use the 100% cotton applicator included with my
Zaino order (free with orders over $25), rather than apply the sealer by machine. Zaino recommends using a minimal amount of product and applying via
machine will only waste product. To get the applicator ready to use, simply spritz it with about two sprays of distilled water. By now the Z2/ZFX mix is
ready to use. The key is to use a minimal amount of product, applying it as thinly as possible. I actually found this more time consuming, but that is
what is recommended for best results. Every once in a while, give the bottle a shake and spritz the applicator pad with distilled water. The first coat
did use almost a full one ounce, but after that between two thirds to three quarters of an ounce was all that was needed to coat the entire vehicle
including the wheels but excluding the jambs which were done at a separate time as I cannot open the doors or liftgate while in my garage where this was
The first coat did take more time than the subsequent layers, but you will find that most likely when you finish applying the product to the whole vehicle
the parts you did first are already ready to remove. To be sure, give the hazed over product a swipe with your finger and see if it removes cleanly. If
so it is ready to be removed, if it smears, it is not ready. I will say that the combination of thin coats with the light colored silver paint on my 07,
made it extremely hard to tell where the product was applied and weather or not it was fully removed. It is said that you can leave the product on your
vehicle for up to 24 hours before buffing. You will not get any further benefit by leaving it on any longer than the curing point, but it may be
convenient to do so. For one of the layers, I actually left the product on for 14 hours overnight, and it was just as easy to remove as leaving it on
for only 1-2 hours. Just be sure to leave the vehicle in a controlled environment where no debris or contamination can fall onto the vehicle during
such an extended period of time.
Removal was done with microfiber cloths. Zaino recommends using 100% cotton cloths or towels as the quality of microfiber can vary greatly, with some
potentially inducing marring of their own. I have a few high quality automotive microfiber cloths that I feel remove the hazed over sealer better than
regular cotton, as the residue actually gets pulled up into the extremely fine weave of fibers rather than just being pushed along by standard flat cotton
cloths. After each removal and before the next layer is applied a
gloss enhancing quick detailer wipedown is recommended to buff away any remaining residue and enhances the brightness of the finish, so that was done
as well. After the final layer of Z2 was completed it was followed up by a
Grand Finale Spray Seal wipedown for that extra pop. Z8 is meant to applied sparringly, about 1/3 ounce should do a full vehicle. 1/3 ounce equals 10
sprays, so a 16 oz. bottle should last for 48 uses.
My thoughts on these 4 Zaino product are as follows. I really like the Z2 for the layerability and shine. I can't comment on durability right now, as this
was my first experience with the product. It was somewhat difficult to work with especially on the lighter colored vehicle, due to the thin coats that
need to be used. Using ZFX is not a problem, but adds considerably to the cost. ZFX costs more than the Z2 product alone. Z6 works great and it doesn't
take much product to do a full vehicle. But it is only available in relatively small bottle sizes and there are cheaper cost per application quick detailer
products on the market for sure. Z8 does indeed add greatly to the slickness of the finish, and I can see the merits for a garage queen show vehicle, but
for a daily driver sports utility type vehicle it may be considered overkill. So far I would say that I would buy the Z2/ZFX products again but not Z6
Time spent on the 3 layer sealing process is as follows:
15 minutes: final IPA wipedown
90 minutes: apply Z2 w/ ZFX (includes wheels)
45 minutes: wipedown to remove Z2
15 minutes: Z6 wipedown
60 minutes: apply Z2 w/ ZFX (includes wheels)
45 minutes: wipedown to remove Z2
15 minutes: Z6 wipedown
60 minutes: apply Z2 w/ ZFX (includes wheels)
45 minutes: wipedown to remove Z2
15 minutes: Z8 wipedown
Tire Dressing Applicators
Last up is some final trim detailing using Meguiar's Natural Shine Vinyl & Rubber Protectant.
I must say this is something I only do when performing a full detail, on special occasion or for photographing. I really don't like using these protectant
type products as they can be quite messy, greasy and/or oily, I prefer the natural look. But when taking photos they are sort of a must as they take the
brown tint and dry look out of tires and really turn them black. I waited till the very end of this multi-day detail to apply the trim dressing as I
didn't want to chance rubbing up against it in my tight garage and having the product rub off onto my clothes. I have had the Megs Natural Shine sitting
around for a while, waiting for the Megs endurance to get used up, but since I don't use it often it is going to last for quite some time. So I tried the
natural shine and can say that it definitely goes on much easier, especially around the side lugs and over the decorative sidewall ribbing, being a liquid
as compared to the Endurance product which is a thick gel. Natural shine was actually shinier that I thought it would be but I think you are supposed to
buff some of it off after letting it sit for a while to reduce the shine if so desired.
Also I am trying another new product, Viper Flexible Foam Tire Dressing Applicators. I have been looking for something that will apply these dressing type
products to tires without falling apart quickly. I picked these up while I was ordering some other stuff online as they were quite cheap, around $1 each.
So far so good, I detailed 2 vehicles with the same one and it looks like it will last for another two uses. I used the Natural Shine on the 99's
fender flares as well for this detail, applied with this same applicator.
Overall these details took over 24 hours for each vehicle, and were spanned over a two to three consecutive day period per vehicle. Here are the final results.