Whether you’re getting your classic car ready for the show floor or you’re simply looking to restore the lustre from the factory original paint job, knowing how to detail your own vintage vehicle will save you money, make your car look fantastic and ensure the paint job is preserved and maintained.
Today, we’ll run down the 5 most common steps in restoring your car’s paint job.
As with any classic vehicle, if your paint is thin, oxidized, or you simply aren’t certain of the paint’s condition, you’ll want to use extreme caution as to the pressure and products applied to these areas. When in doubt, refer to a local detailing outfit for advice or servicing.
Before you start these steps ensure you wash your car with care using soft or mild soaps that are non-damaging to your vehicle’s finish. Your car should be completely dry prior to starting the restoration of the original paint job.
Step 1 – Eliminating surface irregularities and contaminants
A (not so) secret tool that detailing outfits have been using for years is a clay bar, which is comprised of exactly what is says, clay. It is designed to lure out foreign matter that has accumulated in the paint over time and regular use of the vehicle by rubbing the clay bar over the surface of the vehicle until the clay easily glides over the paint.
Tip: Determine how dirty your car’s paint is, by doing the plastic bag test. With your hand inside a plastic sandwich bag, slide your hand across the paint’s surface. How rough the paint feels is an indicator as to how dirty it is.
Step 2 – Properly and thoroughly clean your vehicle
Typically, a very mild abrasive cleaner is used here, which removes medium defects such as swirls and water marks. It also subsequently supports and enhances the work of the clay bar.
Tip: Wipe down the cleaner before it becomes hardened on the surface of the car.
Step 3 – Polishing by hand
OK, you don’t have to polish by hand, but do exude caution if you’re using a dual action or orbital polisher. Some people tend to become a little aggressive with the polishers as they cannot feel the car’s surface. The objective here is to remove or mask any subsurface defects, while preparing the vehicle’s body for the steps 4 and 5. The car’s paint should start to change in appearance by now.
Step 4 – Glaze – an overnight soak
The vehicle’s equivalent to a facial mask. Many people swear by the overnight glaze soak. Leaving on the glaze overnight has been deemed to be the most effective method to add the additional depth and necessary oils back into the paint. Apply a generous amount of glaze in the evening and remove it the next morning.
Tip: To remove the dried glaze, reapply some glaze to a microfibre cloth and work in small sections, then remove immediately by wiping it down.
Step 5 – Waxing
The intent here is to seal and protect our hard word… and the paint. There are endless variants of wax available so the choices may be a little overwhelming. Wax Paste seems to be a common choice as they tend not to dry as quickly making the application and wipe down process a little smoother and less rushed than with other types of wax. It is not uncommon to apply 2 coats to ensure an effective application.
Tip: Use a foam applicator to apply and a microfibre cloth or towel to wipe away.
Ultimately, your paint job should have been taken on a journey from dull to vibrant through this paint job (colour) restoration. The car should look pristine. Small swirls should be invisible and the glow and gleam of the car should be fantastic.
Have any thoughts or comments about how you prepare your classic cars for the show floor? We’d love to hear about them.
*Note: We purposely did not provide any brand information with respect to the products used in each step. We recommend referring to a local detailing outfit for advice or discussing with a car care professional for brand suggestions.