The Detailers Guide to Surviving Winter
IN THIS FREE GUIDE:
- Learn how to safely prepare, protect and maintain your vehicle through the worst winter weather.
- Discover the products you need to offer the most hardcore protection from the elements.
- See how cold-weather maintenance doesn't have to be gruelling, or even time consuming.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?
- Winter contaminants are the harshest that your vehicle will be subjected to, learning how to clean and protect effectively helps avoid the inevitable damage to surfaces and components.
- Knowing how to avert potentially harmful mistakes during routine maintenance serves as the foundation for all detailing, safeguarding the effort you put into in any other detailing process, and the value of your vehicle.
- Your vehicle will look better, and stay cleaner, for longer… and who doesn't need that?
The very best way to prepare for and maintain your vehicle through winter? Well, we're glad you asked…
It goes without saying that the best time to prepare your car for winter isn't when the snow starts falling, it's right now. But, while there are many schools of thought on the subject, and a whole load of questions about which detailing products and processes are most effective, the answer to keeping your vehicle continually looking great - not to mention fully protected - through the seasonal onslaught is actually pretty simple. All you need to do is follow our step-by-step survival guide to get your pride and joy safely spotless… and see how to keep it that way until well into the springtime.
The secret to winter survival
The key to keeping winter at bay comes in three distinct parts - preparation, protection and maintenance. Each step is equally important and needs to be carried out effectively, simply because winter detailing brings bigger, or at least slightly different, challenges that may not be quite as much of a concern in the fair-weather seasons.
For all three processes, what it all comes down to is the concentration and often the physical abrasiveness of contaminants on the road. Heavier more abrasive contaminants - caused by the exponential increase in salt and road grime - always equals riskier cleaning, especially in the first instance where sensitive areas like paintwork, wheels and gloss plastics may not be adequately protected. What's more, the physical change in the weather means that the likelihood of these harsh - not to mention potentially damaging - contaminants being transferred from the road to your vehicle increases to a point where it's inevitable. Of course, there's also the concern of safety, better all-round vision is never a bad thing with the sun going down at three in the afternoon, is it?
For obvious reasons, once a vehicle is safely cleaned and prepared for winter, adding protection is vital to safeguard the finish, and to stop contaminants from causing damage during day-to-day use. The chief idea of protective layers - whether that's waxes, sealants or coatings - is to prevent contaminants from coming into direct contact with surfaces. On a basic level, stopping grime from sticking to your vehicle not only prevents it from becoming ingrained and causing damage, but also makes ongoing maintenance easier and, more importantly, safer.
The final piece of the puzzle is the ongoing maintenance, the bit where you decide how good you'd like your vehicle to look, and this is directly proportional to how often you clean it. But, whether you choose to wash your car less regularly than you would in the summer or not is up to you. What's most important here is that, however well protected your paintwork and other sensitive areas, and whatever the frequency of your cleaning regime, you still need to clean away contaminants as safely as possible. Crucially using products that won't degrade your protective layers. After all, once the potentially damaging grime is removed, the object of the exercise is complete, your car will be looking great again… then it's just a case of topping up your protection for even more durability. Just remember that you can never have too much defence from the elements at any time, especially during winter.
Luckily, we have the lowdown on all these processes - so, here's our guide to the best way of preparing, protecting and maintaining your vehicle over the coming months…
When's the best time to wash?
If it's cold outside, the basic answer is during the warmest part of the day. Obviously never wash your car in direct sunlight or when it's hot, but equally you'll want to cut down on the chance of water freezing on the floor or the vehicle as you work, for safety's sake as much as anything else. This is why getting up early and cleaning your car when it's still frosty isn't advisable. Using warm water in your wash bucket isn't a bad idea, either.
When it comes to your kit, shifting the heavy winter grime safely is the key concern, and while most of this comes down to the processes involved and the vast majority of products will remain the same, in some cases - particularly when soiling is extremely heavy - you may need slightly stronger products or dilutions to be most effective.
Detailing Engine Bays
While the physical process and the products involved when detailing your engine bay and underside of your bonnet in preparation for winter is the same as at any other time of year, it is worth noting that it's probably most needed in terms of protection during the months where road contaminants are at their worst.
Harsh grime and salt can play havoc with engine components, degrading rubber, prematurely oxidising metal, and staining or fading plastics. In some cases this can lead to component failure, so it makes sense to thoroughly clean and protect your bay to shield from grime, especially on daily drivers.
For the vast majority of cars, it's perfectly safe to clean engine bays using a pressure washer because electrical systems and other vitals will be protected with plastic covers. That said always be on the lookout for exposed electrics and air filters, and never spray directly onto components like alternators.
Eradicate Engine Degreaser is our product of choice here, it's designed to quickly break down heavy grime, oil and grease and is safe for use on all plastics, metal, and rubber. Brushing in a liberal application using a Detailing Brush will lift contaminants from the surfaces, allowing them to be easily rinsed away with your pressure washer.
Once your bay has been prepared, you don't even need to dry it. Simply spray Dressle All-purpose Dressing liberally over the top and close the bonnet. This water-based dressing will not only cure to a dry touch finish over a few hours (you can mop up any excess at the end of your detail if you wish) but offer a barrier to the elements making your bay easier to clean the next time around. For winter make sure you get plenty in there and, barring a top up if needed, you should be good until springtime.
Deep Cleaning Wheels and Tyres
The only major difference in the wash stages between preparing your car for winter and detailing in summer is that you may need put in a little extra effort to gain access to the hard-to-reach areas.
As with any exterior detail we always start with the wheels and, in the interests of full preparation here, we'd always recommend removing them one by one, in order to get the best access to the rear of the spokes (and to the vehicle's inner arches). It's well worth the effort because even standard wheels are susceptible to the onset of corrosion due to harsh road salt and other contaminants such as grime and brake dust. When you think about it, your wheels are continually exposed to the worst contaminants, more so than any other part of the vehicle, and if left for an extended period, these will eat through protective lacquers and eventually into the metal causing corrosion. In extreme cases this can even compromise the structure of the wheel itself - the worst of safety concerns.
Of course, the only way to combat the chance of this happening to you is to clean, decontaminate and protect the whole wheel effectively, and that includes the parts that go unseen. Removing wheels to get the access required will always be the best way.
First give your wheels a good rinse with your pressure washer. This part can be completed with the wheels on or off the vehicle, the idea being to remove as much of the heavy soiling as possible to ensure that any cleaning products you use can get to work on the ingrained contaminants, rather than working on soiling that can be simply blasted away.
With the wheel off, start on the inside, as this will most often be the dirtiest, most contaminated part. Here we're looking at the main areas that tend to be missed or too hard to reach during regular washes. Cleaning these first will also help stop the transfer of heaver contaminants to the faces of your wheels.
Obviously, your choice of product here will depend on the finish of your wheel. If your aftermarket rims are anodised or polished bare metal for example, you may want to skip the heavy decontamination products and simply opt to brush in a little Revolution Wheel Soap or even Citrus Power Bug & Grime Remover. After all, it's unlikely that these sort of specialist wheels will be allowed to get contaminated enough to need any more. More information on different wheel types, and the products to use safely, can be found here in our Definitive Guide To Cleaning Alloy Wheels.
For the most part though you'll be dealing the most common painted or powdercoated wheels and we like to start with a liberal application of our heavy hitter - Iron Out Contaminant Remover. Although it contains plenty of cleaning and degreasing agents, Iron Out isn't strictly a wheel cleaner. What it will do though, is chemically dissolve sharp ferrous metal partials. You'll find plenty of these on your wheels as they're chiefly derived from brake dust.
You can actually see Iron Out do its job, too. The metal reacts with the solution turning it blood red, and signalling that it's time to rinse away the contamination. Although this product has been designed for use on paintwork during the decontamination stages (we'll get to this later), when it comes to wheels it can also be brushed into all the nooks and recesses using a Barrel Brush, Detailing Brushes and a dedicated wash mitt. In a way Iron Out can be treated as you would a dedicated wheel cleaner like Revolution Wheel Soap or Imperial Wheel Cleaner, this will not only give the solution a little more bite, due to the fact that you're agitating to get fresh solution on contaminants (rather than scrubbing) to replace any spent solution, but will also help it to work its magic on the hard-to-reach areas.
Once the residue has been rinsed away, further inspection will be needed. In most cases the wheel will be clean and free of contamination, but if a little more cleaning power is needed, due to the winter grime or even simple neglect, brushing in a little Imperial with a solution of Revolution will remove any other soling.
During this process it pays not to forget your tyres, not just for looks, but because these also have to stand up to a barrage of road grime and salt, arguably even more than any other part of the vehicle. These types of winter nasties prematurely age rubber and can cause a range of damage from browning and fading right up to splitting and failure. Combatting this by scrubbing in our Tread Tyre Cleaner with a Rubber Scrubber Tyre Brush is essential - especially with the wheels off as you can now get to the, all-too-often-forgotten inner sidewalls.
Just like the rest of your vehicle, your wheels and tyres will need protection from the winter grime, and that's completed later in the final stages of your detail, but for now it's worth remembering that in some cases further decontamination may be necessary before adding your protection. If sticky tar or glue residues are still present, a little ObliTARate Tar & Glue Remover (or ObliTARate Gel) can be used to quickly melt them away. It's not often needed here but you can clay your wheels to remove other embedded contaminants, too. Just as with paintwork, having your wheels as perfectly prepared as possible is essential before adding protection.
Deep Cleaning Inner Arches and Components
It goes without saying that your wheels being off gives the perfect opportunity to get into the arches for the ultimate deep clean. Again, just like with your engine bay, this isn't just for aesthetics, the constant contact with heavy grime can be hard on trim and mechanical components, so it makes sense to get them as clean and protected as possible.
Verso All-Purpose Cleaner is the ideal product here, this dilute-to-suit APC can be adapted to tackle the harshest grime, breaking it down and lifting it safely away from surfaces. A reasonably strong 1:5 to 1:2 dilution should be sufficient for the heaviest soiling here.
First give the whole area a good rinse with your pressure washer, being sure to blast out any loose mud and grit.
Large multi-pot calipers and suspension components can then be cleaned with the verso solution and a Detailing Brush, while plastic inner arches will always benefit from a good scrubbing with an Arch Blaster Arch Brush. Liberally apply your Verso, brush it in and then rinse away the grime.
Once again, further decontamination can be necessary for plastic inner arches. In fact, when it comes to sticky tar residues, it can be surprising how much these pick up over time. These residues do a great job of stopping protection from bonding, but they're easy to remove using ObliTARate. While we don't usually recommend using this solvent-based product on matt trim, this is an exception where it can be particularly effective. Simply spray on, leave to dwell, rinse away any excess, and wipe away the contaminants with an old microfibre cloth.
On to adding a little protection, and here we like to double up the layers fighting the winter grime using Revive Trim Dressing and Dressle All Purpose Dressing. This stage can be completed now to save time, or during the final stages when you fully protect your wheels, whatever your preference.
First up Revive, our silicone-polymer-based dressing. Normally this is used to breathe new life into faded plastic trim, which it does rather well. Here though, we're more interested in offering a durable, water-resistant barrier to the elements. Revive is also extremely simple to apply using a Foam Applicator. Just apply a small amount over the whole area, leave to cure for 5-minutes or so, and wipe away any excess. Once your Revive is fully cured, spritzing an extra coating of Dressle over the whole area (along with the suspension arms and other components) will offer just a little more protection.
The idea of an effective pre-wash of course, is to remove the heaviest contaminants without touching the vehicle, in order to avoid sharp particles inflicting scratches and swirl marks. As we said, the harsher the contaminants found on your most sensitive surfaces, the riskier they are to clean away and, so we always recommend using a suitable pre-wash cleaner.
First thing's first though, rinse the whole vehicle down from top to bottom to remove the worst of the loose soiling. Be sure to get right into panel gaps and the more awkward areas to flush out any grime that could be transferred back to the paintwork later. Again, this process is equally important to ensure that your cleaning solutions are working where they're most needed.
Next apply your pre-wash cleaner. Both Citrus Power Bug & Grime Remover and Dynamite Traffic Film Remover are extremely effective, the main difference between the two is that Dynamite is a dilutable concentrate, meaning you can make up a slightly stronger solution for the really mucky stuff, making it particularly useful for hard-used daily drivers in winter. A real heavy hitter and no mistake.
A 1:5-1:3 solution of Dynamite should be adequate for the toughest grime removal here. Simply apply over the whole vehicle (starting with the most contaminated areas such as lower halves and the rear), leave to dwell for a few seconds while it breaks down grime - lifting it away from the surfaces and suspending it safely in the solution - and rinse away the contamination. It really is that simple.
The last part of the process is all about being extremely thorough in your pre-wash and tackling the more awkward areas. Here Citrus Power can be sprayed into panel gaps before flushing out with your pressure washer. This powerful, ready-to-use cleaning solution can also be sprayed into door jambs and boot shuts, and agitated with a Detailing Brush before rinsing.
The second part of the most effective pre-wash involves using Avalanche Snow Foam to break down any remaining contaminants. This citrus-infused foam is not only designed to linger for as long as possible for the very best in cleaning power, but it will also work itself into panel gaps and the more awkward areas, bubbling away, breaking down grime to offer the ultimate deep clean.
Once applied using a Foam Lance, leave your Avalanche on the vehicle for as long as you can without letting it dry. In the meantime, you can lightly agitate the foam into grilles, fuel flaps, window rubbers, roof rails and around badges and headlights using a soft Detailing Brush or Feather Tip. The idea here is to get the cleaning solution fully worked into all the little crevices and dust traps, and because all of the large abrasive soiling will have been removed by now in your initial pre-wash, a little agitation is perfectly safe. Just another reason why we always pre-wash using a suitable cleaner first.
After a thorough rinse, to remove any grime that the Avalanche has picked up and suspended, you can move onto the contact wash.
Now for the riskiest part of the whole procedure, the bit where you have to physically wipe across the car, and the whole reason we make sure we pre-wash and snow foam so thoroughly.
The key to keeping your contact wash safe and swirl-free is both a matter of using the correct procedures and the correct products. Even the buckets you use are crucial, and not just that you need two of them - one for your shampoo solution, and one containing plain water to rinse out your mitt between passes.
You see, there's a reason why detailing buckets like our Detailing Bucket are designed the way they are. The first is the large 20-litre capacity, more water simply means the likelihood of dirt being recirculated back to your wash media is reduced. Our buckets also benefit from a grit guard which sits 6cm or so from the bottom. Heavy particles sink to the bottom below the guard, meaning you can't pick them up with your mitt.
As for the more obvious products, Lather Car Shampoo is not only a powerful cleaner that suds up nicely to remove soiling, but it also contains special lubricants that allow any grime to slide over the surface of your vehicle as you wash without scratching. Add in a good quality wash mitt - which will be designed to hold the grime you've just cleaned off deep within the pile, away from paintwork, until you rinse it out - and all there is to remember is taking the best route around your vehicle.
Process is everything here, and it's important to tackle the cleanest areas first, to help prevent transferring heaver soiling to cleaner areas. Start with the roof, bonnet and upper sides and finish with the front bumper, lower sides and the rear. In addition, you should always wash in long straight lines. Small, circular motions are more likely to inflict swirls.
The final part of the wash stage is the "decon', where suborn, embedded contamination is removed prior to polishing. This includes metal particles from brake dust, along with other hardy contaminants like tree sap and tar - the sort of ingrained blemishes that washing alone just can't remove.
For this we always utilise a simple three-stage process, starting with Iron Out to bleed out any sharp ferrous metal. Iron Out is primarily designed for use on paintwork, and is simply sprayed on to all of the contaminated areas, allowed to react while it dissolves and bleeds out the metal, and then rinsed away.
The next phase is the removal of tar and other sticky residues using OBliTARate, this powerful solvent-based formula is also designed for use on paintwork and will melt away residues, holding them in the solution so they can be wiped away with a microfibre cloth. For heaver contamination you can also opt for ObliTARate Gel which uses the same powerful solvents but is designed to linger on the surface for a little longer. These products are also extremely useful for removing other stubborn contamination like traffic cone rash and overspray. After using Tar & Glue Removers it's also important to neutralise the any leftover solvent by re-washing the treated areas with a pH-neutral product like Lather. This will prevent the ObliTARate from interfering with the next step.
The final decontamination stage involves using clay to physically pull any other contamination out of paintwork. This simple process makes a whole world of difference and can be carried out before or after drying the vehicle depending on the level of contamination, and of course, your personal preference. As the clay is run over the surface of your paintwork it's able to gently remove contaminants like sap, mineral deposits from water, protein deposits from insects and bird droppings, along with tar and industrial fallout. Using a Clay Bar and Glide Clay Lube together on every part of your paintwork is the ultimate way to get a silky-smooth, glass-like finish, and to prepare your car for the next stage (paint correction or refinement). Some even say that "claying' is where a wash really meets a detail.
Paint Preparation and Correction
Here's where the process gets even more specific to your vehicle, because only you can inspect and ultimately see the defects that you'll need to remove. What is for certain here is that there's many levels when it comes to paint correction - your vehicle could require anything from light swirl mark removal to heavy restoration using coarse compounds, or even wet sanding. Or, then again, perhaps your paint is pretty much perfect and will simply benefit from a little light refinement and surface preparation in order to help accept your protection layers. What's most crucial here is to remember that the protection you choose will essentially lock in any defects already in your paintwork - protective layers such as waxes and coatings are not abrasives designed to correct or refine, they merely protect what's already underneath, further enhancing the optical finish and helping prevent damage from the elements. This is why getting your paintwork as flawless as possible first is one of the biggest, and most specialist, parts of detailing. Always remember that, once protection is applied, it's simply too late.
The other big consideration here is what type of protection you'll be using in the final stages. For the hardiest winter protection (especially on daily drivers), we'd always recommend a ceramic coating - exactly the reason we'll be using our Caramics Complete Protection Kit later in this step-by-step guide. We'll get to the reasons why in the next step, because the important question now is; why do you need to decide on protection before correction? Well, it's simply because the protection you use later will dictate the type of abrasive product you need to use.
It's all down to layer bonding. Your protection layers need to bond to paintwork to create a durable layer, but waxes and coatings actually bond in completely different ways.
Wax-based protection products, our Radiance Carnauba Crème and our Signature Hard Waxes for example, physically bond to paintwork, essentially filling in microscopic recesses and holding on to the surface to create a whole new optically-levelled top layer. Silica-based ceramic coatings on the other hand, chemically bond to paintwork on a molecular level to become a part of the existing top layer - a barrier of the most durable, impermeable protection.
The reason why you need to know this now is that wax layers don't allow ceramic coatings to chemically bond to paintwork - they basically block the Si02 molecules from coming into contact with the surface molecules. This is why the polishes and compounds you use for correcting or refining beforehand cannot contain waxes or fillers. When planning on ceramic coating we use One Step All-in-One Compound or the compounds in our Revitalise System V2 for correction, which are free of waxes and fillers, and designed to give a true finish.
Waxes on the other hand can physically bond to any clean, decontaminated paintwork and even fully cured ceramic coatings. Perhaps most importantly, a wax will always bond to a cured wax layer, and this is why, when planning on finishing with wax-based protection, you can use correction products which already contain waxes and fillers (like Tripple All-in-One Polish) for enhancement, light correction and adding a base of carnauba protection. You can also layer waxes, for a thicker barrier and more durable protection.
Of course, you can still utilise One Step and our Revitalise Compounds before wax-based protection, so there is clearly a wealth of products to choose from with regards to removing the specific amount of defects on your vehicle. But, as we said, only you can decide on what's required in that respect, although you can learn everything you need to know about our different polishes, compounds and paint glazes in our article All Car Polishes Explained.
In our case here, a single stage refinement using Revitalise No:3 Refining Compound and a soft Revitalise No:3 Pad was enough to remove any light defects, enhance the finish, and prepare the surface for coating with our Caramics Paint Protection Kit.
You may think we'd move straight onto the protection stage here, and the truth is that many do. But, due to the fact that autumn and winter tend to bring heaver soiling, and that this could accidentally be transferred back to the outside, sometimes it makes sense to complete the interior before finalising the exterior protection. It could be a case of touching the paintwork with your vacuum cord, or simply brushing up against the surfaces, it's rare, but it does happen… and if it does you'll be glad that you can simply pull out the polisher to rectify any mishaps.
In any case, deep cleaning any interior is exactly the same as in summer, just with a little more emphasis on removing heavier soiling where you may need require stronger products for intense stain removal. That said protection is actually the key issue here. We'll be utilising our Caramics Interior Protection Kit to shield surfaces like carpets, mats and seats from the grime that will definitely be dragged into your interior over winter. This will also make any contamination safer and easier to clean away during routine maintenance.
But first of course, we'll need to clean the Interior to prepare it for our protection, and it goes without saying that a deep-clean is all about being extremely thorough along the way.
The seats and carpets are the areas that tend to pick up the heaviest soiling, and we always start any interior detail with a good vacuum to remove as much of the loose material as possible. Again, the key is to be thorough, getting in there under seats, between the bolsters and in every possible nook. This makes the next steps more about sanitizing and stain removal, rather than attempting to mop up loose grime that can be easily removed first.
The second step for seats and carpets is to use a suitable cleaning agent capable of breaking down and lifting grime safely from deep within the fibres. Total Interior Cleaner is a ready-to-use product that's suitable for regular use, and ideal for deep-cleaning carpets and cloth seats. Leather seats and dashboards will always benefit from Hide Leather Cleanser, a mild glycerine-based formula designed to target ingrained dirt and oils.
Both products are designed to be sprayed on liberally and agitated with a suitable brush. While they get to work, they suspend grime in their respective solutions, enabling it to be wiped away with a microfibre cloth.
In the vast majority of cases, these products will be enough to clean away any dirt, but for really tough stain removal tasks on carpets and floor mats, a suitable (1:5-1:2) dilution of Verso All-purpose Cleaner is safe for occasional use.
On to interior plastics and the answer, once again, is Total. Leaving behind nothing but a natural satin sheen on dashboards, doorcards, consoles, pedals, steering wheels and other trim, Total is simply spritzed onto the surface, agitated using a Detailing Brush (for extra cleaning power and to get into the most awkward, dusty recesses) before being wiped away with a fresh microfibre cloth.
For dusting inside heater vents, or for other awkward areas, it can also be spritzed directly onto a Detailing Brush. In addition, we always recommend a few spritzes of Wipe Out Interior Disinfectant sprayed directly into vents. These are notorious for bacteria build up during winter when air conditioning systems remain off. Wipe Out kills 99.99% of all bacteria and viruses, making it great for this job, or cleaning areas that see frequent human contact.
Now to fully protect your freshly-cleaned interior surfaces giving them grime-repelling properties that are particularly ideal for the winter months. The good news here is that we've made ceramic coating leather, carpets and fabrics super straightforward with our Caramics Interior Protection Kit. The idea - as with all ceramic protection - is to create a chemically-bonded shield that's impenetrable to water and grime. This prevents dirt from becoming ingrained and, as any future contamination will be simply sitting on top of the cured Si02 Caramics coating, makes the surface more easily sanitised during maintenance.
For fabrics and carpets, allowing our Fabric Coating to access and treat every fibre possible is the goal. This is why it has been developed in a spray form that can be misted over surfaces before being left to cure. That's everything required here - just spray it on and let it dry.
Leather surfaces don't require quite the same product dispersal, so our Leather Coating can be sprayed onto the supplied micro applicators and quickly wiped over the surface to transfer the coating. Again, once cured, this will install a hard ceramic top layer that's not only resilient to spills and dirt, but actively repels them.
Spritz Interior Detailer is the second product that's extremely useful here, while it's primarily designed for cleaning away light dust and interior films on plastics, rubber and vinyl surfaces (making it great for your maintenance later on), Spritz also contains UV inhibitors helping to shield your trim from fading and anti-static agents capable of repelling dust.
Ceramic Paintwork Protection
With the interior complete, now is the ideal time to add protection to the rest of the vehicle, starting with the paintwork. But, first the question of why we prefer to use a ceramic coating - or more specifically our Caramics Paintwork Protection Kit - over a conventional hard wax during winter? The answer is nothing to do with aesthetics (because, we still believe that nothing looks as good as the warmth of a wax). It's more about durability and the actual level of protection that coatings are designed to install. Waxes can work well in the winter, there's no doubt about that, but ceramic coatings - if you want to use your vehicle during the bad weather - are even better.
We already know that ceramic coatings chemically bond to paintwork to form a hard layer of protection, but it's this bonding that also gives them the unique property that they are resilient to chemicals and can only be effective removed through abrasion. This makes them ideal for everyday drivers or cars that tend to be exposed to the elements for long periods. It may be a different story for pampered show cars that only leave the garage occasionally - by all means carry on with the luxury wax, But, for the vast majority of cars out there, a coating will be the way to go.
It's worth noting that ceramic coatings are also made from silica, or silicone dioxide (Si02), which is the main ingredient in glass. In fact, the refractory solid layer they leave behind is basically a kind of glass, and because it's super-smooth on a microscopic scale, it leaves nothing for grime or water molecules to cling to. Most grime will simply slide off or, at the very least, sit on the top layer, making it easy to clean off during maintenance.
It's the same story for water, because the Si02 layer is smooth and impenetrable the molecules can't cling on, so it simply runs off or beads - this is how you get the extreme water behaviour associated with ceramic coatings.
If you need even more detail on what ceramic coatings do, and how they work check out our article - What difference does a ceramic coating actually make?
As for the application? Well, that's where our Caramics range really comes into its own. Unlike traditional ceramic coatings, which take professional training to be able to apply safely, Caramics has been developed with ease of use in mind.
The hardy ceramic polymer coating in our Paintwork Protection Kit gives up to 12-months protection and is transferred to the vehicle using special impregnated Ceramic Resin Wipes. You simply draw these across the surface, panel by panel, using a crosshatch method (up and down, then side to side) to ensure that the whole panel is covered evenly. The coating cures extremely quickly, meaning you can buff away the residue using a fresh microfibre cloth after just 2-5 minutes, and your paintwork will be fully protected.
The only other thing to remember is to use the Prep Spray supplied in the kit before you apply on your coating. This strong solvent is designed to rid the surface of any stray polish dust, fingerprints or left-over residues that may interfere with the ceramic bonding process. Simply spritz over the panel, wipe and you're ready to for your wipes.
Our Caramics Glass Protection Kit, uses a similar application method, and offers the same 12-months, ultra-hydrophobic protection for serious water beading on glass. An absolute no-brainer for safety and all-round better vision during the winter months.
Again, it's important to prepare the surface to remove any contaminants, and this is why we include a special polish designed to scrub the glass clean on a microscopic scale. Once the surface is fully prepared, it's coated in the same way as your paintwork. Using a Glass Wipe for each window, before buffing off any excess coating with a quick spritz of the included Residue Remover, is all that's needed here.
Once again, the application has been carefully thought out to make it as straightforward as possible.
The last round of Caramics protection is for your wheels and, although this product can be quickly applied to protect the faces and lips while the wheels remain attached to the vehicle, in the interests of full protection during winter, we'll apply the coating to the insides, too.
With our Wheel Protection Kit, the same process of surface preparation before applying the final coating is key, and with wheels it's best to complete the inside first, before moving onto the outer faces and lips.
First apply the special Prep Spray to every part, buffing the recesses with your microfibre to ensure that the surfaces are spotless.
Our Wheel Coating comes in a spray form, which helps it distribute the polymer resin across all surfaces. Simply spritz on, use the special micro applicator to spread and evenly cover every inch (carefully working the product into every small nook), and buff off the excess residue. That's it - up to 12-months ceramic protection in next to no time at all.
Of course, as with every detail, there are a few other finishing touches depending on the car you're working on. Whether that's a little Mercury Metal Polish on your exhaust tips or brightwork, or Revive Trim Dressing on your faded plastic trim, the final touches are always down to your preferences… and, it has to be said half the fun, of detailing.
There are however a few finishing processes that lend themselves particularly well to winter prep and the first is perhaps the most obvious - dressing your tyres.
An application of Satin Tyre Crème not only adds a subtle, classy finish, but also a long-lasting barrier layer, resistant to the elements, that can be topped up every time you wash. In other words; while Satin nourishes and reconditions your tyres on the inside, it also shields from the impregnation of grime on the outside.
Glisten Spray Wax is another particularly useful product for protecting the areas that other products can't reach, an easy way of treating the more awkward areas like inside panel gaps. Simply spritz on (sparingly, a little goes a long way) and walk away!
This easy-to-use, solvent-based liquid wax will give up to a month of protection, and is also just the ticket for quick protection on other areas like inside door jambs and boot/bonnet shuts. Alternatively, here of course - if these well-contacted areas aren't quite as perfect as you would like - Tripple All-in-One Polish will clean, polish and protect with a single application.
Finally Revive Trim Dressing, which may be a silicone-based product primary designed for rejuvenating and creating a water-resistant protection barrier on matt plastic trim, but it's also ideal for a quick wipe over of your rubbers. This isn't just for looks, the silicone polymer will stop the seals from sticking to your paintwork (and potentially ripping) when the temperature drops below freezing. No one likes messing about with sticky doors over winter, right?
About now of course, you get to marvel at the results of your deep-cleaned and fully protected vehicle. But, while it's all ready and waiting for winter, there is one last stage to this already rather extensive guide. And it's all about the ongoing maintenance…
General upkeep is so important it shouldn't be underestimated, simply because knowing how to safely wash a car is crucial to any detail. Not following the correct process simply makes everything that's gone before a waste of your time and effort. In short, incorrectly cleaning any soiled vehicle, however well protected, will certainly inflict damage, will probably cause swirl marks, and will always abrade protection layers… and all this goes double when it comes to removing the serious contamination that winter may inflict on your vehicle.
Luckily, you've already completed a safe wash once, so maintenance is much of the same. The process is all about removing the contaminants without inflicting damage or reducing the effectiveness of protection layers and, equally importantly, using the correct products to strengthen your ceramic protection.
The good news is that, this time around, getting the desired result from the actual cleaning processes will be far easier, and far quicker, even when you're looking at the upkeep of a vehicle covered in the harshest winter grime.
The Wash Stages
The thing to remember here is to not only follow the process to the letter - wheels, pre-wash and two-bucket contact wash - but to choose the right products for the safest possible wash.
First your wheels, having cleaned, fully decontaminated and ceramic coated your rims during the winter prep stages, the next time you clean shouldn't require any heavy hitters. In most cases a little Citrus Power - or Imperial Wheel Cleaner for heaver soiling - will be more than enough to clean away the grime and brake dust, without degrading your ceramic protection along the way.
The pre-wash is also one of the most important steps. First rinse thoroughly, and you'll find that the vast majority of grit and heavy grime will simply fall away - this is Caramics protection doing its job, keeping contaminants away from your paintwork.
Citrus Power or Dynamite can be used next as your pre-wash cleaner on any dirtier areas - both products are specially formulated so they won't degrade protection layers, just spray on your Citrus Power solution (or a suitable dilution of Dynamite) leave to dwell for a few minutes, and rinse away any grime suspended in the solution. Don't forget those door jambs too - these are notorious for picking up grime as you get in and out.
Next, it's Avalanche Snow Foam, which will work its way into all the recesses and panel gaps. Let your foam dwell on the vehicle for as long as possible, and be sure to rinse thoroughly, flushing out all the gaps and awkward areas as you go. This will not only remove any contaminants that have managed to remain sitting on your paintwork, but prevent any grime which has accumulated in panel gaps from coming out later.
Finally, it's on to the two-bucket wash and the key difference here is that we're using Caramics Enhancing Shampoo. Lather Car Shampoo is extremely effective here as a cleaning agent of course, but our Caramics Shampoo is specifically formulated to strengthen Ceramic coatings, acting as a handy top up product for even more protection as you wash.
Topping up protection layers
There are various ways to top up protection over the winter, but one of the easiest has to be using your foam lance with Lavish Ceramic Foam after your contact wash. Lavish will actually install an Si02 coating with durability of up to 6-months on its own… so, think of this product applied to car already protected with Caramics as a double dose of hydrophobic magic. There's a good reason that this is one of our most popular products ever!
Once you've applied Lavish to the entire vehicle exterior (including the wheels and glass) it should be rinsed off immediately. Then you can dry with a Silk Drying Towel (which is specifically designed not to abrade protection layers) and your vehicle will be clean and ready for finishing - how quick and easy is that?
Finishing and Enhancing
With Caramics finishing your maintenance is easy, you've already completed all the work in the preparation stages and there's no need to reapply any of the Caramics System coatings. You can however further boost your paintwork protection, and even give a slicker, glossier finish with Caramics Gloss Enhancer. This next generation product is the perfect quick detailer for ceramic coated paintwork, capable of eliminating stray watermarks and fingerprints and enhancing the finish at the same time.
Caramics Glass Cleaner is a similar supporting product for our Caramics coatings range. It's not just an extremely powerful glass cleaner, but like our Gloss Enhancer it actively boosts your glass coating for even more hydrophobic water behaviour - an absolute must for all exterior glass, especially in winter.
An interior that's fully protected with Caramics is a beautiful thing, especially in winter where you'll find that most of the grime - even the heavy stuff - can be quickly and easily vacuumed away. The idea is the same as ceramic coating your wheels or paintwork, it's designed to stop contaminants from sticking and becoming ingrained, making cleaning the toughest areas (chiefly the ones that see the most contact like fabrics and cloth seats) extremely quick and easy. At the very most a spray and wipe with Total Interior Cleaner is usually all you'll ever need to freshen everything up. And rightly so, it's cold outside, so there's always an emphasis on not making the job too gruelling.
With this in mind, interior maintenance - for a reasonable level of soiling at least - is best keep to a regular "once-over' during winter. You don't have to wait for every maintenance detail, either. It's far easier keep on top of any grime or dust build-up as you go.
One of the most useful products here is Spritz - either spray onto all of the hard surfaces (or directly onto your cloth) and wipe away any dust, light dirt, films and fingerprints. As we said before, you'll also get durable UV protection to help shield from fading and cracking, along with advanced anti-static properties to keep the dust at bay.
And that's about it. Aside from a little more Glisten in the hard-to-reach areas, and a reapplication of Satin to keep your tyres protected from the elements, you're done, inside and out. Successful maintenance and enhanced protection in less than an hour.
With just a few of these maintenance washes over the coming months, you and your pride and joy can easily survive winter in style.