I wouldn't be a true Detailer if I wasn't also a true Petrolhead with "Diagnois: Modbug" and a somewhat delicately fettled car to show for it.
The subject is my beloved Peugeot 206 which I have owned since 2010, when it was an unmolested 2 and a half year old one-lady owner example as seen below.
What starts off as an innocent change of wheels, soon escalates into a roof spoiler, lowering springs, exhaust, ad infinitum as things progress down the line. We'll fast forward past the first 6 years to 2016 where up until then things were moderately slow moving and basic, to where we are now as I have aptly named it "FrankenPeugeot" - a strange amalgamation of parts from the Peugeot/Citroen parts counter catalogue.
In April 2016 I SORNed the car so it could receive an engine transplant as my friend was selling his tuned 2 litre XU10J4RS (306 GTi-6, for those without Peugeot on the brain) complete with Jenvey individual throttle bodies. The notion of such a power increase proved all too tempting, but alas I abandoned this engine swap as we found that the engine's mounting points were slightly positioned wider than the car's mounting positions; causing the engine to sit slightly on the twist. Driveshafts, were to be chewed up aplenty. Remedying this issue would have involved cutting and welding at the engine bay, a feat I did not want to proceed with in-case we ran into problems getting my originally electric fly by wire throttle set up car to run a cable throttle and still have all of it's weird CANBUS features working reliably. An engine such as this, perhaps belongs in a dedicated track car. One of these, my little 206 is not.
All was not lost though, and no effort up till this point was in vain. Stripping down the engine bay allowed me to treat a small bit of surface rust hiding in the corner of the firewall with Deox-gel and red oxide primer, and paint it all satin black rather than the drab primer grey colour reminiscent of the corner-cutting production factory. I didn't do a perfect job, but this can always be addressed later. Not only this, but I sent my piddly 19mm thick radiator to City Radiators of Bilston who used it as a template to fabricate a new one from scratch, with a much thicker aluminium core of 40mm, with super duper "S" pattern air tracts, or something! This design allows far more coolant to pass through and the increased air flow efficiency cools things down much better.
So, with the XU10J4RS going out the window, figuratively, not literally, I decided to go back to the trusty 8 valve that the car was designed for. But that doesn't mean settling for mediocrity, whatever that means subjectively. Sure, this car isn't exactly going to be catching bright green Nissan GTRs, and will be built with the aim of winning show and shine competitions in mind, but that doesn't mean it should be a paperweight either. Cars like this can easily be tweaked to hold onto the corners like politicians to their seats, so a little extra oomph can't go amiss either. The improved radiator was warranted as this particular 8 valver will be running a Kent PT40 camshaft*, 4-2-1 exhaust manifold and 2.5 inch system with 200 cell sport cat - the latter two sourced from MIJ Performance of Walsall, and the former of eBay Performance....
*A performance camshaft opens the valves further and for longer, per engine revolution, thus allowing a bigger volume of air and fuel mixture to enter the chamber, resulting in a bigger *bang* forcing the piston down harder delivering more force to the crank, in turn, erm, turning the wheels.
As your can imagine, more power equates to a slightly higher operating temperature, so now it should make sense that the improved radiator will hopefully keep under-bonnet temperatures down.
Also fitted to the car whilst locked up and not being let out, are a pair of Corbeau Sportline Boss Evo reclining seats, purchased around 18 months prior to the time of writing. They were ordered via GSM Performance who taken onboard my special request of the diamond quilt stitching and logo to be customised in red, in keeping with the cars black and red theme. The option to purchase the seats on a flexible finance scheme proved helpful at the time as I was also making huge investments into reviving APS Valeting like a phoenix from the ashes, to what you see as Detailed By Andrew today. The seats hug the shoulders and support the back nicely, offering a solid build yet not surrendering the race-car-esque vibe that the Corbeau brand represents.
By now you may wonder what would possess a person to spend so much time and money on a cheap car that is depreciating faster than my patience for the off-hand remarks Joe Public make about the cost of my work.
You see, the words "Detailing" and "Esoteric" go hand in hand. Not everyone understands the passion, dedication and enjoyment that can be experienced when meticulously planning, building and looking after a car. It's a hobby, for which little regard is given for resale value, quite simply because I do not intend to sell the car, and cannot put a price on a phenomenon that adds to the enjoyment of my life and the many friends I have made as a result. When I hear a quip along the lines of "oh, I dunno, it isn't going to add resale value to the car", I say "well, neither does your road tax, fuel or insurance but nobody bats an eyelid at that!". Enjoy life, is the moral of this story.
For the majority of its time off the road, the car has been sat there under a plastic sheet (I know, terrible for the paintwork) not doing much as I quite simply have invested all of my time and money into the business over the last two years, but I am now stepping things up a gear to get my pride and joy the way I want it and back on the road... Literally!
The short ratio gearbox attached to the little TU engine aids acceleration, but boy does it wail at 70mph! So a trip to the Parts Counter in Regal Motors of Bilston saw me order a 5th gear ratio from a Citroen AX 4x4 of all things - the only car in the Peugeot/Citroen range that had an MA gearbox with a 0,66 sized 5th gear. I really had to trawl the archives for this information! This modification will drop the revs at 70mph from 3,200rpm to 2,750rpm. A much welcomed increase in fuel economy and decrease in cabin noise should result.
Concurrently in the process of bringing everything to a location closer to home, I separated the gearbox from the engine block and proceeded to take it on the 50 miles trip home from Shropshire.
This is where we take Detailing to a level beyond machine polishing. Dirty components do not get re-installed into a car on my watch - so on top of changing the 5th gear ratio, the gearbox is going to be affixed to an engine stand to be fully degreased, cleaned, polished and enamel painted. The engine will be brought home separately, and will also undergo the same treatment. This will be covered in Part II.
Meanwhile, my 17" Pitlane alloy wheels, originally from a Peugeot 207, were being refurbished and powder coated by Wheelfurb in Dudley. As part of the process, they acid dip to remove old paint, shot blast to prime the surface, DA sand to remove light curb damage, and then put them in the bake oven to be powder coated a colour of your choice. On top of this, I opted for the wheels to be checked on the balancer and two small buckles to be removed using a high pressure machine. The only thing left to think of here is whether I want to go for 215/40r17 sized tyres, or 205/40r17... And do I go for the tried and trusted Toyo T1R, or the newer CF2?
The intention where the wheels are concerned, is that closer to the time of their fitment to the car they shall be machine polished with 1-inch spot pads to get the very best out of their gloss levels, before being thoroughly ceramic coated for future ease of cleaning.
Wheelfurb also worked magic on my upgrade intake manifold from a Peugeot 106 Rallye; with bigger inlet tracts and plenum helping to get more oxygen into the piston chamber and work in synergy with the other aforementioned modifications. My request to them was to powder coat it pillar-box red, machine sand the raised logo and design, before going back into the oven to be clear lacquered. They executed this perfectly, as my friends from near Falkirk might say, I think it looks "Braw".
This being the final (big) piece of the engine puzzle, I required a suitable cylinder head so one was sourced from the "Bay of e" and will be sent off to Motorcast in Wem to have the face skimmed, valve seats 3 angle cut, and the inlet ports opened up to match the tracts of the Rallye intake manifold.
The reason a different cylinder head is required, in my case the donor being a 1998 1.6 Peugeot 206, is that the TU 8 valve cylinder heads from 2001 onwards (like FrankenPeugeot) have an inlet spacing that looks like this: "O-O-O-O".
The Rallye intake manifold, and thus the car it came from has an inlet spacing like so: "OO-OO".
With this underway, Part II will also involve fitting it all together. Already with a multi-layer steel rubber faced Cometic headgasket, I don't need to buy another, but what I do need, is new head bolts...
Let's get straight into this one. I am often asked about my opinion of being a mobile service compared against being a unit based one. For those who are only just tuning into the blog or Detailed By Andrew social media, or are even just relatively new customers, I wouldn't blame you for thinking of me as "Andy that turns up in the van".
It may be a new story for some, or a tale repeated just like Groundhog Day to others: I was unit based from September 2012 right up to my last appointment at Building 53a at Pensnett Trading Estate in June 2014, with a refurbishment notice period lasting until the final relinquish of the keys in the following September.
This being the epic story that plays through my head on a regular basis, the soliloquy I am about to write about probably isn't going to have much in the way of structure in a literature sense, so I don't expect any newspapers to be knocking my door to offer me an editorial column any time soon.
So, where do we start? Unit? Or mobile? Do I delve into the benefits and pitfalls of each for the customer, or the professional, first?
I'll go with unit firstly, because this is primarily what most Valeters and Detailers set their goals to achieve working from one day. Being unit based has many advantageous merits, the most obvious being that you are, in theory, weather proof at all times, and you are not bound to the elastic band effect of our country's sunrise and sunset times throughout the year. Being unit based offers many working environment benefits that lend well to carrying out full paintwork corrections, ceramic coatings, and other intricate areas of the trade. I cast my mind back to the halcyon days of my unit based era, and look fondly on being able to walk into the cafe two doors down to get a jacket potato with butter, cheese and beans down my gullet in the morning before cracking on with the day. There was next to no setting up, as I filled my buckets up the night before; it was just a case of waiting for the customer to turn up.
But what if the customer never turns up? People sometimes wear rose tinted glasses seeing that being unit based means everything goes like clockwork and you experience no tediums. If it rained, or was forecast to rain, customers would cancel their detailing work in the abject mindset that getting a bit of rain of the car during the drive home rendered my restorational cleaning and polishing a waste of time. Perhaps it slipped their mind that if it didn't rain today, it was still probably going to rain tomorrow. I allow for prestigious special cars that do not ever get wet, but a runaround has no excuse. Sometimes it's not even the rain, I experienced far higher number of time wasters when being unit based, who would book in and either not turn up, or turn up two hours late, resulting in my schedule descending into total chaos. To the average customer without enhanced rationale, it didn't matter if they were late or failed to show up, they just did not care about the net losses to your income suffered; they didn't realise there were more customers for you to be giving your time to instead.
Another aspect to consider when unit based is that you are financially committed to paying for the rent, council tax (where applicable), water, heat, electricity and so forth. If you have no work to do in dismally quiet spells, you still have to pay these fees. Couple that with a total mis-calculation of operating cost and therefore prices charged for time and service, and your bankruptcy is on an egg timer.
Being unit based has excellent benefits when things go well though. You can work into the night to get things turned out in fewer days, and if you work smart, you can start a process on one car whilst another car has a process waiting to cure or dry. The advent of specialist coatings lends well to being unit based, as you have more control over temperature and humidity - although doing so adds more to your electricity and/fuel bill - something you must factor into your pricing as Joe Public often fail to think of these little things.
On the other hand, being mobile allows the flexibility of not being geographically bound. If you offer a service that leads a customer to believe you are the person for the job, despite being 200 miles away, you can still service them. Building up a reputation to a point where customers want you to travel shows that you are doing something right, and the customer barely has to get out of bed for the work to be done. Also, some of the more prestigious cars that I work on would not be left out of their owners' sight, not a cat in hells chance. So being mobile ensures the customer has peace of mind that their cherised car is worked upon in a manner that they can spectate and see the processes involved. The benefit of being mobile means that you spend time with the customer in person, allowing them to witness how you work, build up an understanding of your process and witness your skill first hand. It goes without saying, I receive far more tips being mobile than I did being unit based, purely because customers see just how hard I work on their car.
The perils of being mobile lie within our unrelentingly erratic weather patterns. Sure, a gazebo can be used in moderate conditions but this still limits you to a certain level of machine polishing and net result, and if it is very windy you might as well hang on like Mary Poppins. Ceramic coatings should not be applied or left to cure in damp weather so their outdoor application rests in the mercy of a good Summer's day. Though I will say that my gazebo, especially with side walls does a good job of emulating dry conditions at times. Some time soon I will be re-investing in an even larger gazebo so that large cars can fit inside, with side walls fitted around, so much so that I can say "Welcome to Devvo's studio mayte!"
The nature of detailing also revolves around being able to view and give appraisal to potential customers' cars to give bespoke quotation. When unit based, people found my premises address on the internet and came to visit me. In a way, this was an inconvenience because I was easily accessible to people without putting them through "customer qualification" measures beforehand. In other words, I was susceptible to having to put my tools down and stop what I was doing in order to tend to a visitor who more often than not, was expecting me to transform their house-brick washed runaround into a Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance show winner, with all microscopic defects and swirls removed, in return for a very generously haggled value of a pocket full of buttons. I cast my mind back to someone who came to visit expecting me to fully restore his paintwork, I gave him a price for which I was severely undercharging for at the time, and he still wanted to haggle me down by 50%!
Being mobile means that you do not suffer time wasters coming to visit your premises. It's harsh, but it's true. If I had 20 people disrupt my work to a paying customer's vehicle per day, I simply would not get any work done. Now, I can simply allow the phone to ring, and anyone serious about wanting professional services being provided will leave a voicemail if I do not answer their call for failing to hear the phone ring above the sound of the machine polishers, or myself talking face to face with a customer.
A major perk of being mobile is that you see so much more scenery and everything is different each day. I certainly enjoyed Buxton Hills on my way to a job in Manchester last year. The main point about being mobile for me is working on special cars that do not leave their owners garage, or is an inconvenience for them to take the car to a unit based company.
The cons of being mobile here is that you may sometimes have to take time out to travel and view the cars where bespoke high-price services are concerned. Last year, I driven 35 miles to the other side of Birmingham to view a car for somebody who was so serious about having a detail, yet I never heard back from him. So that was 70 miles of fuel, tyres, wear and tear, not to mention nearly 3 hours of my day wasted. You have to be smart when dealing with these things, as I see this happen to fellow professionals a lot.
These days, if a car is in want of serious detailing work, the customer should be prepared to pay for an inspection if they can't bring the car to me. Nobody should be expected to drive around giving professional advice for free. Such as earlier this year, where I heard from the grapevine that someone did not book in purely because I refused to disclose what polishing compound and pad combination I was going to use. Firstly, I do not know until I test any combination on the paint, and secondly, asking me for that information is a bit like asking Mr Krabbs to part with his beloved Krabby Patty formula. Not today, Plankton! There is indeed a reason why some of my products are decanted into plain bottles. I have to protect the knowledge that I have accrued over the years in the interest of my business.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time being unit based, and do not regret a single moment of it. Indeed, I have carried a lot of customers forwards from this era, and whilst I can look back on these days with the song "I dreamed a dream in time gone by" almost going through my head, I am enjoying my mobile work even more-so. Have you ever driven through Buxton Hills? The Rabbit Run on the way to Welshpool wasn't too bad either, where I kept up with "The Stig's Fat Bald Ginger Cousin" on the twisties. The adventure of going somewhere new every day is so exciting, and if you are lucky, the customers make the cups of tea for you!
Blurb: What are these random pictures? The pictures dotted throughout this blog post are of works that are still distinguished in my mind of my time at Building 53a, some as far as 5 years ago. The Toyota Carina E stayed with me for over 48 hours to take it from a minging Grandad car to a fully corrected Time Warp. I also remember the Skoda Superb as a picturesque model of my paintwork correctional work at the time, despite my tools and equipment being so spartan in stark comparison to these days (my money was taken up by the rent, rather than ability to re-invest)... and of course, how could I forget the Nissan GTR!
In the words of Alex Ferguson; it's squeeky bum time. I was trusted to work on this stunning 1990 Testarossa to improve its paintwork as much as possible in one day.
This is a 1990 model, with very little over 21,000 miles on the clock, and has been in the ownership of the current owner for over 18 years. If anyone knows this car back to front, it's going to be him. With no disrespect to my usual customer base, this is a very different calibre of car to what I am used to day in day out, not just in its heritage and value, but the fact that it is meticulously cared for and kept clean. In this particular instance, there was no need for the 3 or so hours of washing, decontaminating and clay barring like I have to on daily driven vehicles when carrying out a detail. This was to be a bespoke service not outlined in any set service package.
Instead, the initial part of my visit was spent with the customer learning about the car and receiving valuable information on the task at hand, before he left for work to leave me to spend 1 and a half hours just studying the car. Indeed, before even contemplating touching the car, I analysed some of the defects under digital microscope, as unfortunately there were some issues to consider.
In the above pictures, you can see what swirls, micro-scratches and random isolated scratches look like in magnified view. However, these were the least of my concern when the owner told me that the car had been detailed many years ago and the detailer had struck through the paint. My initial thought was, "how can it be possible to strike through single stage paint, to reveal another layer of red?" but a quick lesson in the history of the car from the owner taught me that Ferrari painted these cars in a very special manner.
You see, in order to get a mirror like finish from the factory using single stage paint (that being, just colour, no clear coat like modern cars), they would apply a fine layer of colour, sand it back flat by hand, apply another fine layer of colour, sand it back by hand, and so forth ad infinitum.
Put simply, there were many layers to this cake. Throw into the mix that some panels had been repainted and you have one very tricky car to level out by machine. I had to approach this carefully using initiative if I were to avoid emulating the previous detailer's mistake of striking through to another red layer of paint. So, I taken dozens of paint readings from each panel, and studied their meaning to assess how to approach each panel. Their readings were, lowest thickness to highest per panels are as follows, in microns:
Offside Front Wing: 127-196
Nearside Front Wing: 127-217
Offside Door: 131-328
Nearside Door: 115-184
Offside Sill: 278-329
Nearside Sill: 309-1165
Offside Rear Quarter: 155-242
Nearside Quarter: 121-216
It may just appear to be random number to you, but the intra-panel differences highlighted the need to be careful of the fact that these cars were hand painted and flatted down, as well as this particular car having been cut back before. The aforementioned area of strike-through was on the nearside quarter, where readings were around 120-140 microns in the damaged area. On a modern clear coated car, this would be a very healthy figure. I could literally see in numbers where readings started to increase across the panel - so I knew where I was safe to cut.
The absence of a need to do heavy cleaning and prep like I have to on "normal" daily driven cars meant that I could do a two set machine polish in one day, meaning the first set being a specially selected cutting compound and pad combination, and then a refining polish and soft pad combination. The choice of machine used was also paramount.
After the machine polishing process, I applied Swissvax Best of Show to the paintwork and wheels. To ceramic coat a car like this would be a little absurd in my opinion, as a permanent coating applied to such a historical document of a car would almost spoil its heritage. Cars of this ilk prove that there will always be a place for wax.
There were many fiddly areas to get in and around, before the interior was treated with leather conditioner. All told, this visit taken around 11 hours of solid working time. I couldn't get the paintwork 100% blemish free, because doing so would have involved using high levels off cut too risky of causing strike-through, but I removed a moderate amount of defects, and left it with a sharp reflection.
I worked as carefully and attentively as possible, no phone calls were answered this day as I needed maximum concentration without distraction; if I damaged this car I just don't think my confidence would have ever recovered. Also, it was encouraging to be so trusted to do this work, without being watched over, checked upon or otherwise - this enabled me to relax and focus.
The time absolutely flown by, in fact I lost track of time. It's a another milestone and privilege for me to have this car in my portfolio. But there is one thing I would like to address before people jump to conclusion and spread rumours that I only work on high-spec cars - I am not above working on any car, in fact, my next job may well be a clapped out old Transit van. I stay humble, you keep yourself factual!
Enjoy the pictures below!
Most of my case studies up until now have involved the higher specification Detailing service packages, so I thought I'd break it up a bit with a Service Clean variant carried out on this 2015 Range Rover Sport. This was booked in by the owner about a month ago and carried out last week - back in June and July I had a waiting time of around 4 weeks because of the great weather we had creating an influx of customers searching the internet for this kind of work. Recently though, the weather has been absolutely dismal. Perhaps we should rename the kids' "Six Weeks Summer Holidays" to "Six Weeks of TV and Sega Megadrive"?
On arrival, it was clear to see that the car, whilst kept clean, suffered from incorrect wash technique. Sure, it is naive to think that a vehicle will stay swirl free forever (we do not live in an idealistic world, sediment and debris as well as the fact that any form of contact with paint has the potential to mark it), but this doesn't change the fact that a proper wash regimen would have prevented the eyesore in front of me to a large degree. I mean, the car looks great, it's just the finish!
What I like to call the "meet and greet" is essential when visiting a new customer. You can gauge what they are going to be like to deal with (99% of my customers are lovely, as I can 'vet' them on the phone, the customer here being no exception), what they expect, and also gain valuable clues about the vehicle's history and what you may expect to uncover.
So off I start getting set up, filling up the buckets and starting with the wheels. Instantly I clock that they are a matte finish, so a good bit of product knowledge had me reaching into the van for Krystal Kleen Detail Matte Wash. When working on any kind of matte finish, you need products that do not have gloss enhancers, and also contain very gentle surfactants.
The wash technique I use for wheels is pretty simple to grasp. Pre-rinse, bog brush in the barrels, paint brushes in the bolt holes, and loofah to clean the face and backs of the spokes. Making an attempt to clean the backs helps keep the faces cleaner for longer, as there is less mess to trickle outwards when the car is driven in the rain. "I like what I'm seeing", the customer declared, "I didn't know you did the inside of the wheels." It's nice to get little words of positive reinforcement when starting a job, 'we're in for a good innings'.
After the wheels were cleaned, the bodywork was soaked with pre-wash and then pressure rinsed of any loose sediment and grit that is obviously not wanted when contact washing. This is the first step of ensuring that the paintwork is put to as little risk of marring as possible.
Not all professionals subscribe to this particular wash method, but I like to use snow foam as a lubricant when contact washing, re-applying to any dry areas. Beginning with the top and the glass, moving on to the front end, sides, rear, door shuts and then the yucky bits underneath. I clean the 'cleanest' bits first, leaving the worst until last. It's a bit like when bath water was shared in World War 2, you didn't exactly let the one who had the dirtiest job and had eaten curry the night before in there first. In the picture above, you can see the "two bucket wash method" in action - one bucket designated to clean the wash mitt off, and the second with fresh clean shampoo water. This process of cleaning the wash mitt off before dunking back into the shampoo bucket should be carried out as frequently as possible to reduce the risk of, yep, you guessed it, marring. If the 'rinse' bucket becomes too dirty, I dispose of the water and fill it up fresh.
The bodywork was cleaned in this fashion before being rinsed down and dried with mega plushy towels using a polymer detailing spray as a drying aid. Once dry, Krystal Kleen Detail SiCoat was applied. This is a silane wax blend which is my go-to protectant as standard. I'll do a blog post on different forms of last step protection in detail one day, but in short I like this because it is easy to use, isn't fussy on climate, adds gloss and has accountable water repellent behaviour. Working out at around £55 per litre, it isn't exactly a thrift store special. But I don't deal in cheap stuff. I deal in good stuff.
Whilst these products are from America and I anticipate for them to be named accordingly, I just refuse to refer to them in their manufacturer's spelling. It's ALUMINIUM, dude! Even though these exhaust tips are stainless steel, it is intended for all bright work and does a great job.
It's impossible to clean around badges perfectly on a nano-scale, but getting a good cotton swab laced in quick detailer spray in there helps presentation. Clean paintwork, and dullness around the badges? Not a good look. If you're new to reading my blog, I sure hope I'm giving an insight as to why the £5 car wash is a little different by now...
So we're all finished up with the exterior looking pretty snazzy, and the interior given a thorough vacuum through, with tiny paint brushes used to get deep into the vents. The seats were cleaned and conditioned with Krystal Kleen Detail Lush Leather, with the interior plastics treated to Meguiar's Inner Clean dressing and UV protectant. The glass was cleaned including the top bits, and one of my many choices of smellies was applied. I went for Autoglym Golden Sunset on this one. The owner seemed quite happy with the work, and we discussed the possibility of a future visit to get machine polishing mad on his paintwork. Then, we may have one seriously slick looking car on our hands.
Out of interest I'd love to find out how long you may guess this service to have taken to carry out, and how much you personally would be prepared to pay for such a service - all part of R&D! Leave your answers in the comments below!
I've had a couple of interesting jobs in lately that have received Ceramic Coating treatment, so this post will have two case studies rather than one! For those that don't know, 'Ceramic Coating' is a barrier of protection applied to the car which does what a wax does, and so much more.
Firstly, these coatings are generally made up of Silica Dioxide (SiO2) or some modified variant of, which is an incredibly tough and durable material. Once applied to a surface and cured, they manifest in a durable, hard and shiny finish.
"So it's a bit like that dealership stuff, then?" Yes, in a fashion and to a degree. There is a huge mistrust in dealership applied packages, and I have seen enough evidence that they sometimes aren't actually applied at all, but the customer is assured that their three figures have been well spent and that the car won't need any polishing. A professional detailer will take pride in using what they think is a good product on your car, and the benefit is that you can watch them apply it in some cases.
Before I start with the write-ups, I would like to clarify that the consensus amongst most professionals is that coatings should be applied indoors. This is correct in some cases, especially with more specialised and sensitive coatings. However, having spoken with Krystal Kleen Detail/Liquid Elements UK/Feynlab UK mad scientist and proprietor Marc Linekar quite a while ago on the phone, I was imparted with the knowledge that coatings are good to go in conditions above 11*C temperature and relative humidity below 70%. Indeed, there is even a reactor product available to Liquid Elements approved technicians that help with the curing of coatings if conditions are borderline unideal.
I've used many coatings over the years, the first being Optimum Opti-coat back when my business was unit based between 2012 and 2014. However, there wasn't much call for this at the time so it wasn't something I did often. It did however, contribute to how well my Peugeot 206 looked.
Aside from Optimum Opti-coat, I have also used CarPro CQuartz UK. I have a customer on the books for regular cleans to a vehicle I applied this to back in November 2016, at the time of writing the car is still looking very glassy. The key to prolonging the life of a coating is keeping it clean; allowing dirt to accumulate and bind to the coating will degrade it. As Craig Hall, head of CarPro UK recently wrote in an article for the Pro Detailer magazine, coatings will start to fail on the bottom edges of the car where there is the most impact from road debris. Small pinholes will cause the coating to lift microscopically. CarPro have launched a Silica based polish called Essence Plus that is designed to repair coatings that are showing signs of wear.
Here are Craig's own words in a message:
"Essence Plus as mentioned is a filler polish with a resin coat that we call a "coating restorer"
You've probably had the following scenario.. coat a car, 6-12 months down the line that customer comes back and the coating is still performing as new but the car has picked up some marring, maybe the customers wash technique isn't quite tip top.
Essence Plus can be machined on to hide this marring, and top the coating up with a Silica resin protection for up to another 6 months.
Before now, it would require polishing away the perfectly good coating to remove swirls and re-apply.
So for all intents and purposes it's for the client who wants there car looking good, but doesn't want to pay out for another enhancement and re-coat 6 months later because they've picked up a little wash marring."
I have also used Liquid Elements Eco Shield, but these days I am currently applying Feynlab Universal as pictured above. This particular coating product was in fact designed with fleet management companies in mind, where their particular cars will be beating up and down the motorway and seeing high wear and tear. To counter this, Feynlab designed Universal to be very strong, helping it to be scratch resistant (but not scratch-proof, remember this is coating not a forcefield) and durable. Another attractive feature of this product for me to want to use it on my customers' cars is that it was formulated to be used where prep work may not be carried out properly by fleet management companies, nor in ideal conditions. Myself being mobile, and not all of my customers owning a cushty garage for me to work inside of, was drawn to this to minimise any potential 'come-back'.
Think of it this way - if it was designed to work on and protect cars that may not be looked after too well and be applied by non-detailers, then it should be perfect for cars that do get cared for and especially being applied by myself as I am very anal about the preparation process. But don't let this fact decieve you though, whilst a 250ml bottle may treat 5 or 6 cars, it still costs me £180 to buy, with my suede applicators and other paraphernalia costing more on top. I like to think I'm paying for quality. Oh, and don't forget the panel wipe, no polishing oils can remain on the surface when applying coatings.
Take for example this Jaguar XE, it was only purchased new by the customer two weeks before my visit to detail and protect it. The Iron Fallout treatment identified a numerous amount of metallic deposits sintered into the paint, which were then confidently removed with clay barring. This probably occurred because the car is kept on the driveway next to a busy main road with high traffic.
There were some marks and blemishes to be removed so the whole car was given a light machine polish. So there we go, not even brand new cars are defect free and the preparation and polishing processes should always be respected. I did encounter a small issue with this job, another peril of working outdoors, in the form of the gardeners turning up and blowing clippings and sediment all over the vehicle just as I had finished machine polishing. Some panels had to be re-done as a result of this, so for any potential customers that may be reading this post, please ensure that there are no destructive interferences during my visit.
The following car is a 2008 Volkswagen Golf R32 that I had already detailed last year, but wanted freshly re-visiting and coating ready for sale. Enjoy the images, I even taken a microscope image of the paintwork afterwards...
Here we are looking at a single full day detailing session on this Range Rover Evoque, a 2012 model with just over 50,000 miles on the clock. It's worth considering the age and mileage here as part of the background story. I had already carried out a couple of Service Cleans, my most basic package, on this vehicle, this year and I strongly recommended that the customer opted for some kind of Detailing service at some point.
The paintwork was very flat, as it hadn't been polished in anyway for sometime. Of course, my Service Cleans provided some kind of protection in the form of the polymer based finishing sprays I like to use, but these are still just mere cleans. Over the years I have dealt with customers that want to opt for a 'wash only' regimen, understandably looking to keep cost down, but the case study on this vehicle supports my arguement that there comes a time where every car needs deep cleaning and specialist polishing. It's natural. This car had endured long cleaning intervals, and visited the local car wash when it did get cleaned, before the customer first came to me. The phosphorus and sulfuric based cleaning products that these places use are excellent at cutting through road grime very quickly, but in the long run can damage chrome and plastic trim, and leave the paintwork gasping for hydration as its natural oils are stripped away leaving it porous.
One issue that this particular car had was that the brake pads had been run incredibly low at one point, the resulting corrosive metallic dust that emitted was quite literally cooked onto the wheel due to the high temperatures that exist around the brakes when in use. Not cleaning it away quick enough did not help the situation. A plan of action was discussed with the customer on my first visit.
The plan was to remove this wheel so that it could be given a deep acid clean to remove all of the deposits not only on the face of the wheel but the inside areas too. Unfortunately, my jack did not raise the car high enough to clear the wheel from the ground, due to the height of the suspension. Try as I might, jacking from the sill and the rear differential, I had to make compromise. The customer was rather lenient with this, as long as the face cleaned up well he was happy. Personally, I would have liked to get the inside looking good too, so this may have to be tackled another day. Oh well, at least the car benefitted from checking the tightness of all the wheel bolts.
Acid based products are not very nice to have to use, and I only bring them out as a last resort. Not only is it a risk to myself should it come into contact with myself, despite my PPE, but also there is a risk that prolonged exposure to the painted surface may cause discolouration. The product was worked and agitated and a second clean was carried out with fallout remover. This proved to be far more time consuming than I anticipated, even just to clean the face, so perhaps it was a blessing in disguise that I couldn't take the wheel off, as cleaning the barrel would have taken even longer. When quoting for a job, or selling a set package, I am essentially estimating an amount of time, multiplied by my hourly rate. If the job takes an extra 15, 20 minutes that's fine. Yet once I start approaching 1 hour, 2 hour plus above this, not only am I working unpaid for that extra time, but I am not being compensated for the product consumption used during that time.
11am came and gone and I was starting to worry. I am a stickler for timing on these kinds of jobs, I like to have the prep work done and be onto machine polishing at the 12pm mark, but at this point I had barely put a wash mitt to the bodywork. A good snow foam down, three bucket wash method, fallout removal treatment, tar spots removed with panel wipe and a clay bar treatment saw me giving the car a dry down at around half past 12, ready to start taking paint depth readings.
Paint depth readings came back good, in fact this car lies in the 5% of all cars that I work on that had no respray work done to it, at the time of writing. A hint for those that do not know, paint depth readings are essential. If the paint is too thin, you have a pronounced risk of striking through the lacquer when machine polishing, and if panels stand out as being too thick, you could be dealing with underlying filler and repairs of unknown quality.
My first test section involved the Flex PE14-2 150 model rotary polisher with a soft finishing pad and fine grade polish. This brought about a shine, but did not cut defects such as immediately noticeable swirls and marks as much as I'd have liked. Working with a rotary means increasing the cut of your pads or compounds correlates with an increased risk of inflicting holograms, a scouring radial defect also known as buffer trails. As this was a single stage polish job, a second refining stage was not viable, so the Flex VRG 3401 came off the subs bench and with a slightly stronger compound and a medium cutting pad, the marks were demolished a lot easier. The Vertool 12e polisher was used on more intricate areas due to it's advantageous 75mm polishing pad fitment lending well to this type of task.
After a certain amount of sets and repetitions, the polishing pad will become clogged with spent polish and dead paint residue, resulting in decreased performance and even more dust being flicked around everywhere. The Universal Pad Washer gets my pads cleaned off and ready to get back in action very well with minimal downtime.
The polishing stage was completed, with Krystal Klean Detail SiCoat applied. This is a Silane infused wax blend for durable protection and increased shine. The weather was very changeable this day, with strong sunshine one moment and rain the next.
The plastic trims were treated with AUtosmart Smart Trim, the wheels given a liberal coat of Opti-seal, and the paintwork and glass given a further treatment with the polymer spray that I use on all services, to further layer over the top of SiCoat.
It's impossible to take a car that hasn't been pampered for years, and make it perfect. But I do try.
If you've been following the blog up to now, you'll notice I am always talking about finding new ways to work more efficiently. After all, what is the point in having a top quality inventory if you are wasting precious minutes on every job setting up and packing away, or trying to find that one little tool that you knew was somewhere in the van?
In the background of this picture of the Bentley Continental I carried out a Gloss Boost on last month, a glimpse of what I was operating from can be witnessed. When a professional books their diary to full capacity and beyond, finding downtime to organise everything can prove difficult, and if your set up is pretty lousy in the first place, it can soon spiral out of control.
I decided enough was enough. This is supposed to be Detailed By Andrew, not Detailed By Albert Steptoe.
Having spoken online to my friend Mat over at Valet South East I gained ideas and inspiration from how he had his similarly sized van set up. The Peugeot Partner has moderate space but it isn't exactly a Transit Connect so making the best use of cargo room was the plan. The first step was identifying what was taking up the most unnecessary space, and this was the 250 litre lay flat water tank. Everything else was having to be stacked on top of this, making access difficult and organisation scant.
A trip down to Smiths of the Dean saw me purchase a new upright 150 litre tank, and three 30 litre drums which will serve as my new buckets as they have super duper seals on them. This, again, lends to less setting up on the job as the buckets can be filled at home and transported with little fear of them spilling. On top of being able to double up as corner weights for my gazebo, they also have doubled sided handles meaning both of my arms will be used to lift and carry them. I anticipate to look like Popeye in no time at all! What with these changes, I am still only 10 litres of water down against my old set up, with much less space taken. Here is the old 250 litre tank compared to the new one.
The next step was to get everything out the van, and give it a good vacuum and dust down so that the floor was clean enough to have carpet stuck down to it. I will emphasise that everything about this van renovation had to be done on a budget, mostly using things already available in my possession, and done by myself. Hiring a professional van fitter or overspending would cut down on available money to spend on more important things such as tools and consumables, after all.
Over a year ago I was kindly donated a sheet of grey carpet by a customer, which up until this point has just been thrown down underneath everything. This was given a good brushing down before being cut in half to fit, and glued down to the entire floor. I needed to wait for the glue to dry fully before giving the carpet a good shampooing. The metal slat was refitted at the back of the van for a flush finish; if my handy work could be described as so. The more eagled-eyed reader may notice the rusty bolts; these will be replaced at some point and everything will be polished up.
Pre-existing creases in the fabric made it nearly impossible to fit perfectly flat; these were indeed stretched so not a case of poor workmanship, even though I am not the best DIY'er. Being as most of the floor plan will be covered with equipment I didn't really mind. As long as it looks presentable to onlookers that is all that counts.
One thing that always bugged me since I first bought the van, is that one of the rear plastic cards had been smashed through. My little van used to belong to Europcar as a hire vehicle, so I expected the odd mark here and there caused by those without integrity. I used offcuts of fabric to patch it up together again. It's not perfect, but it has personal pride attached.
Getting the new tank to sit by the bulkhead in a secure fashion with minimal movement saw me measure a slat of wood to size and position the two pieces infront and behind the tank, using a drill to make pilot holes and screwing down in alternating positions to give a little extra strength. The top of the tank will be secured to the bulk head with a ratchet strap.
These wooden slats will at some point need painting or covering so that the wood doesn't rot with the inevitable exposure to rain. However, the end of the day was drawing in and the weather was getting worse, so it was time to start packing away and make do until the next available downtime to continue.
Using a total of nine plastic boxes to store all of my products and microfibre cloths was proving to be time consuming and arduous pulling all of it out the van setting up at the customer's location, and packing away at the end. Three of these were filled with 5 litre sized containers of concentrated products, with even more of these behemoths floating around in the van. Did I really need to be carrying fifteen to twenty of these sized bottles? The plan was to find a layout that enabled me to decant these products into 1 litre bottles, and then store all of my spray bottles somewhere easy to access and maintain in the van, where they could be diluted into and filled up at ease. After consideration and research I opted for a nearside shelving unit from Demar Van.
Being pre-designed and flat-packed for user assembly saved me on blueprinting one from scratch, and because I am not by any means a 'chippy' this prevented any of my attempts to make my own being dead on arrival. Everything now has a proper home, instead of falling around the place in the old ways. An old piece of wood was used as a support block to secure to the plywood wall of the van, and a couple of angle brackets were sourced to further afix onto the floor.
Nothing is ever finished, and there is always more to do. In the future I may fit a false floor across the back to make for extra room if I need it. I've also been advised about a "keep warm" heater for the winter time, a device used by lorry drivers to stop their cabins getting too cold overnight. Internal insulation wouldn't go amiss either. Always planning ahead, I am now preparing to find ways to stop my fingers freezing to the bone in a mere couple of months' time...
My latest little toy is a digital microscope to use with my laptop. You may wonder why I would need one, but it is going to be an invaluable tool going forward in terms of defect identification and customer management. As word goes around about what I do, I am always being asked about scratches. "Can you come round and have a look at this key scratch?". Indeed, I have in the past spent time making house visits just to look at scratches in cars' paint caused by a key. Where a key scratch is involved, I always know that it will be too deep to rectify with wet-sanding and polishing before I even get there, but it would be rude to say no to these requests.
I don't mind calling out to help local people, but the problem for me starts when some react very insensitively to my verdict. "Here he is, the barer of bad news!" and "oh look, the car valeter that cor even get rid of a scratch!" are just a couple of tongue in cheek taunts I have received on the following encounter with the people whom I given my time to, free of charge.
Below I have made a rough diagram of a cut-through vision of a typical modern paint system that exists on a car, this basically consists of:
Scratches that do not breach past the clear coat into the base coat can generally be removed or improved by compounding, or wet-sanding if appropriate. Of course, this should be carried out in a manner that respects paint depth levels. Is it really worth taking the clear coat down to it's last few microns of thickness to address a scratch that is barely noticeable?
Perfectly defect free finishes, if they exist in the real world, reflect light into the retinas of our eyes unhindered. We can see swirl marks because the surface is no longer microscopically smooth; the surface area in the micro-scratches deflect the light in all sorts of directions which our eyes pick up on, and the image sent to our brain then alerts the prefrontal cortex to scream "holy crap, better call a detailer!".
Trouble starts when the object that has scratched the paint has gone right through the lacquer into the layers beneath. Abrasive work might round the edges off, but the fact remains that the scratch is just too deep to remove. The only decent fix is a respray in this case, or application of touch-up paint if you can live with a suboptimal result.
I'm hoping that this device will help me to make even further informed decisions in regards to how to tackle small marks and scratches, and also prove to people that when I say it's too deep I am acting on an educated basis and not apathy. Here's the picture of scratch number eleventy billion, it's too deep to remove, look I got proof!
The below pictures were taken from cars that reside in my street, with the permission of their owners. The first picture is of scratches around the door handles generally caused by fingernails and rings. Take note of the micro-scratches that surround.
These following two pictures are of another car, where an isolated vertical scratch is pictured in normal view, and then magnified. You can compare the degree of this scratch against the metallic flake in the base coat. This could generally be improved to a satisfactory degree with wet-sanding and machine compounding.
The digital microscope can take pictures and videos at 1000x magnification. I thought I'd have a little play around with some items in the house, can you guess what they are?
The best there is.
If you're reading the blog up until this point, firstly let me say thank you for paying your attention to what I have had to say. You've probably noticed I talk about the demographic, business end of things just as much, if not moreso than the technical, hands-on side of my profession. Before making any blindsided assumptions into the sub-title of this instalment, I'd like you to realise that it is merely backhanded satire giving an insight into what I am about to delve into, rather than an egotistical remark.
As I have already covered enough times, public perception of cost is one thing. But just like Yin and Yang, there has to be something on the other side of the scale, and that is quality. Quality is what sets you apart, and you need to be able to sell that to your customers to get work, whatever your trade is. Mentioning and explaining the perks and benefits of the service you provide to educate Joe Public and turn them into a paying customer is the foundation of running a successful business. There is however, a limit.
Compared to 12 months, 2 years, 4 years ago, where peoples' snags and remarks were 99% orientated around my cost, I'm now being questioned and compared on the quality of my work.
There are various online detailing forums that would be so advantageous of being apart of, if only I could get over that hurdle of being around people that jump on conversation threads originally posted by those looking for a detailer, transforming so incongruously into wild vultures frothing at the mouth, somewhat managing to string together the words "don't go to them, they're no good! I'm the best!"
Indeed, I myself am sometimes told about how "you're good, but such and such is number 1 in the area, number 1 in the country, they already have a personal reservation to detail God's car when they die.."
The first thing I have to ask is, who on Earth said these people were number 1 in the first place? Surely, someone who has the brass balls to call themselves number 1 needs to visit Sigmund Freud to get their Id, Ego and Super Ego in check. Secondly, does this person sound approachable to take your business to? Are they painting an unrealistic picture of what service they will actually deliver?
Having said this, there are varying degrees of skill and end product quality out there, again applying to more trades than just the one I work in. There are companies out there with specialised studios that have clearly had big money backers make huge investments, and there are also the humble new-starts working from the back of their hatchback car with simple inventory; and vast levels between. The people doing the work, should have the same common denominator; a respect for the fact they all started from the same beginning. Whatever it is you are having done, whether that be a haircut, law soliciting, car detail, DJ at a night do, plastering - find yourself someone humble that tries their damn hardest to give you value for money and put a smile on your face. Don't care about being number 1 in whatever place, just be number 1 to yourself and your customer.
It's not You, it's Me, or You and Me.
For those not quite in the know up until now, I started plying my own business in the valeting/detailing industry starting in 2011. If you are wondering why I put a forward slash between these two antonyms, or equally arguable synonyms, I intend to discuss this issue someday, somewhere over the rainbow; just not today.
Contemplating exactly how to write the supplement to this very blog post, I look back on how I started out. A young lad, so obsessed with keeping his Peugeot 206 so remarkably clean and shiny, that I garnered the attention of friends of my family and others located in my street. Indeed, I was so anal about my car that remarks from those that drove past eventually floated over my head, just like I had heard it all before. The year, was 2010, and I was a meager 18 years old existing in the midst of the "Credit Crunch", a phrase that was all too strangely dropped as soon as VAT rose to 20%. Youth unemployment was astronomically high, and redundancy letters were being printed like they were going out of fashion. Big businesses were crumbling to the wayside. Looking even further back to 2008, I remember being 16 years old, desperately handing out CVs in return for the slightest bit of work experience; it seemed not even my hot body was enough....
At the time, I was studying at college in another trade that was forecast not to be, when I noticed an online job advert offering work at a local valeting company. 'This could be my big break out of unemployment', I thought, finally a breakthrough to rid myself of the digs and jibes I often received for being an unemployed young man, not that I could help it. I was offered a job-trial day.
Dressed smartly, with new-fangled shoes and a bright eyed outlook, I was in for big surprise. The 'safe wash' process I had so lovingly adhered to when cleaning my own car, what with the three bucket wash method (one for the shampoo, one for the mitt rinse, and one for the wheels) and snow foam (Oh Lord, don't forget the snow foam) was not present in the slightest. Instead, we were sent out to the car park of the local shopping center, harassing innocent shoppers before they had fully stepped out of their vehicle, to have their car "washed" with dirty rags and a wheelie-bin-esque container or yesterdays water. This really went against the grain for me, and before the end of the morning, I was done, and resigned.
The next day, I was in the car with my dear Mom, she said "you know what, you should make a go of it on your own." So I started small from the boot of my little 206, cleaning cars for those who cared to have the work done, with a very basic inventory of what I could afford, and what I could fit in the back of my car. It was tough at first, I remember many leaflet drops that involved my then 13 year old sister helping me out, in return for a McDonalds Meal - talk about a good deal! APS Valeting was the name, and making a name for myself was the game. My Dad, was quintessential in sending some very good customers my way through the contacts he knew. Don't forget to thank your family.
I stuck it out in this fashion for a while, enjoying the custom of some regular car wash jobs, until my next door neighbor made me aware of an industrial unit at Pensnett Trading Estate becoming available, where his business was also based. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. Perhaps a little more blindly than I should have done. In hindsight, I should have carried out a leaflet drop, or even a survey of the area to ensure I had enough work already waiting for me to hit the ground running. Starting there in September 2012, work started slow, and I had just about enough personal funds to pay the monthly rent and re-stock inventory; just.
I consulted a local print company to produce my building sign-writing. Against what I requested, they offered a design of my logo surrounded with bubbles. Myself at the time not being one to question or cause offense, went ahead with the design knowing it did not represent what I wanted my business image to portray. With no bad feeling intended towards any customers of that era, I was perceived to be "Car Wash Man", working nearly all morning on one car to make a net turnover of £30, if I was so lucky. Although, I did indeed have plenty of 'detailing' work so to speak, too, where I was given full jurisdiction from my customers to go machine polishing mad and make their cars look as good as I could possibly do; I still quite simply under-priced all of my work regardless of work undertaken, and ended up informing the landlord of my three month notice period to depart from my tenancy in June 2014. I had not only miscalculated what it was costing me to operate, but what I needed to achieve in net turnover as well. In business, you can have too much of a heart.
I left my tenancy at Building 53a in debt, despite the grueling hard work I had done and every last penny I had plowed into it.
Luckily, I was not to be drowned underneath the crashing waves. A rubber dinghy had been thrown to my aid by Virgin Media. *Cue Sega Megadrive Super Monaco GP background music "Concentration"*
At Virgin Media, acting as a service technician I learned a lot about dealing professionally with customers, thinking fast and using initiative. This was my first job fitting in with a team of "lads", it was tough, but I'd like to think I managed it. There was a lot to be taken from my 15 month tenure at this company to be transposed to what lay ahead.
This experience, coupled with my naturally evolved straight talking nature lead me to get back on the saddle, refreshed, ready to go, ready to re-invest in better equipment, ready to learn more, ready to collaborate with the right kind of fellow professionals, and not least, ready to take a right ear bending from the Professional Valeters and Detailers Association about how I had been doing it wrong all along, and how simple it was to put right.
It sounds a lot like Woodstock, or if your music taste is amoungst the alternative kind, Bloodstock. But we aren't talking about music here, we are talking about the largest car care event in Europe, and dare I say it, perhaps the world over. As somebody that arguably has *that* eye for paintwork, plying my trade starting in 2011 professioanally, it may be of utter surprise to some that I have never attended Waxstock before. The main reason being that when I was unit based I never mingled with fellow professionals out of shyness and keeping my head down and getting on with my work; perhaps to my detriment moreso than my benefit in hindsight. Although at the time, I had seen enough of other professionals' behaviour in slagging each other off that I felt justified in my evasion. This of course all changed when I joined the Professional Valeters and Detailers Association, where the help and community has been A1, and my confidence to communicate with fellow professionals has grown.
This year's Waxstock was heavily talked about on social media amoungst fellow PVD members and other friends, and upon posting a status on my personal Facebook account to see who was going to be there, I was surprised to see Jason Rose comment to let me know of his attendance, and jokingly offer me a ride on his flight over from Korea. For any laymen that aren't that into detailing, Jason Rose previously worked for Meguiars, and is currently the head of Global Training for Rupes, one of the leading producers of polishing machines and consumable abrasives (sanding discs, machine pads and polishing compounds). Jason works the year round leading seminars and training sessions around the world; you only have to search his name up on Youtube to see for yourself, the videos I have learned so much from over the years.
I needed a companion to join me at such an event, and who else could I ask other than my best friend of nearly 15 years. Nathan Lloyd professes in English Language and Literature, and is currently plying his trade on his teaching accumen. Last year, I joined with other PVD members to take care of some of the most expensive cars money could have ever bought. I asked Nathan to join me, and he was enthralled with the classics that featured in so many films that he likes, notably the Aston Martin DB5 as seen in James Bond. On asking him to accompany me to Waxstock, it was only natural he would join me for a lad style weekend out on the back of how he enjoyed the Alexandra Palace Classic Car Show. Before the show, we enjoyed a damn funny game of Cards Against Humanity. If there is anyone that could give such an eloquent insight to this year's Waxstock, it's going to be Nathan, so I leave you in his company for now...
"As someone who is not in the business, the idea of a detailing event sounded dry. I could only imagine the exclusive crowds gathering together discussing specialised things above the psychotic mind of someone who teaches adverbs and adjectives; however, I was pleasantly surprised. Waxtock was an open and diverse convention. I can believe that it is a detailer's dream; products littered the shelves and pros shared tips with each other generously. There was a palpable sense of community there. Eye-candy was also abundant; cars and rep girls were pleasingly curvy and it was obvious they didn't need valeting. One of the highlights of the day was the lecture performed by the guru of detailing: Jason Rose. Coming from the exotic climes of America to the dreary, dismal Coventry was commendable in itself, but when Andy told me of his achievements, he was a celebrity. The anecdote delievered by Rose was certainly interesting and inspiring; the moral of his story was persistence and courage, words that, I feel, could be transposed to any profession, demonstrating his vast knowledge of not only valeting, but life itself.
One of the highlights of the day for me was taking the picture of Andrew with Rose. He was too shy and coy insisting that he'll 'do it later'. I was having none of this and persuaded to see him there and then. It was an honour taking the picture and humorous to see Andy shaking in his star struck state!"
I had the pleasure of meeting Jason Rose, who signed my Yellow Rupes machine pad. They say not to meet your heroes, I disagree! It's funny how I can walk past David Beckham in the Birmingham Bullring, but put me infront of a world renowned detailer, it's a different story! I was in half a mind to charge my customer's extra to use this signed pad on their car, what with it having the Midas touch and all, but I will instead frame it - to look at as a reminder of a great time when I am having a bad day.
Bert of the Professional Valeters and Detailers Assocation, and Alan Medcraf of AM Details gave a speech going to all the nooks and crannies of setting up and running a valeting and detailing business. This was of particular interest to me, as there are so many things that the public are unaware of that are required as part of running a business. Please go and support AM Details, and especially PVD - Bert and Kelly are working tirelessly to support us professionals, as well as the publishing of the Pro Detailer Magazine (go and buy it!), and doing extra special arrangements such as this very show. This time last year I was sat in a pub scrolling through my phone, I saw a hashtag for PVD, and the rest was history. They told me exactly how I needed to address my business that was failing to turn a profit despite being very busy, and introduced me to a whole world of new information and individuals.
I got snapped! It seems my van is noticeable everywhere!
Case Study #3.
The third case study of this month being a car I have worked on is this Mini Cooper S JCW. The customer had only just purchased it, and needed an Enhancement, which includes a full decontamination before having a single stage machine polish the whole way around to correct defects as much as possible in the confines of one full working day. The customer opted for Feynlab Universal Ceramic Coating, which adds durable protection to the paintwork. The coating is designed for company cars that go long periods with high motorway mileage with poor wash regimen. So if it is good enough for those cars, it is good enough for a well kept car.
Checking the paintwork over with my paint depth guage confirmed the customer's comments that the car had some scratch repair, this was taken onboard as I tackled the car with my polishing machines.
Being able to use any kind of polishing machine professionally is tantamount to avoiding the cause of damage to your customer's paintwork just as much as improving it. The customer had Paintless Dent Removal undertaken before my visit, and the holograms left from the technician's machine operation proved very difficult to remove.
It is generally advised that coatings are applied in conditions of over 11 degrees centigrade and humidity below 70%, on the date of the booking we had 24 degrees centigrade and 50% humidity. After coating, we had one very good looking car. I was at the customer's location for one whole long day, so don't let the pictures fool you or let you get carried away in a misconcieved idea of how much there was to be done; there was a lot to do and the time flown by.
Building on from last weeks instalment, I am writing the second part of the July Detailing Digest to include a product review, another case study and some anecdotal thoughts of a man who spends too much time thinking. I intend to structure the blog as a monthly review, split into several parts written throughout the month. So let's get on with the product review.
This week saw me do a much needed stock refresh from various suppliers. Here's my order from Liquid Elements UK, there is something to be said about new full bottles of products. A nice little carry case features to help move around the car with my paint depth guage, scangrip lights and other polishing paraphernalia.
I am forever researching the latest and greatest products in car care in order to continually increase the quality of my workmanship. If you are not moving forwards you might as well make a conscious effort to go backwards. There is an old tale that Enzo Ferrari told the press that it was the driver who was to thank for their Formula 1 success, but behind closed doors stated that it was the car that takes the credit. My personal opinion where detailing is concerned is that it is both the professional and the inventory that lend to a job well done; a good set of products are useless in the hands of someone who does not know what they are doing, and even the world's best detailer would need decent apparatus to do his or her thing at their very best.
You may be expecting my first review to be about a polishing compound or a wax, or even a coating. But no actually, this review is indeed for Krystal Kleen Detail's new product Kleenthru. What does it Kleen thru, you ask? It fills the gap in the market for a maintenance product that prevents snow foam lances from becoming clogged up with detergent build up and limescale.
I must admit that I am fairly harsh with my foam lances, I run bodywork protective shampoo's and rinse aid products through them as well as simple snow foams, which have evidently coated the internals of my lance. To make things worse, I run stronger concentrations of snow foam to get round this as a shortcut to dismantling them and giving a thorough clean, a negative spiral so to speak. The resulting ailment is that I no longer cover cars in excitement, and a white dribble limps out the end of my pipe instead. This hasn't mattered too much, as I was using the Gilmour Foamaster hose attachment as a back up.
Following instructions I filled an inch or so in the bottle with Kleenthru, and ran it through the lance until empty. This didn't really achieve much, but consulting with the instructions lead me to leave a 10:1 mixture with water in a bucket and leave the lance to dwell overnight. On carrying this out, I still found the lance to be no better. This perhaps, was not the blue pill for my neglected lance afterall.
However, I have a second, not-so neglected lance that I tried this on and it managed to bring it back to life. It takes patience, but it does work. See image below.
The lesson to be learned here is that prevention is better than cure, just like defects in paint, and that this product should be used as intended to flush through once a week or so to prevent the lance becoming totally fubar'd. Would I buy this product again? Yes. I still have some left, and for my new lance, I shall certainly use this to ensure that it does not fall into disrepair like the two good servants of the cause that preceded it.
Case Study #2.
July's second case study isn't actually about a car, I shall do that for part three. Instead, I thought I would post the results of a survey I published online asking people seven questions about the valeting and detailing industry. The survey was shared by other professionals around the UK to ensure a good spread of data from around the country.
A quick debreif.
Q1. Most people who answered had already had a service, perhaps owing to a more informed answer for the following question.
Q2 and Q3. The majority were prepared to pay around £30 for a service that is percieved to take 1 hour.
Q4. A full day of paintwork detailing happily commands over £200 from most of the participants. How much they may be prepared to pay may depend on their location in the country and if this is a mobile or premises business. Suprisingly, people from Glasgow were happier to pay more than Londoners, which contradicts common preconception. Also, those who were happier to pay more liked a mobile service just as much as a premises one.
Q5. The strong majority for higher prices is lost slightly where messy cars are concerned. Strangely enough, these types of jobs are more difficult and less pleasant to take on.
Q6. Without giving away too much, the correct answer here is in the minority.
Q7. People like both; a result as close as Brexit.
Aside from being out there and doing the job, one has to consider the possibility of any given situation presenting itself. Working on a mobile basis out in the public domain, the occurence of being approached by passersby is relatively high. Their approach is usually one of intrigue into what you are doing, followed by an eerily predictable "excuse me mate, what do you charge?". Whilst meaning well, I can't help but imagine some kind of Terminator scenario where they await in multitude somewhere in another dimension waiting to spawn near an unsuspecting vehicle detailer. I don't mean to sound brash, as there are some potential customers out there. My reason for approaching this subject of how to answer said question is one of thinking outside the box, for three reasons.
Firstly, the likelyhood is that the inquistor has only just seen you, so they won't be aware of how long you have been working on your customer's car, or have much understanding of what process you have gone through. They may just be walking past to notice you giving the paintwork a final wipe down for presentation with a finishing spray product thinking that is all you have done, not fully aware of the hours of decon and machine polishing you have worked to arrive at the shiny car they are looking at. This creates a rift in the inquistor's expectation of what they think you might "charge" compared to what you, ahem, "charge". PS I hate that word. Giving a headline figure of the price for the job you are working on often results in unpleasant surprise and impolite remarks which then escalates into bad feeling for both sides. Any chance of them wanting to book their car in are now diminished as they struggle to comprehend how a such a simple "wash and polish" could cost three figures. The key to this one is to get the inquisitor to understand the process and benefits of what exactly you have done to the car, and give them chance to shy away if they can conclude that it may be a bit more specialist than they might feel comfortable with.
Secondly, the inquisitor may not even be interested in having their car done, but simply are your customer's nosey neighbor who wants to pry on what amount of money your customer is spending. This is none of the inquisitor's business, and it is a professional's duty of care to uphold customer confidentiality in high regard. A similar scenario is being approached in the pub whilst I am enjoying myself a pint, it is purely for gossip.
The third reason is perhaps the most sinister in nature. I cast my mind back to a job carried out last year, in a housing estate of inhabitants with questionable quality of good hearted demeanor, shall we say. My customer was lovely though. However, she noticed me being approached by hooded passersby asking the catchphrase "excuse me mate, how much do you charge?" and called me to one side. She said "I hope you haven't told them" to which I hadn't. Further explaination for her concern was that it was not out of character for some of the local youths to pry on tradespeople, knowing full well that they are about to be paid at the end of the day, follow them down the road into some kind of road trap and mug them. Charming.
So how do you approach these propositions? I came up with a simple answer that saves face, keeps customer confidentiality in check, and hopefully stops me from getting mugged or again hearing "yow'm the expensive car washa ay ya" in the pub.
I like to give a business card, stating that the website has different service packages and whatever service I have done for my customer may not be the right one for them. Asking them to look online gets people to engage, think about what kind of care their vehicle needs and possibly choose a service to suit their budget. An interesting note to finish part two on, is that my website hosting app tells me where visitors are directed from, and very little have typed out the url so far this month; so I've been approached by nosey neighbors.