Winter Detailing

As promised, here is Paul Clappison’s article on detailing your car / preparing it for winter.

Massive thanks to Paul (Who won a second place trophy with his MGBGT on Saturday at the Lancaster Insurance ‘Pride of Ownership’ awards in the virtual NEC Classic Car Show!) for agreeing to contribute an article for us – Hope to catch up in person very soon.  Stay Safe!

Winter Detailing

As autumn arrives this normally signals frantic last minute preparations in readiness for displaying my car at the Classic Motor show at the NEC in Birmingham and it was at this show a few years ago that I first met members from this club who travel from Scotland every year to attend the show. Sadly this year the show, like everything else, has been cancelled and so rather than prepare my car for the show I am now preparing my MG for winter storage.

As most classic cars are now mothballed until spring, this is an ideal time to give the paintwork some TLC, however we all have different ideas about how to look after our cars, for example I have never washed my MG conventionally with a bucket of water, instead I use a waterless wash and wax solution which works for me as I prefer not to get my car wet if I can avoid it.

Obviously this method is only suitable if the car isn’t heavily soiled, if so all you would achieve using this method would be swirls and damage to the paintwork but many classics, such as mine never tend to get very dirty and this is a great way to quickly and safely wash your car without the need to start spraying water around that can sit in unseen areas leading to rust in the future. For those of you who like to clean your car in a more conventional manner you should consider the 6 steps required to detail and protect your car from the elements, in preparation for the winter months.

Step 1 Wheels

Always tackle the wheels and tyres first as these areas are the closest point of contact with the road and they can easily become engrained in brake dust and dirt from driving so you don’t want any of this getting on your car later in the cleaning process, hence why this should always be the first step in the process.

Use a dedicated wheel cleaner, I always prefer to use non acid based products and a soft brush to agitate the product on the wheels and tyres before rinsing off and drying with a blower or towel.  It is also worth doing your tyres at the same time as this allows any tyre dressing to bond better to the surface of the tyre. You should also consider applying a wheel sealant, this will protect the wheels from road salt and brake dust making for easier cleaning in the future.

Step 2 Wash

Washing the car demands more than just rubbing a sponge across the paintwork, this method is a recipe for disaster.

Consider firstly applying some form of all purpose cleaner to the paintwork to remove road traffic film and grime from the lower areas of the vehicle and after a few minutes left to dwell simply rinse off the product from the paint.

You should then move on to using a snow foam pre wash, applied through a pressure washer attachment leaving a thick layer of foam that dwells on the surface starting to remove dirt without the need for contact washing, simply rinse off after a few minutes dwelling time.

Once this is done you are onto the more traditional method of washing a car although you should use the two bucket method with grit guards in the bottom, one with warm water and a high quality shampoo whilst the other bucket should only contain clean water.

Use a soft wash mitt and dip that into the bucket with the shampoo, cleaning the mitt by dipping it in the bucket of clear water and rubbing the mitt on the grit guard in order to remove any particles that could possibly scratch the paintwork.

Once this stage is complete rinse and completely dry the vehicle using a soft drying towel unless further decontamination is required.

Step 3  Decon

By now you would assume your car is thoroughly clean, however if you can feel any kind of roughness to the touch on your paintwork your car almost certainly has contaminants such as road tar, and iron fallout attached to the paint and these cannot be removed by washing alone as they are bonded to the paint or clear coat. You will find a range of products that you can spray onto the surface of the paint and you will almost immediately see the contaminants start to dissolve and run down the car, most of these products highlight the areas in fairly vivid colours so it is easy to see the results of your labours. You can also use infrequently the clay bar method in order to remove certain bonded particles and I have a short video on my YouTube channel, Shiny Paul Detailing which demonstrates this method.  

Step 4 Polish

You can now consider polishing the car, this will help to remove any existing swirls on your paintwork, enhancing the colour and appearance of the paint. This can be performed by hand or by using a machine polisher which will always achieve a superior outcome.

Whatever polishing process you choose it is important to only work on small individual areas at a time in order to achieve an even finish across the whole of the vehicle, checking your finish with a small torch will highlight any imperfections.

Step 5 Protect

You will have wasted your time following the above steps if you fail to protect your newly polished paint from the elements and you are now faced with a whole arrange of products to help seal your paintwork, from gloss enhancing sealants that offer increased durability to traditional wax that is typically available in either hard paste form of liquid.

Probably due to my age I am still a fan of car wax, this forms a waterproof barrier making future cleaning easier whilst preserving your paintwork against UV damage, dirt and rainwater etc. I always prefer using the hard paste wax but if you want a quicker finish the liquid version works just as well, it’s all personal preference.

Step 6 Finish

These are the final touches that can make all the difference and by using quick detailing sprays after waxing the car or as a quick boost to the paintwork from time to time,  this is a quick and easy way to boost gloss level’s on the paint whilst helping to revive the water repelling properties of previously applied waxes or sealants throughout the course of the winter months.

One last tip, if like my MGB GT you have chrome trim on your car it is well worth treating your chrome to a layer of wax before winter as this can help to preserve the chrome from the cold damp winter months.

If you follow the above steps you should have safely protected your car for the winter months, whether that is in preparation for winter storage or use throughout the winter months.

Please feel free to subscribe to my new detailing channel on YouTube, Shiny Paul Detailing or follow my adventures with my 1972 MGB GT on Instagram at @white_mgbgt

For now I hope you all stay safe throughout this difficult period and I hope to catch up with some of you again at the Classic Motor Show in Birmingham in the not too distant future.

Paul Clappison


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