Show Your Ride Some Love (Detailing 101)

Posted: February 21, 2013 in 300ZX Build
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300ZX Z32 SSR TYPE C WINTER WONDERLAND

It’s been a cold snowy winter here in the Northeast, and the Z’s spent much of it under a blanket of snow. I’ve been working behind the scenes (and computer screens) parting out what’s left of the white Z, editing footage, and scouring the interwebs for every last part I’ll need for the twin turbo / 5 speed swap come spring.

But with clear skies and temps reaching the mid 50’s last weekend, I couldn’t resist the chance to get out the cleaning supplies and give the Z a good detail. Here was my chance to give the original 20-year-old paint a much-needed layer of protection from the harsh winter elements. So follow along as I take you through the steps of a good quality detail!

(Before we go any further, I’d just like to say – I’m no expert, and have picked up these skills over the years detailing my own personal cars, a little time spent working in a friend’s body shop after high school, and lots of reading – please do your homework before attempting any paint correction on your own ride.)

GRIOT'S GARAGE, 6" RANOM ORBITAL BUFFER, 7" ROTARY POLIISHER

I‘d been researching random orbital buffers over the holidays, and with all the great Christmas sales going on, finally pulled the trigger on one. I went with a Griot’s Garage 6” random orbital buffer (above left). The reviews were good and it was said to have a bit more torque than its Porter-Cable competitor.

I’d cut my teeth on the old school 7” rotary polisher (above right), and used it with great success over the years. But it’s a powerful beast. The direct drive spins the pad in one direction very quickly, generating a tremendous amount of heat. This works great for deep paint correction or after wet sanding to remove imperfections / orange peel, but if you’re not careful, you’ll remove too much too quickly, and burn right through the paint (or in the Z’s case, clear coat).

80’s & 90’s Nissan’s are known to have an incredibly thin layer of clear from the factory (with the potential for delamination), so I wanted to be as careful as I possibly could. Like the name suggests, a random orbital buffer oscillates “randomly,” generating far less heat and speed making it much safer for the paint (and giving the user a greater margin of error). So without further adieu, let’s get started.

300ZX, Z32, CHERRY RED PEARL, CRP, SSR TYPE C

Once the snow melted, you could see how filthy the car was (just from sitting in the driveway). The paint was hazy and filled with swirl marks and various scratches from over the years. I started by giving the car a thorough bath with some household dish soap to remove loose dirt and strip off any previous waxes. Followed by Mothers California Gold Clay Bar to pull any imbedded contaminants out of the paint (leaving it smooth and ready for polishing).

300ZX, Z32, CHERRY RED PEARL, CRP, SWIRL MARKS

Once inside (and under the lights), you could really see how bad the swirl marks and scratches were.

GRIOT'S GARAGE 6" RANDOM ORBITAL BUFFER, 3M FOAM POLISHING PAD GLAZE

Because the clear is so thin, I opted to skip the 3M Rubbing Compound and go straight to their Foam Polishing Pad Glaze on a “light cutting” foam pad – it’s far less abrasive than compound, but still has enough bite to get the job done. I use 3M products (back since my body shop days), but there are lots of other quality polishes on the market, so go with what you know.   

300ZX, Z32, CHERRY RED PEARL, CRP, TAPE EDGES, 3M TAPE

Always try and tape up as many rubber moldings as you can – compounds, polishes, and waxes tend to stain them. Nothing fancy here, just use some old 3M house painters tape.

GIROT'S GARAGE 6" RANDOM ORBITAL BUFFER, 3M FOAM POLISHING PAD GLAZE

I like to spin the product out onto the pad, then dab it along the area I’ll be covering (this helps prevent product from flinging everywhere when you start the buffer). I make several passes to spread the product evenly (buffer speed #1), then work smaller sections by making passes horizontally, then vertically, in about 2 foot sections (on speed #3). The buffer speed goes all the way to 6 if serious muscle is required.  

300ZX, Z32, CHERRY RED PEARL, CRP, 3M FOAM POLISHING PAD GLAZE

The polishing glaze doesn’t need any “drying” time like a wax. Just work one section at a time, and when you’ve covered the area sufficiently, remove with a clean microfiber towel. The hood is popped to steer clear of the adjacent edges (just in case).  

3M FOAM POLISHING PAD GLAZE

A composite shot to show the before and after. I would say the results speak for themselves. There were still a few spots with some deeper scratches, but I chose to leave them be, rather than risk burning through the clear wet sanding / polishing with harsher compounds. Needless to say I was VERY happy with the way it turned out.

300ZX, Z32, CHERRY RED PEARL, CRP, 3M FOAM POLISHING PAD GLAZE

Another shot from the polished quarter panel. Like glass! 

3M IMPERIAL HAND GLAZE

The next step was to seal the paint with some 3M Imperial Hand Glaze. The glaze is to fill in any remaining swirl marks (providing an even deeper gloss) and seal the paint in preparation for waxing. As the title suggests, this is hand application only. Wipe on with one microfiber towel, immediately wipe off with another. You don’t want to let this stuff stay on the paint for too long as it becomes difficult to remove.

If you’re doing this on your daily driver, and don’t really need that deeper “show car” gloss, go ahead and skip this step and move straight to the wax. You’ll hardly notice any difference.

GRIOT'S GARAGE 6" RANDOM ORBITAL BUFFER, MEGUIARS TECHWAX 2.0

I’ve been using Meguiar’s Tech Wax 2.0 for a few years now. I like the fact that it’s a liquid, so it goes on easy and wipes off even easier. From what I’ve read, carnauba based waxes tend to offer the best shine, but in my opinion, are a pain to apply and remove. The synthetic Tech Wax gets the job done, and seems to hold up well (I used it on the Mustang last winter and it still looks great). Again, go with what you know.

GRIOT'S GARAGE 6" RANDOM ORBITAL BUFFER, MEGUIARS TECHWAX 2.0

I spun the wax onto a white “polishing” foam pad, and applied it just like the 3M polish, but this time allowed it to fully dry before removal. 

300ZX Z32 PINCH WELD

While waiting for the wax to set up, I addressed the bent pinch weld under the rocker panel. It’s plainly visible even when not bent, but when mangled from people improperly jacking up the car, it becomes even more noticeable, drawing your eye right to it.

300ZX Z32 PINCH WELD

Some time spent with a large pair of vice grips and a hammer had it nice and straight again. I’ll shoot it with some flat black to try and mask it a bit more once the temps get high enough to paint.

300ZX, Z32, CHERRT RED PEARL, CRP, SSR TYPE C

Wax removed and back out in the sun. Check out that reflection! Like a mirror.

300ZX, Z32, CHERRY RED PEARL, CRP, SSR TYPE C

I’ve got a clean pair of windshield moldings (from the white Z) to replace the peeled up “chrome” ones on the car now, just waiting on new clips to come in. Once I do, it’ll look as good as it did in 93 again. 

300ZX, Z32, VELOUR INTERIOR, DOOR PANEL

With the exterior finished, I turned my attention to the velour door panels. 93 and up Z’s had either suede or velour trim, and both are favored over the dreaded tweed of earlier years. Because the car was sans leather (and an NA), it got the velour treatment. You can see how filthy the door panel was from years of use. The velour “nap” was also severely matted.

MUSLIN FABRIC, SUEDE, VELOUR CLEANING

A quick Google search gave me a guide on how to proceed with cleaning the delicate velour. Muslin fabric was recommended as it’s softer than the velour and won’t damage the fibers. I picked up a few feet at a local fabric & craft store. It quickly becomes filthy once you start to clean with it (above right), so make sure you buy enough. The suede kit was sourced from a local shoe store in the mall.

MUSLIN FABRIC, SUEDE, VELOUR, CLEANING

After brushing the suede to remove any loose dirt, I dipped the Muslin fabric in a bucket of warm water with a little bit of dish soap (mix the soap but don’t agitate to the point it becomes sudsy). Ring the Muslin out till almost dry and begin rubbing it back and forth over the velour: be careful not to saturate it while doing this. You’ll be amazed how much dirt gets pulled out! For the tougher stuff, the eraser that came with the suede kit worked much faster. It basically “erased” the dirt like a pencil eraser would lead.

WATER BUCKET, DISH SOAP, VELOUR CLEANING

Change the water often as it quickly becomes filthy. The last thing you want to do is push more dirt into the velour by using dirty water.

300ZX, Z32, VELOUR DOOR PANEL, CLEANING

After the velour dries, use the suede brush to stand the nap back up and you’re done. The door panel looks a lot better in my opinion; the dirt is gone and the velour nap is now free to flow / change direction when you brush your fingers over it.

Overall, I’m very happy with the before and after results, both for the exterior and interior. Not bad for a weekend’s worth of work. I’m also impressed with the Griot’s buffer. My one complaint would be that I didn’t care for the inverted U handle at the front too much. It made it a bit awkward to hold (but this could be due to the fact that I use my right arm to guide the machine, rather than being able to “grip” it with a right hand). For me personally, I’d rather have an old school swappable left/right grip as it’s much easier for me to guide the machine with, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker.

Next up is the install of some front leather seats (to replace the lame cloth in the car) – but not before I fully refurbish the damaged driver seat frame & leather with some help from a donor seat. Full write up coming soon. (Any project that keeps me indoors and out of the cold is a welcome one.)

Hope you learned something today, now get out there and show your ride some love!!

Jay

300ZX Z32 LEATHER SEAT REFURBISH POWER SEAT

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Comments
  1. EWK says:

    Looks great Jay. How did you handle detailing the rock guard?

  2. Thanks. I just treated it like the rest of the paint. The foam buffing pads have enough give to work into the crevices of the rock guard just fine.

  3. Deron Tippins says:

    Very nice work as usual sir. I look forward to seeing more of your posts

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