'Showroom shine' tips for your dark-colored car

Maintain that new car shine with proper care

Nothing says “cool” like a sleek black vehicle with a mirror-like polish. Problem is, dark exteriors tend to highlight every speck of dust or drop of residue.

Summer months are particularly harsh for dark-colored vehicles. Dust from roadwork, insect splats, sap and soot can turn a sparkling shine into a grimy mess. Moreover, contaminants can permanently damage the luster on your vehicle’s finish.

Following simple care tips will give your dark-colored vehicle that “showroom” sparkle.

“Everything shows up on a black or dark-colored vehicle,” said Richard Stewart Gaynor, senior test technician at Blue Coral, Black Magic and Rain-X. “Swirl marks and water spots tend to show up more, so you have to be more careful in the types of cleaning products and techniques.”

Gaynor tests a variety of car care products on hundreds of vehicles every year and also owns two black-colored vehicles. He describes himself as fastidious when it comes to maintaining a showroom shine.

For starters, Gaynor hoses off his vehicles to remove dust and any other contaminants before washing.

“The worst thing you can do with a black or dark-colored vehicle is to leave gritty dirt on the paint before you wash it,” Gaynor said.

Swirl marks are created by contaminants picked up in the wash cloth or sponge. The particles act like sand paper as you clean the surface with a circular washing motion.

“Contaminants scratch the clear coat and create permanent marks,” Gaynor said.

Gaynor washes his vehicles section by section, and he works meticulously to prevent water spotting. Minerals left behind when droplets dry create a crusty layer on the vehicle’s clear coat.

Rinsing with a heavy spray tends to leave behind large droplets. Also, left-over suds can cause spotting. Gainer uses a misty spray and thoroughly rinses each section as he washes.

“If you let suds dry on a vehicle for a few hours it could be tough to remove,” Gaynor said. “I prefer to work in the shade so suds and rinse water don’t dry too quickly.”

Gaynor recommends using microfiber towels or terrycloth for drying your vehicle. They quickly soak up moisture and do not scratch the vehicle surface.

Cleaning tires helps compliment the glossy shine on exterior painted surfaces. Gaynor uses a tire brush to remove browning that causes tires to become dull. He also applies a tire dressing to compliment the luster of painted surfaces.

Dark-colored vehicles show dust accumulation quickly. As a result, Gaynor applies a spray wax detailer every two or three weeks and applies a carnuba-based wax every three months.

“Synthetic waxes such as silicon-based products tend to smear and give black surfaces a cloudy appearance,” Gaynor said. “Carnuba-based waxes are made from natural substances that do not leave an oily residue.”

Gaynor also suggested using a “spray wax.” They do not contain polishing compounds, which buff and slowly wear away the painted surface.

“Glaze waxes are gentle and effective on new or newly painted vehicles,” Gaynor said. “For older vehicles traditional wax helps cover imperfections in the surface.”

Gaynor offered the following advice for drivers of black or dark-colored vehicles:

  • Hose off your vehicle to remove dust, bird dropping and any other contaminants before washing. Contaminants picked up by a wash sponge or cloth can create permanent swirl marks, thin circular scratches in the clear coat.
  • Use detergents specifically designed for automobiles. Household cleaners can destroy painted surface and strip away protection.
  • Wash a section at a time in a shady location. Rinse with a light spray as you go to prevent water and suds spotting.
  • Dry your vehicle with microfiber or terrycloth towels to prevent scratching.
  • Clean tires and wheels last. Brake dust damages painted surfaces--do not use the same cloth, sponge or contaminated water on the vehicle exterior.
  • Apply a carnuba-based wax every three months to protect painted surfaces. Silicon-based products tend to create a smeared appearance on black or dark-colored vehicles.
  • Consider using a “glaze wax” on new or newly painted dark surfaces. This enhances the natural shine without using polishing compounds that may wear down the surface.
  • Use a spray detailer every two to three weeks. It maintains the high gloss shine in between major wax applications. It also prevents contaminants such as bird droppings, road tar and tree sap from creating staining your vehicle exterior.
  • Consider a “spray wax” for newer or recently painted dark-colored vehicles. The spray enhances the paint’s luster without any of the polishers found in car wax. Unfortunately, using a glaze wax on an older vehicle can make imperfections stand out.
  • Dust your vehicle frequently with a product designed specifically for automobiles. Even a light layer of dust dulls a dark-colored surface.
  • Remove road tar quickly. It is abrasive and causes stains that show up readily on dark surfaces. Tar-removal products soften it and make it easier to remove without damaging paint.

 “I’m one of those people who really enjoy a great-looking vehicle,” Gaynor said. “It doesn’t take a lot of time. You just need to follow some simple steps.”