Prepping your vehicle for paint correction

picture of hood of car with area that needs car paint correction

Prepping a vehicle for detailing and paint correction is different from your normal car wash. A car wash is a maintenance service to remove brake dust, dirt, mud, and salt from your vehicle’s surface. Over time things like iron particles, tar, sap, Arizona dirt, dirt and grime, and other contaminants can build up and embed themselves on the surface of your vehicle and in the paints’ pours that a normal wash will not get rid of them. In fact, only about 70% of those contaminants will be removed in a normal car wash. This is why proper preparation is important, you don’t want those contaminants on your vehicle when you are trying to perform paint correction. This is also why it is important to have annual maintenance on your vehicle paint to keep the clear coat and or ceramic coating healthy.

The wheels and wheel wells are the ideal starting point for your prep.

You can remove the wheels to have easier access to the wheel well and suspension, it is not necessary, but will make things much more accessible. For tools and products, we use the commercial grade degreaser for the initial cleaning of the wheel wells, suspension, and brakes. We use an all-purpose microfiber to scrub the surface area with the commercial grade degreaser, and then we go in with a small detail brush and wheel woollies to get into and clean all the tight spaces. For areas with caked on grease we use an IGL Tar Remover and then we rinse everything off with our pressure washer. You can use a regular garden hose, but a pressure washer will cut your time in half.

Wheel well prep for paint correction

Once the wheel wells are clean, we move onto the actual wheels and tires.

The wheels will be getting ceramic coated, so we want to make sure they are cleaned well and are rid of any contaminants like brake dust which can build up over time. We start the initial cleaning by rinsing the wheel and then spraying down the wheels and tires with more of the degreaser. We use another all-purpose microfiber for the inner barrel and surface of the wheel, then a stiff bristle brush on the tire to clean all the road dirt and brake dust off. For tough to access areas with a heavy amount of built-up brake dust we use IGL Iron Decon to break down the brake dust and iron particles on the wheel. You spray the IGL Iron Decon on the wheel and let it sit for a little bit then you agitate the dirt with a brush or microfiber mitt. Depending on the severity of the buildup you may need to repeat this process several times to completely get rid of the brake dust. For removing tar and adhesive we use the IGL Tar Remover again combined with a plastic razor to help the removal. If the surface of the wheel is still rough, you can use an old clay bar and some soapy water and remove anything else that may be left over. 


The next step is to do a normal hand wash to get rid of any dust or dirt on the vehicle.

First rinse it before starting to perform the two-bucket system. We clean the door hinges, jams, and seals. Those get sprayed and cleaned with a small brush or microfiber mitt. Making sure that you always have cool paint before and during washing and using any cleaners on the paint. His is avoid chemical burns to the paint and water spotting. Once all areas are washed begin to rinse. Making sure that no water or chemicals have gotten on or in the interior. If they dry or sit too long this can cause permanent damage to those surfaces. Now we are moving on to the exterior paint. This is where it differs from a normal or typical wash. We are going to working decontamination of the pours of the paint. By applying an IGL iron Decon to all painted areas, it will help to remove road grime, dust, and dirt from the pours of the paint. Let that sit on the paint for the suggested time per manufacturer each brand of product is different. During this process the chemical will turn purple, do not be alarmed. It is working! It is now time to wash it off with a soft wash mitt. Some contaminates like tar and sap will need to be dealt with, with a product like IGL Tar Remover.

The next step in the cleaning the paint process is clay bar, which can be an aggressive option.

clay bar treatment in auto detailing

Depending on the paint and how hard it is it can leave marring, micro-scratching, and swirls. It is a good idea to polish the vehicle after a clay bar for optimal results. When using a clay bar, it is not necessary to use the whole clay bar, you need a flat piece the size of your palm. When using it, it is key to keep the area lubricated to prevent damage to the paint. You can lubricate it with a clay bar lubricant or soap and water in a spray bottle. If in the process the clay bar gets dropped. Do not pick it up and use it on the car again. The clay bar will get dirty, you can knead it and flatten it out again and repeat. You do not need to apply a lot of pressure when using it. Clay bars can be used on painted and glass areas. After that is finished, we do a quick rinse on the undercarriage of the car and then we use an air compressor. You can use a leaf blower to get all the water out of the trim and side mirrors. We then use a microfiber waffle weave towel to dry the car down.

The last and final step is what separates the good detailers from the great detailers, and that is double checking your work.

You want to go back over every panel and make sure that you did not leave behind any contaminants. After double checking your work and fixing anything you may have left behind, you’re done!!... With the prep. When it comes to detailing it is important to be very meticulous, and we cannot stress the importance of proper prep!