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32 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
OK, so here is the result of my first time detailing a car: my 1994 Tarus GL. Maybe I should say "restoring" as I doubt this car has seen this kind of attention in its 20 year life and probably has had no cleaning in the last decade. So looking for comments, ideas and help as I want to make things easier in the future. Questions are in bold Blue.

Sorry this is so long! I listed in detail my process in hopes others could/would steer me away from bad practices or make suggestions on alternate methods (easier, quicker, cheaper). I am looking to learn! I have a lot to learn and thus a lot of questions.

Used 18 products and only Armstrong tools!

First step was wash car with Dawn. Yeah, I know, bad idea, but with years of grime and a plan to correct the paint, maybe someone will cut me some slack? Did a good rinse - I used the end off of an old watering wand for a gentle rinse rather than buying a fire hose like end nozzle. Allowed car to dry.

I use to wipe down cars with a Chamois cloth, but see these are no longer used? What is wrong with using Chamois?

Next step was getting rid of years of tar build up on the rocker panel trim, lower doors and the painted strip inside of fenders. A's All Purpose Cleaner (APC) didn't work at all, found & used Stoner's Tarminator and it worked well. Got about 85% of the tar off with the first application (spray & wait 5-min). On the really thick places (the end tabs to the rocker panel trim behind the front wheels) the Tarminator loosed the tar enough I could scrap it off with a plastic paint scraper. Second application and brushing with a soft bristle tooth brush got me to 95% removed. Again APC did nothing on second or third pass. What gets that last bit of stubborn tar off without dissolving the clear coat?

Then in places I had to remove house paint. Yeah last owner of the car had been having a love affair with the garage door... APC didn't work, found that Goof Off or Acetone did the trick, but stopped using it in fear of removing the clear coat. Found that the Tarminator worked great - fast and easy. Since the Tarminators said it was safe for paint, I felt comfortable. Is this a good idea? Oh, I washed the Tarminator residual off with some APC, rinsed and dried.

Once all of the extraneous stuff was off the car I clayed the car. Used Mother's California Gold Clay kit which I was able to pick up under $20 locally. The Showtime stuff did a nice job of lubrication and the claying was smooth. In a few places found it took 10-20 passes with the claybar to remove stubborn spots. Some of the residual tar came off with concerted effort and the clay bar. The micro fiber towel did a nice job- I could really tell the difference between the clean paint (clayed) and the 'just washed' paint.

When is the clay bar "done?" I kept folding it over and kneading it. At some point it began to stick to my fingers after a good rubbing session. Also noticed that the clay stayed layered for a bit and took more kneading to smooth out. Sure the bar's color was changing, but that happened after each use. How many clay bars should one expect to use for the whole car when completely dirty?

Next on to "paint correction." Had some TW rubbing compound and suspected this could be a bit too harsh, but was doing hand polishing and had old neglected paint, figured I'd give it a try. Seemed to work well - was able to get the last bit of tar off, polished out surface scratches and gave the paint a better look. When the compound dried out before I had done enough "strokes" I just wetted it with a little Showtime. Rinsed the dried compound off with a soft sponge in water. Dried with a terry cloth towel.

This rubbing worked well on the factory finish. Prolly not the showroom finish of a master detailer or a machine system but vastly improved. After a while I was able to get surface scratches out, but not those into the paint. [Where finger nail binds in scratch or well into the paint (color).]

One problem however - when I got to the driver's door the compound scratched the heck out of the clear coat. Did not have this happen anywhere I had a factory finish. That door had been replaced with a used one (and painted). So what happened in the bodyshop -not enough clear coat was used or "soft" clear coat was employed? Something else? Also cleaning up the car revealed what an "interesting" blending job was done with the paint color - the other door and adjacent quarter panel looks like a Holstein cow - splotchy sections.
What can be done here with the scratches? Anything to help the "Holstein color?"

Next I polished with Scratch remover. This seemed to takeout (or fill-in?) the micro scratches (except the replaced door). Buffed that out with a terry towel and the applied a coat of green wax. [yeah, I know - not Zymol Vintage...] Also used a caraunba wax from Kit but couldn't detect much difference. Buffed off haze with terry and final buffing with micro fiber towel.

Washed windows with vinegar and water solution. Tried a little wax as a coating. Will the wax work on glass too? Didn't use it on the windshield.

Used Deep Wheel Cleaner (DWC) on the wheels (hubcaps) - but this appeared to be a waste since there was little to no brake dust and car wash soap & a soft tooth brush did a better job on the painted hubcaps. DWC also didn't do much on the black paint on the wheels either. Instead, treated them as above- washed, rubbed out, polished and waxed.

What is a good cleaner for the tires? Didn't have anything else so used APC, but didn't think it did much. Certainly didn't get some residual Wesley's Blech-Wite off the tires. Once dry used Adam's new Tire Shine. Sprayed on and smoothed out and smoothed runs with a foam paint "brush". This was the only thing from that line of products that seemed to work well - this is a superior shine to other things I have used in the past.

Now the devil is in the details, isn't it. My biggest problem is all of the various plastics and rubbers used as trim and seals. I think there must be at least 3 different types of "stuff" used on this car. Rubbing up against this stuff when polishing or buffing resulted in nasty black streaks on the rag. What is going on? Is the rubber breaking down?

Tried APC on the rubber and it didn't seem to do much. Tried rubbing compound and that seemed to have no end. What do I use here?

Then after doing the best I could on the various trim work, figured I needed a protectant or sealant. When I used the A's In & Out spray it just seemed to further dissolve the plastics and rubbers. Of course, can't spray that stuff as its distribution pattern is too wide, so was applying to a cloth and trying to paint it on. What is the matter with In & Out spray?

I hate to say it, but an old bottle of Armour All, applied with a small foam applicator seemed to provide the best shine. This certainly can't be the right stuff to use - what else is out there?

Oh and then there are the black side rails of the door windows. These appear to be painted, but not clear coated. Like the actual rims, this black paint was dull and mat-like. Is this oxidation of the paint? Not sure how to handles these - I rubbed them and then waxed. What is the right thing to do? How does one manage these?

Also there is that chrome trim around the windows and the antenna. Rubbing compound only helped a bit. Is there something specific that would take out the scratches?

Finally there are a number of places with deep scratches, chips, very small divots spots, garage rash, curb rash, etc. Any advice on touch up painting? Any size to large? When is an entire paint job required? Oh and since the driver door was replaced I don't have the sticker to tell me the paint code for this car.

So a last shot (#2) before I commit bondo blasphemy... not too bad for an olde beater?

Sorry for the length and numerous questions. Hope I have tis in the right thread, Trying to learn here and any help, suggestions or comments would be appreciated. THANKS!


1,801 Posts
I typically wax the windows as well when I wax a car to answer one of your questions.

32 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
I typically wax the windows as well when I wax a car to answer one of your questions.
Thanks for the reply & help Tom! I'll do that! Was kinda wondering if I asked too many questions, so appreciate the kind reply.

Read some of the pro detail blogs and it looks like the Tarminator is the right stuff, repeating applications and allowing the stuff to work for a few minuted 5-10 on old, thick or caked on tar. Seems to be safe for paint surfaces.

One answer at a time and I'm slowly getting there. Thanks again for your help!

Premium Member
413 Posts
Sorry for the delayed response; I was going to try and answer these sooner, but here we go...

1. A chamois doesn't have nap to catch and lift remaining dirt and debris on the paint surface. While a chamois won't scratch car paint, anything between the chamois and the paint could cause scratches. A microfiber cloth/towel is recommended instead.

2. Continue to use your tar remover; maybe let it soak a bit longer. If you have WD-40, try blasting some of that on it. It may take a few attempts, but it should loosen up. Goof Off should be fine or you can use paint thinner, as long as you're sure your car hasn't been repainted.

3. A clay bar is done once it feels gritty or breaks apart into small pieces. It's fairly easy to tell when it's done because it will feel rough in your hand or it will break as you fold it. The amount of uses per car varies greatly depending on the specific application; I don't throw it away just because it's been used 5 times. Also, if you drop it on the ground, throw it away.

4. Rubbing compound shouldn't of caused scratches, unless your car was dirty or the applicator was full of dirt and debris. Since you've stated that it was on a repaired panel, I'd assume the repair shop either used an extremely low quality clear coat or (more likely) sprayed the door in a single-stage of base coat and clear coat together. Unfortunately, there isn't much you can do to correct this issue, other than a repaint.

5. You can wax the glass if you want, it's definitely not going to hurt. For me, it's kind of a waste and I prefer to keep the wax off any black/rubber trim.

6. If you're trying to clean all the grime off the tires (not wheels), I occasionally use a Brillo pad or any type of sponge that has the rough back surface for scrubbing pots. I used to use SOS pads when I had the BFGoodrich white lettering facing out on my Jeep and I had good results as well.

7. Yes, the black rubber and trims are breaking down and you'll never be able to fully get rid of the black streaking on your rag. It's possible as you wash it more frequently the streaks will diminish, but there isn't much you can do.

8. Tire shine is all up to personal preference. Some prefer a gloss shine, others prefer a matte finish. I personally use Meguiar's Endurance Tire Gel with a foam applicator. It's a high-gloss, but not a super cheesy high-gloss if that makes sense. It generally lasts a month for me with a biweekly washing in between.

9. The chrome finish is scratched. Either replace or paint.

10. For most scenarios, touch-up paint never looks 'perfect' unless you apply it in small amounts, wet sand and then polish it back up. It's a lot of work and there aren't any guarantees. In the case of a 20 year old car, even if you had the paint code, I doubt the touch-up paint would match considering the fading and color variation over the years.

Best of luck! If you need any additional advice or questions answered, feel free to PM me.

32 Posts
Discussion Starter #5

Hey UE! Thank you for ALL of the detailed responses! I appreciate it - VERY helpful as I learn. Thanks!

1. Duh on me! Shoulda known that about a chamois after all getting up that left over dirt is why I'm suppose to clay the car. Now, I won't forget it!

2. Interesting that WD-40 works for tar removal. Thanks for that tip.

3. Gosh, by the end of the car I had all of that - the clay felt gritty, was not blending back together well when folded over (but didn't break) and started to loose small pieces when rubbing for a while in one spot. Now I'll know better and quit sooner - prolly used "dead" clay on the last 1/4 or last couple of sections.

4. Thanks. Sigh. I was afraid of that.

5. Good point prolly need to tape off trim to avoid it getting waxed.

6. Duh on me again! Simpler is better - good suggestion.

7. OK, was hoping something like Black WOW or another product might stop that. I guess one can't expect to beat mother nature for ever?

8. Thanks! I'll check out the Endurance Tire Gel. I think the A's new Tire Shine is slinging, even 4 days after it was applied. Ugh.

9. OK, another one to Mother nature. I'll polish it the best I can and leave it.

Thanks gain for all of the tips and info. It is very daunting starting off into something new like this and I really appreciate the advice of others!


217 Posts
Small trick ive learned about tar, compound and a microfiber cutting pad (or wool if you have a rotary buffer). Itll take it down pretty quick. just keep in mind that you will HAVE TO THROW THE PAD AWAY WHEN YOU ARE DONE. Do NOT use that same pad again.... ever. My pads go from new on the paint, sort of worn so i use for Glass, and then worn out that i use for tar and stuck on grime. and yes wax works on the whole entire car (minus plastic trim, and tires Duh)
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