PistonHeads user AyBee - AKA Andrew from Putney - was one of the winners of a full valet by his nearest PVD member from a 'winonwednesday' competition.
David of Solo Vehicle Valeting took on the challenge of getting Andrew's Lotus Elise back to showroom condition. Being mobile, David was able to transform the car where it was stored as a weekend plaything, using onboard power and water from his fully equipped valeting van.
The first step was to pre-wash the car and the wheels, the latter were caked in brake-dust and general grime. the
top layer of dirt and detritus was removed with Autosmart Smart Wheels, a non-acidic, heavy-duty wheel cleaner used in the trade.
David then applied some Envy Car Care Iron Awe, a specialised cleaner designed to remove iron and fallout particles that bond to paint. Using a dedicated array of wheel brushes, David was able to get in behind the spokes and into the crevices to ensure the wheels were truly clean, before rinsing off all the chemicals.
Next, his attention turned to the paint work. Using another Envy product, Bubbly Jubbly, David performed a snowfoam prewash, which involves literally plastering the car with a foaming detergent solution. This loosens a lot of the dirt on the surface without the need to touch it with a wash mitt, making the main wash easier and safer. The Bubbly Jubbly was left to dwell for five minutes or so, then rinsed off in preparation for the real wash.
Professionals use something called the 'two-bucket method' - or in some cases the 'three bucket method'. As the name suggests, this involves using one bucket filled with water and shampoo (wash bucket), and another with just water (rinse bucket). David selected 'Mint Wash' for the Elise, a pH neutral shampoo made by Oxfordshire-based Krystal Kleen Detail. Taking a merino-wool wash mitt (sponges aren't commonly used nowadays as they can scratch), David soaks it in the wash bucket, cleans half a panel, then rinses all the collected muck off in the second bucket.
The process is repeated all over the car, which takes some time, but ensures a swirl-free and super clean finish - not something that can be guaranteed when using automatic or hand car washers.
Incidentally, the third bucket is dedicated to wheel cleaning, as you don't want to be putting dirt from the alloys all over the paintwork.
In the old days, a car would have been cleaned with a chamois leather, not so in the twenty-first century as the leathers have a habit of marring the paint.
A built-for-purpose drying towel was used in lieu of the chamois, essentially a large microfibre designed to be extra absorbent - in this case the 'Reaper' made by Autobrite Direct, another UK car care company based just north of Stoke-on-Trent.
The drying towel was simply placed on the bodywork, patted gently, and then removed.
The process was repeated all over the car until it was dry, taking extra care around areas that have a habit of collecting water, such as wing mirrors. Visually, the little lotus was looking much better, but to the keen eye of a car-care professional, it was miles from finished.
The next step was to decontaminate the paintwork, removing specific elements such as industrial fallout, as well as those that were firmly bonded to the paint, like tree sap.
Just as with the wheels, David used the Envy Iron Awe, sprayed liberally over the paintwork to remove the Fe-based contaminants.
This was followed by another Autosmart product, Tardis, which is a tar and glue remover - essentially a paint-safe solvent that weakens the hydrocarbons, like bitumen that normally stick stubbornly to lower parts of the car. The final decontamination stage was 'claying'. Not that long ago, the only option was a clay bar - literally a bar of
specialised clay to which various contaminants bond. Over the last couple of years this technology has been joined by clay mitts, pads, and even cloths. In this case, one of the latter by Autosmart was employed by David, combined with plenty of clay lube solution, to create a perfectly smooth surface ready for some protection.
When it comes to paint protection there is a vast array of options, from conventional organic or newfangled hybrid waxes, right up to polymer and ceramic sealants. For Hethels finest, David used Gyeons Q2 Cancoat, essentially a ceramic sealant but unlike conventional ceramic coatings, it can be applied outside without the need for rigorous environment management. The result, as you can see, is awesome gloss, combined with a decent level of hydrophobic protection which can withstand correct washing procedures for at least a year.
To finish off the service, David went over the compact interior of the car, using a professional-grade Numatic vacuum to suck out all the ingrained muck in the carpets and fabrics, before going over the hard surfaces with Citrus Magic, an accomplished cleaner, by Krystal Kleen Detail that leaves a nice, dry, and matt surface.
After nearly four hours of hard graft, the lightweight Lotus looks like new!