Join Date: Jan 2012
Vehicle: R171 SLK 55AMG 2005
Other Toys: RUF SCR 1985; 930 Turbo 1985; MB 170V 1951; MB E500 W124 Ltd 1995; VW GTI 16V 1989; 928s 1982
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I have corrected the paint work on several German Vehicles over the past decade and felt compelled to share some of my experience in this regard on your thread.
The humble old clay bar has come a long way since I started working with them 10 years ago. I must caution that this is perhaps a very important step in a number of key steps to restore that factory finish and the clay bar merely lifts grime from the paintwork ahead of cleansing, cutting and polishing. I recently managed to rescue a 25-year-old W124 Merc Paintwork with stunning results as follows:
1. Starting for the first time, wash vehicle with diswashing liquid mixed with water to remove all protective coatings and have an inert base to work with - I would advocate only ever doing this once on your vehicle and really carefully considering whether this is ever necessary at all...all your trims and paint would have to be re-coated with protectants after such a drastic measure;
2. Clay bar the entire vehicle - only use a dime size piece and conduct it in backward and forwards motions to counteract swirl...it actually saves heaps of time for removing heavy swirl - a trick I learnt from the British AutoGlym Professional Demonstrators...it saved me money and time;
3. Wash again using two-bucket method and splash out on a good quality low sud wash - I used Bowdens Nanolicious from Australia or Zaino's Car Wash Products from the USA;
4. Towel dry with an excellent quality micro-fibre cloth - our local detailer imports excellent quality from Thailand at half the price of mainstream stores and we have washed our cloths on several occasions to get great results - the quality of your clothware is vital to success. Be sure to place in the washing machine after each use and protect from dust - we use Bowdens Microfibre Wash for our sponges and cloths and pack them into plastic tubs to carry between home and warehouse;
5. Learn to use a Random Dual Action (DA) Polisher...I have a 5-year old Meguiars Professional that cost a mint in the UK some years ago and it has stood the test of time...you get what you pay for in this area.
6. We now use a Menzerna 400 Cut (Interestingly a heavier cut but excellent on hard paintwork of Mercedes) which only requires a thumb size amount for a whole SLK bonnet - yes a 100ml bottle will do a whole fleet of vehicles. The Menzerna cuts break down whilst polishing to a finish which saves loads of time. They are excellent on darker paint work. We lubricate the polishing pad (yellow-medium cut sponge pad) with a gentle spray of instant detailer - we use Bowdens Fully Slick but anything from Meguiars would be fine such as Quik Detailer or even plain water lightly sprayed prior to rubbing and then over the polished area whilst working. This averts drying out the polish too quickly whilst working it with the machine - if it dries, you need to buff it off;
7. Whatever you do, avoid sharp changes in profile - especially the trunk lines on the SLK R171 - I have burnt through the paint layer on this transition on our earlier vehicle when I was way less experienced on this subject - I usually apply a thin layer of masking tape over these areas and alos over the rubber seals/trim to prevent stupidity taking hold of me...you will find that your machine is attracted to these areas as you become hypnotised with the excellent results and a momentary lapse could ruin your day. These taped areas are quite simply tackled by hand.
8. The best way to tell that your cut or polish is ready to be buffed off, is to run your forefinger over a section - if clear paint is revealed, it is time to buff it off and either do another coat on that section or get ready for the next treatment.
9. Always do small sections and take your time...it is a session of expressing love for you vehicle and a wonderfully satisfying achievement to see the results. Do not get despondent if you do not remove the swirl on the first round...on average two to three re-applications in the same area is what it takes.
10. Once you think you have it nailed. Go down to the Menzerna 200 Cut which also breaks down to a finishing polish. Repeat as above. Recently I have found this not necessary if one is a little impatient or lazy as you have a finish that surpasses anything you have had before;
11. Once complete and happy, remove taped sections and apply a sealant - I use the Menzerna Sealant but I have also found any good Carnauba based wax or sealant will suffice...every one develops a personal preference and quality varies. Apply it with a soft application sponge in very small amounts over large areas - take what you think it requires and halve it. Once on, leave the sealant or wax to bed into the work...I find buttering it on and then having a cuppa and reading the newspaper and then returning to buff it off works best. You can never leave this stuff on for too long...as opposed to polishes that must be removed prior to hardening or you will spend hours rectifying your error.
12. Always do it in the shade or in the garage and at night I have found it best with good quality lighting to check your swirl levels. Never do any of this work in direct sunlight...I paid the price in years gone by. Also make sure you paint work is cold to touch for best results.
Take days to do it and it will come out better as opposed to attempting in one sitting.
Hope this helps.