Car Care


By: Ken Latka

The advice contained on the following pages should help members avoid the trial and error I suffered through when experimenting with various products on the Impala's paint finish. I wouldn't want another Impala owner to make the same mistakes I did, buying every product in the marketplace, then finding out what works best. The tips in this article should save most Impala owners money and time.

Disclaimer: You will see many Meguiar's products listed throughout this article. The author does not work for Meguiar's, nor does he have stock or any interest in the company. The author has simply found that Meguiar's products work the best for him and should work well for you. The author did his best to keep all the product names and product numbers current. Some products may have changed since this article was updated, but the companies listed will have cross reference numbers for any new products that replace those mentioned here.

Let's Get Started!

I started by submitting a form to Meguiar's called a Car Care Prescription form. I did this several times for the Impala via the Internet at The reason I did it multiple times was to see what products Meguiar's would recommend on an Impala in excellent, average and poor condition. Some of the products varied, depending upon the condition listed, but since I've got most of the products Meguiar's makes, it was interesting to experiment and see what worked best on the Impala's clear coat paint finish. You're about to read my findings.

A Buffer Can Help Make A Tough Job Easier
As I'm about to explain in this article, my Impala gets a wash, cleaning, polish and wax treatment every three months. This can be a very time consuming process, so I decided to purchase a buffer after I bought the Impala. The first time I waxed the car was by hand, and it was terribly exhausting and time consuming, so much so that I purchased a buffer the very next day. A buffer makes the job much easier, because there is a lot of body area on an Impala and I don't have the time, patience or energy to do it by hand. It actually cuts your time in half.

Each step normally takes an hour or more by hand, but it only takes about 30 minutes with a buffer. Since there are three steps that the buffer is used in, a buffer will save you a ton of time, and if time is money, the buffer will pay for itself very quickly.

I use the Porter Cable orbital unit Meguiar's sells under their own name, they call it the Meguiar's Dual Action Polisher. It can be purchased separately or as part of a package in the Meguiar's Concours Collection (CON01). I'm very happy with this particular buffer (as are many other club members) and I would recommend it highly to anyone, as it is very well built and should last you a lifetime.

Note: The Concours Collection includes just about every product the author uses in this article, so you may decide to purchase the entire collection, including the buffer for $314.95 (price as of January 2001). They show a savings of $113.31 buying everything as a package, versus buying the products individually, so even though $300.00 sounds pretty steep, you'll save money in the long run. I've spent as much as $350.00 in the past on professional detailers for several of my cars, so $300.00 really isn't as bad as it sounds, because I'll get dozens of waxes out of the purchase, rather than a one shot bill from a detailer for the same amount or more.

Meguiar's also offers several other packages, that include the buffer and assorted car care products for under $300.00. You might want to call them at 1-800-545-3321 and ask for their latest catalog, then see what they have in your price range.

Washing the Car
The first step to properly clean a vehicle is to wash off all the loose dust and debris. Wash the car in the shade or in the early morning hours, before the heat of the day sets in, as this keeps the water from drying too quickly and causing water spots. You'll want to wash the car from the top down, saving the wheels and tires for last. Hose off the entire car and don't use too heavy a stream of water, as the minerals in the water can damage the finish. Use a stream of water strong enough to remove the dirt and debris, but not strong enough to sandblast your paint.

As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, start by washing the car from the top, at the roof; using Meguiar's Hi Tech Wash (M-0016 - it comes in the kit). This product is gentle and won't dull your paint finish. Do not use dish washing detergents, as these products can dull your paint. I start at the top of the vehicle, washing the roof, hood, trunk and windows at the same time, then I rinse these sections off as one complete unit. Others prefer washing the roof separately, then rinsing it off; washing the hood separately then rinsing it off, washing the trunk separately then rinsing it off; etc. There is no preferred pattern other than you should start at the top and work down. Just make sure you rinse off the soap before it dries, that will help minimize spotting.

Once all the top panels on your vehicle are washed and rinsed, then wash each side of the vehicle and rinse. Follow that by washing the front and rear bumpers and rinsing, then finally washing and rinsing the wheels and tires. The wheels and tires are last, because of the abrasive brake dust that adheres to them. If you were to start at the wheels and work up, you could scratch the clear coat finish on the body panels, so this is the reason for the top/down procedure.

You should consider using a separate pad or washing mitt for the wheels, that way when you wash the car again in the future, you don't contaminate your cars finish with the same pad that might have abrasive residue on it from when you washed your wheels the last time. I use a Chenille Wash Pad (G403) for the body panels and a separate one for the wheels and tires.

When it comes to wheels, especially the clear coat finished aluminum wheels we have on our Impala's, you don't need to purchase any special cleaners. The stock Impala SS wheels are finished with the same type of clear coat paint that's used on our cars body panels, so treat them like paint, because that's exactly what they are coated with. The wheels get washed with the same Hi-Tech Wash as the rest of the car, just remember to wash the car from the top down and do the wheels last.

Drying the Car
Once the entire vehicle is washed, dry it from the top down using 100% cotton terry towels. Do not use polyester blend or synthetic towels as this will scratch the paint. Try to dry the vehicle in the shade. If the sun has come out since you've finishing washing the car, move the vehicle into a shaded garage or carport before drying.

I do not recommend using a chamois to dry your car. A chamois has no air pockets to trap dirt, so using a chamois can be like using sandpaper, especially if you didn't get all the dirt off your car, or if some dirt blew onto your vehicle while you were washing it. Cotton terry towels have that wonderful thick pile that wicks dirt away from your cars finish, making it less prone to scratch the paint.

The next step is cleaning. No we're not talking about "washing" the car again, we're talking about "cleaning". Cleaning is a special product that removes oxidation, scratches and water spots. I use Meguiar's Fine Cut Cleaner (M-0216) to accomplish this. I apply the cleaner with a buffer and wipe it off with clean 100% cotton terry towels.

Note: I recommend the use of gentle foam buffing pads to apply the cleaner. Meguiar's sells these under part number (W8006). The pads are about $10.00 each. You will need three pads for this procedure, to achieve the desired results.

Concerning use of the buffer: Place five to six 1" wide drops of cleaner ON THE BUFFING PAD, then apply the pad to the car for each 2 x 2 foot section. DO NOT put the cleaner, polish or waxing compound on the vehicle first and then apply the buffer. Doing this will scatter the cleaner, polish and wax all over the garage, the car and yourself to boot. Put the products on the pad first, then put the buffer onto your paint.

As with washing, start from the top and work down. Once the entire car is done, wipe off the vehicle with more clean 100% cotton terry towels. Use separate clean towels for each step in this process, because you don't want to mix compounds on your buffing wheels or on your terry towels.

The next step is to polish the paint. Change to a new buffing pad and apply some Meguiar's Swirl Remover (M-0916). This product gets rid of any remaining light scratches and swirl marks that might have been left after cleaning. Polishing is what brings out the deeper and darker finishes in paint, not wax, wax is only a protectant, so polishing is one of the most important steps in getting that professional detailed look. You can actually see the shade of the car get deeper as you apply it and wipe it off. As with all other procedures in this article, remember to polish from the top down, and when finished, wipe off the polish with more clean 100% cotton terry towels.

The final step is applying the wax. I use another Meguiar's product called Medallion Premium Paint Protection (M-9816). That's a long name for an excellent wax product. As with the cleaner and the polish, apply with a buffer using a new pad. When the wax dries to a haze, wipe it off with more clean 100% cotton terry towels. (I wish I had stock in cotton towels, I go through about 12 towels each time I do this entire process).

I use a one step cleaner/wax product called Meguiar's Cleaner/Wax Liquid (A-1216). This product removes any remaining road tar and gives me good wax protection without scratching the finish. It actually helps remove many of the small scratches you get from all that abrasive brake dust. I do not recommend using the buffer on the wheels, because they have some tight nooks and crannies that you won't be able to reach. Since the surface area of the wheels isn't that great, I recommend doing it by hand.

When it comes to treating the tires, I use Meguiar's Vinyl & Rubber Cleaner/Conditioner (M-4016). You can use a foam applicator pad (available at Meguiar's) or old shop rags to apply, there is no need to wipe this product off once it dries. I didn't think foam applicators would work well but I've tried them and was pleasantly surprised by the results. Using foam pads will also save you from ruining good towels when applying the Vinyl and Rubber Cleaner Conditioner, because no matter how many times you wash the towels, it seems you can never get them totally clean after they've touched your tires.

Exhaust Tips
I use Rolite Metal Polish on my stock exhaust tips. Rolite is sold in a tube and I apply it with a clean cotton "shop rag", then remove it with another clean "shop rag". You don't want to get metal polish on your paint polishing towels, hence why I use shop rags. Meguiar's also offers an excellent product called All Metal Polish (M-2805), and yes it also comes in the kit. For some reason I like the Rolite better, I can't tell you exactly why, I just do. Both products work on the stock tips and on polished after-market stainless tips. If you have chrome tips, use chrome cleaner.

You can use any good, non-streaking glass cleaner for your windows. If you have a lot of road tar or other grime that the window cleaner won't remove, then here's two interesting tips for you.

The first tip is something called Cook Top Cleaning Crème for Smooth Top Ranges. This product is manufactured by Elco Laboratories and is available through Whirlpool and Kitchen Aid. This is the same product used to clean cook tops on modern glass top ranges. It's a white liquid and works well, because it's designed to cut grease. It should be available at your grocery store, but if your local store doesn't carry it, then tip number two is a product you probably already have in your garage.

The second tip is shown in the Impala Fest '98 video Franklin Poole produced a couple of years ago. Forrest Tosie of Mother's Car Care Products allowed Franklin to record his entire Impala SS detailing seminar for the video. While I was editing the show together, Forrest had a ton of cool tips for detailing your car, but the one for cleaning windows stuck me as really strange at first. Forrest said that he uses chrome polish! He went on to say that chrome and glass have almost the exact same molecular hardness and chrome polish WILL NOT scratch the glass. I tried it, and you know what? It works!

If you want to learn several other little tricks from Forrest Tosie, the entire car care seminar is featured in the Impala Fest '98 video, along with some really cool Impala show cars and trick modifications. You can order on-line by going to: or contact Franklin at the address or phone number below. The cost is about $20.00.

Franklin Poole
P.O. Box 82879
Baton Rouge, LA 70884-2879
(225) 312-6400 - Monday - Friday from 9 AM to 5 PM CST

Cleaning Window Tint
If you have window tint on your car, I absolutely love KEM-O-PRO's Glass Tint Cleaner, Preservative (stock # PRO-303-8). This stuff is awesome! It won't damage the plastic film tint and best of all it will not streak. Some tint cleaners don't come off cleanly, but this stuff comes off the cleanest of any product I've ever used. I hope someone in the club organizes a group purchase for this product, so everyone has a chance to try it. It is manufactured by:

J.B. Chemical Co. Inc.
7314 Varna Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91605

Interior Leather and Vinyl
The interior is pretty straight forward. I use Meguiar's Premium Leather Care (M-9616) on the seats, steering wheel and the floor shifter knob in my 96, which are leather. Apply the product with one towel, use another towel to buff to a nice sheen.

On vinyl, like the dashboard and door panels, I use the same Meguiar's Vinyl & Rubber Cleaner/Conditioner I use on the tires. I do not recommend Armor All. I have used this product in the past, appropriately on an old Mustang of mine, and the dash shined so badly, its reflection could be seen in the windshield while driving, this is not a good thing. The Vinyl & Rubber Cleaner/Conditioner has a nice, natural semi-gloss appearance, which I like, and it helps keep dash reflections to a minimum.

Daily Car Care
In so far as daily care goes, a California Car Duster is one of the best investments I've ever made. I take a minute to dust the car every morning before I leave for work (while the car is cool). I don't dust the car while the body panels are hot, because the fibers in the car duster are treated with a special wax that can put wax streaks on the paint. It won't damage the paint, but if you don't want the streaks, you'll have to follow up the dusting with a towel to remove the wax streaks and that's double the effort. Over time, the duster will break in and you won't have the wax streaking problem, but when they're new, you will.

If you visit a car show, undoubtedly you've seen people dusting their cars to keep the dust to a minimum before judging starts. Just make certain the label says "The Original California Car Duster" as there are many copy-cat products on the market and this product is manufactured by a company who's President owns an Impala SS. So try to patronize his company if you can, plus it's the best car duster I know of at this time.

The only other advice I can give you is to use Meguiar's Quick Detailer a couple of times a week. It's a spray on product that helps keep your car looking its best between washings. Just spray it on and wipe it off (with 100% cotton terry towels of course). This product removes bugs, sap and dust from your cars finish so you won't have to wash or wax it as often.

During the summer months, since there's no rain in Southern California, I only have to do the entire wash, clean, polish and wax treatment every three months month. The California Car Duster and Meguiar's Quick Detailer keeps the car looking "just washed" for months. During the winter (when we get our share of rain), well, that's another story.

Worthy of note
The products listed above and the procedures I use are the ones that work best for me. One of the Car Care Prescription forms I mailed to Meguiar's recommended their Yellow Carnauba Wax for the Impala's Clear Coat finish, but I've found the Medallion Wax (which was recommended on another Car Care Prescription form) to be stronger, last longer and actually give me a better, deeper finish.

In closing, I don't want to get into an explanation of what products to use if your vehicle is in less than good condition, because most members keep their cars pretty clean. If your car is in poor condition, try Meguiar's on-line and fill out the Car Care Prescription form. The products they recommend will basically be the same, except for a more aggressive cleaner and polish.

Other companies like Zaino and Mother's also make excellent products. I have not had the opportunity to use Zaino's products yet, but other Impala club members like the results they are achieving with the Zaino product line.

I wish all of you the best of luck and an excellent finish!

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