Frequently asked questions

Both Phosphates and Nonylphenol Ethoxylates (NPE) are commonly used to enhance the cleaning characteristics of certain reconditioning chemicals. But, concerns have been raised over their potentially harmful effects on rivers, streams, lakes and other bodies of fresh water.

Car Brite offers a range of cleaning products that are phosphate and NPE-free (see the Product Information Sheets in the Products section for phosphate and NPE designations).

A number of states have enacted restrictions on the amount of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) allowable in certain automotive care products. VOCs are common chemical ingredients (primarily solvents) found in a variety of consumer products ranging from wood preservatives to underarm deodorants.

When emitted into the atmosphere during storage or use, VOCs can cause adverse health effects and are a major component of ground-level ozone. The health problems include eye, nose and throat irritation; shortness of breath; headaches; loss of coordination; nausea; and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system.

In 1991, California began regulating VOCs by setting emission limits by product and product category, and has expanded the number of categories monitored since then. Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maine, northern Virginia and the District of Columbia adopted California's restrictions in 2005 and, in 2007, Michigan and New Hampshire did, as well.

Similar restrictions are also being considered in Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio. Additional states (and possibly the entire country) are expected to adopt these restrictions, as well.

The specific automotive product categories now regulated are:

Air freshenersAutomotive rubbing or polishing compoundsAutomotive waxes, polishes, sealants & glazesAutomotive windshield washer fluidsBug & tar removersCarpet/upholstery cleanersEngine degreasersFabric protectantsGeneral purpose cleanersGeneral purpose degreasersGlass cleanersMetal polishes/cleanersRubber/vinyl protectants (dressings)Spot removersUndercoatings

Car Brite has introduced VOC compliant versions of popular products in these regulated categories, and will continue to do so. The Car Brite Product Information Sheets (found in the Products section) designate whether a product is VOC Compliant.

There are nearly as many approaches to reconditioning a vehicle as there are detailers. The key is to follow an established procedure that is safe, effective, efficient and consistent.

You should use appropriate products on each surface in a logical sequence that your detailing personnel understand – all while following the necessary safety precautions.

Car Brite has published a number of procedures (see Detailing Guides in the Learning Center section) ranging from our comprehensive Professional Automotive Reconditioning process (for reconditioning a used vehicle) to new car “make ready” to various levels of Express Detailing.

While these procedures are not the only methods for detailing a vehicle, they have long been safely and effectively used by reconditioning professionals worldwide.

Whether you use the processes outlined or another method, be sure to follow the same sequence on each vehicle. A consistent approach ensures consistent results.

Professional automotive reconditioning involves much more than washing dirt off a car with a bucket of soap. The objective is to safely remove contaminants from all vehicle surfaces, restore those surfaces and protect them from further damage.

The surfaces include paint, metal, rubber, plastic, vinyl, glass, fabric and leather – some of which can withstand aggressive cleaning chemicals and techniques, and some of which cannot.

The contaminants range from soil to grease to tar to tree sap to coffee to red lipstick – each requiring specific chemistries to remove them. Throw in oxidation, embedded brake dust and protein-based stains and you’ve got a real detailing challenge.

Therefore, you need a variety of reconditioning products – ranging in strength and formulation – and a logical process for safely and effectively applying them.

Lack of gloss on the painted surface can be caused by several factors:

OxidationScratchesLack of a Protective Coating

Oxidation is the dulling of the painted surface that occurs when the sun’s ultraviolet rays deplete the paint’s natural oils and resins. Scratches prevent light from reflecting uniformly, which limits gloss. In order to restore gloss, the oxidation and scratches must be removed.

Once the surface is free of oxidation and scratches and any swirl marks caused by compounding are removed, a wax or paint sealant should be applied. It will protect the paint against further oxidation, level the surface and intensify the reflection of light.

To remove medium to heavy scratches and oxidation, we recommend compounding the surface with a high speed buffer, cutting pad and compound (For a complete listing of Car Brite compounds, see the Compounds section of the Products page).

If only light scratches and oxidation are present, buff the surface with a mildly abrasive glaze or polish and polishing pad.

If the scratches and oxidation warrant compounding, the compound used should be aggressive enough to correct the imperfections but appropriate for the vehicle’s paint system (conventional or basecoat/clearcoat).

To identify your vehicle’s paint system, hand-apply a medium-duty compound with an applicator pad to an inconspicuous spot on the paint. If color comes off on the pad, you’re working with a conventional system. If not, you have a basecoat/clearcoat system.

The thickness of the exterior paint layer of conventional systems is 3 - 4 mils (1 mil = 1/1000 of an inch), while the thickness of the clearcoat layer is 1 - 1.5 mils. Therefore, you can use a much more aggressive product on a conventional finish than a basecoat/clearcoat finish.

When compounding, set the buffer speed at no higher than 1800 - 2000 rpm, and use either a wool or foam cutting pad. Wool cutting pads tend to generate more heat than foam pads - increasing the amount of cut - and often leave more swirl marks.

If a paint thickness gauge is available, measure the total thickness of the area you plan to compound. Then measure the thickness periodically as you buff, ensuring that you don’t remove more than .5 mils of paint (especially from a clearcoat layer).

Select your compound accordingly, and buff the painted surface as follows:

Make sure the painted surface is cool before buffingApply a moderate amount of product to surfaceDon’t allow the product to dry on surfaceDon’t mix buffing productsMoisten pad before buffing (especially foam pads)Buff slowly in shoulder width area, moving buffer side-to-side, length-wise with panelSpur pad regularly with pad spur (never a screwdriver!)Keep pad flat on surface, applying light even pressureBring buffer off painted surface before stoppingWipe off residue with clean, soft cloth

This process is illustrated in greater detail in the Removing Scratches, Oxidation and Swirl Marks section of the Professional Automotive Reconditioning process.

Swirl marks are light, circular scratches often caused by buffing with a compound. As the compound cuts away the oxidized paint layer and reduces the depth of deep scratches – by abrading away their "ridges" – it can cause light scratches, especially on dark colors.

Fear not, for swirl marks can be buffed out with a high speed buffer, polishing pad and a glaze or polish (as can light scratches and oxidation not severe enough to compound). For a complete listing of Car Brite glazes and polishes, See the Glazes & Polishes section of the Products page.

Glazes and polishes are lotions containing mild abrasives and resins (usually silicone) that can be applied with a buffer or by hand. Glazes tend to be more aggressive, while polishes tend to generate more gloss.

The abrasives remove swirl marks by abrading away their "ridges" in a manner similar to compounding, but with much less paint being removed. The resins fill any indentation in the paint too deep to be abraded out, and bond to the surface.

By removing the "ridges" and filling any remaining indentations, the painted surface is leveled, which restores its gloss. The newly level surface reflects light in a uniform manner causing the eye to perceive a deep, rich shine.

In addition to providing "fill", the resins deflect the sun’s ultraviolet rays (minimizing further oxidation) and magnify the gloss created by the newly level surface.

The durability of the bond between the resin and the painted surface will vary depending on the number and type of resins used. Silicone is the most common resin, and certain chemically-bonding silicones can last up to six months. Glycerin and mineral oil are also used, but aren’t nearly as durable.

When polishing, buff at 2400 - 2800 rpm (the resins provide added lubrication which allow for higher buffer speeds), and utilize a lambswool, blended wool or foam polishing pad. Also, follow the buffing guidelines listed in Question #4.

This process is illustrated in greater detail in the Removing Scratches, Oxidation and Swirl Marks section of the Professional Automotive Reconditioning process.

Waxing frequency depends on the type of wax or paint sealant you use, the climate you live in and the soap you use to wash your vehicle.

Before discussing these variables, we should review the terms "wax" and "paint sealant". Historically, a "wax" was a final finish product which contained natural waxes such as carnauba, while a "paint sealant" was a final finish product containing synthetic polymers such as silicone, glycerin and mineral oil. Waxes tended to generate more gloss, while paint sealants tended to last longer.

Today, however, the distinction between these products is not as pronounced. Many "waxes" contain synthetic polymers, while many "paint sealants" contain natural wax. It’s best to review the product label to determine shine and durability (For a complete listing of Car Brite waxes and paint sealants, see the Waxes & Paint Sealants section of the Products page).

Like polishes, waxes and paint sealants contain resins which bond to the painted surface forming a protective layer against sunlight and the elements. The strength of the bond will vary depending on the number and type of resins present and the condition of the painted surface.

Chemically-bonding silicones can last up to six months, while physically-bonding silicones, mineral oil, glycerin and natural or synthetic waxes last one to four months. It is critical to ensure that the paint is free of dirt, tar, grease, and other surface contaminants before applying your final finish product. Neither wax nor paint sealant will adhere to a dirty surface.

Climate affects the durability of waxes and paint sealants, as well. Harsh weather conditions such as rain, wind, snow (and the accompanying road salts) will break the bond between the resin and the painted surface much more quickly than will dry, mild conditions. Constant exposure to bright sunlight will also accelerate wax and sealant deterioration.

When washing a freshly-waxed surface, be sure to use pH neutral car soap instead of a highly alkaline dish soap or household cleaner. The alkalis will strip the resins from the painted surface, lessening gloss and exposing the surface to the elements.

Car Brite’s recommended procedure for applying a final finish product can be found in the Applying Wax or Paint Sealant section of Professional Automotive Reconditioning process.

Paint overspray, bugs, tree sap and other light surface contaminants can be quickly and easily removed with Car Brite’s Brite Stik Gray (B080) or Brite Stik Purple (B081) clay bar.Paint overspray, bugs, tree sap and other light surface contaminants can be quickly and easily removed with Car Brite’s Brite Stik Gray (B080) and Brite Stik Purple (B081) Clay Bar.

Car Brite’s Brite Stik Clay Bars are blends of synthetic rubbers containing mild abrasives which remove light surface contaminants such as paint overspray, bugs and tree sap from painted, glass and chrome surfaces.

Car Brite’s recommended procedure for using the clay bar is illustrated in the Surface Contaminant Removal section of the Professional Automotive Reconditioning process.

In a body-shop environment, products containing silicone should not be used. When atomized silicone comes in contact with uncured paint, a chemical reaction (commonly referred to as “fish eyeing”) occurs.

The Car Brite Product Information Sheets (found in the Products section) designate whether a product is “body shop-safe” (silicone-free).