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This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Mon, Apr 17, 2006

By: The LACar Editorial Staff


Just as time turns mountains into sand, the finish on a car can slowly - almost imperceptibly - evolve from a showroom shine to a weather beaten, dull, oxidized surface. As a very gradual decay sneaks up on us like small signs of age on our own skin, we don't always appreciate the actual damage done. In visiting my parents' house, I found my mother's car in a rather lack luster state. My mom, like so many of an older generation, finds that extensive car care isn't high on her agenda. She also doesn't have a deep familiarity with the numerous products in the marketplace designed to restore or maintain a car's appearance. Gazing at the 1990 Buick Reatta convertible with 150,000 plus miles on it, l remember that somewhere under a grayish yellowing color actually lies a snow white colored car. Both the car and my mom have a number of miles between them and a host of memories that go along with those journeys. The question is: Can I turn back the hands of time? In approaching this undertaking, I ask for the assistance of none other than Mothers Car Wax, which may seem like the obvious choice. Mothers has an extensive line of products from the basic carnauba wax to products that can return former glory to paint, plastic and metal. Mothers may not be alone in this arena, but they are among a select few that deliver professional products as well as commercial products for those who just do the regular wash and wax on Sunday afternoons. Sixteen years of neglect is a long time. The paint was in fact so bad-looking, my brother, sister and dad all had the same idea. This was akin to turning a sow's ear into a silk purse. Oh, thou have little faith. At the same time, I knew this was going to require having a trick or two up my sleeve. My ace in the hole is a powered DeWalt Polisher. While I hear the echo of the Karate Kid's mentor Mr. Miyagi chanting "wax on, wax off", I am still a little more cognizant of my own physical ability. I am aware of my own abilities, or make those inabilities. If anyone remembers Steve Martin's performance in The Jerk with a polisher, they know these things can be a bit tricky. I use caution going slowly at very moderate speeds (as this is a variable speed polisher) so that I don't burn the paint. At high speed, the wax or polish has a tendency of slinging about - not very efficient. Each step is methodically approached using nearly the full spectrum of Mothers' California Gold products that are available at most automotive parts retailers. Initially, I did a decent wash job, then followed it up with a clay bar to remover any of the narlier encrustations that have taken root on the surface. Everything from paint overspray to pollution fallout is absorbed onto the small yellow clay bar, as it easily glides across the car, just as the instructions on the box indicate.

Phase two begins with the Scratch Remover on the hood. In doing one half at a time it is readily apparent that this is eliminating the well-worn top layer of paint and reducing some of the more moderate scratches. Some of the deepest of gouges are too deep to deal with. As this product is more aggressive by its very nature, care must be exercised not to go too far and strip the paint to the primer underneath. The labeling on the bottle recommends this for small areas like door handles or trunk lids which tend to get more abuse. As this car really hadn't spent any notable time under a polisher, I'm confident there is enough paint material to allow me a good thorough scrubbing than what the label suggested. At this point, my father is standing ringside and is starting to get a taste of what the final job might be. Of course, he is still chanting his theme of "why do you want to do this"? After a few more hours, the entire car has been gone over several times with Mothers Scratch Remover, and I am feeling pretty good - both mentally and physically. If the improvement is this obvious after just the first phase, I know this has a fighting chance of really turning around. Onward to the first of the three-step process that Mothers calls the Ultimate Wax System. The first step is a pre-wax cleaner (recommended just once or twice a year) that further removes built up oxidation, cleans and polishes, but is less aggressive and leaves less of a trace as to its presence. In other words, the scratches are now less apparent than they were with the prior step. The next step is the Sealer and Glaze that replaces the oils that have been lost in the paint for a deep wet look. This also does a good job at reducing swirl marks. As with the other steps, the entire surface is covered, but I have switched to applying this in part by hand. The final step in bringing the paint back alive is Mothers Pure Carnauba Wax. While the surface already looks fantastic from the polish, the wax will prevent any wear and tear until the next wash and it protects the paint.

The rear taillight covers also are in bad condition. They are hazed badly and have a number of fine scratches that lead to its dull finish. Using the unique Mothers Power Ball polisher that easily attaches to the end of a common hand held drill works incredible. The hundreds of pinkish sponge tips apply material to oddball surfaces like a tail lens. Upon the recommendation of Mothers, I start with a metal polish, which cuts the well-worn exterior. After that application I distribute the Plastic polish, again using the Power Ball. All said and done, the lenses are clear and all but free of any imperfections. What did learn from this? First off, you can bring paint back from the brink with the right material and elbow grease. Secondly, nothing of value comes easy; I spent a solid day and a half on this, even while more than half was accomplished using a power polisher. Third, a good polish job is by far less expensive than a paint job and can be as good or better (depending on what the condition is when you start). Lastly, I start to realize that it is far easier to maintain a car and keep the finish covered and protected in a good quality product than to try and make up for it later. A few hours each year will significantly reduced the wear and tear. Not just on the car too. This wore me out! If you ever have spent a day-and-a-half leaning over a car while supporting the weight of a polisher, you know what I mean. Nonetheless, this was the best means of bringing new life to the family member sitting out in the garage. Of course, Mothers was telling me this all along! For more information please go to For more information on purchasing please go to

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