Piston Slap: Cut the Porker, Wax 'till Blue?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap cut the porker wax till blue

Dan writes:

My detailer suggests giving my year-old (but 20k mile) midnight-blue 911 Carrera 4S car a polish and a paint sealant. Although my detailer assures me it is safe, words like ‘mild abrasive’ and the industrial metal-clad dual-orbit application machine do not sit well with me. I trust that my detailer knows what he is doing, but won’t it eventually grind out my clear coat, with successive polishes? How many polishes does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll? And what does it mean to polish surfaces that have a clear bra application?

Thanks very much, TTAC helped me picking S vs 4S, and I don’t want my baby done wrong.

Sajeev Answers:

Let me get this straight: you drive a one-year-old Porsche. It’s a Carrera 4S with a clear bra, mileage be damned. I’m gonna go waaay out on a limb and assume you have covered parking at home, maybe even at the office. I suspect your paint job is fairly shiny as it sits right now: making it physically impossible to need a polishing compound. This porker is just too new!

This is where everyone should pause for a moment…and realize that people truly, honestly suck. This detailer is in 100% up-sell mode, and there’s a chance his offer might shorten your paint’s lifespan. Dan nailed it, there’s no need to surgically operate (i.e. metal-clad dual-orbit application machine) when a deep tissue massage accomplishes the same thing. And couldn’t we all go for a massage right about now?

No matter, here’s a good rule: never “cut” paint unless there is heavy oxidation from long term exposure to the elements, paint transfer from another object, or severe scratches that can’t be filled in with a wax. And paint sealants, while effective, aren’t significantly better than the old fashioned, semi-annual, wax ‘n buff. Plus, I suspect it costs far, far more.

That said, your car is likely in need of a wax of either a synthetic polymer (6-12 months) or carnauba (deeper shine, 3-6 months) variety. As we all learned from Piston Slap’s trip to Turtle Wax’s Corporate HQ, you have better alternatives. Don’t jump to more aggressive actions, do the easy and most obvious thing first: wash and wax the car.

Bonus! A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

I hope your detailer knows to NOT put anything on the clear bra, lest it gets burned by friction caused by a buffer (or hand towel) and turn chalky/rough to the touch. But if he has the stones to offer you polish/sealant on a car that’s–relative to other cars discussed in the Piston Slap series–lived a charmed life, all bets are off.

Send your queries to mehta@ttac.com

Join the conversation
3 of 45 comments
  • Power6 Power6 on Aug 17, 2010

    A 1 year old Porsche should not have swirl marks, unless you frequent automatic scrubby car washes I suppose. My new cars have never needed more than a good claying and a wax. Even brand new the paint will have some contaminants that the clay can take off while being the absolute least abrasive way to do it. You can have your detailer do that, or just do it yourself. The nice thing about clay and a carnauba wax is that you don't need any power tools to do it, just some pads and microfiber cloths. I've perused the car detailing boards, long enough to see what works well but I got out quick before I got sucked into the lifestyle. A basic clay, Mothers is fine and there are better ones on the internets, and some Collinite 845 wax is all you need. I thought I destroyed the paint on my WRX when I overheated my brakes at Thunderbolt and got melted pad flakes all over it. Took me about 4 hours with the clay, then wash and wax and it looked like new again. The amount of polishing to fix that would have taken the clear coat away. BTW I have clayed and waxed my clear bra and it has worked out just fine so far. There is a place between detail overkill and not washing your car at all. Just stick with basic proven stuff, don't experiment, and get on with your life.

    • Stepheda Stepheda on Aug 17, 2010

      Power 6 writes: "BTW I have clayed and waxed my clear bra and it has worked out just fine so far. There is a place between detail overkill and not washing your car at all. Just stick with basic proven stuff, don’t experiment, and get on with your life." Best reply. And glad to hear claying a clear bra is "ok". Thanks!

  • Stepheda Stepheda on Aug 17, 2010

    Sajeev: Thanks for the reply. You're right, I park it in a garage at home, but the parking lot at work is open in the bright hot-ass Texan sky. It reached 104 degrees today. I too was thinking the paint might be too new for a polish, but the rationale from my detailer was that the paint sealant would be beneficial in the long term, and that it would be better to put that on top of a polishing. Normally I would peg my detailer in up-sell mode; however, in this case this is a guy with whom I've had an acquaintance for some year: he is my neighbor across the street. He's been doing this professionally at his shop for about a year, and freelanced mobile detailing before that. You're right, that it didn't seem right to "cut" the paint with a polish if it didn't LOOK like it needed it. But my detailer, knowing I like the bee-yoo-tiful midnight blue metallic, and have notices swirls when I had the Porsche dealership "detail" my car, said that with a polish the surface would POP and then be the right time to have long-term protection with the paint sealant. I could be wrong but I believe he was trying to be responsive to what I was wanting. There is one spot on the car where he had already polished: my car got egged on the right rear. Not quite what you think: it had some white/yolk dribbling on it, no eggshells. But it was clearly egginess. Like a passing bird crapped out an egg. And even thought I found it in less than an hour and washed it with water and my fingertip, you can still see it drip shape. So my detailer polished in that area, so now it is much harder to see. The etching was too deep for the polish to take care of all of it - and the detailer didn't push it. But it is much better. On the point of the clear bra - my Porsche service rep says I can treat the clear bra as if it was paint, for example, with waxing. So you are saying that is not true for polishing? How about clay bar on a clear bra? I got that done on my un-clear-bra'd 2002 silver Boxster and WOW that makes the surface so smooth.

  • MRF 95 T-Bird Back when the Corolla consisted of a wide range of body styles. This wagon, both four door and two door sedans, a shooting brake like three door hatch as well as a sports coupe hatchback. All of which were on the popular cars on the road where I resided.
  • Wjtinfwb Jeez... I've got 3 Ford's and have been a defender due to my overall good experiences but this is getting hard to defend. Thinking the product durability testing that used to take months to rack up 100k miles or more is being replaced with computer simulations that just aren't causing these real-world issues to pop up. More time at the proving ground please...
  • Wjtinfwb Looks like Mazda put more effort into sprucing up a moribund product than Chevy did with the soon to be euthanized '24 Camaro.
  • Wjtinfwb I've seen worse on the highways around Atlanta, usually with a refrigerator or washer wedged into the trunk and secured with recycled twine...
  • Wjtinfwb Surprising EB Flex hasn't weighed in yet on it being the subject of a recall...