Meguiar's 5 Step Paint Care Cycle

With the wide variety of detailing products available, choosing the right products can be a bit overwhelming. Once you understand the Meguiar's 5 Step Paint Care Cycle, choosing the right products becomes much easier. Below is a quick video which provides an overview:

What product do I use? - Some things to keep in mind when asking yourself which product to use.

Condition of the Surface?

Your Goals?

Tools Available?

Time Available?

Skills & Abilities?

Achieving Show Car Results can be as simply as three steps:

1. Evaluate the Surface

2. Choose the Right Product

3. Use Good Technique

[CENTER]Step 1 - Washing

Washing is the removal of loose contaminants from any exterior surface.

Below is a quick video which provides an overview:

Clean Quality Accessories

For washing the vehicle, Meguiar's recommends using a premium Microfiber Wash Mitt, such as our X3002 Microfiber Wash Mitt. This wash mitt is designed to lift & trap grime away from the surface to prevent scratching. The absorbent microfiber also does a great job to carry plenty of wash solution.

For drying the vehicle, Meguiar's recommends using a premium microfiber drying specific towel, also known as a "waffle weave microfiber drying towel" such as our X2000 Water Magnet. Waffle weave microfiber drying towels like our Water Magnet are made specific for drying, are soft & gently to the paint, and make drying the vehicle much easier.

Our Supreme Shine Microfiber Towels are great all purpose microfiber towels for a variety of uses including spray detailers, spray waxes, removing compound, polish, wax, various interiors applications, and glass cleaner.

A pH balanced Car Wash Product

Meguiar's recommends using a pH balanced, automotive specific car wash solution. Using a pH balanced car wash will preserve your wax protection. Washes which are not pH balanced or contain strong detergents can remove your wax protection, and also promote oxidation.

All of Meguiar's Car Wash Products are pH balanced and do not contain any strong detergents.

The Two Bucket Wash Method - The two bucket wash method consists of two buckets, one with your car wash, and the other with plain water. The water bucket is used to rinse out your wash mitt. The wash mitt should be rinsed before retrieving more car wash. This releases any dirt & grime on your wash mitt into the water bucket, instead of into your clean car wash. The two bucket wash method reduces the chance of the dirt & grime you are removing off the vehicle, from getting back up onto the vehicle. Using this technique will work to reduce the chance of inflicting swirls & scratches into the paint!

Always work on a cool surface, ideally in the shade - Washing a warm or hot surface can cause water spots. Always work on a cool surface in the shade. Wash & Rinse one section at a time, and start at the top of the vehicle.

Use a stream of water for your final rinse - This technique can be used to dramatically reduce the amount of water on the surface required to dry. If using an attachment on your water hose, remove the attachment for the final rinse. Turn on the water to a slow stream. Use this slow stream of water to sheet of a majority of the water on the surface. This will make the drying process much easier.

Grit Guard - The Grit Guard is simply used as a baffle in the bottom of your wash bucket, and works to keep the loose contaminants on the bottom of the bucket, and lessens the chances of them getting onto your wash mitt. If you wanted to run one Grit Guard, it would be best to place in the bottom of your rinse bucket. Many users will use two grit guards, one in their wash solution bucket and one in the rinse bucket.

​Never use dish washing detergent as it can strip your wax protection. Meguiar's recommend washing at a minimum of once a week, to keep your car looking it's best & free of contaminants.

Now that we are working on a clean & dry surface, the next step is to evaluate the paint finish for defects. There are two types of defects we are evaluating for:

Above-Surface Contaminants - Our vehicles are constantly being bombarded by various environmental fallout when outdoors. Some examples include dirt, dust, road grime, tree sap mist, industrial fallout, and paint over-spray. Over time, these environmental contaminants can bond to the paint finish, and washing the car alone will not remove them. To Evaluate for Above-Surface Contaminants - When the surface is clean & dry after washing, take your hand and feel the paint surface. If the paint is not completely smooth or feels rough, this is an indication the vehicle has bonded contaminants. Don't be surprised if your car feels rough, this is very common, but don't worry these are easy to remove. We will talk about how to remove these contaminants in Step 2 - Clean/Prep, but to evaluate, feel the paint when it is clean & dry and inspect how it feels.

Below Surface Defects - Swirls, scratches, stains, water spots, & oxidation are unfortunately all too common in today's paint finishes, due to a variety of factors. To evaluate for below surface defects, we recommend using proper lighting. Direct sunlight, florescent lights in a garage, even a LED flashlight can work great when evaluating for below surface defects. If the vehicle is in the shade, chances are we cannot see the defects as well, because less light is reflecting from the surface.

Step 2 - Clean/Prep

The removal of above surface contaminants & below surface defects.

Removing Above Surface Contaminants - Detailing Clay or a "Clay Bar" removes bonded above surface contaminants. Claying is a simply process. Knead and compress the clay into a flat wafer shape, then wet the area of the paint surface with Meguiar's Quik Detailer spray and quickly glide the clay over the paint. You don't need much pressure at all, just enough to control the clay. It is important to keep the area well lubricated with Quik Detailer Spray while claying. As the clay removes the bonded contaminants, you will feel it start to glide more and more easily. Once the area feels completely smooth to the touch, wipe it dry and move onto the next section, continuing this section by section process until the vehicle has been completely clayed.

Meguiar's Smooth Surface Clay Kit provides everything needed to clay:

A couple of facts about clay:

  • Claying is for removing contaminants bonded to the surface, it is not for swirls, scratches, or etchings in the paint
  • Claying can be done to exterior paint, glass, chrome, and most "hard" surfaces
  • Claying enables clear reflections and allows car wax to adhere to the paint better so it will last longer
  • Use a Mist & Wipe product like our Quik Detailer Spray as a lubricant for the clay bar
  • If your drop your piece of clay on the ground, discard the clay & replace it with a new one

Below is a video which shows our Smooth Surface Clay Kit process:

Swirls are the #1 Complaint we receive about automotive finishes

Removing Below Surface Defects

Paint cleaning, not to be confused with washing, is the process of removing below surface defects. This is accomplished with a Meguiar's Paint Cleaner or Compound which contains a modern, advanced, mild abrasive technology to help deep clean & level the paint. Among the most common type of below surface defects, are swirls and holograms. Cobweb or spiderweb looking swirl marks come primarily from the washing and drying process when poor techniques or tools are used, old towels, dish-washing detergents, coarse sponges, etc. Holograms are a specific type of defect caused by improper use of a high speed rotary buffer power tool.

Liquid paint cleaner & compounds should be applied to small areas at a time, no larger than one square foot when working by hand or two square feet when working with a dual action polisher like Meguiar's MT300 or DA Power System. Working small areas at a time is crucial in order to concentrate the work rather than spreading out over too large of an area. Keep the following points in mind when working with any Meguiar's Liquid Paint Cleaner or Compound:

  • Paint Cleaner & Compounds do not need to dry before removing and in fact should be wiped off immediately after you have worked them over the finish
  • Paint Cleaners & Compounds need to be worked into the finish, they are not wipe on, wipe off product
  • A defect, such as a deep scratch that goes through the clear coat cannot be corrected without repainting or applying touch up paint
  • The harder the paint and the deeper the defect, the smaller the area you want to work at one time
  • Paint Cleaner & Compounds remove your wax protection, so after using you will want to re-apply a coat of wax for protection

Step 3 - Polish
Simply put, the use of a polish works to create a brilliant high gloss. Meguiar's offers two types of polishes:

Pure Polishes - A pure polish is solely designed to provide gloss & depth to your paint finish. Pure Polishes do not contain any cleaning or defect removal ability, so they won't remove swirls & scratches. A Pure Polish also does not offer protection, so it is not a substitute for a wax. While any paint color can benefit from an application of a pure polish, these benefits are most noticeable on darker colors. Below are examples of Meguiar's Pure Polishes

Cleaner/Polishes - Cleaner/Polishes have the ability to remove light to moderate defects because they contain mild abrasives. Cleaner/Polishes also work to perfectly prepare the paint surface after a paint cleaning or compound step. Below are examples of some of Meguiar's Cleaner/Polishes:

Step 4 - Protect

At this stage your vehicle should feel smooth, have a deep, wet, & high gloss appearance, and be nearly defect free. Now it's time to preserve this high gloss finish by applying a wax.

Wax serves as your protection against the sun, your sacrificially barrier against elements of the environment, and preserves your high gloss paint finish. Meguiar's has a couple different types of wax protectants to choose from. First is our Polish/Waxes:

Polish/Waxes, not to be confused with Cleaner/Waxes, provide protection & added high gloss from their polishing oils in one step. There are two different types of Polish/Waxes Meguiar's offers, Carnauba Based & Synthetic Based Waxes or "Sealants." Carnauba based waxes have been used for many years & provide great protection & excellent gloss. Synthetic Based Waxes or also referred to as "Sealants" are polymer based, man made wax protectants. Our synthetic polymer based waxes utilize more advanced technology, and will provide more protection, last longer, and be more durable than our Carnauba based offerings. Which one should you use? A lot of this decision comes down to personal preference.

Ultimate Fast Finish is now Meguiar's most advanced, longest lasting, best protecting wax we currently offer. It is also our easiest way to apply protection to your vehicle with an easy aerosol application:

Next is Meguiar's Cleaner Waxes. Cleaner Waxes or also know as "one step cleaner wax," provide cleaning, polishing, & wax protection in one easy step. While Cleaner Waxes won't provide the same overall results as doing these three steps individually, it is an excellent choice when time is priority.

Meguiar's recommends applying most all of our waxes at least 3 - 4 times a year, to ensure even coverage & protection.
One of the biggest mistakes when applying a wax is applying it too heavy or thick. This prolongs the drying time, makes the waxes more difficult to remove, and actually wastes product.
Below is an example of a thick coat of wax.

Below is an example of what a thin coat of what looks like. This will dry very quickly and wipe off with little to no effort.

Step 5 - Maintain

Now that you have your vehicle looking the way you want it, and it's well protected, you will need a proper maintenance routine to keep it looking it's best. We refer to maintaining as t
he frequent removal of fresh contaminants before they have a chance to bond or etch into the paint finish.

Meguiar's Quik Detailer sprays provide the lubricity needed to allow the user to safely wipe away light dust and fingerprint smudges without scratching the paint, in a mist on/wipe off type application. Our Quik Detailer sprays also work to provide added gloss, & some will even provide added water beading protection, like our Ultimate Quik Detailer. For any level of contaminants greater than light dust, fingerprints, or bird droppings, we recommend using a traditional washing method or an alternative wash method like Meguiar's Ultimate Waterless Wash & Wax.

Meguiar's Quik Waxes provide added protection, gloss, & slickness. Not intended to replace your standard liquid or paste coat which should be applied at least quarterly, the use of a Meguiar's Quik Waxe will work to add to the life of your original wax coating, and provide that "just waxed" gloss & slickness. Quik Waxes should be used on a clean surface, like after washing or after using a Quik Detailer spray. All of Meguiar's Quik Waxes will not dry white on exterior non painted trim, and are an quick & easy, spray on, spread it quickly, and wipe off with a microfiber towel application.

The following below video demonstrates proper use of these products as part of a routine maintenance program that will keep your vehicle looking great, even between washes: