I decided to do a full-blown winter prep on my 2005 Ford Explorer with roughly 81,000 miles on the odometer. It’s in decent shape, not a beauty by any means; it has a few flaws, dings, scratches and nicks, even a gouge or two in the plastic trim, but it’s mechanically very sound and has no rust (any more). I spent a couple thousand fixing a slight rust problem in both rear door jambs (common on this model) and repainted the roof due to peeling clear coat (also common on this model – apparently 2005 wasn’t really a good year for the Ford Explorer). I also did a full undercarriage rust treatment this spring (I actually did it myself).
From 10 feet or more away the car looks very nice. I’m not one of those guys that compensates for a small penis (not that mine is small, mind you) with a macho car; I’m quite happy driving around in a geezer-mobile so long as it looks halfway decent and is reliable. I am also quite comfortable not having car payments to worry about. The Ford Explorer is in my opinion one of the best buys for the money in its class.
Of course it needs to maintained. I’ve had my share of clunkers in my life time that just disintegrated beneath me from lack of basic upkeep. I don’t want that to happen to my current ride (in fact I have committed to keeping it until 2020 at which time I’ll reevaluate), so I do stuff like spring- and winter preps. Basically getting under the car evaluating the state of the union and do what needs to be done (thanks to Powdermilk Biscuits, Heaven, they’re tasty!); decontaminating the paint, taking care of scratches to the best of my ability and doing a general polish if needed, and also applying a fresh coat of some kind of durable sealant.
This is Day One of this years’ Winter Prep. I know the undercarriage is in good shape since I went full Macintosh in May with a full scrubdown/degrease/pressure wash followed by rust converter treatment for some light surface rust spots and sprayed everything (including cavities and internal frame) with Noxudol 300 Under Body Coating and Noxudol 700 Cavity Wax using an air compressor and a spray gun. I may, just for the heck of it, soak everything underneath with Fluid Film for some extra peace of mind once we get closer to snow-and-salt season—it’s a one-hour job.
So I started out with paint decontamination, which basically means cleaning the paint really, really well so that when time comes to apply a sealant, it sticks to bare-naked paint for best adhesion, protection and longevity. This is what the car looked like after the decon. (Sorry, I didn’t take any pictures during the process, will try to do better in the future). It looks pretty much the same as before because it was already clean and you can’t really tell the difference from pictures. But whereas the paint was slick before, there is now some drag to it, because all the waxes, sealants etc. that I in my OCDness have put on it since the last decon are now removed. The paint is completely unprotected at this stage.
I started off by doing the wheels and wheel wells. It’s just a best practices thing for me when I wash my car. Hot water (yeah, I have hot water in an outdoor spigot due to a lucky plumbing accident), Dawn dish soap, brushes and elbow grease.
I then rinsed off the entire car and foamed it up with a foam cannon attached to a pressure washer, again using Dawn dish soap (yeah, I know you normally shouldn’t use dish soap on your car because it can strip the wax, but that’s kind of what I want to achieve here). Rinsed it off and went at it with a traditional two-bucket method, a microfiber noodle mitt and, again, lots of Dawn in the bucket. After rinsing off there was amazingly still decent water beading on the paint.
Now I moved on to tar- and iron decontamination using TRIX from CarPro. This product is supposed to dissolve tar and embedded iron particles in the paint that normal wash doesn’t get. Either my paint didn’t have any tar and iron contaminants, or the product didn’t work very well. I couldn’t see any chemical reaction on the paint from dissolving particles (should be pretty easy to spot on light silver paint). I’m guessing my paint was so well maintained that this step was unnecessary. I just wasted $15 and added an hour to the job removing dirt that wasn’t there (I did see some iron dissolve on the rims, but there are other products that do it better). Well, better safe than sorry.
Next was a good “claying” using Nanoskin Autoscrub sponge fine grade, the next generation of above-surface decontamination technology. Used Chemical Guys Clay Lube (no free link to Chemical Guys since I don’t like them as a company, but they do have some decent products) as lubrication for this process. The Nanoskin sponge replaces the clay bar that would normally be used. It may have picked up some minor particles (I could feel the paint smoothen out slightly as I worked the surface), but not so much that I couldn’t have done without. Again, abundance of caution and whatnot. I’m not at all sure I like the new-school sponge better than the old-school clay. Sure, it’s faster and easier, but you can’t see if you actually lift any dirt off the paint like you can with clay. Whatevs.
Rinse off, towel dry, blow out any standing water from cracks and crevices, mirrors, emblems, wheels and door jambs with Marianne’s Metro Vac Master Blaster and call it a day. Tomorrow starts with taping off trim, inspecting paint to identify any areas that need extra attention, and formulate a plan of attack with regards to compound/polish, pad, and machine combinations.
I can’t believe I started this. Why can’t I be one of those guys who runs his car through an automated car wash twice a month and be happy with it? I also promised I’d do the whole thing for Marianne’s car as well. At no cost to her, I might add. My back hurts. And my head.
All in all I put six hours into it today and I’m pretty confident that nobody could have done it better. Faster? Sure. Better? Nope. The main ingredients of my efforts of Day 1 are pictured below.