How To: Detail your car after a trip to the beach

Its summer. For many of us this means beach time. We pack are cars full to bursting with beach clothes, surf boards, floaties and for some even a canoe. Then we head out in search for a sandy shore where we can work on our tans, bury ourselves in sand and refresh ourselves in the salty water. But what do we do when we get back from the beach and we find that our trusty cars have been ridden with sand and salt, making it look like it was dragged accross the Arabian Desert. So what do you do when you get home and bring with you a ton sand? Heres how you clean your car after a trip to the beach:

1. Shake the carpets






Once you get home, shake the carpets outside of your car. As we have all surely noticed, sand has a talent for getting everywhere no matter how many times you wash your feet, slippers, or even your hair. By the time you get back from the beach despite your best efforts your carpets will be riddled with sand and shaking them will ensure that nearly all the dirt you brought with you will be removed.

2. Vacuum the upholstery






Now while the carpet shaking helps a lot, it won’t completely clean your car. You know how when you walk back from the beach you suddenly feel sand in between places it shouldn’t be? Well that is the same principle for cars. Sand not only gets on the carpets but also in between seats, underneat the carpets or even dashboards (we have no idea as to how they get there either). Vacuuming the entire interior of your vehicle, in between all the seat cracks, under the carpets and seats and yes, even on the dashoard will get rid of any hidden sand particles and dirt.

3. Air Dry the Seats









Coming back from the beach with your car almost always leaves damp seats due to your wet attire.After coming back from the beach always remember to air dry your car’s interior. Don’t close all the windows and lock the doors leaving your car to absorb heat helping mold to fester in the hot dampness. Instead leave your car windows open for a couple hours, allowing the air to dry out any remaining water from your car. If you are worried about thieves then just leave your windows open an inch, this is enough.

4. Don’t forget the trunk







Last but not least do not forget the trunk. Seeing as this is the place you pack all of your beach gear into, it can get the messiest of all. To clean this area, remove eveything in the trunk and and simply vacuum. Be sure to get all the corners and edges.

As you can see, cleaning your car after a beach trip isn’t hard at all. It takes minimal time and there are preventive measure you can do next time you go on a beach trip to avoid dirtieng up your car.

Blankets and towels are your best friend in the beach. For your trunk lay down a nice big blanket and this should catch all the sand and salt that your stuff brings with it. And before you use your car put dry towels over your seats to absorb any water you and your family bring with you.

Using all these steps can make it fun and easy to have a clean car after the beach, but if you find you don’t have time or just feel too darn lazy, you can always call Sharp Detail at (703) 939-9952 or visit our Contact Page and we will come to you to detail your car. We’ll even throw in a discount!

Guide to Headlamp Restoration

Products tried or evaluated:
Customer base: Everything from buy here/pay here to retail.
Having learned a few tricks over the years, I’d like to share some thoughts with others either presently restoring headlights or thinking of doing so.

First of all, I don’t believe there is a one size fits all approach to restoring headlights. It’s a function of each situation and is based on time, customer’s expectations, price and longevity. For example, at a low end used car lot, they want it to look good, be fast, cheap and last long enough to get it off the lot. At the other end is a Lexus owner who wants their headlights to look like new and last for years.
No single approach can meet these two situations. We use different procedures and products for different customers.

Since the late 1980’s, most automobile headlights have been made out of polycarbonate, a type of plastic. This plastic gives auto makers greater design freedom than conventional glass headlights. Polycarbonate is impact resistant and easily formed into complex shapes.
Unfortunately, polycarbonate is also very porous and easily damaged by ultraviolet exposure from the sun. To seal and protect polycarbonate, headlights are coated with a protective outer coating when manufactured.

It is the breakdown of this coating which causes yellowing and cloudiness. Until fairly recently, the only solution was to replace the entire headlight assembly, which can easily cost hundreds of dollars.

As headlights deteriorate, less light is projected forward where you need it. The ability to see clearly can be reduced 75% or more, creating a major safety hazard. This is especially dangerous during bad weather. Here’s what it cloudy headlights looks like.


When headlights get this bad, many drivers drive with their high beams on in order to see where they are going.

The original protective coating applied by the manufacturer absorbs ultraviolet rays preventing them from reaching the polycarbonate and also seals out moisture. While doing its job, this coating slowly oxidizes, causing it to become cloudy and yellow.

This is what you are looking at when you see a yellow and/or cloudy headlight. At the factory, the polycarbonate is coated with a primer, baked, then sprayed with a thick protective coating and cured with ultraviolet. This process cannot be efficiently duplicated in the field.

To restore headlights to full clarity the oxidized coating is removed, and then replaced with a new coating. Just stripping the old coating off will leave the polycarbonate exposed to ultraviolet and moisture and will quickly deteriorate.

Any product that does not replace the protective coating with a new one is a short term solution. Without replacing this coating, the headlights will quickly deteriorate since there’s no protection. Wax protection is temporary on headlights just the same as it is on paint.

If a headlight does not contain internal damage and is not cracked, punctured or contain deep scratches not repairable by sanding, it can be restored to look like new. It’s just a question of time and money.

Here’s the procedure we use:
1) Evaluate the headlight.
a. Is it restorable?
b. What constraints do I have?
c. Time allowed, price, customer’s expectations

2) Protective coat adhesion.
a. Can it be chemically stripped?
b. Abrasive stripped?
c. Combination?

So you now ask, what is the best way or which protective coating should I use and how long will it last? I’ll try to answer some of these questions.

Best way/best coating- depends on the customer and condition of the headlight. Choice of coating is the same.

How long will it last? Polyurethanes, 6 months to 3 years; Specialized coatings, 3 years or more.

Durability- When you do research you will see postings indicating coating lifetimes all over the place. Here’s why:

If you’re talking about solvent based urethanes (such as Minwax/mineral spirits mix) there are 3 main factors:

  1. UV exposure: A headlight exposed to the sun every day will fail in a matter of months. Also, the angle of the headlight plays an important part; the less vertical, the more exposure.
  2.  Coating thickness: The thicker the coating, the more UV protection. The flip side of this is the heavier the coat, the more difficult it is to apply correctly.
  3.  Surface prep: The surface must be absolutely clean with some tooth for the urethane to hold on to.

If you’re talking about synthetic coatings/polishes/wax, it’s the same as applying to paint. It’s temporary. Why would it be any different on headlights?We don’t use much polyurethane coatings any more. Only on quick and cheap restorations or on acrylic plastic such as tail lights, backup lights, turn signals, emergency vehicle lights, etc.

Most of our restorations use specialty coatings developed for this purpose. These products are not cheap, but represent less than a dollar per restored headlight. If you do use this type of product, make sure you do the following:

Moisture/wax/silicone is your enemy. Do NOT use any compound containing wax when polishing. Don’t use any wax coated cups to mix coating in. Don’t use foam brushes to apply (It will leave air bubbles)

Aggressively scrub the headlight with pure alcohol, not any mixture that contains water such as rubbing alcohol, which is (30%) water.

Use a lint free towel to scrub.

Use a 3000 grit polishing pad as the last step. It’s not for appearance. Urethanes are famous for filling in sanding marks. It’s for tooth. (Something for the coat to adhere to)

And there you have it.


Getting Rid of Odors in Cars – Smoke, animal odors, etc.

Sounds like a simple enough thing to accomplish right? You are a two car family, your husband/wife smokes? You have to switch cars for the week, but the smell is driving you insane? Here are some quick tips to help alleviate that smell.

1. Make a quick run thru of the car
1Get your car mats out and vacuum with regular old carpet cleaner. This should take away a ton of the smoke filled leviathan that is fuming thru the car.

Even if you can fully get the mats cleaned, it should take away some, if not all of the smoky smell.

2. Clean out the Ashtray
2Honestly this could be the first thing that you do. Once you have thoroughly cleaned the ashtray, simply take some ordinary air freshener and gently rub it around the inside of the ashtray with a simple paper towel.

What this does is it leaves a thin layer of air freshener in the ashtray that will permeate but is not flammable.

3. Hang an Air Freshener
3This keeps the fresh smell going constantly in the car.

Just make sure you don’t have too may different scents going at once, this could be as bad as the smoky smell.


4. Put the car’s heater and air into recirculate for 30 minutes.

Unlock the doors, turn the engine on, and put your car’s heat and air into recirculate while you clean the rest of the car. As you continue to clean the car and remove some of the smoky odors, the new, fresh air will recirculate throughout the entire cabin and improve the quality of air in your car.

5. Go at the Upholstery with Fabric and Upholstery Cleaner
5This does an excellent job of cleaning as well as neutralizing the smell in the upholstery. Most basic cleaners work to varying degrees. Something as simple as Febrez to professional upholstery cleaners can do the trick. The market is flooded with products that are made by Woolite, Bissell, Blue Magic, just to name a few. Some but not all come with a Scotch guard of some sort , however when all else fails, look to a tried a true method we use, “ The Ozone Machine”

 6. The Industrial Ozone Generator
6Without getting too technical, Ozone generators do one basic thing; they remove odors that most say can not be removed. The basic premise is, the Generator breaks down the odor to the molecular level, spreads it out and dissipates it. Ozone Generators range in price from as much as $1000 to $85 depending on the need. Instead of masking the odor, the ozone generator will completely remove it. The ozone actually oxidizes and denatures the residual organic compounds causing the odor.

Now when all else fails….……….. Go to a professional and let them worry about it. One thing you know that is a pro has a wealth of knowledge about how to handle any situation that deals with detailing your car. It may cost a bit more, but it is something that he/she has been trained to do and the best part? YOU don’t have to do it.

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