10:43 AM


Posted by Anthony

Do you know the difference between schematics and semantics? I don't think a lot of people have the vocabulary or reason to use either one of those words very often. A SCHEMATIC is like a blueprint type drawing. If you are looking at how to install a supercharger then they are going to provide a schematic drawing of the process. SEMANTICS on the other hand, is when people use the wrong word to describe a situation even though they know what they are talking about. If you call every tissue a Kleenex even though it is actually not a Kleenex brand tissue, you are dealing with semantics. A lot of arguments happen this way. My wife will tell me that it is taking forever to download pictures to her blog. She means upload, but she just messes up the words. I could argue with her, but I know what she means.

Semantics get in the way of car care all the time. I want to give you some really clear definitions of what certian words mean which might help us communicate better. This just the accepted meaning of these words in the industry, so you may say this word and mean something totally different, but semantics are going to get in the way of you getting the help you need.

Wash: This is pretty simple. When I say 'wash' I am talking about whatever process is necessary to remove dirt and crap from the surface of whatever is being washed. It does not include clay baring the paint, but it may include doing tar removal or something like that. When I say "wash the car" it typically includes the wheels and tires as well. It just makes more sense to include everything into one statement rather than saying "Wash the car, the the wheels, the tires, the trim, and remove the tar from the fenders and side skirts", don't you think?

Detail: This is the trickier one. Detailing is much more than washing. In fact, when I say I'm going to wash the car this weekend, that pretty much just means I'm doing what I mentioned above. It does not usually mean I'm going to clean the interior. If I'm going to wash the car and clean the interior then I would use the term 'DETAIL'. There are different levels of this, obviously. A 'QUICK DETAIL' might mean just washing the car, using a spray wax of some sort, and doing a once over on the interior. A 'FULL DETAIL' would be much more intensive and include busting out the machines and cutting compounds. I always tell people that I'm a 'detailer' and not a 'car washer' because there is definitely a difference between the outcomes of the two. You yourself probably know the difference too. You know when you have detailed your car as opposed to just washing it.

Clay: This deserves a post all its own, but the short story is that clay is a product meant to pull contamination OUT OF and OFF OF your paint. This is an essential part of 'detailing' your car. It doesn't really improve the look of your car at all, but you will be amazed at how much better your car will FEEL after you use a clay bar. Again, this won't remove swirls, scratches, or anything like that. It is going to pull stuff like tree sap, residue from bird sh!t, road tar, some types of paint overspray, and that the invisible kind of stuff that falls on your car from the atmosphere and makes it feel not smooth. Trust me... if you haven't clayed your car in the last 6 months then your paint is not as smooth as you think it is. If you've never clayed your car and you think it is pretty smooth, then make sure you have a towel handy when you do clay for the first time because you will bust a nut when you feel the difference.

IFO: This sort of goes under the clay category, but it is an acronym that warrants explaining. IFO stands for Industrial Fallout. It comes from pollution in the atmosphere that lands on your car if you park your car within ten miles of any refinery or industrial factory. It also comes from the freeway if you do a lot of driving that way. IFO is also known as 'rail dust' because new cars would pick it up when being transported by train and the metal dust off the tracks would burn into the paint. Take a look at the back of your car and see if you can spot the brown rust dots or little black specs. That is what IFO looks like. It is easily removed with clay and then the brown rust stains it leaves behind can be cleaned up with a simple paint cleaner if the clay bar doesn't get them all.

Paint Cleaner: A paint cleaner is something that will remove paint contamination like oxidation and paint swapping by using only chemical abrasives. It won't remove swirls or scratches unless it can reduce the appearance by getting the dirt out of the scratch. In most cases a chemical cleaner is all a white or silver car really needs since it is so hard to see the swirls anyway. This is a product that can be applied by hand, but is faster and more efficient if applied by machine. Klasse All In One and Pinnacle XMT 360 are good examples of paint cleaners. The exception is that XMT 360 will put down a sealant as well which adds to the protection and is more of a one-step product than KAIO is. KAIO still needs something to protect the paint afterwards, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Polish: This is where people get confused. Someone will say they are polishing their paint and it could mean anything. The way this word should be used is if you are using either a cutting compound to remove swirls and scratches OR if you are using a chemical abrasive to remove just oxidation. The bottom line is that you are working on correcting issues with the paint and not protecting it. Polishing does not mean you are using a wax or sealant if you are being literal about it. But a lot of people will say Polish when they mean Waxing just because they don't understand the difference. It's just semantics. As long as you know what you are doing then that is all that matters. But if you ask me to help you pick a product to polish your car, then you are going to get products suggestions that don't protect the paint, and that may not be what you are talking about.

Wax: This is another universal term. Even I use it somewhat universally. To 'WAX' your car is to put something on it that will protect the paint from UV damage, IFO, and just all around make it look better. This could be a glaze, a sealant, a carnauba, or any combination of the three. You can 'wax your car with a sealant', for example. That is acceptable. Just know that if I say to 'Wax your car with Wolfgang Paint Sealant' that I just mean the technique and purpose of the application of the product mentioned should be done in the traditional style of putting wax on your car. That means typically that you can just do it by hand and you should let it dry for a minute or two before buffing it off. That is probably grounds for another post as well.

Wax vs Sealant vs Glaze: Since I brought it up, let's look at these really quickly. A 'WAX' is typically referring to something based on a carnauba wax formula. The percentage of carnauba in the product is usually what separates them. A ‘SEALANT’, on the other hand, is entirely synthetic and is either going to be an acrylic or polymer based concoction that will far exceed the durability and appearance of 90% of the carnauba waxes out there. Some manufacturers call sealants ‘SYNTHETIC WAX’ or something like that. Meguiar’s Ultimate Liquid Wax is a sealant, for example. Then there are ‘GLAZES’. Personally, I hate glazes. As a product they suck because they are pretty much just greasy coatings that attract dust, hide swirls and buffer damage, and last only a couple weeks. Dealerships love to use glazes because they are impressive as hell when you pick the car up, but then three days later you see all sorts of things you didn’t notice when you bought it. However, just because a product has the word ‘glaze’ in it doesn’t mean it is a “glaze” as I defined it. There aren’t too many that you have to worry about out there. Meguiar’s #7 is really the only consumer grade glaze that you might run into, and it isn’t all bad. I still wouldn’t use it when there are so many better choices out there.

Compound vs Polish: Again we get to deal with semantics. I said before that a polish was something that was correcting the paint. Yes, that is true, but a “COMPOUND” is what you polish with, if that makes sense. I use those words interchangeably all the time, so you’ll have to forgive me if I confuse you with it, but sometimes it is just easier to be general and say ‘polish’ than ‘compound’. Usually I refer to certain products as compounds and ‘polish’ is more of the term I use to indicate the process used. Sort of like how we ‘wax our cars with sealants’. We also ‘polish our cars with compounds’.

See what a crazy mixed up world it is? Maybe this didn't help much, but hopefully it did open your eyes a little bit to the different terms used in the detailing world. It might make some things make more sense to you knowing which words are interchangable with another and which terms are new to you. I just hope it helps a little. If not, well... I tried. :)


OkinawaLocalgirl said...

Have you ever noticed that Blogs are a place where people who are ignored go to be heard? I'm you're only comment. NOBODY CARES. About any of this. I found it on accident.

anieb said...

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NateRaab said...

Actually, I found this site extremely helpful since I am new to the car detailing world. Blogs are meant for people who have experience in something to share that experience with people who may not have experience. It is the wise who listen to the experienced...

Anthony said...

Actually I'd say that 6000 hits a month would say otherwise. Just because nobody comments doesn't mean nobody reads it. This site is meant to be a repository of information so I don't have to repeat myself every time someone asks me "how do I..." or "what is the best..." type questions. :) I'm just trying to help by sharing what I know. There may not be many comments here, but that is because I'm active on half a dozen car forums and I respond to questions there and through email. This is the first time in three years I've even checked the comments on the blog, so I'm actually surprised there are any comments at all. :)

I appreciate the support from the car care enthusiast community. If someone doesn't like what I write, then they can do it another way. The fact that someone would come here by 'accident' and feel strongly enough that nobody cares about what I write to post something is proof that what I have is of value.

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