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Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Guide - How to maintain carbon fiber surfaces

Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Guide - How to maintain carbon fiber surfaces

As expensive carbon fiber is as an added option to vehicles from the manufacturer or aftermarket, it is fortunate that costly tools or products and intensive workmanship are not required to maintain its showroom finish.

For most carbon fibers, care and treatment is treated the same as painted surfaces. You can wash, decontaminate (clay), polish (if needed) and wax the carbon fiber.

The majority of the carbon fibers I have seen have a Polyester Resin Gel Clear Coat. The difference of the gel coat from the standard clear coat on painted surfaces is that it is very porous, will dry easily and oxidize quicker.

To prep your carbon fiber, you must wash the area and decontaminate (clay bar) it.

Here is a picture of my own neglected carbon fiber hood on my personal car. I have not polished this car in two years but routinely wash, decontaminate and waxed it.

As you can see, this is a very noticeable oxidation area on the hood. It is also known as “yellowing” by some car enthusiasts.

Just to show how severe and serious oxidation is for carbon fiber, I utilized a special paint microscope to thoroughly inspect the affected areas at a microscopic level. 

Severe oxidation on the carbon fiber.

Transition from the oxidized area to non-affected.

At this stage, you need to assess how affected your area is and determine what compound or polish you have to use to restore the carbon fiber to a showroom finish. You must start with a less aggressive foam pad and polish and gradually go more aggressive if needed be. I personally used a Flex XC3401 VRG Polisher, Lake Country White CCS Foam Pad and the Menzerna Power Finish 2500 to restore the carbon fiber's surface. Other polishes such as Optimum Hyper Polish, Meguiar's M205 can be used as alternatives.

A polishing machine is recommended to optimize restoration. A Porter Cable 7424XP is recommended for amateurs and novices, or a Flex XC3401 VRG for the experienced.

Using proper techniques and handling the polish and machine, you can finally see the lustre of the carbon fiber.

A polished area of the carbon fiber. A restored carbon fiber should reveal its weaves and patterns clearly.

A clean pad versus used pad when polishing the carbon fiber hood.

Fully restored carbon fiber hood.

The lesson in this blog post is that maintaining carbon fiber is not as intimidating as many think. However, it does require patience and time to do the work correctly. Start less aggressive and work your way up if needed be since it depends on the actual condition. 

Thanks for taking the time to read through the article, and if you have any additional comments or questions, please leave a reply in the comment box below.


Featured by Ertefa - Inception Automotive Detailing Review

Featured by Ertefa - Inception Automotive Detailing Review

Written by Sawm Rad, one of the article writers for Ertefa.

 

I want to take this opportunity to thank Lorenzo from Inception Automotive Detailing for all the hard work he put into detailing my 2010 Genesis Coupe. Having owned my Genesis for a little over two and a half years, I had the tendency to neglect the maintenance aspect of owning a vehicle. Having stepped up to the plate in terms of maintaining my Genesis, it came time to show some TLC to the exterior of my car. Knowing Lorenzo and the fleet of Genesis Coupes he has detailed in the past, I figured it’s time to put his knowledge and skills to the test.

Dealing with Lorenzo is simple amazing. He is punctual, very forward, direct, honest and up-front in nature. From the first time I came across his work on the forums, until today, where he has detailed my car, I can safely say he is truly one of a kind. Rolling in his very own Genesis Coupe, with its bold front bumper and color choice, Lorenzo is out to make a statement with his work, and he has managed to rekindle my passion for automobile paint and maintenance.

Our day started out at 8am with Lorenzo arriving at my house. Having unpacked all of his equipment, the time came to get the show on the road. The first step to Lorenzo’s lengthy, two-stage paint correction process begins with a quick inspection of the paint to get a feel for how to approach the work ahead. Having completed his preliminary rounds, he moved on to a rinse, foam soak and hand wash of the body, wheels and exhaust tips. Once completed, Lorenzo whipped out one of the most intriguing things I have ever seen. Instead of using a clay bar to eliminate the tiny contaminants stuck to the paint, Lorenzo used a set of gloves with a rubber-like material attached to them. Moving the glove back and forth, you could distinctly hear the sound of the contaminants being scrubbed off. In many ways it sounded like rubbing fine grit sand paper on a block of wood. The glove itself is not abrasive in any way, but just after the wash and clay bar, the car looked absolutely pristine and the paint correction process was yet to be done!

With the washing and clay mitten process complete, the time came to get to the two-stage paint correction. Lorenzo comes locked and loaded with his polisher, and a variety of pads and compounds ready to go. This is where knowing your product and tools becomes absolutely pivotal in executing a perfect detailing job. What makes Lorenzo different from other detailers is his unprecedented attention to detail and his dedication to detailing each and every car like it’s his own. After selecting the right pads and compounds for the job, it was time to hit the paint! Slapping on the blue pad with the first compound, Lorenzo made one pass on the paint, gave it a wipe, and a quick inspection to see the effects of his work. He continued to repeat this process until he was satisfied with the first pad-compound combination. He then moved on to the orange pad, with his polish of choice. Again it was a matter of making a few passes, wiping and inspecting until the paint looked pristine. This process continued on every single body panel on the vehicle. What impressed me the most with this stage of the detailing process was the rear bumper. Because my motor tends to run rich, I am constantly fighting against carbon build up on my bumper. Even without sealing and glazing the paint, I was amazed at how white the paint looked. I had never seen my paint shine as good as it did after the polishing process. A quick pass over the taillights and headlights removed the tiny swirls on the lenses and added to the overall showroom finish of the exterior.

Lorenzo opted to apply a glaze to the paint to enhance the gloss and depth to the coat. Although this step is optional in the detailing process, Lorenzo mentioned that the oils in the glaze would hide any minor imperfections in the paint that the polishing process could not eliminate. However, the beauty of Lorenzo’s work was the fact that all the swirls and imperfections were virtually eliminated in the second stage of polishing. The primary motive for adding a glaze in my case was to richen the color of the paint. Finally, three layers of sealant was applied to the paint to protect from the elements (rain, ultraviolet rays etc). Sealant itself is a synthetic product which is man-made versus carnuba wax (also called palm wax and or brazil wax) which are natural and is obtained from the tree ‘Copernicia Prunifera.’ Sealants are much more durable than carnuba wax and can last anywhere from three to six months, sometimes up to a year! Carnuba wax on the other hand will last an average of two to four months, with a maximum of six months of protection.

To conclude, I want to thank Lorenzo for his work and his dedication in making my car look virtually brand new. It’s a nice feeling knowing your paint is virtually swirl-free and your car is looking absolutely pristine!

http://www.inceptionautodetailing.com/