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Road/Traffic Film & Your Clear Coat!


cwp2016nd
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This is a discussion/statement rather than a question.

 

Just yesterday I detailed a 2010 Camaro SS that was actually relatively clean. The owner neglected the wheels but he touches the body up with a detail spray whenever he gets a bird bomb, piece of dirt etc. 

 

After I washed the paint (I will go over my process in a bit) I ran my hand across the paint to feel for embedded contaminants and surprisingly the paint was smooth! No need to clay bar for most of the vehicle. The areas I did have to touch are the higher traffic areas for contamination such as behind the tires, rear bumper and some spots on the roof. 

 

Now, for my washing process I did a rinseless wash. 2.5 gallons of water with 1.25 ounces of my favorite rinseless wash concentrate and 6-8 microfiber towels soaking in the bucket. Before I wipe the panel down, I will spray it with a degreaser that is diluted 4:1 to give myself the best chance of removing traffic/road film off the paint. I let it dwell for approximately 30 seconds, wipe, dry and move onto the next panel. For this experiment I did the driver side door with the rinseless solution ONLY, no degreaser treatment before hand. 

 

After the vehicle was washed I showed the customer how there were very few spots that needed to be clayed and I also showed him what traffic film looks like. I clayed a section of the vehicle that I did with the degreaser and the clay came up clean. I then went over to his driver side door, clayed and there was black/brown residue that came off the clear coat.

 

Road/Traffic film is the contamination on the road after it rains. There are a lot of vehicles on the road that leak engine oil, transmission fluid, differential fluid, antifreeze, brake fluid etc ALL over the road. Those fluids will then seep into the asphalt/concrete and reappear when it rains. It then "mixes" with the rain and sprays onto your vehicle, coating it with a nasty residue. Being that most of the fluid that got sprayed onto your car is not water soluble (nor will a PH neutral soap break it down) you should give your car a thorough wash with a strong soap once in a while to truly "clean" it. 

 

What does this mean in the grand scheme of things? It means that traffic film can and will build up on your paint if you don't strip it once in a while. There are many methods to removing it and my favorite one is the one I mentioned previously (degreaser/rinseless wash) and a close second would be to use a soap that has a PH of 10 to help strip it. Simply re-apply your wax/sealant afterwards and you're ready to go. What you should also take note of is that after it rains & you wash your car with a PH neutral soap and then follow that up with your favorite protection, you are not allowing the product to truly bond with your paint to the best of it's abilities. 

 

I want to add that removing road film is a great way to keep up on your ceramic coatings too. Just because they are "self cleaning" in a way doesn't mean they are impervious to this. You still need to decontaminate your paint once in a while to keep the coating doing it's best. 

 

I am fully aware this is a controversial topic to some people out there on other forums but I wanted to bring it to light here because this is where I frequent and I just had this scenario come up yesterday. I am also aware my writing is pretty terrible as I was horrible in English class in School, lol. It is hard for me to translate my thoughts into a well written post for some reason so bare with me. 

Edited by cwp2016nd
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Your writing skills are just fine.  No need to apologize.

 

Good points, too.  Never considered that pH neutral soap wouldn't get off the road grime. I try to strip every year and rarely drive the Camaro in the rain (although it still happens) but I try to strip and clay even if the car looks "clean" and feels smooth.

 

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3 hours ago, Beemer said:

Your writing skills are just fine.  No need to apologize.

 

Good points, too.  Never considered that pH neutral soap wouldn't get off the road grime. I try to strip every year and rarely drive the Camaro in the rain (although it still happens) but I try to strip and clay even if the car looks "clean" and feels smooth.

 

All it takes is one time of driving in the rain to accumulate road film on your paint. It is good practice to "clean" your paint regularly. You will notice the difference visually afterwards too. Just like after you clay a car that has never been clayed before; it already looks better! 

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7 hours ago, GXPaycheck said:

I believe it’s been said that a couple ounces of APC in the soap will work. 

I have read that before many times. People mainly do that method to strip old waxes/sealants. However, in my opinion, a couple ounces of APC in 3-5 gallons of water isn't going to be nearly strong enough; that is very diluted. Especially if you use a product such as Adam's which is ready to use out of the bottle and not a concentrate. 

Edited by cwp2016nd
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Some good points @cwp2016nd  I’ll add that you can also take care of road film through the polishing process, but plan to smoke a pad or two. And sometimes that’s exactly what we do. We grab a pad that’s on its way out and finish it off. Especially if it’s bad. You’ll see the pad turn black. 

 

And agreed on the APC not being strong enough. We use an APC concentrate so we can vary the strength.

 

And nice article!  It’s nice to see others starting to write more. Makes it more educational for everyone. 

Edited by shane@detailedreflections
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That is very true @shane@detailedreflections I typically try and strip road film so I keep my pads in the best shape possible. But like you said, if I have a pad that is on it's way out I will use that one to clean the road film from the paint and save the chemical process of removing it. I skip the APC step and use my dedicated shampoo; its like a 2-in-1. 

 

As I continue to progress as an automotive detailer I will write more as they come to me. Writing was something I always wanted to pursue but I could never quite wrap my head around it. It sounds great in my head, but doesn't flow when I write it. There are many topics floating in my head and I will surely have time to write some longer articles when winter is finally upon us. 

 

Thank you for the compliment. It's something not everyone may be aware of and since I encountered it the other day I figured I would pass along the information. 

Edited by cwp2016nd
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