This detail is a beautiful SL500 roadster in Aegean Blue Metallic with 302HP and 339ft/lb of torque. It is also kitted with the AMG Sport Package…not to be confused however with the full-blown AMG SL55. These are stunning vehicles to say the least, and when you slip into the driver’s seat everything just feels “right”.
The owner of the car contacted me and said that it spends plenty of time in the garage (only 7K miles), and needed a thorough clean up. Once I inspected the car I noticed that there were no swirls, but it had its fair share of scratches and a serious amount of water spots on the horizontal surfaces. The exterior was quite dirty with a heavy buildup of brake dust on the wheels.
Since this car wasn’t going to provide the dramatic before and after paint correction shots that everybody loves to see, I figured that I would concentrate on documenting many of the small areas that are quite often overlooked, and try to make it a little educational for those wanting to learn more about caring for their own cars.
And as per usual I got a little carried away with the photos…sorry! First up was the interior.
The cockpit was in fairly good condition and relatively clean. My game plan here was to give the dark interior a thorough cleaning and then add a layer of protection to the surfaces. Once the carpets and floor mats were vacuumed I mixed a bucket of Woolite and water, and proceeded to clean all surfaces with a MF towel. Since it is a convertible with dark interior, experience tells me that you will remove a lot of dirt and contaminants even though it looks clean. I was correct…
After cleaning all surfaces, I moved onto all the cracks and crevices to remove any debris.
Note the button on top of the shift knob is the engine start/stop button (cool feature).
Cleaning the vents:
The left side of the driver’s seat is almost always the dirtiest, and even with only 7K miles on it this one was no exception. It had a bit of dirt and dye transfer from denim on it that needed to be cleaned up.
For this I used an APC at 10:1, and gently agitated it with a leather brush.
After cleaning, I topped it (and the rest of the leather in the interior) with Optimum Protectant Plus. This UV protectant is not shiny or greasy…it leaves the finish looking new, not “dressed”.
The door shuts had their share of dirt, dust, and grime build up as well:
I cleaned them up with Optimum No Rinse (spray bottle at QD ratio).
Last but not least are the pedals. They get all of the abuse from dirty shoes, and therefore require attention as well. For this I use an APC and a brush, and then wipe it down with a damp cloth afterwards to remove any residue. You have to be careful what you use to clean the pedals because the last thing you want to do is leave a greasy or slippery finish. Note…I did catch the smudge on the trim just above the pedals!
Now that the interior is tidied up, it was time to move onto the exterior. On a few areas of the car I had some good before and after photos, so I may bounce around a bit as I go through the process.
From the photos below, you can tell that this Benz was in desperate need of a good, thorough cleaning!
The wheel wells were very dirty, and difficult to access:
Here you can see one nice feature of the SL500. It has a height adjustable suspension (3 settings) that can be raised when entering/exiting steep inclines to keep it from scraping. Here I have it fully raised to make it easier to get to the wheel wells, as well as giving me easier access to the side skirts while polishing.
As always, I start off by cleaning the wheels. As you can see, I had my work cut out for me.
First I sprayed P21S wheel gel onto the rims and calipers (one side of the car at a time) and let that dwell for a few minutes. While it was working, I sprayed the tires and wheel wells with P21S Total Auto Wash (TAW).
Wheels are finished, and I used a brush to clean inside the wheel well areas. Each wheel/well took about 10~12 minutes since there was so much dirt and brake dust built up on them.
After a rinse off, I noticed that the water was beading indicating the presence of wax and/or sealants. These need to come off prior to polishing otherwise it can interfere with the polishing process. To help with this, I use Chemical Guys Wash & Clear at paint prep ratio (2oz/gal). I used my Gilmour foam gun to soak the car first, and then prepped my two buckets…one of them also with CGWC. The car was very contaminated, so I made sure to thoroughly clean out my wash mitt in the rinse bucket with Grit Guard after each small section to avoid re-introducing dirt and debris onto the surface.
After thoroughly washing the car, I clayed it using Optimum Instant Detailer (very slick stuff!) as a clay lube. You want to make sure that you’re using a high quality lube with claying to avoid marring of the surface. I found that the paint was heavily contaminated on both the horizontal and vertical surfaces, and was in desperate need of claying. This took some time to get the surface smooth in preparation for polishing, but it made a big difference once it was done.
Since there were so many contaminants to remove, I decided to foam wash the surface once again after claying to make sure that it was squeaky clean and ready for polishing.
Like I said in the beginning, the surface was pretty much swirl free, but it had plenty of random scratches and a lot of water spot etching on the horizontal surfaces. My plan of attack was to use Menzerna PO203 for a one-step polishing process. I have been using this more and more lately, and find it to be very versatile. It can provide a decent cut when paired with the proper pad, and it gives a LSP-ready finish. I do however recommend doing several IPA wipedowns afterwards to make sure there is no filling or masking happening. After doing my normal test section, I determined that PO203 was the way to go.
Don’t forget the under sides of the side skirts. This is why we call it “detail”ing. For these tight areas I switched to a 4” white spot buff pad. I like to use an exercise mat to soften the hard floor!
After PO203S…no LSP yet.
The glass roof had heavy water spotting going on, so I opted to polish it with the PC. I used a white polishing pad and Optimum Poli-Seal. This has just enough cut to clean up the glass, and will leave a very slick finish and provide months of protection at the same time.
This is a very interesting color. Sometimes it looks grey, sometimes it looks light blue. Here’s a macro shot where you can see the details in the flake.
Now that all of the polishing is done, I did an IPA wipedown and followed it with an Optimum Instant Detailer wipedown. Now the finish is ready to be sealed with Optimum Opti-seal. This is my go-to product for protection since it goes on very easily, and doesn’t provide the plastic-like look that some others do. It held up very well on both of my cars through the rough Midwest winter we just had, so I like the durability as well.
I apply it using a red applicator pad, and then after it cures I go back and buff it out using a very soft MF towel and a light sprits of Optimum instant detailer.
After sealing the finish, I applied P21S 100% wax by hand using a separate red applicator pad. Although not the most durable wax out there, the P21S 100% provides a very nice finish. It goes on easily, and removal is just as quick. It doesn’t require a lot of cure time either…as soon as I’m done applying it to the whole car I immediately start the removal process.
Here’s an area that often gets overlooked. If you can’t tell, it’s the underside of the trunk lid just above the license plate. As you can see, there’s about 3 years of grime up in here.
Even the emblems had some serious issues. This wasn’t simple surface dirt that could be washed away.
The exhaust tips were in bad shape as well. I first cleaned them with P21S TAW and 0000 steel wool, and then polished them.
Are you ready for some after-shots? First up are some pics from inside the garage. It’s been cloudy and rainy all weekend, and the owner is leaving the car with me for a few extra days until the sun is out.
This one doesn’t show off much of anything other than a clean wheel, but I thought it was a cool shot nonetheless.
And now for a few moody indoor shots:
OK, the sun finally came out, and I have taken a few more shots as promised. This color is hard to capture those crazy reflection shots with, but I did my best
No defects on the trunk lid:
Or on the side:
Or on the hood:
I like this shot…reflection and wetness!
Total time involved = 11 hours.
If you have any additional comments or questions, please submit your reply in the comment box below.