Photo by peter korcek

“Show Car” Finish & Superior Protection with LESS EFFORT!

If you care about your car’s finish and appearance, want to give it an outstanding shine and superior protection from the elements, and would like to do so with minimal effort, read this post!

When I bought my Harley a few years ago I became intrigued by how some motorcycle and car owners seemed to be able to achieve truly extraordinary results when waxing and polishing their vehicles. Show cars seem to have unbelievable degrees of gloss and depth to their finishes – the paint looks clear, wet and deep. My curiosity piqued, I began searching the internet for information about auto detailing and steps for achieving a “show car” finish.

As you might imagine, there are are an amazing variety of products and techniques available to the enthusiast. One of the names I kept running into early on in my search, however, was Zaino. Sal Zaino is a chemist from New Jersey who has dedicated his life to developing the very finest “show car” automotive finishes.

Intrigued by the comments about Zaino products I found on detailing forums, I took the plunge and bought several Zaino products, and was an instant convert. The stuff’s good – VERY good – it’s easy to achieve an outstanding shine and finish on your car, and it is quite durable, as you’ll see in a moment or two.

So… What exactly is this stuff?

Zaino is not a car wax. Zaino’s primary products are synthetic polymer sealants which bond with paint to provide a tough, deep, wet-looking finish. The product can be layered to increase the sense of depth and wetness, although that’s certainly not a necessity. With proper preparation, tremendous results can be achieved by practically anyone.

Any other benefits?

Zaino is easy to apply. An entire car can be treated in 15 minutes or so. Buffing it off (by hand) takes another 10-15 minutes. In a moment I’ll show you some step by step instructions. It truly is easy. In addition, it leaves a slick surface on the paint – dust doesn’t stick as much, and road grime and tar come off much more easily. It can be used on paint, your headlights, plastic, and even your windshield.

Can you offer proof that this stuff works?

I think I can. Several days ago I pulled my wife’s car into the driveway. It’s a black 2006 Ford Five Hundred.

Although I dote on my car an awful lot, my wife’s car is a different story. It doesn’t receive nearly the amount of attention that mine does. Her car hadn’t been washed in perhaps 3-4 weeks. The last time I gave it a Zaino treatment was in mid October, so other than bringing it to the touchless car wash perhaps half a dozen times over the last 6 months, it’s been ignored all winter long.

We are at the end of a long, cold winter here in Nebraska. Although this car is garaged each evening, it’s seen its share of snow, rain, ice, road salt, lots of wind ( ! ), and a fair amount of grime. Here’s what it looked like on Wednesday evening; the spots you see on the hood are dirt. I hooked up our garden hose and prepared a gallon or so of car wash and then sprayed down the hood of the car.

~6 Months and Guess What?!

This car has not been touched since last October. In mid October I gave it a quick Z2 PRO treatment (more later on exactly what this is.) As I mentioned, it’s been washed perhaps 6 or so times since at a “touchless” car wash but otherwise has been ignored for the entire winter. When I wet it down prior to washing, this is what I saw:

The water was still beading like crazy after nearly 6 months! In spite of my inattention for the last several months, the Zaino finish held up remarkably well. These results are consistent with what many, many Zaino users have found; there are more details and testimonials on the Zaino web site. After washing the car I dried it using two large waffle weave microfiber towels, and here’s what it looked like at that point – not bad at all:

OK – So it lasts a long time – how do I use this stuff?

Zaino has a number of products available. I use both Z5 PRO and Z2 PRO. They are both polymer sealants; Z2 is recommended for lighter cars, and Z5 for darker cars or those with minor swirls and/or micro marring in the paint. They come in bottles like the one with the red Z on it below and are in a liquid state. You apply a tiny amount to an applicator, and then apply it to the vehicle’s paint. “Tiny amount” is a key phrase – which we’ll explain in a bit.

Some enthusiasts prefer Z2 as they believe it has a slightly warmer look. Z5 has some modest scratch hiding capability, but is no match for buffing out the car with a single purpose scratch removal compound or polish. I have both and tend to prefer Z2; if you are a newcomer to Zaino, I recommend you try Z2 PRO; it’s pictured below.

Great… but why are 3 bottles shown and what’s in that little bottle?

The big bottle is Z2 PRO – that’s the sealant we’ll be using. The mid-sized bottle is simply a mixing bottle. The tiny bottle with the blue liquid? It’s Zaino’s ZFX “Flash Cure Accelerator.” Normally a coat of Z2 PRO will take up to 60 minutes to dry; treated with ZFX, however, it dries much faster, enabling you to do multiple coats in a short period of time (if you want to – it’s by no means required) for a deeper, richer, wetter look. I am used to seeing thin applications (more later on this point, too!) dry in as little as 10-15 minutes, depending upon the ambient temperature. Zaino can be applied in the shade or sun, although the vehicle’s surface should be cool.

Do you have to use ZFX? No. But to me it’s worth the time saved by not waiting for the standard Z2 or Z5 to dry. I can easily be done in 45 minutes or so when using Z2 (or Z5) treated with ZFX. Up to you.

What do you need to do? Add 1 to 2 ounces of Z2 PRO to a mixing bottle (3 come with ZFX) add 4 drops of the blue ZFX per ounce, shake the bottle vigorously for 90 seconds, and you’re good to go. I usually let the mixture sit for a few additional minutes before starting. So… you’ll have the mixture in the mixing bottle, and you need an applicator. Zaino sells cotton applicators and in fact when you order you’ll receive a free one; in this case, I am using a foam applicator covered with microfiber…

How to Apply?

The biggest issue here is to treat the stuff as though it cost a million bucks. The biggest hurdle people need to get over is the tendency to think that more is better. With Zaino, you want to apply as thin a layer as possible. I usually just put a couple of very thin stripes of Zaino on an applicator; in this case, I just put 1 thicker stripe on the applicator.

If you’re getting overwhelmed, don’t: we are only talking about 2 products – a sealant and an additive which makes the sealant dry faster. Don’t sweat it… the products come with complete instructions and it’s SIMPLE – honest!

So I”ve put a stripe of Z2 on the applicator – what’s next? I usually spread the material on the applicator a bit with my finger and then it’s go time:

You then simply apply the product to the car’s surface using fore and aft strokes on horizontal surfaces, and up and down strokes on vertical (doors, etc.) surfaces. You don’t rub it in. You don’t have to apply extra pressure.

You can apply it in circular motions initially, but it’s strongly recommended that you finish with fore and aft strokes on horizontal surfaces, & up and down strokes on vertical surfaces. Very little effort, very little pressure. You just want to get a thin layer on the paint.

If you examine the picture below, you’ll be able to see faint stripes on the hood’s surface – particularly in the reflection of the house. They run from the front of the hood to its rear – again, fore and aft on horizontal surfaces. (Sal Zaino recommends this approach as it maximizes the optical effects and gloss of the finish.)

I used the pad as shown above on each side of the hood, reloading at the mid point… in other words, two tiny stripes of Z2 on the pad – 1 per each side of the hood – did the entire hood. The product goes a L-O-N-G way. An ounce and a half is plenty for a mid to full size car. Again, don’t use too much!!!

After waiting about 15 minutes, I then took 2 high quality microfiber towels and buffed off the Zaino, one cloth in each hand, turning them frequently. Buffing a coating of Zaino off requires VERY little effort. There’s no way to convey that photographically, but it is easy – it in no way requires any hard rubbing – just buff it with light pressure, flipping the cloth or cloths over frequently, and it comes off very easily. Conditioned by years of rubbing in wax, letting it dry to a chalky like haze*, and then buffing and rubbing furiously to get it off, this will seem too easy. You’ll begin to wonder if it’s actually doing anything… but as you’ll see in a moment, the results are impressive.

*BTW, you don’t get a white or chalky residue with Zaino either – no trying to get that white crap off rubber or around chrome letters and trim – it simply doesn’t happen with this product. The product itself is essentially clear.

Before buffing off the Zaino…

And after…

I finished up with a quick misting of Z6 (a quick detailer-type Zaino product) and moved around to the side a bit to catch more of the sky & reflection of our house in the hood…. not bad for a few minutes actual work! Uh, that fat old guy in the reflection is yours truly.

Wow! – but what’s the catch?

There aren’t any real catches, but you need to keep in mind that Zaino is not a cure-all. If your paint is screwed up, putting a polymer sealant on it is not going to miraculously fix it. Please read on…

1. The FIRST time you use Zaino, you need to strip off all the old wax. How? Wash the car normally but instead of using car wash liquid, use Dawn® dish detergent mixed with water. It’ll strip off all the old crap. Degree of difficulty: 1 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being extremely difficult. You’ve gotta wash your car anyway, right? Frequency: one time.

2. Zaino is not a panacea. If your paint is a mess, treating it with a polymer sealant is not going to magically fix its issues. When you look at the reflection of the sun in your car’s finish, does it look like this?

If you car has lots of swirls or micro scratches in the paint, THIS WON’T FIX IT. (Neither will conventional wax!)

The only solution is to buff it out with the correct polish or compound. If you truly want your car to look great, do it yourself (if you have the proper equipment and supplies) or bring it to a professional detailer and have the swirls & scratches removed. Ask around for a recommendation – every town has a detailer who understands paint and can achieve good to excellent results. Degree of difficulty: DIY – 7; Pay someone – 1, except you may have spend $50 or so.

(You don’t need the car fully detailed – you just need someone to buff out the swirls and micro-marring. Tell your detailer that you’re going to use a polymer sealant on the paint, and just want him to get the swirls out.) Frequency: rarely; for the average guy who cares about his car, perhaps only once. If you are a bit obsessive-compulsive, perhaps once every year or so. A LOT depends upon how you wash and dry your car – see bullet points below.

3. If you’ve washed your car and it’s free of swirl marks and micro marring, put your hand in a sandwich baggie (the thin kind, not a ziplock) spray a little quick detailer or soapy water on the car and run your hand in the bag over the car’s surface. If the surface feels rough – as though there are grains of sand in the paint – you REALLY ought to clay the car.

What is “claying”?? Claying is a relatively simple process in which a special clay bar is rubbed over the surface of the paint to remove those surface contaminants. A lubricant like a quick detailer is used so the clay bar glides over the paint smoothly. An excellent article about how to clay a car is located here. Claying your car shouldn’t take more than 45 minutes or so. Naturally, the horizontal surfaces – hood, roof, and trunk lid – tend to hold more contaminants.

Clay bar kits are sold at every auto parts store and cost around $20. This is not something you need to do often, by any means; perhaps once every couple of years for the average car owner. Degree of difficulty: 5 Frequency: once or very rarely.

That’s it as far as preliminary steps and disclaimers are concerned.

If you’ve read this far, you really care about your car or clearly have no life. Ha Ha – just kidding. A few other, related things I’d like to mention and I think they’re important:

  • Drying towels. Please, please, please do NOT use crappy old towels to dry your car. Invest in a couple of premium quality waffle weave microfiber towels. Using the wrong towel or material to dry your car will mar the paint. If you’re using an old cotton towel you have lying around your garage, you are damaging your paint every time you dry it. That’s one of the ways those tiny swirl marks get in your paint. Take the car out in the sun and look for swirl marks.
  • A word about car washes: if you are bringing your car to an automatic car wash that has those hanging pieces of felt, rubber, or other material which bang into and rub against your car, please stop doing this. Those things are loaded with dirt (especially the felt ones) and they all beat the crap out of the clear coat on your car, marring the finish. If you must go to an automatic car wash, go to the “touchless” type. The chemical solutions they use are tough on whatever you’re using to protect your car’s finish, but at least they don’t beat up your paint. Automatic car washes are another way swirls and micro marring get into your paint.
  • Buffing towels: see the first bullet point. Invest in a few high quality microfiber towels. (read: do NOT go down to the local Wally World and buy the cheapeast MF towel you find.) Microfiber can vary significantly in quality – at a minimum go to an auto parts store and try to find a couple high quality towels. You only need 2-3 to start out. Or try Autopia or Detailer’s Paradise or similar online detailers supply house.

OK – I’m still interested – how much does this stuff cost?

You really only need to start with 3* products (note that I am recommending Z2 PRO, ZFX, and Z6):

Z2 PRO: $14.95 8 oz.

ZFX: $19.95 2 ml.

Z6: $ 9.95 16 oz.

This totals $44.85; shipping is a flat rate of $8.95 – for a total of $53.80 You’ll receive a free applicator with your order.

The Z2 and ZFX should last you a couple of years, at least, unless you just can’t grasp the idea of thin coats or are a raving lunatic and put this stuff on your car once a week. Keep in mind each application should last 4-6 months! I tend to go through the Z6 more quickly because I’ll use it in between treatments as a quick detailer and because it tends to enhance the gloss of the Z2. I order a bottle of Z6 each year.

The stuff’s not cheap, but it’s tremendous and lasts a L-O-N-G time.

ZFX – yeah, I know that $20 is a lot for a bottle which contains ~140 drops of the stuff, but there’s enough there to treat around 32 oz. of Z2, so it’ll last a very long time. Again, no need to overdo it. For me, the advantages offered in terms of drying time are worth it.

*FINALLY: if you want to save some money and aren’t hung up on the drying time, just go with Z2 PRO & the Z6 – your total would be $33.85 with shipping. You wouldn’t get the free applicator, but no biggie. You can buy decent quality applicators at any auto parts store.

Where’s the Harley?

This post started with a mention of my Harley, so I thought I’d come full circle and post a close-up picture of its paint. This isn’t the greatest picture – I need to take some more – but check out the paint on the tank – this has had numerous coats of Z2 PRO with mistings of Z6 in between coats. The paint looks dripping wet and incredibly deep. I get asked “What kind of wax are you using?” all the time…

This has been a long post. I fear I’ve made this seem more complex than it really is. It’s really not that complicated.

Distilling everything down to a few bullet points:

  • Your car’s paint needs to be in reasonably good shape before you start using Zaino. Dawn® wash once, possibly clay it, and you’re ready to go unless the paint’s a mess
  • If the paint is full of swirls or micro marring, get it buffed out by a professional; if it’s not, you’re good to go
  • Prep some Z2 PRO with ZFX if you want speedy drying or just use Z2 and save yourself $20 – drying will take longer
  • Apply a couple of THIN stripes of Z2 to the applicator, and apply to your vehicle’s finish
  • Remember – a thin coat is best. Fore and aft strokes on horizontal surfaces, up & down on vertical
  • Did I mention thin coats??? Forget everything you think you know about car polish/wax. You want a thin coat of Zaino on your paint. Don’t overdo it! Treat it like it’s a million bucks an ounce.
  • Buff it out with quality microfiber cloths
  • Admire your car’s finish – it’ll last for months and you won’t believe how water beads on this stuff!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post. You can find Zaino here. Their customer service, by the way, is terrific, and Sal himself answers most emailed questions. International readers: Zaino DOES have international distributors – see their web site for details.

And by the way – an extra bonus – all of Zaino’s products smell fantastic! Also just for the record, I have no connection to Zaino whatsoever other than being a happy, enthusiastic customer.

As always, please comment if you have anything you’d like to add, or if you have questions. If you like what you see on LifeApps, please subscribe (see button at the top of the RH column) and Diggs are appreciated! Have a great day!

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10 Comments on Achieve a show car finish with auto detailers’ secrets!

  1. […] Achieve a show car finish withautodetailers secrets! […]

  2. Hey, even though I don’t own an auto,

    the pictures make me want to read it till the end..

    Nice work.

    Next time, capture the process on video.. I’ll give u an auto themed video skin template to showcase your video on..

    get the video template here
    http://www.videoskintemplates.net/videoskinsblog/

    [Reply]

  3. […] left a comment overnight which I now regret having deleted; it referred to yesterday’s post about car detailing. It said, in its entirety: “screw you. this is an […]

  4. Susan says:

    Thanks for the details. Sounds like even I can have a spiffy looking car.

    [Reply]

  5. […] is it any surprise that when I find THIS POST my heart beats a little […]

  6. […] sealants as an alternative to conventional car waxes (and I recommend you do) see my post about Zaino polymer sealants – includes before and after […]

  7. […] a polymer paint sealant is a wonderful idea; I’ve written about it here. The problem with the dealer option is that they’ll want to charge you $300 – $500 for paint […]

  8. Ray says:

    I know this may sound nuts, I haven a 74 Sun Bug, a dealer or some one sprayed over VW Sun Bug Gold with a thick gold paint then added gold/ brown decals inset on each hood, doors, fenders, & panels. The look was 70s, I was thinking that IF anyone knew of a way to “face lift” to like new without stripping it all off. Maybe the Gel Stain could work ?. Thanks for any Info

    [Reply]

  9. Kevin says:

    @Ray:

    Ray, you’re out of my league with that issue. All I can suggest is that you check with a couple of reputable body shops. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

    Kevin

    [Reply]

  10. Zaino Wax says:

    Hey Kevin!
    Great article. I am an avid Zaino user as well and I just want to share with you my pictures on my site of our client’s vehicles using Zaino. Of course the preparation before the Zaino application is key, but Zaino definitely leaves a very durable layer of protection behind.

    I am going to stress to readers the importance of applying this product as thin as possible, to the point where you can barely see the product on the paint. Less is better! Like Sal from Zaino says, when in doubt, use less!!

    In terms of application and removal, I have yet to find a product that applies and removes as easily as Zaino. Have you tried Zaino All In One? Another great product.

    [Reply]

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