Getting the Very Best from Your LSP

LSP? "Last Step Protection" ... detailer-speak for wax or sealant; the last product applied that is there to protect the finish.

Your choice of LSP is very important. While it is true that pretty much all waxes and all sealants will be within a small band of each other in terms of looks, protection and ongoing looks, that band is actually quite wide when the subtleties are considered. Again, generally speaking sealants leave a glassy look which waxes provide a warmer depth. Your final choice of LSP will depend upon a couple of other factors, such as the age and style of the car but once you've decided upon which one you want to use ... how do you get the very best from it?

First, application. It's all in the preparation - this is a rule. Poor preparation and the wax will not be happy, nor will it improve the look.

Preparation comes with a number of considerations, but the end result must be the same - good looking, clean paintwork that is free of greasiness to give the wax the best chance of bonding. The process might be to machine polish with abrasive polishes and wipe down with an IPA solution, it might be to use an all-in-one polish that might well contain fillers, it might be to use a succession of products to provide a layered effect with a polish, glaze and sealant or it might be a simple pre-wax cleanser.

I'll come onto that last one in a minute, but I will say at this stage that the lines of distinction between those products is often blurred. Whichever routine you use to prepare ... the end result must be the same - good looking, clean paintwork that is free of greasiness to give the wax the best chance of bonding.

Back to the pre-wax cleanse. This is a step that I consider to be of more importance than we might think.

While most AIOs contain a chemical cleanser, they contain a number of other properties such as a light polish and a sealant - they live up to their name as a "one hit" product that covers a number of steps and a couple spring to mind as most suitable for just about any finish: Car-Lack68 NSC and Autoglym Super Resin Polish.

Many wax manufacturers will produce their own pre-wax cleanser, such as Victoria Wax with their Light and Deep Cleanse products, Zymol's HD Cleanse, Swissvax Cleaner Fluid and Dodo Juice Lime Prime/Lite. It is not just limited to wax, Duragloss produce a "pre-bonding agent" for their sealants and it is this very product that brings me to consider the pre-wax cleanse is more important than we might think providing an interface product for the wax to bond ... an epoxy, certainly for the Duragloss product, and an interface product that assists bonding.

While many waxes contain their own solvents and cleansing agents which clean up any greasiness and prepare for the wax to bond well, more boutique waxes ... which is pretty much anything above basic waxes, like Collinite, Simoniz or Turtle Wax ... more boutique waxes can really benefit from their own dedicated pre-wax cleanser. As discussed, this can often be an AIO polish, like Car-Lack68 NSC or Autoglym Super Resin Polish or in the absence of their own dedicated pre-wax cleanser, one of the good, more generic cleansers such as Dodo Juice Lime Prime/Lite, Serious Performance Paint Cleanser, Sonus Paintwork Cleanser or for polyaminosilicone sealants (that's "pure" sealants, to normal people), Duragloss 601.

It is my considered experience that this step particularly sets the wax up for a long life; its "durability", some might say.

Durability? What exactly does that mean? It might well mean the long life of the wax, the protection that it provides and the justification for the manufacturers' claims of "up to 12 months", but we want more out of our waxes ... namely, good beading, continued water repellance and glossiness.

So, we must consider washing and maintaining. Washing the car is necessary for removing dirt and greasiness that is kicked up when the car is driven, or parked on the roadside.

We know that the wash routine is of paramount importance - shampoo at the correct dilution, two buckets so as not to continually work the removed dirt back over the paint, a sheepskin mitten with its deep pile, sheet rinsing to get the majority of water off and a drying towel to pat the remaining droplets off.

But what about the choice of shampoo? Well, unsurprisingly the formulators at the wax manufacturer will ensure that their shampoo will work with their products. You might well be thinking that a shampoo is a shampoo is a shampoo and how can it matter? Recall, we're finding absolute perfection here!

Like a dedicated pre-wax cleanser for a particular boutique wax, the manufacturers' shampoo is the best choice for maintenance. I have witness Dodo Juice Supernatural beautifully revived by their own Supernatural Shampoo, yet kill the beading of Swissvax Best of Show. Likewise, Autoglym Bodywork Shampoo and Conditioner is an excellent choice for their HD Wax but a poor choice for Chemical Guys Pete's 53, for example. Try to keep manufacturers together but where you are using a mix of products there are a number of good choices as more generic shampoos - my favourite being Finish Kare 1016.

The shampoo will revive beading, sheeting and glossiness. It is with this in mind, coupled with the stronger application of wax prepared with a suitable cleanser/bonding agent that prompts me to say this: enjoy the wax, uncompromised by further products such as QDs or drying aids.

Sheet rinsing and patting off the remaining droplets with a drying towel is quite sufficient - remember, drying aids contain properties that break water down and so will reduce or entirely remove beading. Remember also that any product that you put onto the finish after the wax becomes the new LSP, so to speak. If you absolutely have to use such a product ensure that you also have a good, complimentary re-beading product.

I may appear to have tied myself up here in a tangle around QDs. Used purely as a drying aid with every wash is in my opinion unnecessary and detracts from the enjoyment of the wax itself, but further down the line as the beading starts to wane and the look, once washed, could be more glossy it is the quick detailer, show detailer or spray wax that provides a time-effective alternative to re-waxing.

You guessed it ... I'm going to recommend selecting such a product from the same manufacturer as the LSP. This type of product varies from a simple QD that can revive the shine, through products rich in the same properties as the LSP to dedicated spray waxes and sealants.

Victoria Wax Quick Detail Spray, for example, is just that ... a shine enhancing spray that boost the performance of the wax by cleaning off any greasiness back to a good wax surface. Duragloss 951 is a product rich in the same properties as their 105 Total Performance Polish (actually, a sealant) and will boost the performance of that sealant in the same way as Sonus Acrylic Glanz is specifically designed to refresh the look and protection of the Klasse/Car-Lack68 products. Show Detailers like Zaino Z8 are rich in gloss enhancing polymers to adjust the look of the wax, making it deeper and pure liquid sealants, like Dodo Juice Red Mist actually provide a definite layer of sealant over the LSP which gives its own look and protection, as does Swissvax Nano Express.

Selecting the right product is down to both a consideration of what will actually work best with your LSP and what it is you're trying to achieve. In the early stages of the wax cycle, I believe it is best to simply wash and dry. As the cycle progresses it is sometimes necessary to switch to a wash/wax shampoo to revive beading and to use a spray product over the paint to revive glossiness and perhaps enhance protection. Towards the end of the cycle, that becomes absolutely necessary.

Of course, there's nothing to stop you re-waxing mid-cycle, say after 6-8 weeks to enjoy a futher 6-8 weeks, rather than use additional products to stretch the cycle out to three months. You can do this without having to polish, but cleansing can be as quick a task as spritzing over with a QD and drying in preparation for this fresh layer of wax.

So, in summary ...
Practical examples?

Dodo Juice
Polish the paintwork to perfection
Pre-cleanse with Dodo Juice Lime Prime Lite
Wax with Dodo Juice Supernatural wax ... leave 15 minutes, buff off, spritz with chilled distilled water after 30 minutes and re-buff
Enjoy for 6-8 weeks, washing with Dodo Juice Supernatual Shampoo
Revive initial looks with a fresh layer of wax (I actually use Dodo Juice Rainforest Rub at this stage, just because I like it) or switch to a wash/wax shampoo such as Dodo Juice Sour Power
Further revive beading and glossiness with Dodo Juice Red Mist
Enjoy for a further 4 weeks
Restart the cycle ...

Let's shake things up a bit and start with lightly swirled paintwork ...

Hide swirling with Duragloss 671
Apply Duragloss 601 Pre-Bonding Agent to prepare for the sealant
Apply Duragloss 105 Total Performance Polish
Enjoy for 2-3 months washing regularly with Duragloss 901 Shampoo
As the beading starts to wane, revive with a spritz of Duragloss 951
Enjoy for a further month, or so
Restart the cycle ...

How about using a mix of products? Say, for example, a winter protection?

Prepare with Car-Lack68 NSC ... leave 30 minutes and do not buff off
Seal with Car-Lack68 LLS applied over the top of the haze and buff both off together
Wax with Collinite 476S or 915 depending upon light or dark coloured paintwork
Enjoy for 3-4 months through winter, washing regularly with Finish Kare 1016 shampoo
Particularly bright, crisp winter days might well make use of Zaino Z8 spritzed over after drying to deliver a really attractive finish
Move on to your springtime choice of products ...

Springtime routine? Let's use a number of products! We can machine polish later, but the long winter is over and we just want to get a fresh coat of something on the car ...

Clearkote/Victoria Wax
Cleanse/Polish with Clearkote Vanilla Hand Moose Glaze
Deepen and fill some swirling with Chemical Guys EZ Creme Glaze
Wax with Victoria Wax Concours/Collectors ... 2-3 coats applied in fairly rapid succession
Enjoy for 3-4 weeks washing regularly with Finish Kare 1016
Re-Wax after 3-4 weeks with a fresh coat of Victoria Wax Concours/Collectors preparing with a spritz of Victoria Wax Quick Detail Spray
Repeat a couple of times

Finally, how about a modernised legacy manufacturer?

Prepare with Autoglym Super Resin Polish for lightly swirled finishes or Autoglym HD Cleanser for well kept finishes
Wax with Autoglym HD Wax
Enjoy for 2-3 months washing regularly with Autogylm Bodywork Shampoo and Conditioner
As beading starts to wane, use Autoglym Aqua Wax to assist the drying process and leave a coating of waxiness to assist protection
Enjoy for a few more weeks
Restart the cycle ...

Hopefully, there's a good mix of routines to show off some examples of how keeping manufacturers together can be very beneficial, but also how you can deviate from that "rule" and still get excellent results that will last.