cap'n clean

One of the more arcane tasks in the detailing world is wheel well and chassis cleaning.  I’m going make an attempt at simplifying the process, and making it specifically applicable to our aqueous-cooled German purebreds.  Before you start, your undercarriage probably looks something like this...
The horror!  I know.  Fortunately, this can all be fixed with a few products and by following some basic steps. 

Disclaimer:  flüssig isn’t liable if you manage to botch this job.    

Let’s get right into the thick of it. 

  • Floor jack and jack stands or lift. 
  • Iron Cleaner
  • Stoner’s Xenit (dozen case)
  • Stoner’s Tarminator (dozen case)
  • Big scrub brush
  • Small scrub brush
  • Tiny scrub brush
  • Pressure Washer (or, if you’re lucky, a steamer)
  • Socket set (for wheel well liner screws)
  • Lug nut wrench
  • Torque wrench
  • Buffer (if you don’t have one, then a Microfiber towel should work)
  • Clay bar and lubricant (spray detailer will work)
  • Paint polish
  • High heat grey primer (or silver paint, depending on your personal preference)
  • Meguiar’s Paint Protect (or a protective sealant/wax of your choice)
  • Hammer (Sledge will suffice.  The hammer will serve as a tool of last resort, in the event that all else fails)
  • Beer(s)
Car – lift up.  Wheels – off.  Belly pans – drop. Pressure washer – on.  Beer – cold.  
After the car is lifted, with the wheels and belly pans removed, it’s time to begin cleaning.  In this guide, we will go straight to the underside of the car.  Before you pressure wash the undercarriage, go ahead and saturate everything with an iron reactive cleaner.  There’s a wide variety of options here, among which include CarPro Iron X, Optimum Ferrex, Sonax Fallout Cleaner, Sonax Full Effect Wheel Cleaner, and 3D BDX Brake Dust Remover.  There are others, but this is a fairly comprehensive list. 

"I guarantee you that there are tons of such deposits built up on the chassis of your car, most of which have become embedded in the cosmoline."

Whichever cleaner you choose, the main purpose of an iron reactive cleaner is to react with brake dust deposits.  I guarantee you that there are tons of such deposits built up on the chassis of your car, most of which have become embedded in the cosmoline.  Typically, the solution will go on one color, like, I don’t know, lime green and then suddenly change to purple once the reaction has occurred.  The reaction time is about five minutes.  Once the color change has materialized, go ahead and scrub everything with the big brush.  Then, you’ll want to rinse the cleaner off with the pressure washer.  If you still see brake dust deposits, go ahead and reapply the cleaner, wait for it to react, and then scrub and rinse again.  
After the brake dust has been removed, go ahead and take the Stoner’s Tarminator and apply pretty much everywhere.  Tarminator will remove any road grime or tar that has built up underneath your car.  Feel free to be liberal with your application, as Tarminator is safe to use on coated metal, rubber, painted surfaces, undercoating, plastic, and pretty much every other type of surface you’ll find under there.  Once the Tarminator has been applied, you will begin to see any stains begin to ooze and sort of dissolve.  Take the big brush and scrub everything.  Rinse.  Reapply Tarminator.  Take the small scrub brush and go at any areas that you missed.  Rinse. 

"Now, if you feel compelled to really get esoteric, go ahead and polish your calipers."

Now we get to the miserable (I mean pleasurable) part… duh duh duh… cosmoline removal!  Now, if you are a total purist and you somehow believe that removing the cosmoline will result in point deductions at a concours, you can move straight on to the wheel wells.  Skip down to paragraph 7 (the next one).  For the rest of us, it’s time to break out the Xenit.  Xenit is a citrus cleaner, and is the cleaner with which I have had the most success at removing cosmoline. Go ahead and apply a thick coating of Xenit to all of the cosmoline-treated areas.  There’s not need to let Xenit sit, so go right ahead with your small brush and get scrubbing.  Cosmoline is tenacious, so it will require some persistence to actually remove the stuff.  If you’re having luck, go ahead and try your larger brush to see if you have success covering more surface area in less time.  You may need to apply several coatings of Xenit to each area before you begin to see success.  I guarantee that you will go through at least 8 cans of Xenit.  Once you have removed the bulk of it, go ahead and spray yet more Xenit on any cosmoline remnants, and try to remove them with your tiny brush (a toothbrush will do).  Rinse the undercarriage and have a sip of your beer.  If you don’t drink alcohol, have a sip of some Goya Non-Alcoholic Malt Beverage.  Yummy. 

Now get back to work!  With the wheels removed, go ahead and spray the inner barrels with your iron cleaner.  Wait 5 minutes (1…. 2…. 3…. 4…. 5….) and then scrub and rinse.  Repeat if any brake dust remains.  Go ahead and take your socket set and remove all of the bolts keeping the wheel-well liners in place, and then remove the liners themselves.  Be careful, as they are often very brittle.  Go ahead and coat the liners with your iron cleaner, wait for the reaction (1… 2… 3… 4… 5…), scrub, and rinse.  Coat with tarminator, scrub, and rinse.  Coat with Xenit, scrub, remove any cosmoline, and rinse.  Yippee!  Liners are done! 

Wheel wells.  Go ahead and spray with the iron cleaner, wait for the reaction (you know the drill), scrub with the brush of your choice (I’d choose the small one), and scrub a dub dub.  Rinse.  Tarminator, scrub a dub dub, rinse.  Xenit, scrub a dub dub, rinse.  Hopefully you got all of the brake dust, road grime, and cosmoline off of everything.  It can take a while.  Be sure to get the suspension components and brake dust guards with your tiny brush.  Repeat for all of your wheel wells.  Wait for everything to dry.  
Now, if your rotor hats are a little rusty, or discolored, or the wrong color, or no color, or hot pink, or invisible, then go ahead and repaint them.  Be sure to cover your calipers, suspension, and any nearby painted surfaces with some type of plastic before you paint the hats.  Most Porsches come from the factory with grey primer on the rotor hats, but many people prefer to paint them silver (to match their wheels).  Don’t worry too much about getting some excess paint on the rotor itself, as your pads will remove it after you brake a few times. 

Now, if you feel compelled to really get esoteric, go ahead and polish your calipers.  Use a clay bar and some lube to remove any microscopic contaminants from their surfaces before you polish them.  I prefer to use a buffer because… idk… convenience, but if you don’t have one then no worries.  You can hand polish them with a microfiber and some paint polish (I’d stay away from compound, as that is probably a little too abrasive for this job).  If you have a buffer, you probably already know how to use it. Good.  Now polish your calipers.  If you are using the microfiber method, go ahead and apply a bit of polish to your towel and begin to vigorously polish the calipers by hand.  You’ll probably notice a pretty substantial difference once you’re done.
Now that your calipers are polished, apply some type of heat resistant protectant (like 22PLE VM1 Extreme Rim and Metal Coating).  This will give the rims some added gloss, if you desire.  You can also apply this coating to the rims to give them added glossiness and protection.  Once done, go ahead and coat the painted parts of the wheel wells (Meguiar’s Paint Protect works great for this). 

Hooray!  You’re done!  Now go chug the rest of your beer(s).    

the cap'n


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