A filthy Jaguar F-Type 400 Sport is transformed into a sterling silver stunner!
Heaps of fresh farmers mud, Welsh wildlife and country lane crud combined to conceal the true finish of the metallic silver paintwork, which to be honest was exactly what I wanted, as it gave me a great opportunity to show what can actually be achieved on a car of this colour with the right products, correct procedures and of course some good old fashioned elbow grease.
Admittedly you’ll never get the deep glossy reflections you can on a darker coloured car but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it shine, and while some may say they don’t have much character, after a day spent on this beauty I beg to differ! In the right getup, a silver car can look just as stunning as the next.
There’s no easy fix to achieving a decent finish though, no magic lotions or potions that will miraculously make it shine like a dark coloured car, unsurprisingly it all comes down to good old fashioned prep. Fail to prepare and you’ll definitely be preparing to fail when it comes to cleaning silver cars, that’s for sure.
The preparation comes in two components; decontamination and enhancement. Proper decontamination is of course important for cars of all colours however it’s arguably more so when tending to a lighter coloured car as the contamination can be far more visible.
It’s something many ‘weekend warriors’ may overlook when cleaning their silver car and wonder why they can’t quote, unquote get a good shine on it but tend to the contamination first and the shine will come.
There’s a number of different products used for chemical decontamination ranging from traffic film and tar removers to snow foams and industrial fallout dissolvers, most of which are applied via various pressurised pump or trigger sprays.
To prevent water spotting when working outside even if it is only autumnal sun you’re contending with, I generally prefer to get the wheels decontaminated and out of the way first. So following a soak in some citrus degreaser to help shift the top layer of dirt and brake dust, these 20-inch examples were then given a thorough pre-rinse.
I then follow up with either a gentle bodywork shampoo, a diluted all purpose cleaner or dedicated wheel cleaner depending on how dirty the wheels are, working it into and over all the various parts with some different soft bristled brushes and a wash mitt.
Now you may think this has nothing to do with the enhancement of silver paintwork but making sure any contrasting coloured parts are properly cleaned is actually more important than you might think, as i’ll explain later but for now I’ll just say ensure you give the wheels of your silver motor a good seeing to before getting to grips with the actual painted panels.
With the wheels cleaned you then want to begin to decontaminate your silver paintwork, some of this can be done before contact washing and some after. I usually begin by treating the lower third of the vehicle with either a traffic film remover or citrus degreaser which helps cut through the majority of the loose surface dirt. After being left to soak in for a few minutes, it’s then rinsed off at pressure taking much of the unsightly loose grime with it.
Next up is to let your silver vehicle sit under a thick blanket of snow foam. Aside from looking cool this stage helps to further the pre-cleaning process, softening up more deeply ingrained dirt and gently pulling off any remaining loose stuff from all areas of the car prior to contact washing.
You should ideally let the foam soak for as long as possible without letting it dry and perhaps even reapply before rinsing it off if you’re dealing with a particularly dirty vehicle, but the important thing is that the surface is properly pre-soaked to make contact washing a little easier for you and a little safer for the silver paintwork.
Depending on how soiled the surface looks following the first two pre-cleaning stages you can then either start dissolving bonded metal-based surface contamination using a strong fallout remover or move onto contact washing. I generally lump fallout removal in with the contactless chemical pre-wash and decontamination stage as it’s easier for me when I’m against the clock but its entirely up to you when you do it.
You obviously don’t need to undertake this every time you clean your silver car but in order to achieve a proper finish it’s important to do as even though you may not be able to see any bonded surface contamination, it will almost certainly be lurking there unseen in the silver shadows.
The ‘bleeding’ of fallout removal products indicates the level of iron-based contamination on the paintwork, so here for example you can imagine that if I was to completely overlook this stage of the cleaning the stubborn dirt left on the surface would serve to obscure the true finish underneath, so it’s important to get it done, even if only once.
If tackling the iron contamination before contact washing, once you have visible dissolving of the contaminants you can then begin to thoroughly rinse off the surface, and if undertaking after contact washing you can either rinse, or gently wash over again with a clean fresh wash mitt to help further dislodge the stubborn particles.
There’ll likely still be other kinds of bonded contamination and ingrained dirt on the paintwork at this point but the claying process can remove that, however before it can be undertaken the car must be thoroughly washed by hand.
Contact washing will generally do the bulk of the cleaning and even though silver cars can be great at hiding swirl marks and light scratches, it’s still important to employ the two-bucket technique and use a nice clean, soft wash mitt to prevent them from being unnecessarily inflicted.
You should wash the car from top to bottom in a methodical manner, making sure all areas are covered with your wash mitt of choice and while the dirty silver paintwork should obviously be the main focus, it’s also important to clean any contrasting coloured parts as these will ultimately serve as a backdrop for the silver to step forward and shine later on, so pay attention to everything, don’t just get carried away with the silver bits.
Once carefully hand washed, a thorough rinse should then be performed to remove all the suds and any dirt particles they may have engulfed. Pay particular attention to areas like the wheel arches and underside of the car as these parts won’t necessarily be tended to again in terms of heavy cleaning, so it’s important to get them as contaminant free as you possibly can here.
With the car washed and rinsed you can then move onto the final stages of physical decontamination which will ensure the paintwork is as clean and smooth as possible prior to polishing and protecting. This will likely include de-tarring, claying or a combination of the two.
If you can see any obvious tar spots present after washing you can go ahead and spot remove them with a tar remover and towel, as dissolving them is a little less invasive than trying to dislodge them with a clay bar. The tar and adhesive removal product should be left to sit for a minute or so after being applied to soften up the spot, before it can be wiped away with a towel or even gently picked off with your finger.
It’s worth noting that after de-tarring you should ideally re-rinse the car to prevent any adhesive and tar remover residue interfering with the process as it will readily melt the clay bar material or the rubber coating on a clay towel, potentially making a right mess.
What you use to clay your silver car is entirely up to you. For an initial thorough decontamination job I stick with the tried and tested clay bar, however a rubberised decontamination towel can still do a decent job in a fraction of the time and there are now various other surface scrubbing type products available that can relatively quickly and easily decontaminate your paintwork to an acceptable standard.
The most important thing to remember before claying is to only go ahead with it if you plan to properly polish afterwards because regardless of how gentle you are, there’ll almost certainly be some marring inflicted during the contact decontamination and you don’t want to further hamper an already difficult coloured finish by inflicting marks you don’t intend to remove.
Ideally with the surface already wet you should lubricate it with a dedicated clay lube or detail spray, then lightly work the clay bar or towel over the surface until you either feel any roughness disappear or until any visible contamination is removed. I only focused on the lower and more heavily contaminated areas here just to illustrate the process, however as with any other part of the affair you should clay your car from top to bottom, in an all inclusive manner.
It might not seem like it’s not doing much at the time but this is the kind of thing that will make the difference and really allow your silver car to shine so it’s worth investing some energy fully cleaning with a clay bar, decontamination towel or synthetic scrub item.
As you can see, despite not appearing too dirty after the initial decontamination wash, the claying still removed a fair bit of ingrained grime from the lower areas of the car which, if left sitting on the surface could easily prevent you from achieving a decent finish.
With all the washing and decontamination stages complete you can finally begin to dry your car off. I do like to give it one final rinse after claying just to remove any remaining residue and possible stray contaminants but you can technically get away with drying it directly after. Either way, I won’t bore you with any more extended footage of me pressure washing the poor car down again!
The exact way in which you dry your silver car isn’t going to make a huge difference to the final result, so as long as you do it with a decent microfibre towel, work from top to bottom from top to ensure no swirls are inflicted and make certain there isn’t any water left sitting on the surface that could cause spotting, you should be fine.
Before moving onto enhancing the paintwork I think it’s worth mentioning the importance of improving the appearance of any dark coloured components, while dressing the F-Type’s tyres.
It’s good to provide some contrast on lighter coloured cars whether that be with darker coloured wheels, tinted windows or carbon fibre trim for example, as it helps to break up the sea of silver which can be a bit overwhelming – or should that be underwhelming?!
If you have a silver car with standard silver wheels for example then once cleaned, those silver wheels, which are likely to be a slightly brighter shade than the actual paintwork will essentially clash and attention may be drawn away from the shine on the body.
It’s not physically going to improve the finish but I think it helps give the illusion the silver is cleaner and shinier even if it’s actually not. So if you have any darker coloured parts on your silver car don’t overlook them and instead keep them dressed, polished and or protected to provide some important contrast.
In order to enhance your silver paintwork you can either hand or machine polish it and while machining is ultimately more superior, decent results can still be achieved by hand provided you do it properly. I generally tend to go with a paintwork cleanser when working by hand which further deep cleans the paint as well as either masking or removing light swirl marks, depending on wether it contains fillers or abrasives.
Whatever product you choose to go with you should work a section at a time, spread it over the surface then work it in every which way until the residue becomes clear… At that point you can buff over with a microfibre towel then either stand back and admire your handiwork, repeat the process, or step up to an appropriate machine to achieve an even better result.
A product designed for use by hand shouldn’t damage or marr the finish in any way so the more elbow grease you put into it, the better. Machine polishing the paintwork to perfection is all well and good, but in certain respects, hand polishing is what really separates the men from the boys. It’s my personal opinion that you shouldn’t really be reaching for the power tools if you can’t first polish by hand, and if you’re arms don’t feel like they’re about to fall off after hitting each panel then you ain’t buffin’ hard enough bro!
Although I didn’t have the time to properly machine this whole F-Type, I still gave a few areas a whizz over to show roughly what you want to be aiming for. And while this isn’t a machine polishing tutorial, your chosen product whether that be a single stage with diminishing abrasives like I was using here, a heavy compound or a finishing polish, should be evenly spread before being worked in at an appropriate speed and pace.
Also, if you’re attempting a full correction on silver paintwork then you’ll need some proper lighting to truly show the defects as they can be difficult to spot on this colour and it’s really not a good idea machine polishing blind. For illustration purposes here however the standard lighting in this garage was fine for the sake of a few select shots.
Once adequately polished, whether that be by hand, machine or a combination of the two, you can then go on to protect the freshly decontaminated and rejuvenated finish to lock in and preserve it for all to see.
There are products out there specifically designed for use on lighter coloured cars like this Dodo Juice Light Fantastic for example, and you’ve certainly got nothing to lose by giving them a go but assuming you’ve properly cleaned, decontaminated and enhanced the paintwork then any quality protective product will do the job just fine.
I laid my chosen wax on to the silver panels using a finger mitt for precise application, then left it to haze in the blustery fresh air before gently buffing off with a plush microfibre towel.
Although I unfortunately forgot to here, it’s a really good idea to layer up your last step product, not just to give adequate protection but to provide some extra depth on the shallow coloured paintwork. When layering, I generally apply the first coat in a side to side manner from one edge of the panel to another, then follow the contours of the car in a more front to back motion for the final coat.
Provided you’ve completed the previous stages properly then, waxing or sealing should be a breeze and it’s at this final point you’ll start to see all your hard work coming together as you visibly bust the myth that you can’t make a silver car shine.
And that pretty much sums it up in my opinion, obviously other things like polishing glass & brightwork, dressing any exterior plastics & trim and polishing and sealing wheels will all help a silver car to look even better but if you follow the steps I’ve laid out here, you should be left with a pretty sharp looking silver whip.
It can be difficult and you’re simply never going to be able to achieve the deep, glossy mirror-like finish you can on a darker coloured car however a well prepped, polished and adequately protected silver car can still put a darker coloured one that hasn’t received the same level of tender loving care to shame.
Some say silver doesn’t provide the same sense of satisfaction working on a dark coloured car can but I think they should be viewed as a challenge and a learning curve because if you can successfully make a silver car shine, just imagine what you could do to a darker coloured one using some similar techniques.
I personally think there’s something fresh and functional about them, they’re not desperately seeking attention like some silly cars you may have spotted in the reflection of this one and instead quietly announce their presence. They work with you instead of against you in allot of respects and due to the fact it’s probably most common colour on the road, you’re guaranteed plenty of neglected, unkept others knocking about that yours can easily outshine and stand head and shoulders (or mountains in this case), above!