Waxing Poetic: Secrets of Museum Detailer

Antique vehicles shine at the California Auto Museum
Antique vehicles shine at the California Auto Museum

Some people see a vehicle as a way of getting from Point A to Point B. Terry Emery sees them as artwork.

The detail manager for California Automobile Museum walks the floor of the Sacramento, Calif., exhibit the way a college student peruses masterpieces at the Louvre. In the seven years he has been caring for the vehicles, Emery has picked up quite a few lessons on maintaining the lustre in all brands and ages of vehicles.

For starters, dust is the enemy. Microscopic impurities such as dust can permanently scratch delicate surfaces.

“Everything is done by hand,” Emery confessed. “We don’t use a lot of wax on antique cars. The paint is thin and we’ve got to have a light touch on the older surfaces.

“Over time sunlight and oxidation take their toll on any vehicle surface,” Emery said. “Apply a protectant specifically for vehicles. Look for products that offer UV protection.”

Here are Emery’s suggestions how you can keep your own vehicle looking like a work of art:

  • Wash and apply a coat of wax to a new vehicle as soon as you drive it off the lot before contaminants have a chance to adhere to the surface.
  • Practice frequent care. A few minutes every week keep your vehicle looking sharp.
  • Hand wash whenever possible with a quality soap designed specifically for auto exteriors.
  • Wipe off beverage spills immediately; soda can quickly damage paint permanently.
  • Use a rubber/vinyl solution to give tires a beautiful black sheen.
  • Apply a leather solution designed for vehicle interiors to protect against UV rays.
  • Polish the chrome to make your vehicle “pop.”
  • Apply a quick detailer and wipe off with a microfiber towel between wax applications.
  • Dust your vehicle frequently in between washes.

“If you own a dark-colored vehicle, dust shows up quickly and requires a little extra care.” Emery said.