Clear Answers to Common Questions

By Keith Miller 

Questions — I get asked a lot of them, many times the same question from multiple people. For a change of pace, I’ll start adding a few of these to our newsletters.

Often people just need an explanation of services performed or why a part failed. We’ll take the time to explain the reason for a repair, while not baffling you with technical jargon.

Can I just put new brake pads on my car? Do I need to install new rotors?

Since asbestos products were taken off the market years ago, our brake pads have become a heavier mix of carbon and metallic fibers, which are much harder compounds compared to the softer asbestos. Performance brake pads are dense and firm, accelerating wear on brake rotors. Most rotors are made of high-grade steel. Even these good steel rotors wear from heavy contact with the pads, so we typically won’t replace pads without replacing rotors. Occasionally a rotor can be “turned”; this refers to machining metal off the surface of the rotor to flatten the contact area. Brake component manufacturers have strict machining limits, and some rotors are not allowed to be machined according to the manufacturer. Rotors that have been machined are even more susceptible to warping and pulsating due to mass being removed.

If you attempt to replace pads without doing anything to the rotors, you’ll tend to get a loud brake squeal from the hard pads chattering on the imperfect surface of the rotor. It can give you the feeling of nails on a chalkboard — not what we want coming from your favorite car.

Most luxury, sports, and exotic vehicles have a brake wear indicator, which is simply a sacrificial carbon block with a wire or series of wires embedded in it. As pads wear, this block wears away, until the embedded wire is exposed and illuminates a brake light on your dash. These wires can break prematurely, but are usually a reliable indicator. They need to be replaced with every brake pad change.

What types of work can you do?

You may recognize some of the general work we do: brakes, tires, and recommended maintenance. What may surprise you is our ability to do more complex maintenance, such as engine repair or replacement, Porsche IMS bearings, turbo replacement, restorative maintenance, or clutch and transmission replacement.

In recent months, we have removed an Audi Q7 engine and replaced it with a factory remanufactured engine, replaced several Porsche IMS bearings, and removed an old MG TD drivetrain to reseal and paint before reinstalling. In addition to removing the entire powerpack from a BMW 335 to replace turbos, we’ve seen our share of clutch and transmission work too. We should also mention we’ve used a Roock-modified Porsche Boxster donor car to transform a mild-mannered standard Boxster into a spirited driver. All these services can be handled in-house, so let us know if you have specific needs.

What is so special about road force balancing?

When you think of driving a nice car, “smooth ride” is often used to describe the feel of cruising at highway speeds. Road force balancing is an additional act in balancing the tires, where a roller wheel is pressed against the tire to simulate the force of the road pushing back against the tire. Computerized sensors in the roller give feedback that allows us to match the light spot of the tire to the heavy spot on the wheel for optimal balancing. It’s an extra step in the balancing process that is imperative to smooth operation. Not all places offer it, and not all technicians will take the time to do it. At SweetCars, it’s been part of our practice for six years on every tire.

Feel free to submit your questions via email or voice mail. I’ll be happy to reply personally or answer them here.

Keith Miller

SweetCars Service

Motorcycles Are Everywhere

By Mike Cardenas 

shutterstock_311706425Spring is nearly upon us, and things at the SweetCars detail studios have been busy, getting cars ready after their winter hibernation. We’re also getting some great feedback about SunTek Ultra, the latest addition to our paint protection film lineup. It offers a 10-year warranty against yellowing and cracking, and it features built-in hydrophobic properties. And the clarity, wow! Add to that its self-healing magic, and you’ve got one of the best clear bras on the market today. Stop by for a demonstration of SunTek Ultra, and get your vehicle protected against nasty rock chips. Our retail store has been buzzing with customers looking for quality products to work on a wide variety of their own particular spring detailing projects. 

With the unusually warm weather at the tail end of this winter season, we’ve seen motorcyclists taking advantage of the great opportunity to ride. And one thing we always see this time of year is motorcycles in for detailing and especially for glass coating. So in this edition of Shift, I’ll share some information about our approach to motorcycle detailing and how glass coating and paint protection film work on motorcycles.

Motorcycles are everywhere. We’ve seen the bumper stickers, and we certainly see motorcycles on the roads once old man winter releases his grip. As a Master Detailer, I can certainly appreciate the paint and chrome on a motorcycle, but swirls and a dirty bike are just not appealing. Most riders I’ve talked to want to have a clean and shiny bike, but the intricacies of a motorcycle can sometimes be overwhelming.

A proper paint correction can be quite complex for a motorcycle. So it’s no wonder that the vast majority of motorcycles are not detailed often, if at all. To those of you who are passionate about keeping a clean and shiny motorcycle, we salute you and encourage you to keep up the good work. To prove the point, I’m going to share a secret that takes motorcycles to the next level. 

We often get to work on motorcycles when they are brand spanking new before they’ve been ridden for the first time. On several occasions, we’ve even detailed them on-site at the dealership. This makes it easy to get them protected before they incur swirls, scratches, and other imperfections. For previously driven motorcycles, many of the materials that we use for automotive detailing can be easily used. And since power washing them, in my opinion, can be a bit too harsh, we prefer the approach of using a great degreaser or all-purpose cleaner such as Sonax MultiStar or Wurth Eco Super Spray All.

This waterless approach works best because it is safer, yet it doesn’t hide  stubborn dirt and grime. The Motorcycle Wash and Wax from Chemical Guys is great for those looking for a quick clean and shine. Once the degreasing and cleaning are done, we then begin to work on the paint. Our approach is usually a two-step compound and polishing process to remove swirls and bring out a high gloss. Any accessories, bags, seat, and covers are removed by this point for better access.

After the paint is dialed in, it’s on to any metal that needs to be polished. Our trick to getting metalwork to pop is to use a great metal polish with a terry cloth applicator, or in some cases 0000 steel wool. Steel wool designated as 0000 is the finest grade available; it can be used to remove light rust spots or stubborn stains on chrome without damaging the finish or appearance. Quick tip — use it on your car’s exhaust tips paired with a metal polish, and voila: best-looking exhaust tips ever! For metal, we like to use Chemical Guys Heavy Metal Polish in our shop. 

Once the paint is glossy and the chrome is shiny, our final step is to protect those newly improved surfaces. This is where the little-known secret comes into play. Most riders will apply a wax or sealant to protect their motorcycles, but we prefer to coat those surfaces with Ceramic Pro to protect them for years and years to come, not just the current riding season. When you compare the benefits and the difference in protection of using Ceramic Pro with the durability of a traditional wax or sealant, the Ceramic Pro wins hands down. 

Here’s why — if we simply list the benefits in a side-by-side comparison, it’s pretty clear: 

Protection Features and Benefits on a Motorcycle

Ceramic Pro vs. Traditional Wax or Sealant 

– UVA/UVB protection – Limited UV protection 

– Scratch and swirl resistance (above 9H) – None 

– Permanent hydrophobic effect – Effect lasts 30 to 60 days 

– Antigraffiti – None 

– Self-cleaning effect – None 

– Permanent protection – Durability of 30 to 60 days 

– Chemical resistance – None 

– Thermal resistance of up to 2,200 degrees – None 

– Cold temperature resistance to -50 degrees – None

Those are just some of the reasons that clients turn to us to coat their motorcycles after they have been detailed. Imagine being able to simply wash off bugs and dirt easily without the need for cleaners or insane elbow grease. Or imagine never having to wax and always having a spectacular-looking motorcycle. The extreme thermal resistance of Ceramic Pro makes it great on polished chrome parts because it locks in shine, resists the heat surface temperature of those components, and removes the need to polish chrome or metal for a great look. We’ve had the privilege and honor to win awards with our motorcycle detailing, and it’s great to see the large number of referrals and raving reviews we get about Ceramic Pro on motorcycles.

So if you’re looking for a glossy, durable, and easy-to-clean motorcycle, give us a call at SweetCars, and ask about our motorcycle detailing. For the DIY detailer, check out our large selection of professional detailing products and especially the motorcycle line from Chemical Guys available at SweetCars. Until next time, take pride in your detailed ride!

10 Ways to Ruin Your Paint

By: Mike Cardenas

Greetings fellow detailing enthusiasts! Judging by the many car events on social media and the fliers going around, it appears the car show season has officially begun. As Bill mentioned, boats have also come out of their hibernation and will be out soon on the lakes. We have been protecting watercraft with Ceramic Pro all winter long, so if cleaning your boat is too much of a chore, give us a call and inquire about Ceramic Pro Marine to give you more time enjoying your boat and less time cleaning it.

Maintenance on paint is crucial for everything from marine craft to aviation to automobiles. As a professional detailer, questions on exterior maintenance are some of the most frequently asked topics I get. In this edition I’m going to discuss the 10 most common ways paint can be ruined and how to counteract the problems.

1. Improper Car Wash Techniques or Automatic Car Washing: We live in a fast-paced world, and it’s easy to drive into a car wash and get our vehicles clean. Unfortunately, not all car washes are safe, and even washing by hand in the driveway does not ensure a safe wash. Friction is the biggest enemy of paint, so avoiding as much friction as possible is key to preventing swirls and scratches. Swirl-o-matics are a huge contributor to paint damage. On the driveway, always use a grit guard and proper washing techniques to avoid contamination on the paint surface.

2. Bugs and Tar: If not cleaned off properly and quickly, bugs and tar can cause damage to the clear coat finish, etching and sticking themselves with reckless abandon. I recommend Sonax Insect Remover or Stoner’s Tarminator to safely clean bugs and tar. Bugs contain acids that etch themselves, and they can’t be simply clayed or polished away once they leave their mark.

3. Automatic Sprinklers: Hard water leaves mineral deposits that, if left behind, will bond to your paint like nobody’s business. If you can avoid it, do so. But if you get caught in the mist of sprinklers or have hard well water to contend with, always dry water spots from the paint surface and use a detail spray to aid in the removal. Even if your vehicle is glass coated, the mineral deposits will still be left behind, so it’s always a good idea to wipe the surface down.

4. Fingertips: “You can sniff, but don’t scratch.” I’ve always loved those stickers, partly because the motto is true. The first thing people do is touch the car’s finish. Perhaps it’s a way of being connected or a way to feel how slick it is. On a dirty vehicle, it’s important to not touch the surface. I’ve actually had people show me a vehicle, take their finger and rub on a “scratch,” and leave behind a bigger mess.

5. Tree Sap: One of mother nature’s many glues, tree sap can be one of the most harmful things on a paint finish if the sap is not removed quickly. Keep some Stoner’s Tarminator handy; as a solvent cleaner, it does a great job of removing fresh sap from a finish.

6. Acid Rain: This is really common in large metropolitan areas. I’ve had many vehicles in from the East Coast for detailing, and the vast majority of them have some traces of acid rain on the glass and paint. It is extremely difficult to remove. Keeping the vehicle protected and cleaning it regularly are the best ways to help keep damage away.

7. Bird Droppings: Highly acidic, bird droppings are one of the largest causes of etched-in paint damage. Scratches are also possible when cleaning droppings, so be careful! Birds digest small pieces of gravel and dirt that are often the cause of scratches from bird droppings.

8. Soft Drinks and Coffee: It sounds silly, but pop and coffee are hazardous to a paint finish if not cleaned up quickly. Pop is highly acidic, and coffee often contains sugar that can lead to a sticky mess.

9. Road Paint: Warmer weather also means more road construction and routine painting of stripes and other road markings. Keep your distance and avoid freshly painted stripes when possible. Stay within the lines, just like the old kindergarten coloring days, and you’ll be in good shape. If you do stray and pick up paint, use something like mineral spirits immediately to clean off the paint with the aid of a high pressure sprayer.

10. Pumping Gas: I’ve seen many people simply spill gasoline onto their vehicle’s finish and drive away without cleaning it. Gasoline will stain, and if your car is not protected with something like a glass coating, it will get into the paint finish and ruin the paint.

Of course, there are numerous other things than can ruin a paint finish. Ultimately, boats, planes, and automobiles were created as modes of transportation, and things will happen on occasion. But being aware of some of the dangers that lurk in the most innocent of situations is a huge help to maintain a properly cared for finish for years to come. Until next time, take pride in your detailed ride!

Maintaining Marine Gel Coat

By Mike Cardenas

It’s been a busy winter here at SweetCars, and there are a lot of exciting things going on in the shop. We’re proud to be the host for the Ceramic Pro Installer Training Event. Detailers from all over the United States will be attending this special three day training event. SweetCars and Ceramic Pro will be hosting a free detail clinic for the public on Sunday, March 20, from 10:30AM to Noon, and we hope to see you there.

Speaking of coatings, SweetCars has now joined an exclusive group of 40 detailers who will become distributors and installers for Nanolex. This German brand has some exciting innovations, and SweetCars is pleased to now carry these high-quality products in our retail store. The WashCoat from Nanolex is an amazing product that gives literally instant protection during the wash process that lasts for up to a month! It provides beading and gloss that is unbelievable at an affordable price for the DIY detailer.

As Bill mentioned, SweetCars is now a member of the International Detailing Association. We’re proud to join this special group of like-minded detailers from all over the world, joining companies such as Rupes and Sonax among others. Our reputation for detailing is highly regarded as one of the best, and we are excited to be the featured detailer in this month’s issue of duPont REGISTRY. Be sure to check us out in newsstands everywhere!

The detailing operations at SweetCars are certainly busy all year, and some of the projects we see here pretty frequently are Marine projects, such as boats and jet skis. Although most are not brought to us as a chalky and dull mess, hard water and lack of protection can wreak havoc on the nicest gel coats without attention. In this issue of Shift, I’m going to give you some great tips for maintaining your gel coat or single stage paint for your vehicle.

Boats are painted with a gel coat, a tough clear coat that is designed to be more durable than the typical clear coat found on vehicles. However, this tough finish tends to be porous and allows oxidation and hard-to-clean dirt or water spotting to soak in. Anyone who has one knows what can happen when you don’t properly wipe and dry a boat after use. The same could be said about a single stage paint: if it’s not dried properly after a wash, or if bugs or bird droppings are left too long, the soft paint soaks up the stain and then it’s no longer going to simply wipe off.

One of the biggest reasons for the difficulty in cleaning such surfaces has to do with its surface tension. This means that if you were to apply a sealant to these surfaces, the surface tension would be such that the molecules in that sealant would create a barrier that would prevent water and contaminants from sticking. So by minimizing the amount of surface something can hold, you can eliminate some of the issues associated with gel coat and single stage paint. This means that protection is even more important on these surfaces because they act more like a sponge than a hard shell.

For protection, sealants are always going to be the better option than wax. Waxes simply lay on the surface and can be removed quickly with friction from water or the washing process. Sealants are recommended because they chemically bond to the surface and additionally provide a little more durable protection.

Of course, you can always go for something that lasts 10 times as long and works better in the long term. That is where Ceramic Pro is a great option because it creates a permanent bond with the surface and changes the surface tension to repel water, making it easy to dry and clean. The UV protection that will last for years is also a huge benefit of getting a boat or car coated with Ceramic Pro. Most sealants do offer some level of UV protection, so make sure to check the product you’re using to verify that this is also a feature.

Gel Coats and single stage paints can be tricky to maintain. The bottom line is to keep them protected to ensure the best gloss and finish possible, allowing easy cleaning and years of enjoyment. Until next time, take pride in your detailed ride!

SweetCars: Featured in March Issue of dupont Registry Magazine!

SweetCars is currently featured in the March issue of duPont Registry Magazine as the featured detailer and part of the duPont Registry Elite Detailer Alliance. SweetCars has been a proud member for the last 3 years and has gained both national and international recognition as a premier detailing studio in North America by duPont Registry magazine. The team at SweetCars has detailed vehicles at their studio in Fort Wayne, Indiana from California to Florida. With a commitment to quality, professionalism and customer service and a philosophy for doing the right thing, that’s the SweetCars Difference.  duPont Registry is available anywhere books and magazines are sold, pick up an issue and check us out!

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1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SL Paint Restoration

Sometimes it makes sense to repaint a vehicle who’s finish is long far gone from ever being its former glossy look. Other times its to change a color from someone’s previous failed approach to restore a vehicle, and so a repaint to its original color is in order. In either case the finish in question has been determined no longer suitable or in bad shape. In this detailers opinion, no paint can create a skin crawling feeling and face of disgust like a chalky and dull single stage paint. Crazing, oxidation, water spots and failed wax on, wax off residue can make for quite an ugly sight. This brings us to the story of a very special 1985 Mercedes-Benz 380SL that was brought to us by a client.

The Mercedes painted in a once  shiny Signal Red, was bought brand new and was bequeathed to the son by the once proud owner. So with a vehicle that has basically been a part of the family for decades, and was still being enjoyed by the next generation in the family, the decision was made by the owners to see what could be done to revive the now lifeless looking SL. The owner called us at SweetCars and made arrangements to have us check out the vehicle to see what could be done.

When the vehicle arrived, upon inspection it seemed to appear as if all hope was lost for this Mercedes and a repaint was already being strongly considered by the client. But after close inspection and using my Delfesko paint gauge, I could see that there was much life left in this old family roadster. So after consulting the client about what could be done on our part to bring back the car to life, the work was agreed upon and the client was excited to hear that it could stay original without having to repaint. So it was scheduled for its transformation.

On this vehicle, the paint was of course thin on some edges and every precaution was taken to not take away too much, but just enough to reach our goal of restoring the paint finish while preserving as much as possible. Since single stage paint is notorious for oxidation and to avoid the vehicle from becoming a chalkboard once again, it was decided to coat the vehicle with 4 coats of Ceramic Pro 9H and 1 coat of Ceramic Pro Light. So I grabbed my trusty RUPES Bigfoot LHR21ES and began meticulously paint correcting the finish. My prognosis was correct, this Mercedes was in dire need of an intense correction and not a repaint, which would of cost three times as much. The other expense avoided that was much appreciated by the owner was replacing the driver’s seat. The bolster was badly worn and donning some old sticky duct tape. I contacted our good friend Ryan Lamson at Revived Interiors and he was able to repair the badly worn bolster with his magical abilities.

The results were a transformation that was truly remarkable and we were sure that we would get a positive response from the client. When the client finally came in to see it, he immediately welled up with tears and the smile on his face confirmed that we had succeeded in our goal. Overwhelmed with emotion and surprise of the transformation, it was great to hear that it looked just like he remembered it back in the 80’s.

Here’s some pictures of the Mercedes, enjoy! – Mike Cardenas


Gallery: Ceramic Pro Highlights at SweetCars

SweetCars is proud to an approved installation center for one of the most remarkable protective coatings ever, Ceramic Pro. With only about 2 factory trained and approved Ceramic Pro installers per state, we are part of an elite group of detailers that can install Ceramic Pro and provide Ceramic Pro’s warranty. All installers are required to maintain the highest level of quality in installations of Ceramic Pro and must keep up to date on the latest techniques and products.

This gallery highlights just some of the vehicles we’ve coated in Ceramic Pro over the last few years since joining the Ceramic Pro team. All of the projects featured are still looking as good as the pictures you see here. Once Ceramic Pro is applied, it requires very little maintenance from it’s owner aside from a proper hand wash. There’s no need for polishing, waxing or sealants once the coating is applied. These vehicles are ultra hydrophobic, anti-graffiti, chemical resistant, acid resistant, resistant to minor swirls and scratches, maintain a deep gloss and resist UVA/UVB. Wheels and calipers are easy to clean without the need of wheel cleaners and is extremely resistant to brake dust and road grime, permanently.

The proof is in the results. Once our clients experience Ceramic Pro on their vehicle, they are forever changed in how they maintain and care for their vehicle’s appearance. It’s easier, glossier and faster to clean, giving them more time to enjoy their vehicle than spending time and money maintaining to keep a glossy and protected vehicle. Many of our clients at SweetCars are referred to us by clients who we installed Ceramic Pro for them. We now have clients that are referrals, upon referrals, upon referrals and all due to the fact that Ceramic Pro works, and works exceptionally great. From vehicles, motorcycles, marine and aviation applications, we’ve used Ceramic Pro to protect and provide a durable glossy finish for decades to come.

Contact your Ceramic Pro representative at SweetCars today at 260-207-2277 or visit for more information