GeorgeCo Garage Tests: Bead Maker

Automotive protective coatings have come a long way since your father’s can of Simoniz. (Which for the record is actually a different word than “Simonize” which is a recognized synonym  for the transitive verb “to polish.” Who knew….)

There is an amazing variety of coating and sealants available today with prices ranging from tens to thousands of dollars. A professionally applied ceramic coating is a thing of wonder. But what about the DIYer? I’m going to stay away from the DIY ceramic coating for the moment (too many horror stories about water spots), and take a look at a couple of popular polymer coatings which promise 3-6 months of protection, starting with P&S Bead Maker.

Foaming Sprayers for Waterless Washing

I’m slowly getting ready for winter — not like I really have a say whether it comes or not. Winter wheels are out of the basement and on the car. The hose-mobile is in their place. The faucets are covered. So it’s time to figure out how to keep the cars clean(ish?) without running water. On the back of my recent success with a low-cost power wash foam cannon, I thought I’d try my hand with rinse less car wash. The best wash on the market is the Ammo Frothe.

There’s really nothing else like Frothe on the market. It’s $35 a 16 oz bottle, but since it’s concentrated and used diluted 1:20 with water, that works out to only about a dollar a wash. You spray it on and wipe it off. You’ll need to use many microfiber towels in the process. Working one panel at a time, spray it on, then using a folded towel, scoop off the foam. Fold to a clean side of the towel and remove any remaking Frothe. Anything left in the panel gaps will evaporate away. Frothe provides lubrication so as long as you’re working a clean area of the towel, you won’t scratch your paint.

I’m going to compare two different sprayers to the Ammo aerator (in the middle) which is about $60: The Griot’s Garage Pump-Up Foamer (on the right) which retails for about $40; and the IK 1.5 Foam Sprayer (on the left) which retails for about $33.

The Ammo aerator is made in Italy for Foam-iT.  Ammonyc currently is the sole automotive reseller in the US, but that may change in early 2019. If you take a look at the internals of the Griot’s and Ammo sprayers, they look like they’re from the same manufacturer.  Just the bottles and color accents are different.

I used Ammo Frothe for the functional comparison, mixed 1:20 with water in all three sprayers.  Each sprayer was pumped to full pressure (hard to pump for Ammo and Griot’s; pressure relief opened for iK) and I made a single pass left-right on the same panel, wiping the Frothe clean with a microfiber towel between each application.

Ammo Aerator: The first thing you’ll notice is how well it’s made. It just feels substantial. It has a wide base so it won’t tip over. There’s an easy-to-read clear window down the side to you can tell how much liquid is inside. It was the easiest of the three to pump and seemed to take fewer pumps to get to full pressure. The trigger action is different from the other two: It doesn’t engage until the trigger is fully depressed which took a little while to get used to. It produces thick foam, but it was not as even as the iK sprayer.

Griot’s Foamer: Despite the similarities of the components with the Ammo unit, it takes a significantly greater effort to pump it up to pressure. It also doesn’t stay pressurized as long, so you will be pumping more often. The trigger is smoother, so you feel like you have a little more control over the spray.  The foam was not as thick or as even as the other two. You would need to make twice as many passes with this sprayer to get the same coverage, at least with the Frothe product.

iK 1.5 Sprayer: This sprayer was our favorite of the three. It took about the same effort to pump to pressure as the Ammo sprayer, though with the smaller volume bottle, you may have to refill more often depending on the job. We liked the trigger action and the check-valve. It also has several adapters so you can dial-in the type of foam you desire — drier like shaving cream, or wet like a foam cannon. We found the green adapter worked best with Frothe and provided more even coverage than even the Ammo sprayer. It is the least expensive of the three but also has an extensive list of available spare parts.

The iK sprayer has three key differentiators from the others:

  1. It has a pressure relief valve. You pump the sprayer until the pressure releases and you have the same starting pressure every time. That takes some of the guess-work out of using the sprayer.
  2. It comes with spare filters and has three different color-coded mixer adapters: ORANGE to create very wet foam, GREEN to create very dry foam and GREY that creates standard foam. We used the green adapter for this comparison.
  3. The bottle is smaller. In fact, the usable volume is about half of the others. Depending on your application, that’s either good or bad. If that volume is enough to get the job done, then it’s potentially lighter to use and takes less effort to pressurize.  If you have to re-fill, then it could slow down your work.

So what’s the bottom line? All things being equal, our favorite is the iK Sprayer. It gets the job done with less work and is good value for money.  But you can’t really go wrong with any of them.  If you know you’ll be doing bigger jobs, then get the Ammo aerator. If you want a compromise between cost and volume, then get the Griot’s sprayer.

Unwanted Thanksgiving Gift, Part 1

Someone backed into my wife’s Audi over Thanksgiving weekend damaging the bumper cover and leaving a small dent and no note. Before taking it to the paint shop to get the entire bumper cover repainted, I thought I’d see how much I could correct with buffing, touch-up paint, and with a commonly available bumper repair kit.

This is a 2015 Audi A4 with Mythos Black Metallic paint.  Working with black paint is always a mixed bag: when the car is dirty, black hides a lot of imprefections. But when it’s clean, minor defects really stand out. Audi clear coat is pretty thick so you can usually be fairly aggressive when compounding surface scratches. What you initially see is a combination of paint transfer from the other car, scratches in the clear coat, scratches through the clear coat to the base coat, and scratches through the base coat to the plastic. Before starting, I always check that the paint isn’t cracked at the point of impact. If it is cracked, you might as well skip ahead and have the entire cover professionally painted as it will never look right with DIY repairs. This one isn’t cracked, so we’re moving ahead.

Thoroughly clean the area and see how much of the surface paint transfer you can remove with your thumbnail. You would be surprised how much you can move with just your thumb and a magic eraser.

My next step is to compound and polish.  I’m using Sonax 04 06 and Fine Abrasive Paste. I start by polishing the surrounding area, then switch to the 04  06 to take on the worst areas. I make a couple of passes, checking that I’m not building up too much heat, and then finish with a couple passes of polish. What I’m left with are mostly scratches through the clear coat and deep scratches through to the plastic (and the dent circled in red).

I’m going to have to sand and paint eventually, but since I never know when I’m going to have another day above freezing before April, I thought I’d see how well I can try to hide some of the damage with touch-up paint: Paging Dr. ColorChip.

I’m a huge fan of the good doctor, but long scrapes and deep gauges are not the intended application of this product.  I’m going to be putting the paint on thick and not blending it into the surface.  The goal is to mask the problem from five feet away, not create a perfect finish. I try a broad application using the squeegee to begin (and this I do try to blend with the magic elixir.) Then I dab paint to fill the deep gauges. The finished result isn’t bad, and if this were your typical commuter beater , I’d be tempted to stop there. But this car is remarkably ding-free for a three-year old car with 50,000 miles. So it’s on to the dent repair.

The dent is actually in a fairly accessible spot. By removing some interior trim in the trunk, I can easily reach it to press on it from the inside as I try to pull on it from the outside. Before I break out the PDR pry tools, I thought I’d see how far I can get using the glue-gun external puller that you can get from Amazon.

If your paint isn’t damaged (and your clear coat is strong) you can pull many dings from the outside using just a glue tab and a puller tool. It’s a little more complicated when the ding is more like a crease as is this one, but the idea is the same. You glue a little tab to the outside and apply pressure to pull it back into shape. This actually worked pretty well. I ran out of daylight, but got most of the dent out and now just have a scratch to deal with and a little bit of prying to do from the inside to get it flush again.

That’s it for part 1.  From five feet (and especially in low light) it looks presentable. The Scratch Wizard bumper  kit has been ordered and as soon as it arrives — and I have a day off when it’s above 60 degrees — I’ll see if it does a decent job of blending with the original paint. If not, then it’s off to the pros.

SEMA Show 2018, part 2: Racecars & VWs

In this second post, I wanted to show some of the other cars that caught my eye at the show. They included a K20A2 Honda-swapped 964, Movie Bullitt Mustang, Toyota LMP1, and some pretty cool VWs. Below are a few of my favorites.  I especially liked the Type 2 bus pickup with the Subi swap. The Toyota LMP1 was sort of sad. It was off in a far corner and it was just there to shill for a rear view camera.


SEMA Show 2018, Part 1: The Builds

It’s been a week since the SEMA Show 2018. Here are some of my favorite builds from the show. For me the interesting trend over the past few years has been the shift to the extremes. My primary focus in the automotive aftermarket is on performance parts, specifically, they type of parts the average Joe can use to improve the performance and handling of European cars. Each year, as a percentage of the overall market, this niche has continued to shrink.

SEMA always had roots in hot-rodding and drag racing, and that hasn’t really changed, but there’s been a huge shift to trucks and off-roading. The hot rod builds become more and more extreme and the trucks just get bigger and more outrageous. I get that the hot rod builds are a way to demonstrate skills and craftsmanship. But the truck market is just crazy at the moment. Maybe that’s just a reaction to the self-driving car transportation appliance.

Anyway, that’s not the focus of this post.  This post is to share the amazing builds on display, especially the actual-size HotWheels.  Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.