Detailing Process


The proven basic 7-step process, minus some "bike-specific lessons", is as follows:

STEP # 1.

ALMOST NEVER USE WATER TO CLEAN YOUR MOTORCYCLE: Let me state up-front that this is a point of reasonable disagreement. Many qualified and successful professional detailers, and many people who take quite excellent care of their own motorcycles, would disagree with me here, stating that the first step to any whole-bike cleaning is to use an appropriate cleaner and a strong water-rinsing wash with a hose, followed by thorough drying with a high-speed air-jet dryer. Water-wash and high-speed or rapid towel-drying is a process others have used for a long time.

My firm belief is that water is the "enemy", and I have found that water is frequently the element that will cause "unfortunate chemical reactions" to occur, especially in hidden areas or inside housings where you cannot see and detect the resultant damage. (The creator and owner of Pimp Stixxx agrees with me, and he should know about what it takes to clean a motorcycle). Using a hose to wash your motorcycle often times leads to water-spotting that is difficult or impossible to completely remove, especially on any parts that are raw aluminum or that have not been triple-chromed. (Please note: Despite the "premium price", even some high-end custom-choppers have parts that are only single-chromed, and some of them poorly). Water also is the #1 cause of the [often hidden] process of rusting, especially in areas where you may not first notice this is even occurring (until it is too late and paint or chrome has begun to actually chip and flake off of the bike). Instead of using water-wash, I maintain that it is best to use appropriate chemical cleaners and micro-fiber towels (aided by a set of Pimp Stixxx for getting into even the most impossible hidden places). On a brand-new motorcycle I often must use as many as 7 or 8 towels, and on one particularly dirty motorcycle I used 27 towels to complete the job. Don't "skimp" on the number of towels that you use. REMEMBER To avoid damaging any surfaces, you must change to a clean towel as soon as the one you are using becomes soiled or grime-filled in any way, or if the towel becomes contaminated with specific chemicals.

"Special Advice": In the interest of "household harmony": When you wash these towels: Use hot water and regular detergent, but only medium-to-low heat in the dryer. Also- Since your towels will have not only dirt in them but also the residue of various cleaning chemicals and wax, after you wash your towels it is best to run your washing-machine through a full cycle while completely empty of any clothing in order to avoid possible damage to your clothing from chemicals that may not have fully washed-out or rinsed-out of the dirty-towel load. Why risk ruining some else's favorite pair of pants or "special" shirt, especially if that other person actually lives in your own house?

STEP # 2.

Assemble the cleaning materials: Wipe-Down, Metal Cleaner, Micro-fiber towels (Do NOT use shop-towels or old bath-towels or washcloths), Sealing-Polish, and a set of Pimp-Stixxx (these are specialized tools that were designed for cleaning motorcycles. They're essential for cleaning in the little areas where no hands or other tools can fit).

Pimp-Stixxx Tools Micro-Fiber Towels FLITZ Cleaner Nano Wax Honda Wipe-down

STEP # 3.

Bourget Python 330

Review all of the areas to be cleaned, making written notes of any areas (locations) or unique items (components) needing special attention.

STEP # 4.

Clean the bike with Wipe-Down and micro-fiber towels, working in sections. I prefer to work "Top-to-Bottom" and "Front-to-Back". I work on the handle-bars, mirrors & hand-controls, triple-trees, headlight, front signals, forks and front wheel first, then move to the left side of the frame and engine, drive-train, exhaust systems and foot-controls, working my way along the side, then around the back wheel of the motorcycle and then along the right-side. I finish by cleaning the entire under-side. I generally clean the painted areas, including ALL areas and elements of the frame, twice.

STEP # 5.

Scott and Isabelle Custom Cleaning

Polish the metal surfaces on the bike with Flitz, Simi-Chrome and other cleaners, taking time with any areas or items that have any problems. CAUTION: Not all metal cleaners can be used on all metals. For instance: A cleaner made strictly for cleaning chrome may severely and irreparably damage a polished aluminum surface (and vice-versa). Make sure you use the proper product(s) on the specific metals they were designed to clean. Read the product label and verify the metal type that is appropriate. Check your owner's manual, ask your bike shop [or ask a friend] if you need help to distinguish polished-aluminum from chrome on a particular part or surface. [Note: FLITZ cleaner, mentioned above, will work on all metals, and it is non-abrasive, eliminating the possibility of creating scratches in the finish. Abrasive cleaners are sometimes necessary to remove certain discoloration stains, but you must not rub too long or apply too much pressure when using them]. Also use power-tools only when it makes sense. The best detailing is done by "hand", and power-tools may actually damage the surfaces. You may accidentally apply too much pressure or create too much heat from friction buildup. "Speed" is not the goal - - proper cleaning and showroom-finish-detailing takes time (often 5-hours or more), patience and uninterrupted concentration & attention.

STEP # 6.

Shine and Seal all of the surfaces on the bike (except the brake pads and disk, the seat and the tires) with Nano-Wax, taking time to apply this on all areas, even in the tiny out-of-sight areas behind the engine, inside the fins, in the rear wheel-well and underneath the bike. This can be sprayed directly on the surfaces and wiped off or can be applied by spraying a liberal amount on a micro-fiber towel and using your hand and / or Pimp Stixx to apply it to a surface. Nano-Wax take very little buffing, though should not be left as a misted spray, as this will cause you to have areas that are a little cloudy when it dries. You can go back and buff these areas away easily, but why not finish properly?

STEP # 7.

Step back and admire the incredible machine that is your motorcycle. Have a cold-drink and smile.

Final Note "Storage Plays a Part in Proper Care":

I live on Tybee Island, at the beach, and do not have a garage. To keep my bikes clean and their appearance better than brand-new, I clean them after a long-ride (this intermediate cleaning only takes about 30-40 minutes), then I store them as follows:

Bike Cover Step 1.
Place a large heavy tarp on the ground and "park" & center the bike on top of it.

Bike Cover Step 2.
Hang a silica Damp-Rid (brand name) moisture absorbing bag on the frame.

Bike Cover Step 3.
Cover the bike with a clean soft blanket.

Bike Cover Step 4.

Bike Cover Step 5.

Bike Cover Step 6.
Lift the edges of the tarp and roll them to completely seal the bike inside (like sealing a sandwich inside plastic-wrap). Clamp the rolled portions of the tarp for an air-tight seal.

Damp-Rid found in most grocery and household goods stores.

Additional questions and answers:

Question: How long does Detailing (cleaning, polishing & sealing) take?

    Answer: New motorcycles, or those that are well cared-for, take me about 4 or 5 hours to properly complete. If the motorcycle has become quite "tired and dirty" and has suffered damage as a result, this process can take up to 12-to-14 hours or more to complete, and even then may not result in a delivery-perfect finish on all surfaces. In one instance, I spent over 14 hours just on cleaning and polishing an engine exterior.

Question: Separate and apart from "Cleaning" and "Polishing", what does this "Sealing" effort mean to the owner of the bike?

    Answer Several important things, all of which apply to the long-term performance and "brand-new-look" of your investment in this motorcycle. These things include:

  1. Verification of Safe & Sound Operating Characteristics: The entire bike is reviewed by sight and by "touch", not only for cleanliness but also to confirm that all of the cables, hoses, controls, contacts and physical mechanical connections appeared to be properly intact and road-ready.
  2. Cleanliness: Every surface on the motorcycle was cleaned of the normal fabrication and delivery-transport environmental dirt and grime. The Cleaners We Frequently Use: Honda Wipe-Down, Protect-All Wipe-Down, Simi-Chrome chrome cleaner and polish, Flitz all-metal cleaner and polish, and, if required, Blue-Job pipe cleaner are the primary cleaners I use. There are many other excellent products.
  3. Protection: Every surface on the motorcycle, except for the tire and the seat, was treated with the most advanced high-tech "sealing" technology available today for use in motor-vehicle care [Polish and Sealant Used: Nano-Wax by Eagle-1]. This sealing process includes, but is not necessarily limited-to, the frame, wheels, engine, exhaust, cables, hoses, clamps, suspension system, drive-train and transmission housing, safety systems (mirrors and lights), brake system (except for the actual pads and disk or drum) and all other parts of the motorcycle. A powerful benefit of this careful hand-applied sealing process is that once the bike is "sealed" you will find that it is very easy for you to wipe off normal dust, dirt and grime and return it to a near "showroom-new" look after a good ride on a sunny afternoon.


Question(s): Does this "sealing" last forever? How often should it be repeated, and can I do it myself?

    Answer(s): This "sealing" process often only needs to be done every 3-to-4 months or-so under most normal pleasure-riding conditions. Bikes used as a "primary transport" (perhaps you ride it to work every day or you ride it because you do not use a personal car or truck) may require this careful sealing treatment a bit more often. I (Scott Sharer), and the folks at production standard & metric bikes and custom chopper shops, encourage you to regularly clean and re-seal your motorcycle as part of your normal care and up-keep process. You can do this, or you can bring it in to at your dealer and have this done as part of a normal service plan. If you are unable to bring the bike to us, we can arrange a "house-call" (actually probably a "garage-call") and travel to your location to perform this service (at an additional charge). Either way the important thing is to maintain a clean and properly sealed bike, one that will look good and operate well for a long time, and one you can be proud of every time you ride.

Question(s): Why is "Sealing" a brand-new motorcycle before it is ever taken out onto the street and ridden so important? Isn't the bike already cleaned and "sealed" with Clear-Coat when it is prepped for the owner to take possession? Why would you even clean a brand new bike?

    Answer(s): Even the newest motorcycle has "production and transport" dirt and grime on it. Aside from that the Clear-Coat finish is NOT meant as a final protection it is really meant to provide a lot of visual depth to the painted or chromed elements that are on the motorcycle. As soon as you ride out of the build-shop or off the dealer lot you will begin the damaging processes that occur as you and the bike come in contact with the environment. The "Sealing" process, when performed on a brand-new bike, is designed to help minimize (or in some circumstances even eliminate) the damage that can be done as your motorcycle comes in-contact-with dirt, road-chemicals, water and other environmental elements. Untreated motorcycles, even those that are reasonably well-cared-for and maintained, develop stains and imperfections in the finish (metal, paint and clear-coat) as they encounter various normal environmental elements. "Sealing" the bike from the beginning helps to diminish or prevent this.

SPECIAL LOCATION CAUTION: Here in the coastal areas of Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas, the high humidity & salt-air alone can severely damage the finish and, hence, the look, even if the bike has been otherwise kept clean and dry.
How and when you clean, polish and protect your motorcycle, and how you then store it for short-term overnight- only or long-term for a full "season" - determines the level of resultant damage caused by the presence of environmental contaminants. In metropolitan areas, where you have moderate to heavy air pollution, and in coastal areas where you have heavy mineral content in the air and water, you are at serious risk for rapid deterioration of the finished surfaces on your bike. Over even a short period of time this results in decreased visual appeal, possible costly restoration or replacement of parts, and dramatically lower resale value.

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