Tag Archives: detail

New Addition to the Garage: 2014 Lexus IS 350 RWD

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Either I’m growing up or I’ve completely lost my marbles. Yes, you read that title correct: I’ve added another car to the fleet which will be slowly taking over the daily driving duties. Welcome to my 2014 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport RWD in Obsidian.

When it comes to cars, I tend to get caught up in my own little world and forget to tell friends and family what I’m up to. Showing up with this Lexus certainly caught a lot of people by surprise. More shocking, I’ve surrendered to the two-pedal lifestyle?! As Lexus no longer offers a manual transmission option on their IS, automatic was my only way to go. But why Lexus?

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My search criteria for a replacement daily was simple: V6, premium, Japanese, that wasn’t Infiniti. That left Acura and Lexus. While I adored my Acura TL 6spd I briefly owned, the J37 V6 was a little too troublesome to get into again. It consumed oil almost as badly as my Mazda, and it had an insistent pinging issue which seems to plague many Acuras of this era if you live in a region with dry heat. I would love a TLX A-spec, but that is far from my budget. I then turned to the 2nd generation Lexus IS 250 6spd, the last generation a manual transmission was offered. One I was able to sample felt slower than any of my other cars and the transmission felt sloppy. No bueno. I did like everything else about it though. Long story short, I decided the 3rd generation IS 350 was the one to hunt for. I wanted one in Obsidian black, rear wheel drive, Mark Levinson sound, navigation and in budget. Months of casually searching the web within a 2,000 mile radius returned nothing. Despite being a fairly popular seller, I was surprised that these were quite hard to find compared to the more affordable IS 250.

With some patience though, one popped up in San Antonio, TX which fit the bill nicely. It was at an independent used car dealer which was very accommodating in performing the transaction over the phone.

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To take delivery, I booked a Southwest one-way flight to San Antonio on Friday, August 23rd, 2019. Flying always gives me the heebee-geebees, but this turned out the be the most economical and efficient way of getting there to sign the papers. Here I am arriving at the airport at 4:30am. No lines!

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Up and away!

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Arrived in San Antonio in just over an hour. Driving would have been nearly 9hrs!

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I took an Uber to the dealer where they were expecting me. Mike, the owner, pulled the Lexus out from the back for my inspection and also handed me the keys to take for a solo test drive.

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This car was by no means perfect. Headlights were oxidized, paint was in need of correction and treatment, steering wheel leather torn, but the rest of the car was sound. Worked out for me since I didn’t want a pristine example where I’d be afraid to drive it. All of these little details are easily fixed and gave me haggling power. What I really liked was this was a one-owner example, always serviced by a Lexus dealer and the miles were mostly highway.

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The rest of the exterior was clean.

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Mileage was just under 100,000, but you couldn’t tell from the solidity and smoothness. I decided it was a keeper so I headed back to sign the final papers. Here’s the official key hand off.

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Beginning mileage of my ownership:

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My first order of business was calling up the nearby Lexus Dominion dealer to see if they could get me in for an oil change. I had no idea what kind of oil was in this thing, so I rather have peace of mind on the long drive home. Luckily, I was able to get an appointment. On my way, I had to snap a pic of the San Antonio’s postage stamp mural

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Arriving at North Park Lexus at Dominion. The Dominion is a northwest suburb of San Antonio where this car had been serviced since day one.

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Pulling into the service bay.

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This dealer was pretty snazzy with a free Starbucks bar, special Lexus café and they even had a resident masseuse!

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A loaner Lexus NX was offered to me while they performed their services, so I took the opportunity to grab lunch.

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After getting fresh oil and a clean bill of health, I headed towards home on I-10.

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I always enjoy the adventure of buying a car far from home and driving back while learning about the features and quirks. After spending 4+ years in early 2000-era cars, it was nice to have some modern amenities.

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Bluetooth audio, navigation, smart key access were all missed from my TL. It was sure nice to have those again.

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First fill up!

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Some west Texas landscape. Lots of rain greeted me which in turn, got the Obsidian black paint nice and dirty.

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The Lexus provided a graceful, yet firm ride and very comfortable seats. I’m already envisioning some enjoyable long road trips in this thing.

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Arriving in New Mexico for the first time…at least in my hands.

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I opted to not take the direct route home so I could test some back roads around Carlsbad and Roswell, NM.

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I grabbed a Roswell hotel room for the night.

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The next day, I took my time getting home by thoroughly enjoying central New Mexico landscape.

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Arriving home!

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I promptly took care of a few cosmetic details that were bugging me.

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Some nasty swirls I’ll take care of in the future months with a good detail.

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The biggest eyesore to me were these oxidized headlights. I went ahead and did a few passes of compound to get them more presentable.

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I’m also not a fan of pin striping, so that had to go as well. This stuff was a challenge to get off as it was painted on rather than your typical vinyl application. A little wet sanding was needed in some areas, but eventually I got it all off.

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Much cleaner.

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While I had the Lexus in the garage, I took some time to sit and learn the features and infotainment interface that I couldn’t do while driving. I was surprised to find that this can play DVDs as long as you’re parked.

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The next detail was to replace the worn steering wheel. Rather than attempting to repair it, I figured it was best to swap in a factory wheel in better condition.

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I was able to purchase a clean one from a really cool YouTuber, Jason Nguyen.

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Here’s the complete video of him upgrading to his carbon fiber wheel.

 

Following his process of removing the wheel was actually much easier than I thought…though still nerve-racking.

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His original wheel installed and fully functional. Made a huge improvement to the interior!

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Now, cleaning up those nasty exhaust tips which probably weren’t touched since the car was new. I had to bring out the sandpaper again to get the grime off.

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Before

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After

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That completes the updates for now. Here’s to many new adventures in the Lexus!

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Bringing the Contour’s Paint Back to Life

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Time to strap on the latex gloves and bring out the detailing gear on the Contour! As I pointed out in the last post, much of the car is in decent condition, and only needs a little superficial TLC to make it pop. That’s where I spent my energy these past few weeks. It’s been a long process, and I’m no where near finished. A few hours here and there after work is all I’ve been able to devote to this project. However, I’m seeing some good results.

First off, let’s talk about that flag you’ll be seeing in the background. Since there’s a Ford in the garage now, I found it fitting to get something for it.

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Personalized plate arrived too!

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Okay, now on to the paint. I first tackled the rear bumper. Aside from the roof, which I’ll get to in March or April, this is the biggest eye sore. I used my Porter Cable buffer with a yellow cutting pad and Meguiar’s Ultimate Cutting Compound followed by a black pad and polish. The paint here looked to be original with very heavy oxidation and bad clear coat failure at the very top. My plan of attack:

  • Compound the entire bumper to take as much oxidation off as possible
  • Level/sand down the blistered clear coat areas
  • Spray paint the bad areas using a two-step process of base and top coats
  • Compound again to blend and level it all out
  • Finalize with Wolfgang polish and carnauba wax

The original plan was for a body shop take care of this while also doing the roof. However, the bumper is a little warped in some areas and there’s a small corner broken off that bugs me. I’m unsure if I’ll keep it or seek a replacement. So for now, I’m just doing a cheap fix. The above steps should hold me over for a year or so.

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Even at the highest RPM on my buffer, this took some time to see decent results. Here’s a 50/50 shot.

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I also attacked some of the quarter panels. These weren’t quite as intense. Still plenty of scratches to be removed.

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Check out that shine and metallic flake! This is why I love Ford’s Toreador Red Metallic.

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I also went down the driver’s side.

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Though I plan to replace the current exhaust setup, I couldn’t let it go without a good cleaning too.

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Examining the bumper in sunlight. You can see a tremendous improvement, though the failed clear coat is still apparent. Time to address that…

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This is my first time doing a cheap rattle-can paint job, so the whole thing has been a learning experience. I first dry sanded the rough areas to ensure a smooth finish and good adhesion.

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I then removed the bumper to see if I could improve the alignment and tighten the panel gaps. Doing this prior to painting would prevent the new paint from blistering from all the flexing and bending.

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Back on the car with minimal improvements to the fitment. I emptied an entire 8oz can of Dupli-Color BFM0344 base coat and topped with another 8oz of Dupli-Color EBCL01257 clear. This is cheap stuff, but went on effortlessly.

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The results as of this posting. There’s plenty of orange peel, but the color match is pretty spot on. I’m waiting for the appropriate cure time before hitting the whole thing with compound again. I’ll report back with the results.

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You may notice that I extended the paint down pretty low to cover up the compounding job I just finished. That was to help with blending.

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On another topic, I’ve been revamping my car record binders. Adding the Contour made me realize that a fresh, consistent look was needed. The gray 6’s binder was getting so full that I had to create a Volume II. With over 264,000 miles, those records really add up.

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Here’s the Contour’s documentation and promotional material, some of which I’ve added. Not pictured here (from being hidden somewhere in storage) I have a VHS tape of the SVT Contour debut. That will be fun to find again though I won’t be able to play it. Anyone still have an old VHS player to loan?

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I was able to find that video on Youtube (Warning: hardcore 90s content here). At 0:58, you can hear how aggressive it sounded even in stock form.

The first owner must have been an enthusiast as there were plenty of SVT news printouts. I’m also lucky enough to have the original sales contract.

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Given my new branding of, “Pawela’s Garage”, it was time to give the old garage a little love too.

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New artwork and displays on the east wall. Next on the list will be performing lighting upgrades.

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And included with those displays, I added window stickers for each car. Both the Mazda’s needed to be recreated which I painstakingly did in Adobe Illustrator.

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Though the attention as been mostly on the Contour, the Mazda’s aren’t forgotten.

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Sunset shot of the daily…

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And the “i” got a bath to clear away the dust. I’ve only driven this 200 miles within the past 3 months.

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That does it for now. Until next time!

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Major PDR and Other Updates

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Hi All. I’m checking in here and kicking away the tumbleweeds that have accumulated in my absence. I’m still chugging along at work and home projects. Lots of improvements on both cars have been ongoing as well. I’ve focused a lot of attention on the 6i to get it as close to showroom fresh as I can within financial reason. Well, financial reason may be a bit too conservative. I think obsessive may come to your mind.

First off, I scored a brand new OEM factory painted spoiler which dressed up the rear of the “i” a bit. Most 6’s with the sport package of this era came with a spoiler, however there was a spoiler-delete option which we had here. That’s never been to my liking, so this fixed that.

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Next, you may have noticed that I don’t show many photos of the driver’s side on here and on my Instagram. That’s been on purpose as there was some rather significant damage to the driver’s door which didn’t show well in photos. The damage was there when I acquired the car and it looks like someone had baked directly into the door. I believe this happened on one of my grandpa’s voyages. Though most of the scuffs and paint damage buffed away, we were left with many dimples and stretched sheet metal. Here’s what I’m referring to:

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Even though this light color hides the damage in direct sunlight, my OCD kept nagging me to fix it. I explored many options such as your traditional body shop process of re-skinning, painting and blending or purchasing a replacement door and having it painted. Either of those options most likely wouldn’t yield the results I’d be looking for though. I intend to keep this car as original as possible. I even considered buying this local 6, swapping doors, and reselling.

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Even if the paint matched perfectly, I’d have the issue of the black window and belt line trim mismatched from both cars being in different environments for the last 14 years. So, my last hope was contacting my tried and true PDR (paintless dent removal) go-to, Dent Specialties of El Paso, TX. For well over 10 years, I’ve been taking my cars to their lead tech (or “wizard” as he should be called), Eric. If you’re ever in the area, pay them a visit!

After some coordination over text, I decided the best action plan would be to take the door off and leave it with Eric for a week.

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Ready for transport. It BARELY fit in the trunk of the gray 6!

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This challenging project was showcased on their social media.

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After a week, it was done, and here’s the magic he was able to perform. His 20 hours of work gave some really impressive results!

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I was so stoked. Pictures don’t do this justice, but here are a few before and afters:

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So, that made for another successful fix for the “i”. A few months later, I returned to Eric to have the remaining door dings removed from the entire body.

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Next, I tightened up some panel gaps on the passenger side (pardon the filth).

Before:

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After:

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Oh, we aren’t done yet! Next, I stripped off the old faded window tint and had my tint guys install some fresh 20% film.

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The factory painted door handles’ clear coat was starting to fail, so I will replace these as well.

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Now, the final touches. I’ve been wrapping up the mini restoration process by giving every single nook and cranny a good cleaning and detailing.

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I’m currently finishing up a complete paint correction/restoration. The process consists of a clay bar cleaning, compounding on the bad areas, two-stage polish, then sealer.

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Some of the results:

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The product of choice has been Wolfgang. I find their products very easy to apply and tend to yield a nice deep gloss.

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When I’m finished with the entire car, I’ll top coat with this $70 Wolfgang Fuzion carnauba wax to give the greatest depth and make the metallic flake pop. This won’t be a concours-level paint restoration, but a huge improvement.

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It’s been a rather expensive project. When the “i” is complete, I’ll be sure to post some high resolution photos. I also didn’t forget about the gray “s”. I swapped out the troublesome aftermarket Depo headlights for some black bezel OEM 2006 Mazda 6 headlights. What’s this, the fourth time I’ve replaced these?

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I feel like these work better with my dark/smoked theme.

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The last mod is a gloss black window trim to replace the faded and cracked factory vinyl.

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While we’re on the subject of the gray 6, this month is actually the fourth-year anniversary of ownership. How does time fly by so quickly?! I’ll compile some data to share in a future post on that. I think I’ve bored you all with enough photos for now. Catch you all later!

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Fresh Detail for the TL

Happy Thursday! I don’t have any special “throw-back-Thursday” content to share, but I do have some reflections. Literally. It’s amazing how time flies. This January 16th marks the second month of ownership with the TL. With the weather warming up recently and my having some free time, I figured I’d give the exterior a good detail/paint correction. I started with a thorough wash to get the loose dirt and grime off.

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After all was dry, I pulled into the garage to survey the condition of the paint. Looks pretty healthy and clean, right?

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Wrong! I set up my halogen lights and they revealed just how scratched and bruised the paint had become. Causes? Most of the scratches came with the car when I bought it in November of 2013. A few careless wash jobs from Hoy Fox Acura and my recent trip to Fresno Acura added their fair share. This being the Crystal Black Pearl, every single little nick, scratch and clear coat imperfection will easily show up in direct sunlight or in this case, halogen lights.

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The door handles were in a class of their own for extreme need of detail.

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So scuffed and marred that there was virtually no shine to the paint inside the door handle.

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So I settled down for the night and a good majority of the next day performing a full detail. My process to correct this was as follows:

  • Wash with Meguiars Wash & Wax
  • Meguiars Clay Bar
  • Meguiars 85 Compound applied with PC (Porter Cable) Green pad
  • Meguiars 205 Polish applied with PC Black pad
  • Meguiars 7 Glaze applied with another PC Black pad
  • Meguiars Carnauba Wax applied with PC Red pad

Most of the chemicals were applied with my Porter Cable rotary buffer used at various RPMs. Let’s see how it all turned out!

With the first step, I opened up a fresh box of Meguiar’s clay bar kit.

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I also made sure my pads were clean and dry with numerous clean microfiber clothes for buffing. Doesn’t make sense to spend hours correcting the paint and then adding new scratches by polishing with dirty rags, right?

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Here’s the Meguiar’s 85 and 205 products. I’ve been using these for years and the results have been great.

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For the final polishing stage, here’s the Glaze which was applied with a new PC black pad.

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Sadly, the only wax I had on hand to finish it all off was Meguiar’s Carnauba Wax (red bottle). It’ s decent, but I know there are better waxes out there to give the absolute deepest gloss to the paint.

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I started with spraying with paint with lubricator and rubbing the clay bar.

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Amazing that even though the TL was just washed, grime was still lingering on the surface.

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After the clay, I like to tape off a section to see the results of buffing at various RPMs. It gives a great before and after test.

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Here’s with just the 85 Compound.

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…and now with the polish stage complete.

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It made such a huge difference!

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The hood shows the state of my messy and cluttered garage.

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Almost like a mirror!

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In addition to other little details on the car, I applied some Mother’s Metal Polish to clean up the exhaust tips.

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Here’s a section of the rear bumper…

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No car detail would be complete without a self pic in the paint.

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Day three I took the TL out in the sun to see if I missed any areas.

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I also gave some more business to superbrightleds.com for some LED license plate lights. I think they modernize the area so much. Why Acura insists on using traditional incandescent accessory bulbs on a $40,000+ car is beyond me. Here’s before the install…

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And after. So much brighter with a nice white tint.

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Even shows up on the backup camera.

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To wrap up here, I’ll share a moment when my inner “red-neck” came out. I sold a leftover rear underbody spoiler from the Accord, and I had the challenge to drive it to UPS for shipment. Since Acura doesn’t allow the rear seats to fold down, I just stuffed the box as far in the trunk as it would go, and then taped the trunk down to the box. I then had a rather amusing/white-nuckle drive through town with 4ft of box sticking out with some microfiber rags taped on the edges to warn motorists there’s an idiot transporting something half the length of his car. Hey, it worked!

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The backup camera was temporarily useless…

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