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How to Best Maintain Your Mustang's Paint

Keeping your Mustang looking like it just rolled off the production line is no easy feat. Your Mustang’s paint and clear coat takes repeated abuse over years, slowly causing damage and deterioration as time goes on. This guide will go over ways you can protect your paint and clear coat, maintaining the appearance of your Mustang for years.

American Muscle

Washing Your Mustang

The simplest and easiest way to keep your Mustang’s paint in good health is to wash it regularly. Cleaning your Mustang often removes the road grime and scum that can accumulate on your car over a prolonged period. 

Even if you’re Mustang spends the majority of its time in the garage, every time you take your Mustang out on the street it is picking up oils, dirt, flies, bird “droppings”, and more. Left unchecked, these things will all eat away at the appearance and overall life of your paint. 

There is some debate as to the best method for washing your Mustang as even some washing methods (such as the automatic car washes) can cause very minute damage over time. Generally, “no touch” car washes are one of your better options, but nothing quite beats a gold ole fashioned hand-washing with your basic necessities (microfiber towels, sponges, soap).

Zymol Cleaning Supplies

Detailing & Waxing Your Mustang

After you finish washing your Mustang, you can take your paint protection efforts up a notch by detailing and waxing your Mustang. Detailing entails using an assortment of cleaning solutions to get your Mustang sparking fresh. To put it simply, detailing your car is going beyond a basic clean. It is a deep clean that encompasses everything including those minor details.

To really detail your paint, using a clay bar will remove the nasty dirt and tar that builds up on your paint, ultimately restoring the look and finish. Following up the clay bar, the paint should be polished to remove swirl marks and fine scratches (like those caused by minor rock chips and dings). 

To take out scratches you will want to look into a good compound. Most scratches are only on the surface or the outermost layer of the paint which is the clear coat. Most of these can be removed or at least reduced, but once a scratch goes through the clear coat and cuts into the paint there is very little you can do to make it disappear. A heavier compound may be considered to get out the tougher scratches, but for minor surface flaws, most polishing compounds will get the job done.

After all this is completed, the paint should be sealed with a coating of wax that will protect the paint and the clear coat. Depending on how much road time your Mustang sees will determine how much you need to wax your Mustang. For daily drivers, this can mean waxing your Mustang once every two weeks to a month or more.

2011 V6 Mustang on Gravel

What Kind of Wax Should I Use?

A carnauba wax is derived from a plant found mostly in South America. It is a hard material so it takes some added ingredients to make it into a paste. Carnauba will give your Mustang a nice deep luster that is unmatched amongst polymers. It will leave a “wet” look that will outshine any paint sealant. This particular wax will need to be applied more frequently than a polymer so try to preserve that showroom shine by either keeping the car in a garage or other shelter from the elements. This wax will also help shield against UV rays and causes water to just run off the surface.

A synthetic polymer is a wax primarily consisting of man-made materials, as opposed to the more natural carnauba wax. They are considerably new to the detailing scene and are made to try and imitate the glossy wet shine that a carnauba wax presents. These can be used as a light polish to remove very slight scratches and can be applied either by hand or with the use of a soft polishing wheel. High tech or new generation waxes are easy-on easy-off and won’t leave residue behind which can be a problem with some heavier waxes. Synthetic polymers are more commonly referred to as paint sealants and are easier to remove.

2015 Mustang at the SEMA Show

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Carnauba Wax Compared to a Synthetic Polymer?

Carnauba wax can be a bit pricier because of the flawless finish it produces. No shine will quite compare to a quality carnauba so in this case you get what you pay for. Detailing enthusiasts will certainly tell you there is nothing that can match the shine of a carnauba wax, but some high quality synthetics offer a unique shine of their own. Many professional detailers prefer to apply a paint sealant first—especially for darker colored cars—then a while after, apply a coat of carnauba to really make it shine.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Carnauba Wax

  • Produces a shine that cannot be beat by any synthetic polymer
  • Will make your car look its best
  • Preferred wax amongst Mustang enthusiasts
  • Does not last as long as synthetic polymers
2015-2016 Mustang Getting Prepped for Center Stage

What Are the Advantages of a Synthetic Polymer Wax Over Carnauba Wax?

There are a few good things about choosing a paint sealant or synthetic polymer instead of carnauba wax. They can come in the form of a spray that is very easy to use, and they have a higher melting point. The higher melting point is very important when applying wax to your Mustang during the hot months and particularly to dark colored cars. When wax melts it starts to make the painted parts on your Mustang appear cloudy and can be quite a task to get rid of in the heat. With the technology used today, synthetic polymers can protect a car for months especially if it is garage kept. Choosing this wax is like putting a thin coat of armor on your car’s surface. Generally, synthetic waxes offer a little less shine for a little more protection.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Synthetic Polymer Wax

  • Tend to be easier to work with
  • Are usually cheaper
  • Are formulated for specific purposes (clear coat sealant, swirl remover, etc)
  • Lasts the longest and offer more protection
  • Will not meet the shine of carnauba
2005-2009 Mustang Getting Spray Waxed

Why Wax Shines Better Than Synthetic

Traditional carnauba wax gives a great shine when applied because of its chemical composition. It has more natural components that shine when combined together. Synthetic, on the other hand, is compiled of all man-made components. When these components are mixed together, the shine is not as great as the carnauba counterpart. The trade-off is that synthetics are generally easier to work with for buffing. While both benefit the shine of a vehicle's paint, traditional wax amplifies the shine more so than synthetic, as it is the last layer between the paint and the environment.

Ceramic Coating for Mustangs

An increasing popular option for Mustang paint protection is ceramic coating the paint. Ceramic coating your car goes far beyond the capabilities of waxing as it creates a permanent clear layer of protection over your paint that can only be removed by abrasion.

Ceramic coating will give your Mustang an incredible shine that cannot be easily undone, giving you enhanced protection from thing like rock chips, scrapes, and small dings. Ceramic coating can be somewhat pricey depending upon which formula or compound you use (anywhere from $400-$3,000), but it is an investment that will pay for itself over time.

2015-2017 Mustang Getting its Louvers Polished

Mustang Car Covers

What purposes does a car cover serve? When you’re not driving your Mustang, it is just a sitting target, especially if it is outdoors. Even in a garage, your Mustang can collect dust and dirt that can get embedded in the paint, let alone run the risk of people bumping into as they walk past it.  A car cover will help protect your Mustang’s finish from the harmful effects of the suns UV rays, bird droppings, tree sap, acid rain, and other brutal weather conditions, all of which can break down modern clear coat finishes and permanently mar your car's paint. Most car covers are made from specially treated, layered materials that feature an inhibitor to prevent the growth of mildew and rot. Car covers are water resistant, but no car cover is 100% water proof. 

Types of Mustang car covers: Mustang covers are normally available in a universal fit (one size fits all) and in a custom fitted style. The nice part about custom fit covers is they are designed take into account the size and shape of your Mustang as well as the placement of your antenna and side mirrors. This all adds up to a nicer fit and better overall protection. One of the cool benefits of a car cover is it can be easily be stored out of site in your Mustang’s trunk when not in use.

Custom Fit 2015-2017 Mustang Cover

Mustang Car Bras & Paint Protectors

Car covers are great when your Mustang is sitting still in your driveway or garage, but they are no good when you’re actually out driving your car. That’s when you need a front end mask, more commonly known as a bra. A car bra covers the front fascia of your Mustang, protecting it from rock chips and dead bugs. A great option for long trips with a lot of highway driving. 

Bras are designed to attach to the front end of your Mustang with simple Velcro clips, making them very easy to remove and to re-install. They are perfect for when it’s time to wash and detail your Mustang’s pristine finish. The front end masks available are made from a durable vinyl material that features either a simulated leather grain texture or an embossed carbon fiber style finish. The underside of the bra has a soft, fleece or flannel lined backing that further protects your Mustang’s paint from dings and scratches.

Protective paint tape is also an option, but one that can be a little bit of an eye sore. Putting tape over the rear quarter panels is a necessity though before doing a burnout as it will protect your Mustangs paint from all the hot rubber that gets shredded off of your tires.

2011 GT Mustang with a Car Bra

Protection Film for your Mustang – Your Invisible Friend

Bras are great for protecting your Mustang’s front end from the hazards of every day daily driving, but some find a bra detracts from the clean aggressive body lines. In other words, they are just plain ugly. And to those people, I say protective film. Protective film is a crystal clear, high quality 3M Scotchgard material that can be applied directly to your Mustang’s painted surfaces. It acts like an invisible barrier to guard your finish from bugs, tar, stones, and other road debris and all without the hassles of a traditional automotive bra.

One of the nice things about protection film is it’s available pre-cut to fit to different body panels of your Mustang, not just to the front like a bra. Clear protection film is available for headlights, hoods, front fenders, and rear quarter panels. It’s almost like a complete, clear car cover. Another great benefit of paint protective film is it can be washed and waxed as if it wasn’t even there. Once applied to your Mustang, you can just forget about it and still be assured of years of hassle free protection.

2010-2014 Mustang Getting Touched Up
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