Ask yourself a quick question: do you care about your car’s appearance? Alright, let’s ask another: do you care about your appearance? The reason I’m choosing to probe a little is for a tiny bit of self reflection - in more ways than one.
If you’re the kind of guy or gal that cares about their outward appearance (Really, it’s entirely fine if you do. It’s normal, in fact), then you’re also likely to care about the way your car looks. In today’s society of the curated lifestyle, some accurate, and others not so much (ahem, Instagram?), we’re all acutely aware of the outward projections we let inform other’s opinion of us. And my point is: if our personality, fitness, grooming, and clothes play a substantial role in our personal ‘brand’, it would spoil the broth if the car we pull up in was a messy, smelly, muddied up cacophony of metal.
Some of us have the erroneous notion of car care being a waste of time, and that it would indeed take up a lot of those precious minutes, not to mention a pretty penny. Having to exit your car and wait for your car’s turn to get that needed wash and clean up. But there’s an easier way: do it yourself.
It’s not very hard. Actually, I’d struggle to call it hard at all. 3M - the conglomerate known for their adhesives, post-it notes, hardware, and electronic products - have launched a line of car care products, available for purchase at AEON and Ace Hardware outlets. We have their kit that consists of a spray-on car wax (3M Auto Essentials Wax, RM39.90), a spray-on leather and vinyl restorer (3M Auto Essentials Leather and Vinyl Restore, RM45.90), and a spray-on tyre shine and conditioner (3M Auto Essentials Tire Shine, RM42.90). Have their easy method of application made car care accessible to the average lazy-ish mortal, such as myself?
From here, I’ll run through my experience with applying the products onto my own car, a 2007 Proton Gen2, one by one and, crucially, how they fared under the blistering hot Malaysian sun and its sudden late-year Klang Valley rainstorms. My car has been through a lot these past eight years, so it’ll be interesting to find out if these products can bring back some of that showroom lustre. What follows may or may not be the result of incompetent interpretation of the product’s recommended procedures for proper usage.
3M Auto Essentials Wax
Obviously, the first order was to get the car shiny. According to the products usage instructions, I had the car washed, albeit cheaply at one of those machine-operated automatic car wash joints. Upon returning home, I quickly hosed the car down again and let it air dry for about 3 minutes.
Then I sprayed on the Wax (perhaps too generously) over a specific body panel and rubbed it in with that all-too familiar circular pattern using the included microfibre cloth, taking my time to make sure I was thorough enough to leave no spots untreated and repeated the steps for until the entire car was wiped clean. That was it. Simple. In all, I took around 15 minutes to cover the whole car in Wax. Should your movements be more graceful than mine, 10 minutes is possible.
Cleaning requires patience to cover all areas
When I was done, the car definitely had that extra level of sheen the RM5 car wash could not provide and, more importantly, once left to set, felt much smoother under the finger, confirming there’s now an extra layer of protection against the elements to lock in that glimmer. That evening, there was a very brief thunderstorm, the kind with more lightning than actual raindrops.
That night came a long with a bout of rain. And after intentionally leaving my car exposed until morning, the shine was still there. Upon inspecting my car on the soggy gravel of my driveway, there was a surprising lack of droplets on the car’s surface, most of them all having slid off upon contact.
The weather became annoyingly wet and miserable over the next four or five days but my Waxed-up Gen2 was still holding its shine. Yes, it wasn’t as fresh as it was upon application, but that clean look was still noticeable.
3M Auto Essentials Leather and Vinyl Restore
This one was a little trickier. Cleaning a car’s interior is usually the bane of the fastidious car owner that’s bent on having his or her car as clean as possible for as long as possible, but is also kind of slothful. It requires patience, finesse, even flexibility to reach and properly clean the many recesses of a car’s cabin. Frankly, I was questioning how a spray-on liquid could be of any help to this. Gingerly, I started to clean.
Miracles this product does not provide. It won’t help you magically clean narrow interior bits without having to contort your body, but once that inevitable and undignified position is managed, the Restore formula made quick work of most dirtied nooks. More accessible areas such as the interior door panel were easier to clean, and were given a shiny, if slippery finish and even a citrusy scent.
Even in my rushed approach, I was able to have my old Proton’s interior looking much newer than its actual age would lead you to believe. The spray nozzle did help out, allowing me to extra reach to areas I would otherwise might have to risk pulling a muscle to clean with just a cloth. Cleaning a car’s interior, especially the areas not usually given attention, are still a pain in the neck, requiring initiative and real effort. But it’s less so with this product.
3M Auto Essentials Tire Shine
Next, and finally, we move on to the tyre shine. An essential tool in the amateur auto detailer’s arsenal. They come in all shapes, sizes, and widely available in even in their most modest forms. Some merely claim to provide shine, while others guarantee a healthier tyre as a bonus. Dark, shiny tyres are the quickest and surest way for any car to look clean from a distance, and even an otherwise clean car’s look can be diminished significantly by the sight of unclean, grey tyres.
3M’s shiner claims a long lasting gleam that takes it back to that showroom fresh look. Application was easy enough with the spray nozzle quickly distributing the water-based formula onto my tyre. Care should be taken to keep the liquid off the wheels, lest dust from the brakes and other grime get stuck as you’re driving along. With a few swipes of my wheel brush, I had it spread over the the entire tyre, which was soon duplicated across all four. They do provide a good shine, and has that deep black but slightly matte finish that the cheaper alternatives cannot reproduce once dried. But my question was how it fared against our tropical and temperamental weather, a concern that mirrors the Wax product.
For the sake of testing, those following days riddled with bad weather gave me ample opportunity to take liberties with deep puddles, seeing how long the shine could cling to the tyres. It took a total of three rain-soaked days to fade the tyre’s shine enough for me to want to respray them again with the 3M product. Given sunnier weather, that stretch could surely have lasted well over a week.
I’ve always been skeptical of a water-based tyre shine. I figured, somewhat logically, that it would wash off at the sight of a puddle. But 3M has fashioned a product that, while water-based, forms a protective layer that isn’t easily swayed away by water or other dirt that’s invariably encountered while driving.
These products are more expensive than the sort you’d find at your nearest Tesco, and being from 3M, you’re guaranteed a certain level of quality. In using the trio of products included in the kit, their value becomes clearer and clearer. For one, they’d last you a good long time. Perhaps the Tire Shine will drain quicker than the other two, especially if you’re like me and can’t stand tyres that aren’t a deep shiny black, but the Restore and Wax provides application intervals that are much farther apart, depending on how you look after your car in general.
I can foresee the Restore and Wax, in my personal case, lasting me close to a year or more with amount to spare, assuming I use them for a touch-up every month and a half. And for that longevity and ease of application, they seem quite worth their price.
They don’t take the chore of cleaning your car on your own and make it sudden a joyous activity. It’s one that still requires effort and some time set aside, but the pain of keeping a clean car is made much easier with 3M distilling the basics, the Essentials, into this kit. Literally spray and wipe in, it can’t be easier unless you pay someone else to do it. But for the owner that takes pride in the cleanliness of his or her automobile, if you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.
The finished product. The old grey girl definitely has a healthy dose of that showroom lustre it lost over the last 8 years restored. Mission accomplished.