Sunday, 10 November 2013

Proper Finished Leather Cleaning and Care

Section through finished leather - Diagram by Advanced Leather Solutions

Proper Finished Leather Cleaning and Care

Leather care has always been a highly controversial subject.  The main reason for this is due to the lack of advancements in the chemistry of products.  The vast majority consist of outdated products and techniques that were used 25 years ago.  These products were the only chemicals and methods available during that time period and were derived from products used in other industries and applications. 

 This creates a great deal of confusion for the consumer.  Many of the products sold are produced solely from the standpoint of making a sale.  This has established a poor reputation within the industry, and causes many people to conclude that it’s a waste of time and money since these products do not work as expected. 
Over the five decades I've been involved with detailing the materials and production methods that are used for automotive leather upholstery have changed; and we need to adapt our product usage and application methodologies to change with them

My best advise; research other options and products, test them and then make an objective decision based upon factual information, not hype or brand loyalty. After all, how can you fully understand and properly use any product unless you have all the facts? I would also strongly suggest that you verify any information that I or anyone else shares with you.

Correct information regarding the care of leather is scarce, often contradictory, misleading, or simply wrong. Misinformation can lead to inadvertent damage to your vehicles leather upholstery; my goal is to present clear, concise, accurate information.

There is a great deal of conflicting information on leather care  being put out by leather experts themselves who recommend the same products and techniques be used regardless of the leathers finish or use baffling pseudo scientific techno speak as another marketing ploy, Furniture, Motorcycle, Equestrian and Automobile leather are all different type of leather finishes and require different care. You do need to understand some of the basic chemistry behind the tanning and be able to differentiate between the various finishes applied to automotive leather in able to understand how to renovate, clean or care for them, one size fits all is a vendor myth

All of which makes it difficult to find a definitive, unbiased answer. Using the correct product is important in order to protect your car’s interior. If you keep your cars’ interior clean, you can easily save your car for a good couple of years and it can stay in a ‘like-new’ condition, and maintain a better re-sale value. Cleanliness is one of the major things buyers look for when purchasing a vehicle. There are several finished leather upholstery cleaners available, which need to be used in accordance to the type of finished leather used in for your vehicles upholstery.

That is why it is imperative, that if you are concerned about the results you wish to achieve, you must perform a bit of research into finding the products suitable for your requirements.

After various meetings and discussions with leather tanners, their research and development teams, chemists and fat liquoring formulators and many leather care product manufacturers I've gained an understanding of this versatile material on both a practical and scientific level.

It had always confounded me that such a simple subject has been made into something so complicated. I have always thought that the more facts and information you have at hand the easier it is to judge what information you are being given. After all, how can you fully understand and properly use any product unless you have all the facts? In the final analysis; it’s your vehicle, your hard earned money and your choice

Materials Technology

Automotive OEM technology is becoming more and more complex requiring educated and skilled technicians to work on them. As the materials used are constantly changing we must maintain our knowledge base and utilize the correct products and application methodologies to keep up with emerging technologies.

Automobile manufacturers have blurred the distinguishing lines on what exactly leather is. There are many so-called ‘leathers’ that are actually the bottom split (the fibrous part of the hide) which are covered with a vinyl or urethane coating.

Diagnosis is the key, not guess work. Before deciding on what products to use, you need to ascertain the grade of leather and the type of leather finish applied.

Automotive leather and finished leather surfaces have undergone major technological improvements over the past decade. The leather used for automotive upholstery is finished leather; the ‘finish’ applied to the leather hide is a pigmented (colour) urethane protective layer and a clear abrasion resistant topcoat.

This type of leather has an aqueous (water- based) urethane pigmented (coloured) coating, think of it as a urethane paint  applied on top of the leather, and then a clear top coat is applied, o you are not actually touching the leather. The coating gives the leather more durability and protection. It is also much easier to clean. Finished leathers make up almost all auto leathers. Just because leather has a top coat doesn't mean it is any less desirable.

Be cognizant that the leather and finishes used for automotive upholstery varies from leather industry standard descriptions and although the names are similar the type of leather, pigmentation and finish are often very different.  So it is very important to be able to recognise the various finishes and materials used by OEM’s as they all require different methodologies and products for proper care and maintenance.
One size fits all' is a vendor propagated myth. If it’s good enough for Rolls Royce and Ferrari leather it must be good enough for my vehicles upholstery too - nothing could be further from the truth.

Automobile model ranges use different materials for their vehicles interiors; leather upholstery like Aniline Immersion Dyed, Aniline Micro Pigmented, (Urethane) Finished, Artificial leather such as MB-Tex and unfinished materials like Synthetics and Alcantara, and sometimes combinations of products (Alcantara seat inserts on leather seating) as well as various grades of leather hide, full-grain, top-grain and split –grain (which is protected with urethane) all of which require different products and applications methods

Leather Tanning Process

All cowhides are naturally oily, unfortunately, these natural oils are stripped away in the tanning process, which is the process that renders the hide invulnerable to decay and some equivalent oils must be re-introduced after tanning. This last tanning step, the replacement of oils, is called "fat liquoring." Over the centuries, a number of oils have been found that have a natural affinity for leather fibres.

Every leather tanner has his own, unique, blend of tanning oils. These formulas are closely held secrets, passed down through generations; they are neither volatile nor migratory, this is the origin of the new car ‘leather smell’. This is one reason why one company's leather can have a totally different feel, fragrance, texture and softness from another company's product (See article “Fat Liquoring”)

Leather Hides
Raw hides have four main parts - an epidermis, grain, corium and flesh
Two of these layers, the epidermis (which is a thin protective layer of cells during the life of an animal) and the flesh are removed during tanning by a process called liming.

This leaves just the grain and the corium, the parts that are used for automotive leather upholstery .The grain layer is made of collagen and elastin protein fibres and its structure varies quite a bit depending on the age, breed and lifestyle of the animal. The grain carries many distinctive marks such as insect bites, growth marks and wound scars giving the leather a unique appearance.

The corium is packed with collagen protein fibres, arranged in larger bundles and interwoven to give the structure great strength, excellent elasticity and durability. In the tanning process these fibres and impregnated with collagens that are designed to hold them together and keep them supple. Much of the suppleness of leather comes from its moisture content. After tanning the skin is protected with a thin pigmented (colour) urethane and then a clear topcoat.
The thickness of the corium increases with age which is why calfskins are thinner, smoother and softer than the hides of mature animals. Hides from cows are smoother, thinner and softer than the hides of mature male bull hides which are thick, tough, course grained and very strong.

When corium fibres lose moisture they shrink, when they are hydrated with water moisture they swell. The best way to care for finished leather and to keep wrinkles to a minimum is to keep the leather properly hydrated and avoid, as much as possible, these shrinking and swelling cycles. Keeping leather hydrated only requires a regular wipe down with a damp cotton towel

Proper surface care
Is all about knowing the properties of the surface you want to treat and what product contains the correct formulation of ingredients best suited for that surface.

Leather finishes are a very chemically complex material, and if the product is incompatible with it in any way, it can exert a damaging effect: finish peeling, finish cracking, colour transfer ("crocking"), yellowing, and general degradation are some of the problems that can be caused by the application of an improperly formulated, incompatible leather treatment product.

The urethane used for finished leather is classified as a semi-solid, micro structured membrane, therefore it is not sealed per se, being a polymer (elastomers) it remains flexible while retaining its tensile strength, to enable it to expand and contract to follow temperature fluctuations (elongation) of the substrate. It also has micro-pores that allow transpiration (evaporation and hydration) which is the the passage of water vapour through a membrane or micro pore, they are not sealed per se.
Automobile Interior Environment
The interior environment of an automobile can be extremely demanding on any material used. Temperatures range from hot dry summer days, to freezing nights.
Both high and low humidity, even air conditioning that cools, but also dries. Leather's greatest enemies are; sun, heat, body oils, perspiration (that contains urea as well as organic salts and acids) and body heat, which causes acids to become more aggressive and alters the viscosity of oils, allowing them to permeate the leathers finish, and ultra violet radiation (UV), which dries the hide, fades the colour by bleaching, and can cause the leather to fail by drying out the fibres causing the urethane and / or the hide to crack.

Vehicle upholstery leather must allow hydration (transpiration and evaporation of moisture); otherwise it will become less supple and the finish will be subject to cracking.  Hydration is simply the replacement of moisture and can be introduced via any perforated areas or places where the leather is joined together with stitching. These punctures in the surface coating are natural release areas where the leather begins to lose its moisture, especially in hot / dry environments

Finished Leather
There is a great deal of conflicting information on leather care being put out by leather experts themselves who use baffling pseudo scientific techno speak as another marketing ploy, which makes it difficult to find a definitive, unbiased answer. Here is one definitive truth –you are dealing with the leathers finish, not the hide itself.

The use of oils, replacement of fat liquor, oil-based conditioning, proteins or the adjustment of pH levels is totally unnecessary; the surface is a urethane that contains pigmentation (colour) it neither needs or benefits from any of the above. (See the article “Leather Upholstery Type Surface Identification”)

Most leather surfaces in high-end vehicles such as Porsche, Ferrari, Bentley, Lamborghini, etc. require much different care than on other vehicles that are main stream.
The quality of the leather these vehicles are much finer and using harsh chemical to clean the leather will prematurely wear the leather. Wearing down protective UV coating, pulling out dye from the hide, and attracting more dirt due to oils in the product, are just a few symptoms of using inferior products not intended for this grade of leather.
Unless a Premium Leather option was purchased finished leather upholstery is used by 95% as OEM in modern (post ’95) automobiles and virtually 100% of leather upholstery in American and Asian-manufactured vehicles. Coated leather is a product where a urethane surface coating is applied to the leather substrate.
Urethane doesn’t require conditioning or rejuvenation
What is meant by ‘finished leather?’
Finished leathers make up almost all auto leather upholstery. It comprises a multi stratum acrylic and polyurethane resin binder system covering over the leather hide; the top strata are the surface pigmentation (colour) and an abrasion resistant urethane is used to improve flexibility, fastness and adhesion to the leather and then a top coat is applied for protection (just like auto paint where a clear coat is applied to protect the colour coat).

This type of finish has an aqueous (water- based) resilient, clear thermoplastic urethane pigmented (coloured) coating. Think of it as urethane paint applied on top of the leather, and then a clear top coat is applied. The coating gives the leather more durability and protection. It is also much easier to clean.
Isocyanate based ethyl carbamate CO (NH2) OC2H5 is a thermoplastic polyurethane film that is impregnated with plasticizers; they generally remain supple for quite a long time. When the plasticizers eventually migrate into the atmosphere, there is nothing that can be done to re-soften these materials. This type of finish is used for automobile finished leather upholstery and is used by 95% as OEM in modern (post 1995) automobiles. It comprises a multi stratum acrylic and polyurethane resin binder system covering over the leather hide; the top strata are the surface pigmentation (colour) and an abrasion resistant urethane is used to improve flexibility, fastness and adhesion to the leather.

Two or three aqueous (water- based) pigmented base coat are applied, and then finally a clear aqueous (water- based) top coat is applied as the final stage of the finishing process, which usually includes additives to give it a soft feel (patina) and abrasion resistance, as well as a limited amount of ‘slide’ to assist in entering and exiting the vehicle 
 It also has micro-pores that allow evaporation and hydration (the passage of water vapour through a membrane or pore) they are not sealed per se. Oils are not compatible with water-based pigmented urethane coatings and their molecules are too large to permeate, so they remain on the surface to be removed by clothing

Water vapour easily penetrates both non-coated and finished leather, which causes the collagen fibres (fibres) to swell. This makes leather very soft, but be cognizant that it will become highly prone to abrasion damage; it would be prudent to use a cleaner that contains a surfactant that emulsifies contaminants to minimize the need for abrasion.

Real leather has a recognizable fragrance that is missing from polyurethane protected finished leather. Simple cleaning and protection steps that will prolong the life of finished leather; urethane doesn’t require conditioning or rejuvenation

Modern tanning and coating processes leave leather dynamic and self-regulating with regard to the moisture content therein. Repetitive heat cycling causes the leather to lose moisture, resulting in the formation of creasing or surface cracks, which further leads to the leather shrinking; however the urethane remains stable, which may lead to delamination,

Surface Protection
A leather protection product is essential as it will protect the surface finish and makes dirt easier to clean off. The latest technology leather upholstery does not make the interior "maintenance free," as some car dealerships imply.

It does however extend the life of leather interiors, significantly reduces wear on leather bolsters, seams, stitching etc at entry/exit points in the vehicle. With leather, it is much easier to practice prevention than it is to try to resolve major challenges after the fact

Protection is an essential element in leather care, inhibiting abrasive dirt / grit, brought in from the outside via the A/C system and stains from being absorbed. This water-based product is made for protecting leather much like wax protects paint; by being a sacrificial barrier to contamination and potential damage. Its primary purpose is to act as sacrificial barrier between the leather surface and any soils that may settle on it, making maintenance cleaning easier.

Proper Leather Care

Basic 3- Step Leather Care
1.      Clean
2.      Hydrated
3.      Protected

Many of the following statements are controversial and disagree with popular leather care practices.
I've found that some leather care myths are deliberately perpetuated by the industry, especially those on the use of oil based leather conditioners and others are just common errors of judgment. Here is the inside story that the manufacturers of leather care products don't want you to know.

While popularity can sometimes be a reliable barometer, it isn't always the correct choice for choosing leather care products. Some even make their decision based on new car’s leather fragrance alone.
 My best advise; research other options and products, test them and then make an objective decision based upon factual information, not hype or brand loyalty.

The most important consideration in leather care is to identify the finish of leather used. Once you've correctly identified the leather and / or the applied finish applicable to your vehicle's upholstery, it’s easier to select suitable products / methods (one size fits all is just a vendor's marketing myth)

First you need to identify the material and finishes used; Aniline dyed  or Pigmented, Protected or Coated, Alcantara®, Synthetic or Vinyl; BMW and Mercedes Benz  use all of these leather finishes for their model range and in some instances a combination. Different types of leather require specific cleaning and care and therefore require a slightly different process.

Using an incorrect product could damage the finish; check your 'leather type' before attempting to clean or apply any products to its surface.

Finish leather Cleaning / Care
Identifying characteristics - this type of surface; it will also have an even shine.
The water-drop absorbency test- water drops will ‘bead’ on the surface
Absorbency rate –Extremely low

Most all purpose cleaners (APC) contain caustic soda or caustic potash, theses chemicals are also used in paint removers, so at high enough concentration, they will damage uncoated or finished leather. It would be diligent to use products specifically formulated to treat finished leather that contain special cleaners that remove oxidation, grime and acidic body oils, while maintaining the flexibility of the finish so that it remains supple, not dry and brittle.
(a) Clean - with coated leather, you are mainly dealing with urethane or similar top coat. This protective layer makes your leather seats more resilient to scratches, water and heat damage as well as other types of wear and tear, so, once that layer is worn thin, your seats are more susceptible to all types of damage. As dirt / grit and subsequent friction cause the finish to wear, oil combines with little bits of dust and dirt, acting like a fine sand paper that wears down the protective coating on your seats as you and your passengers get in and out of the vehicle. 

It’s prudent to use a surfactant system that emulsifies contaminants to minimize the need for abrasion. As we see it more clearly on a clear coat finish, abrasion will leave micro marring in the coating which creates more surface area for contaminants to bond with.

Use aqueous (water- based) foam cleaner (Leather Master™ Foam Cleaner) especially on aniline or ventilated seats. Foam encapsulates the dirt so that it can then be wiped away; allow the foam to dwell to ensure the chemicals have time to work. For ingrained soil the best results when cleaning the leather is to use a medium soft bristled brush to agitate the cleaner, this ensures a thorough cleaning.

Avoid the use of abrasive cleaners or all purpose cleaners (APC) as they may compromise the leathers urethane finish
Maintenance Cleaning - Leather Master™ Cleaner Wipes - cleans most common dirt and stains. Soft Cleaner contains a delicate detergent that can be used on your leather whatever its finish; suitable for all types of leather except Nubuck and Alcantara.

Perforated leather seating surfaces – for heated seats it’s important not to allow too much moisture to permeate the surface. Using a Swisswax (or similar) detailing brush and a diluted solution of Leather Master™ Strong Cleaner (dependant on how soiled the surfaces are) in a spray bottle ( spraying the  brush, not the seating surfaces)  using a light spray of the solution,  brush using moderate pressure in a circular motion and then wipe with a damp micro fibre towel.
Removal of accumulated soiling and layers of aged products –usually causes a shiny surface, the accumulation of dirt and old care products that become abrasive when mixed and polishes  the leather each time a person slides across the seating surface. 

To restore the surface to its original matte finish; clean finished leather surfaces using Iz einszett 'Plastik-Reiniger' an intensive, non-corrosive, non-acidic two-phase deep cleaner for urethane covered upholstery or Leather Master™ Strong Cleaner or Optimum Power Clean ™ for aniline leather, which can be diluted with distilled water to the required strength; do not apply any liquid cleaning product directly to the surface of finished leather, as it may ‘spot’ clean, leaving a lighter colour.

Apply cleaning products to a folded 100% cotton towel and then apply to the surface using light / medium pressure. Use a medium hard brush to permeate the grain, stitching and seams.

Removal of grease stains use - Leather Masters™ Leather Degreaser (check for colour fastness) this aerosol product is ideal for cleaning this type of stain as it dissolves the oils and transforms them into a powder that is more absorbent than the leather. This powder is what is wiped off, cleaning and degreasing the leather. Allow the white powder to dry fully. If the powder is drying to a yellow colour, it means that there are still a lot of oils in the leather.

Using a Medium / hard horse hair brush, or a soft sponge, spray and work the cleaner into a foam, lightly scrub surface and immediately wipe with a terry towel to remove excess moisture, especially around stitching (you may need to repeat this process).

Removal of Paint stains - emulsion (latex) paint is relatively easy to remove by using a steam cleaner to emulsify the paint, it can then be wiped away.

Oil-based paint contains solvents, which allow it to ‘key’ to the surface
·         Do not rub or use pressure on the affected area. Pat with a dry rag to gently wipe the paint away if the stain is very fresh.
·         Try to loosen the paint with a warm water compress using a 100% cotton micro fibre towel. This should soften the paint and loosen its grip on the leather so that you can gently peel it away.
·         Clear away any excess paint by abrading  the surface of dried paint with a plastic (ScrapeRite blades) or single-sided razor blade

·         Do not use paint thinner as it will cause the paint to migrate and ‘bleed’ producing a larger stain
a)      Use Leather Master™ Strong Cleaner with a 100% cotton micro fibre towel to wipe the paint off the affected area. Use a 100% cotton micro fibre towel soaked in distilled water to remove the soap. Pad gently with a dry 100% cotton micro fibre towel

b)      Or use a ‘safe’ solvent (Cliptone GT14 Safety Solvent Cleaner) on a clean 100% cotton micro fibre towel pat, this will break up the compounds of the paint, and make it easier to wipe off. Do not rub affected area otherwise it will thin out and may spread the paint.

·         Use Leather Master™ Soft Touch (ex Soft Vital) on a clean 100% cotton micro fibre towel, this is also recommended if the stain is fresh. Gently spread (do not rub or use pressure) the on the stain. Wait for a  few minutes, and then gently pad the spot lightly with a dry 100% cotton micro fibre towel

Grey Ultra Soft Upholstery Brush

For extremely soiled finished leather - use a Griot's 3- inch random orbital polisher and a random orbital brush attachment. Grey Ultra Soft Upholstery Brush - this brush is designed for delicate carpet and upholstery. Each bristle is split in to multiple fine tips (fits Porter Cable 7424, Griot's Random Orbital Polishers as well as the Cyclo, all have a 5/16", 24 thread shaft / spindle diameter.

The brush has a connector (5/16-inch UNF 24 thread) which screws directly into listed orbital polishers. To attach these brushes to your Porter Cable 7424 or Griot's Garage 6 Inch Random Orbital Polisher, remove the backing plate using the wrench included with the machines.

Screw the brushes into the machine and tighten thoroughly. Use with 1z einszett Vinyl Deep Cleaner (Plastik Reiniger) or Leather Master™ Strong Cleaner, using very little applied pressure. Apply product to a 100% cotton towel (do not apply direct to the surface as it may ‘spot’ clean) starting from the top of the seating surface work down. Using the orbital and the correct brush attachment, using little to no pressure at speed # 3-4, work the cleaner into the surface.

 Once surface is clean, use a clean, damp 100% cotton towel to remove residue (do not over wet surfaces)

                        (b) Hydration – s simply the replenishment of lost moisture, finished leather will absorb water vapour but it doesn't readily absorb liquid, so rain will not harm it and a damp cloth can be used to keep it clean. A leather hide consists of Water 60-65%, Protein 25-30% and Fats 5-10%. As water molecules are smaller than the ones used in the polyurethane top coats, so it can permeate the finish in vapour form. This is essential to restore the suppleness and maintain leathers natural flexibility and keeps the leather at its optimum physical performance level, along with softness and strength.

Repetitive heat cycling causes the leather to lose moisture, resulting in the formation of creasing or surface cracks, which may lead to the leather contracting; however the urethane remains stable, which may lead to it delaminating.

A regular wipe down with a damp towel on a regular basis is all you need to condition and / or hydrate finished leather, and  by using aqueous (water- based) products that do not contain oils and/or waxes, check the label if they do then don't use them. Leather should be hydrated on a regular basis and is somewhat climate dependent.

Monthly hydration of leather upholstery in most southern states; Florida, Texas and Arizona, and etc especially during the summer months, would not be out of line

            (c)  Patina (softness or hand) - used to ensure the finished leather remains soft and supple; Leather Master™ Soft Touch (ex Vital) - this is not a conditioner per se; it contains polymers in an aqueous emulsion and is used to improve and maintain the tactile feel and lustre by rehydration and to ensure the leather remains matte, soft and supple. It can also be used when doing repair work to help soften the area being worked on and to dilute some of the pigments, helping them to permeate.
Allow product to dry for approx one hour

Recommend usage 6-12 times a year or as required. Apply a small amount to dry 100% cotton micro fibre towel, allow product to remain for 20-30 minutes and then wipe surface with a dry 100% cotton micro fibre towel.

For revitalizing older leathers and also to improve the feel of stiff leathers it’s better to apply several thin layers than a heavy application and to gently massage it into the surface. It sometimes helps to apply a gentle heat (hair dryer, infra red lamp) to the surfaces, or by leaving the vehicle to benefit from the suns radiation for an hour or so

(d) Protection - is essential as it will protect the surface finish (Leather Master™ - Protection Cream) as a sacrificial layer; this way you are not actually cleaning the Leather's original surface, but cleaning from the surface of the protection. It also makes dirt easier to clean off and provides some ‘insurance against stains. This does not mean that cleaning becomes unnecessary, but it will be more effective and cleaning products can be less aggressive and still achieve good results.

Leather Protection will also work to remove small surface scratches on finished leathers. In general, Leather Protection Cream is used as a final step in combination with most of the Leather Master products.

Leather Master™ - Protection Cream (a Scotchgard™ type product specifically formulated for lather) the polymers penetrate the surface of finished leather and cross-link to form a durable protective film that is breathable, allowing transpiration and keeps the leather supple. Being aqueous (water- based) it restores moisture to finished leather and provides a protective sacrificial barrier against all kinds of soiling, water, oil, alcohol-based stains and perspiration marks, so you are cleaning the protective layer

Ultra violet (UV) protection - 303® Aerospace Protectant - is water based and will provide invaluable ultra violet (UV) radiation protection against photo degradation (fading) protection; especially in a roadster or convertible vehicles. It doesn’t contain silicones, so it won't attract and capture dust. You should apply to a clean surface (it contain only very minimal cleaning agents) 

It will not prevent finished leather hydration (transpiration and evaporation of moisture) as it’s water-based, although it coats the leather with a micro fine coating; it will not seal it per se.

Note: this product does NOT air dry.  Use a second dry cloth to finish the application process.  Extra buffing with at dry cloth increases bonding, repellency and durability

The hides used for automobile upholstery are treated with fat liquor and then sealed at the tannery. The only 'conditioning' required for finished leather upholstery is hydration; oil-based products cannot permeate the finish (urethane pigmentation or covering) that is used in 95% plus of modern automobiles, urethane doesn’t require conditioning or rejuvenation.

Modern automotive leather upholstery use a completely different tanning  processes and finishing system, utilizing advanced polymers and chemicals (urethane doesn’t require conditioning or rejuvenation) and as a consequence  they do not need to be treated with aftercare products containing oils or proteins. To their benefit, they can leave the urethane finished leather feeling nice and supple, but they cannot permeate and provide the necessary hydration

The ‘ perfect’ solution; is a water based formulation; water molecules are smaller than the ones used in the polyurethane top coats, so it can permeate through in vapour form, deep into the leather hide. Something that is essential to restore the suppleness and maintain leathers natural flexibility. And being water based also allows the leather surface to breathe; alleviating all the drying properties oils and other sealing products can create.
Oils and soft plastics (polymers, acrylics and urethanes) are not compatible; repeated application on to finished leather can cause the break-down of cross-linking and binding agents.

Oil accelerates the deterioration of urethane over time, along with abrasion that break down the binder system of the pigmented (polymer) coating and the leather will begin to deteriorate, so it is crucial to stop this from happening, which can be done with regular cleaning and a protection product applied to the surface.
If used on a regular basis they can damage the top coat of the leather. Most actually do the opposite of what they claim, by damaging the coating, and making it vulnerable to accelerated wear and even de-laminating. So it initially feels nice and soft on the outside, but it is being killed by the products permeating into the coating and disrupting the structure

As the materials used are constantly changing we must maintain our knowledge base and utilize the correct products and application methodologies to keep up with emerging technologies.
It is very important to be able to recognise the various finishes and materials used as they all require different methodologies and products for proper care and maintenance.

            Note: Apply all finished leather care products with a 100% cotton micro fibre towel

Leather pH
The pH value of leather is purely academic and of little, if any value with regard to its care. Leather is very different from fabric and its cleaning and care is very different, specific water-based products have been formulated, which have the correct pH values for the job they are designed for. If for some reason you consider using a non-specific leather care product ensure that its pH value is neither too acidic nor too alkaline

The key to maintaining the original look and feel of your car's leather interior is learning which type of leather finish you have and using the leather care product made for that type of leather. When you use the correct combination, maintenance is simple and you'll get to enjoy your leather for many years.

Always keep in mind that you’re dealing with the finished coating on the leather and not with the leather hide itself

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Long Term (Winter) Vehicle Storage

With the Concours d’élégance and racing season wrapped up and the temperature beginning to drop, it is time to start thinking about what you are going to do with your vehicle.  Many of you will drive your car over the winter months; many others will store your vehicle for the winter. Information on storing your car will not apply to all, especially those in the sunny southern states. However, if you plan to store your car during the winter months, this is a must read.

Ranging from a convertible that's reserved for sunny days to a vehicle who’s owner has store it due to an overseas assignment; for whatever reason, it only requires a few precautions to ensure that it is preserved and will be operational after it’s in winter hibernation All cars hate to sit idle, so don't expect to top off the fluids and drive out of the garage. Also, notify your insurance company that you are storing the vehicle and tell them to make adjustment to the policy. A little work now can protect a vehicle from rust, animals and other storage-related headaches. To help vehicle owners keep their stored vehicles in good shape, here are a few storage tips.

Place several boxes of rodent killer (d-CON) around the car, both inside and out, in the trunk and under the hood. Rodents due to their size (3or 4 inches long) are able to squeeze into many small places where they leave droppings, urine or nest and sometimes die. The areas to check would be the engine heat shield, exhaust pipes, heater box opening, and glove box, under dashboard and seats, door storage, the center console bumper covers and the trunk. 

Vehicle Storage

1.       As a barrier protection from foundation dampness; place a plastic sheet under to the vehicle to avoid dampness capillary action and it will also form a moisture barrier.
2.       Some cars have a storage switch or fuse that can be tripped to keep things like dome lights and non-essential systems from needlessly draining the battery. Check the owner's manual for the switch location or special fuse location.

3.       Change the oil and filter.
4.       Replace brake fluid with DOT 3
5.       Do not drain the fuel tank, as an empty tank will cause condensation and it will start to rust! Top off fuel tank, then pour Stabil into the tank and run it for a few minutes (to get it into the fuel lines) If you don't cycle your fuel through the tank every two months, it starts an oxidation process and will turn into varnish over time, this can clog your fuel lines, One ounce protects three gallons of any type of fuel.
6.       Release the fuel system pressure by removing the relay and allow the engine to run until it stalls and then replace the relay
7.       Top off coolant with a 50/50 water and corrosion inhibitor and fill all fluids
8.       Spray distributor with WD-40
9.       Protect the paint, give the vehicle a good washing, dry it thoroughly and then apply an oil rich polish, buff the polish and then apply a second coat but do not buff
10.    Clean the interior of the car, apply a generous coating of Leather Master’s Protection to all leather surfaces, and use a box of DampRid moisture absorbing products, also leave a bar of scented soap under the seats (vermin don't like the smell)
11.    Apply Wurth HHS-2000 clear spray lubricant to seat rails and sunroof guide rails
12.    Apply a conditioner to `rubber' weather stripping (Zymol Seal)
13.    Close trunk, and hood, and stuff the exhaust so as mice do not enter, steel wool works better than rags as they cannot chew or use it for nesting material.
14.    Close windows but leave a small gap to ensure rubber seals are not completely flattened, same for doors, close to first `click'
15.    Over inflate the tyres (50psi) and put car on Tyre Cradles to avoid flat spots; cars with low profile tires will flat spot. It is a rule of thumb that if your car's tires have an aspect ratio of 50 or less, they will flat spot.
16.    Do not place car jacks as these will unload the suspension and may do harm. Some vehicles should not be stored with the suspensions unloaded (check with manufacturer)
17.    Store the car in gear; do not apply the emergency brake.
18.    Remove sparkplugs and inject a little oil down into each of the cylinders.
19.    Remove the battery, clean and store separately (the myth about storing a battery on concrete is just that, a myth) coat the terminals with Wurth battery and terminal cleaner, do the same thing with the cable terminals, coat battery hold down bolts with WD40.
20.    Disconnecting the battery will cause the radio pre-sets and the seat position memory to be lost. Once the battery is re-connected the engine control unit (ECU) will reset automatically (a good thing to do occasionally anyway)

 Alternatively use a Deltran Battery Tender®, a fully automatic two-stage lead acid battery charger, lightweight, compact size, trickle charger that assures batteries are maintained after charging. Ideal for all lead-acid, sealed maintenance free and gel cell batteries. After full 14.4 VDC charge is reached, converts to float charger and monitors battery at 13.2 volts. When voltage drops below 12.6 VDC, charger resumes charging back to 14.4 VDC, a two-colour LED indicator, Spark-proof; reverse polarity protected, twelve-foot output cord and quick-connect harness. Comes with a set of quick disconnect clamps and rings

21.    Cover the car with a good quality cotton car cover. If you are storing the vehicle outside use a UV sunshade on the windshield and rear window, plus a car cover
22.    Store convertibles with the top up; convertible tops can actually shrink if they are left in the down position, for an extended period of time.
23.    Inspect the vehicle from time to time and check to ensure that the DampRid is still operational

Vehicle Storage Cover
Sometimes having a safe, dry, cosy place to keep your car, truck or SUV adequately protected is not enough. A Kimberly-Clark Corporation Dustop™ car cover can be your answer by protecting your vehicle from some of the things you can't control.
Dirt & Dust Resistance - 10
UV Sun Resistance - 0
Dent & Ding Resistance - 10
Moisture Resistance - 0
Durability Strength - 7
Material Breathability – 10

This car covers are designed as a good solution for storing your vehicle indoors. There are a total of 4 layers that make up this fabric. The first two layers are polypropylene/polyethylene and act as outer protection for your vehicle against dings, dents, scratches and heat. PP offers excellent strength and stability, while PE brings superior softness. Combined, they form a soft barrier that protects your car when bumped or something is dropped on it. When temperatures rise, this outer combination can also keep the surface and interior of the vehicle much cooler.

The top two layers of the car cover can prevent sharp claws from cats and other animals that have been known to rest on your investment from scratching the painted finish. The third is a melt blown polypropylene film that traps dirt and dust and prevents it from getting to your vehicle.

Tests have demonstrated that multiple layer materials are more effective than one layer woven fabrics at keeping dirt and dust out. This is an important factor in keeping the finish of your car, truck or SUV always looking its best. Finally, the fourth layer or inner layer is a soft, high-loft spun bound composite that pampers and protects your vehicle's finish.

·         4-ply developed by Kimberly-Clark and made in the U.S.
·         Soft flannel-like fabric designed as our "best" indoor cover
·         Nearly dirt and dustproof, keeping vehicle surface clean
·         Breathable characteristic allows for moisture evaporation
·         4-ply material provides ultimate ding and scratch protection
·         Mold and mildew-resistant to protect delicate car finishes

Caring for your Car Cover
By regularly cleaning your Dustop™ car cover you can prevent the "fogging" effect from occurring on your vehicle's windows.

a)      Machine wash - begin by inserting the cover in the washer allowing the warm water to fill then proceed to add ¼ cup laundry detergent. Run the rinse cycle twice to get all the detergent rinsed out. Allow cover to air dry before placing back on vehicle or storing. A large commercial washer without an agitator can also be used to wash your car cover.

1.      Remove your washing machine's agitator before washing your Dustop™ car cover.
2.      Do not use a fabric softener on a Dustop™ car cover.
3.      Air Dry ONLY.

b)      Hand wash - leave your Dustop cover on your vehicle. Mix an ounce of mild dishwashing liquid per quart of warm water. Spray or sponge soapy water onto your car cover and clean with sponge or soft bristle brush. Rinse with plain water until no suds are evident and allow to air dry. Only store cover when completely dry.

Engine Start Up
·         When time comes to start the engine, pull the fuel pump relay/fuse and crank the engine without it getting any fuel for a while to prime the lubrication system/circulate the oil. This will avoid washing down dry cylinder walls with fuel before it starts up.

·         Remove the steel wool from the exhaust pipes
·         Run the vehicles air conditioning system for a few minutes and check for leaks and / or loss of refrigerant as the seals may be dry

·         Assuming you heated up the car to full operating temp after changing the oil and filter (pre-storage) at start-up there should be only minimal deposits and contamination.
·         Fill the stored car with low viscosity oil during storage and if possible start the engine occasionally to ensure the oil and water gets a chance to circulate

·         Drain the oil system and before replacing the oil and filter fill it with oil as this will enable oil priming upon start up and prevent dry cranking