Friday, December 18, 2009

Auto Detailing: Mirror Finish

My wife calls it OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and gives me no end as to why I don't treat her like I do the car.  I replied "the car is for you to drive with pride and you can take care of yourself but the car can't take care of itself and OCD is Obsessive Car Detailing!"


Wet sanding and using a rotary buffer needs skill and experience in order not to damage you paint.

You may have seen many pictures of cars after being detailed on the web with jaw dropping looks. There are also many people claiming to have developed products that give you a mirror finish on your paint. The reality is that the finish that you have is basically as good as your paint condition. The color will also affect the quality of the image reflected. The darker the color the more reflective or mirror like image you will have. Black will the the choice of color for the best effect.

So what's stopping us from having a mirror finish on our cars? Well its something known as "orange peel" effect. The waviness of the surface does not allow for a mirror like finish. Most of the cars that roll out from the factory has some degree of orange peel. Even the most expensive cars that roll out from the factory has some degree of orange peel. So how do you get an orange peel free car? Well its almost impossible to get a 100% orange peel free but you will get pretty close. But you can get very close to it if you are willing to spend the money and your painter has the skill to do it. Basically to get a perfect finish you need to sand each layer of paint flat and every layer of clear coat flat. Then you would have to sand your final layer of clear coat flat as well.

How did I get the mirror finish on my 1997 Honda Civic? Well the car was repainted fully and was fixed (rear, accident) for RM1800 or ~USD500. Yes that's a super cheap paint job including the cost of fixing the accident. Well you wouldn't expect a flawless finish with that kind of price would you. That was all that I had budget for. Anyway no use in having such a perfect paint job as the car will be daily driven and will be parked everywhere, going to school, shopping malls etc.

Once I got the car back from the painter these are the steps that I took to get a mirror finish. There are other smaller steps involved like masking the car, how to actually wet sand which I will not go into detail as it is too long.

1. I used a 2000 grit sand paper and started sanding away at the paint. For those who don't know. Yes you are sanding the paint! It will look like the paint has been destroyed. Just take an old unwanted cd and just sand it with 2000 grit sand papepr until it becomes blur. Yes that is how your car will look. I did it in the house and when my wife and kids saw the car they said you have spoiled a newly painted car! An example of a video can be found below.

2. Once you have finished wet sanding the car. The next step is to use a rotary polisher/buffer. Why a rotary? Because doing it by hand, orbital buffer or dual action buffer/polisher will not work as it is not aggressive enough to remove and polish the sanded clear coat.

What I used was a rotary buffer with a wool pad and the choice of compound was Osren Crystal Cut 3.0. You can use any brand you like as long as it works for the type of clear coat that you have as some clear coats are harder than others. Obviously different brands and type of compounds will work differently with different foam pads and wool pad combinations. So that is your choice and what works well with your clear coat. I used a wool pad and Osren Crystal Cut 3.0 as it cuts fast to bring the shine back with minimal swirl and compounding scratches.

3. Polishing, removing swirls and compounding scratches. In this step I used the rotary buffer with a black fine finishing foam pad and Osren Crystal Cut 3.0 as the choice of polish. Yes for those who are experienced, my cutting/compounding agent is the same as my polishing agent. The only difference is the pad. That's why I chose to use Osren Crystal Cut 3.0 as it is a really good product which does compound cutting and polishing. But the trick is that you have to be good at using the rotary buffer in order not to add any scratches and swirls, your choice of foam pad has to be fine and soft. Once you have finished the step you would have noticed by now you would have a mirror like finish!

So what gives you the mirror like finish? Yes you got it, wet sanding, cutting/compounding and polishing. Its NOT the PRODUCT! Its the skill and the proper techniques in wet sanding and using a rotary buffer/polisher properly that will give you the mirror finish. The choice of products and pad combination is really up to you and are limitless. So no product that I have seen can give you a mirror like finish. It can help you get it but it will never be close to a mirror like image because the orange peel is still there and what you need is a smooth surface and not an orange peel surface. Can you image the mirror in your house is wavy and has an orange peel effect? Will any product make it look like a regular mirror? Well I doubt it.

4. You finally have your mirror finish and you are amazed by it. Now you have a mirror finish which is unprotected. So this step is all about your LSP product or Last Step Product. Here again it really comes down to personal preference. You may like to take the natural route of using carnauba. Or you would like to take the synthetic route. It really is up to you.

Here is my opinion. If you think about it for a second you have a mirror finish. You would want to protect that finish as much as you can from evil and deadly bird droppings, tar spots, unidentified stains which appear from god knows where acid rain etc. So logically synthetic wold be the wiser choice and the synthetics outlast and protects better than the natural carnauba. Unless your car is going to be a show car or a weekend car or a "perfect weather" car than carnauba will do just fine. But mine its going everywhere and everyday so carnauba ain't going to cut it. I did try carnauba and other synthetics on my car but it didn't make the reflection any better, just the color was deeper. That also tells me that what I'm looking for in a product now was durability and not a "mirror effect" as the stuff I tried didn't make it any better than it already was. Just to name a few, I did try Meguiars Klasse, Turtle Wax, Eagle 1. I tried from carnauba to polymers, to resins to acrylics. All more or less faired the same in terms of making the surface more reflective. Ask yourself this question. Can you really make your mirror shine more? So my goal was to look for durability and looks came second.

My choice of sealant is a new player in the sealant game Pompanazzi 880-X. Quartz crystal SiO2 with a hardness of 9H. This product is NOT for everyone as it takes a hell of a long time to fully cure! 7 to 10 days! Best if the coating does not come into contact with water for the first 3 days. Trying doing that in an Asian country during the raining monsoon season!
Well what I did was to buy 20mls. 20mls is plenty. Believe me! So what I did was to first apply 10mls. This is a 2 part mixture product. 1st is the active ingredient 2nd is the hardener. After mixing up my first batch of 10 mls. I started to apply in very thin coats. How thin? One dap from the bottle on a very fine micro fiber cloth is enough to coat 1/4 of the bonnet of the Civic! Now you know why 20mls is plenty. With 10mls I could coat the car 3 times over.

I applied the first coat then let to dry then buff to a shine. Then wait for a while then the 2nd coat then the 3rd. You cannot allow it to dry completely, if it does, the part which is took thick you will not be able to remove it unless you compound it off! That is how hard this stuff is. For the users who have used Klasse High Gloss Sealant. If you think removing that was difficult you don't want to let the quartz stuff fully dry before you buff. Yes! You would have to compound or polish it off! Then you would have to start all over again. So after 10mls I let cure for 10 days. Then same goes for the 2nd and final 10mls. You can watch this video of applying it here:

After letting the full 20ml or about 6 coats fully cure. The feeling of the the product is just unbelievable. Regular 2K or 2 coat paint systems usually have this plastic acrylic feel to it. But once this Pompanazzi 880-X quartz stuff fully cures it does really feel hard and smooth, more like real glass. Well the shine? This is the only product currently I have tried which has brought the shine one step further. The reflection looks much sharper, more crisp and the colors of the reflection looks much more richer. Brings the mirror finish closer to a true mirror finish. Not to mention the surface feels much more like glass and is hydrophobic as well.

In my opinion an excellent product and best product I have used so far, provided you can bear with the curing times and the application procedure.

5. Finish off with a Quick Detailer of my own formulation for everyday maintenance of the mirror finish after washing the car. The Pompanazzi 880-X quartz coating is suppose to last 2-3 years and life time with maintenance. Well I want my mirror image to last a life time so I decided to add a weekly or biweekly sacrificial layer on top of the Pompanazzi 880-X. Moreover my formulation is also hydrophobic and it adds slickness to the Pompanazzi 880-X (which it doesn't really have) which will help reduce scratches to my mirror finish even though the coating is claimed to be 9H hardness it still can be scratched easily in the "real world" with everyday driving. Below is the video of my car and its hydrophobic / water beading or water sheeting effect.

Here are some pictures of my car. The products used in the pictures are only used to illustrate the mirror finish effect and I am in no way directly or indirectly promoting or endorsing any of the products being displayed.

Image below are from the roof.


Image from the bonnet.

Image from the boot lid.

Monday, February 2, 2009

LED Night Light

HI I'm back again this time with a simple review of a night light.  There are many forms of night lights available on the market either using incandescent bulbs or LEDs, with a manual switch or ones using light sensors which switches on automatically once the room or area is dark.  I've been searching for a night light which is cheap but yet reliable.Cheap, there are many available in two dollar shops.  But most of them are the incandescent type and once the bulb fuses its almost impossible to replace the bulb.  Moreover I didn't like the look of most of them.  

So I came across this version which uses five white LEDS and comes with a manual switch and runs straight from a 240volts mains supply.  So Just plug it in and switch on.  I bought this night light from Carrefour for RM5.10 (US1.40)!  I think thats really cheap.

What got me thinking was that LEDS worked from 2-3volts DC from 20mA upwards.  So how did they create a night light in such a small package without a step down transformer?  Well the answer is in the picture below.  Just resistors and capacitors will do the job.

I was still puzzled as to how it really all worked.  Did some searching on the Internet and I found this great website.

It basically explains and shows how you can build a circuit to run your LEDs of 240volts and you can see from the circuit diagram from the website that its basically the same as this night light being reviewed.

I don't know how long the page or site will be up there, so I decided to save it on my hard disk.  For all you people who are unable to find a cheap night light and would like to DIY, hope the info in the above mentioned website was useful.  

Well this is the inside of the night light.  Simple isn't it.

As you can see there is nothing much to it but just a couple of LEDs, diodes, capacitors, resistors and a switch. The magic to all this is the BIG RED capacitor which does all the work of bringing down the voltage for the LEDs. Here's a close up of the components.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Review STR 2020 (upgraded formula)

What another fuel additive?? Yes, you read correctly.  Like it or the world and the Internet is filled with it.  Some claiming improved fuel economy, better start up, reduced emissions, better power, smoother engine,  more complete combustion, longer engine life, cleaner fuel system, less hesitation, reduced ping/detonation/preignition did I miss anything out?  I've got no idea. 
But call me a sucker for buying "snake oil" or "if its so good the oil companies would already designed it into their fuel," think what you want but you're just reading my two cents.  At the end of this you decide whether you want to try it out or not.
Firstly some back ground on the fuel additive.  It's called STR 2020.  It's made in Malaysia manufactured by Super Top Resources Sdn. Bhd. , its made from Palm oil and other additives. Recommended dosage is 1:3000. So if you have 50liters of fuel you will need 16.66mls or 100liter of fuel to 33.33mls of additive. Its really concentrated if you ask me.  Cost is RM28.00 per 280ml bottle.  For those readers in Malaysia, if you do buy a bottle make sure its the new upgraded formula which states on the bottle 1:3000 if I'm not mistaken the old formula is 1:1000 which Giant hypermarket is selling.  So do double check on the bottle. Website is
For calculations below 1USD = RM3.621 as of 23/01/09
So most important question does it work?  DEPENDS! What do you mean by work? Does it save fuel?  DEPENDS! 
Here goes, my friend and I decided to try this additive out cause its cheap and it sound reasonable in terms of how it works.  I followed the recommended dosage and used it in a Subaru Legacy GT 2004 2.0L turbo.  I got a 3-5% increase in fuel economy depending on how I drove.  
Did the same for my wife's car 1997 Honda Civic 1.6Efi single cam with custom turbo kit.  Again following the recommended dosage, results were no difference in fuel economy with or without the fuel additive.
My friend with a Subaru Forester 2.0XT 2.0L turbo.  Following recommended dosage there was a drop in fuel economy meaning that the car had poorer fuel economy.  
All three cars used the same fuel company.  So my friend and I was talking about the drop in his economy and my results of my Subaru and Honda.  So he decided to drop the dosage to 1:6000. Which means with 50liters = 8.33mls of additive.  
Guess what, fuel economy improved for his Subaru and my wife's Honda and my Subaru legacy still could get the same fuel economy but I could cruise at a slightly higher speed on the highway for the same throttle position. 
Short conclusion: 
Did it save fuel? Yes after we changed the dosage from 1:3000 (recommended) to 1:6000
Is it value for money YES! For 50Liters it would cost RM0.83 for 8.33mls.  Fuel saving lets say 3%.  Honda civic was getting 8.0ltrs/100km, with fuel additive it was getting 7.76ltrs/100km.  So for 450km you would save 1.08 liters.  Currently price of petrol is RM1.80/ltr which works out to be a saving of RM1.94 per 450km minus your cost of the product which leaves a nett savings of RM1.11.  Or if you want to think of it in terms of mileage gained.  With 50liters @ 8.0ltrs/100km = 625km with fuel additive 50liters @ 7.76ltrs/100km = 644km which is 19km difference. This is given a worse case scenario with the car idling for 20 mins with A/C on.
So for the given scenario above the fuel additive will pay for itself and save you so money.  Mind you this is based on only a 3% improvement in fuel mileage! 
Next, other factors to take into consideration. 
The rest of the blog goes into detail about some theories that I have about the additive and driving style when using the fuel additive.
In my opinion, for any fuel additive to give 5% improvement in fuel economy is a big deal. Why? Because of the particular driving style that I have.  Do you notice that people around the world claim that they have had any where between 5%-50% increase in fuel economy for all the different products out there. 
Well if you want to know a fantastic product which will help you save fuel in ANY car of ANY make (for petrol engine only) and is transferable to ANY car ANYTIME and has multiple uses comes in multiple sizes, fonts, and colours, electronic or manual form.  Will generally last the life time of the car. 
WELL WAIT is it too good to be true!!! ACT NOW!!!! Does this sound like a “AS Seen on TV” ad or a sales pitch letter you have seen or read numerous times over the Internet. 
Sounds to good to be true.  Well its not.  Its true and there is this wonder product.  Are you ready its called a boost or vacuum gauge.  Yes, just go down to your local tuning shop, spare parts shop or just Google boost gauge or vacuum gauge and just choose one which you like and just have it installed in the car by your local mechanic or tuning shop.  You would buy a boost gauge if your car is turbo charged/super charged and just a vacuum gauge for an non turbo car will do even though you could use a boost gauge in a non turbo car but not the other way round. My suggestion is to NOT buy digital readouts in numerical form or digital analogue display. Just your normal boost gauge will work the best.
So how is this going to save me fuel?  Its not! Its your right foot and your brain that’s going to save you fuel.  The gauge is just going to tell you how much on the gas that you are depressing. Just image each time to see the needle on the gauge move more closer to Zero boost or into boost it means money being burnt out the exhaust. Basically you want to drive with the least amount of throttle opening a much as possible.  I always teach people to drive at -300 mm/hg at max!  No larger throttle opening than that unless you have to.
If you drive within that range you will easily see a 15%-30% increase in fuel economy.  The point is do you have the ability and knowledge to drive with in that range.  That’s a whole different topic about driving efficiently.
So once you are able to drive efficiently you will notice that the throttle is not opened very much.  So most of the wonder products out there which people claim with their testimonies are correct to have saved them XX% of fuel, but what they didn’t notice is that most of it is psychological.  Meaning that after the have put the product in, it “feels” great and powerful so they tend to gas less so they save fuel.  So did the product really save fuel?  Depends on how you look at it, is the glass half empty or half full.
In my style of driving which my friends and I call “ECONO” or “Super ECONO” mode we never gas more than 300mm/hg and with any less throttle it car will not move! Most importantly also it gives a very constant style of driving which allows one to do tests more objectively.  It becomes so consistent that you can even see drop in mileage when you carry more people or on a particular tank, you see that if you idled more fuel economy will change, you will see how 2psi tyre pressure can make a big increase in fuel economy etc.
If I can find a product which will save 3%-5% in fuel economy with my Econo style of driving the product works. I haven’t found a product out there which I have come across which can save me 20%-50% in fuel economy.  If anybody has this WONDER product kindly let me know as I will be super interested and chances are if you had this product you will be very rich and famous by now or the oil companies and automotive giants will be keeping a close eye on you.     
Just to give you an idea my 1997 Honda Civic with 160,000km+ can do 5.77Liters/100km on the highway and I can easily get 6 liters/100km if I didn’t really try that hard.  And this car is a 1.6litre engine.  Claimed figures are from 6 liters-7.3 liters/100km.  You know how difficult it usually is to get actual fuel consumption figures close to claimed figures. My Civic is mostly being driven with no more than -400mm/hg.  If you have a boost gauge you will know how small a throttle opening that is.
So basically be aware of what people are claiming out there and please buy a boost/vacuum gauge and learn to drive efficiently.  If I have the time I might just put it into writing and a couple of videos teaching how to drive efficiently with a boost gauge.
That’s driving covered next is theories about the STR 2020 additive.  If you go to their website they describe the fuel additive as restructuring the fuel molecules so that more of it is able to react to the oxygen.  I’m not a chemist nor a scientist so I’ve got no idea if its true.  But here is my two cents.  I repeat my 2 cents. 
So My friend and I have noticed that if you overdose with this additive it reduces fuel economy. But the funny point is that it FEELS like the engine has good on/off throttle response and the power is good initially when you depress the accelerator. So it feels powerful but it doesn’t show up in the fuel economy.  I also notice that you can get the same throttle response if we used another brand of fuel (without the fuel additive) and the results are the same.  Meaning that the engine feels responsive and powerful but the fuel economy is poor.  So I think that this fuel actually has got good initial flame speed when ignited but after that the burn its not prolonged to push the piston down after TDC (Top Dead Centre). So what I think is that when you overdose on the additive it changes the properties of the fuel so that you have the good initial flame speed but poor prolonged exponential burn after TDC.
I also noticed something in their fuel test reports that I have seen.  The fuel additive increases the cetane value of diesel.  Which is opposite of octane, where more cetane value means the easier the fuel is to ignite.  There was an increase in cetance value to the fuel after the additive was added.  So this additive actually helps diesel burn easier and we know that diesel is basically a very very light oil.  That why when you overdose the additive it changes the characteristics of petrol making it easier to burn but at the same time it burns too quickly and fizzles out not prolonging an exponential burn and helping push the piston down fully after TDC.  
There was a fuel additive which I came up with, and what it did was it increased octane but at the same time sped up and prolonged the burn at precisely the right moment.  On an NA car we would usually find a 3-5hp gain but the real gains came with cars which are turbo charged which we saw 5-12hp gains and the tests were run on a dyno made by Dynojet.  Same with this additive you cannot overdose on it or the power will drop.
So with STR 2020.  For those of you who want to try it, you need to be consistent in you driving style and most importantly you need to put in the correct dosage.  Dosing ACCURACY is paramount.  Where a plastic syringe is recommended.  If you calculations tell you to put 7.5mls please put 7.5 mls not 8 not 7 not 9.  You might thing that ½ an ml or 1 ml isn’t much, will it is. 50liters you only need 8.3 mls so 1 ml diff is a lot of difference as 9.3ml treats 56liters.  That’s why you need to top up you fuel accurately and use a syringe.
So when topping up your tank you will need to practice slowly topping it up right to the top where it stops sloshing around and you can top it off  till you can see the fuel at the neck, as topping off the tank inaccurately will also affect you mileage calculations and dosing. 
So is all this worth the couple of bucks that you can save.  For me hell yes.  As you get to save fuel, the environment and the car feels nicer to drive as well.  So ultimately you can decide whether its worth the effort.  If not at the very least buy a boost gauge and learn to drive efficiently.
I will keep on finding more new stuff to try.  There should be a new wave of products being developed using nano technology, but most of the current ones out there I haven’t been impressed with.  
If you do decide to try this additive, it works best on Shell petrol in Malaysia If you are living anywhere else you would need to try different brands to find one that suits your car and different cars may require different dosages.  So basically start off with 1:3000 then 1:6000 or any other dosage you want to try.  If you find any dosage that you tried reduces fuel economy always reduce the dosage.
Remember that what I recommend is for petrol engine only.  Diesel engine and fuel I have no idea as I don’t own a diesel vehicle.  But it’s the same. Start off with the recommended if the fuel economy drops, add less, if the fuel economy is the same try adding less first before you try adding more.  Best you dilute and clear the tank as much as possible before each test.
Feel free to post any comments or questions you may have.  Please don’t start an argument as I said I’m not a scientist, chemist or engineer, its just my opinions and my observations and what worked for me. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Installing an External Antenna for Laptop


Hi, this post is about how to install an external antenna on to a laptop if your laptop has an internal wifi card without and external antenna socket built into the laptop from the factory.  My laptop is an ASUS Z99JR motherboard version is A8JR with an Integrated 802.11b/g Wireless LAN.

Basically what you need is an external antenna, the appropiate wire connections, a screwdriver and you're done.

I am in the process of purchasing all the stuff needed, so will continue to update this post.  I basically bought some stuff from ebay and some from a guy I found in a forum.  But for others you might have a spare antenna around and all you need to do is just to buy the connections.  

When it comes to the antenna, I would suggest that you use an antenna designed for 2.4ghz range as there is some science behind antennas and its not just about sticking a "coat hanger" into your laptop.  If you would like to DIY your own here is a link
I bought a 12db omnidirectional antenna and I have another one which is from my router.  You may have a dead router around then you can use the antenna from that.

With the connectors I decided to buy them as they are reasonably priced and I think it would not be as well done if I DIY it, but thats because my DIY skills are not that good.

2 Feb 2009

So I decided to get these connectors. Its a connection from the laptop internal wifi card connector to the antenna.
12" (30CM) U.FL Mini PCI to RP SMA pigtail.  Cost was US8.95 with free shipping to Malaysia. It took about 12 days to arrive from China.  Delivery time was ok considering it was Chinese New Year as well.