Pictures of Festool Systainer T-Loc 4 and 5 on mobile bases

As promised, here are some pictures of my new Festool Systainer T-Loc containers on rolling bases.

The shorter stack is my day-to-day detailing stack. The Systainer 5 on the bottom holds sprays, the Systainer 5 on the top holds microfiber towels.

The taller stack is my oil change stack. One Systainer 4 holds 10W60 for the BMW. Another Systainer 4 holds 0W40 and 5W30 for the MINI. Both Systainer 4 containers have a bottle or two of Techron fuel injector cleaner. The one with the 10W60 also has Blackstone Labs oil sample kits. The top Systainer 5 holds new air and oil filters and my oil sampling pump.

Thumbs down for GritGuard bucket dollies

Not long ago, I posted about buying a GritGuard dual bucket wash system.

I like the buckets and the gamma seal lids. But the dolly system is sub-par. The caster wheels are too small to roll over cracks, the casters don’t seat very snugly, the connecting plate setup is very flimsy because it uses the casters to hold it, and there’s no place to store mitts, brushes or sponges.

Given the price, you’re MUCH better off buying buckets from and Pail Pal dollies. The Pail Pail bucket dollies have 3″ casters, cubbies to hold wash mitts/brushes/sponges, and are stronger than the GritGuard dollies. My next dollies will be the Pail Pal dollies.

I will probably remove the casters from the Grit Guard dollies and bolt them to my own rolling platform.

Building my own detailing storage cart

I need to build a custom-sized cart to hold my detailing supplies. I’ve tried to find a plastic utility cart of the right size, but every one I’ve found compromises space utilization for the Sterilite Stacker 4-gallon and 7-gallon bins I used to store towels, fluids, brushes, etc.

I need 3 shelves, each with a shelf clearance of about 14″. I want a width of at least 40″. I need a lip on each shelf to retain the bins when rolling the cart around, which means my shelf-to-shelf dimension needs to be about 15″. I’d like to use casters I already have on hand if possible.

A 48″x24″ cart probably makes the most sense material-wise. I need 4 sheets of plywood, which works out to about $75 if I buy 3/4″ thick birch pre-cut from Lowe’s.

The total cost, as usual, really boils down to finish. This cart might get wet, so sealing it isn’t really optional. That means I need spar urethane or a penetrating varnish. I’ll put rubber tiles on the top since I expect to be setting wet items on top.

5-gallon buckets with gamma seal lids

I need a few more 5-gallon buckets for automotive detailing and around-the-house tasks. I’ve always been a fan of the gamma seal bucket lids, because it lets me use the buckets for dust-free storage. They also prevent critter occupancy.

In general, the detailing stores online want too much money or add non-optional accessories I don’t need (such as Grit Guards). To be clear, I have nothing against Grit Guards, in fact I like them and have 4 of them. But I don’t need more of them for the additional buckets and see no sense in paying for things I don’t need.

ULINE of course has buckets in several colors and gamma seal lids in a few colors. But their minimum bucket order per color is five buckets and I don’t need five more buckets of the same color; I need two or three. At the moment I want some blue ones to hold rinse water, and I’d like some orange or yellow ones for soaking dirty microfiber towels and foam pads.

This year I’m going to try recycling some of my dehumidifier water, which I’ll only use for washing the cars. It’s fairly easy for me to collect a few gallons of water a day from it, but right now I have nowhere to store it.

Hmm… I might wind up with six new buckets; three blue buckets and three yellow buckets, with the corresponding blue gamma seal lids and yellow gamma seal lids. The cost comes to $62.88 plus $26.94 shipping for a total of $89.82.

For some, the immediate response would be “Ouch!”. However, if you’ve ever had a quality bucket with a gamma seal lid, you know they’re very handy and not throw-em-away-when-done. If FDA approved, they’re great for dry pet food or grain, for example. Or sidewalk salt (if you’re in a snow zone), potting soil, fertilizer, noxious rags, etc. A polyethylene bucket is fairly resistant to chemicals, which also makes it handy for re-use of chemicals, whether it’s rust remover, iron phosphate bath, parts cleaner or just microfiber towel cleaner and water.

March 31, 2012
I ordered three yellow buckets, three yellow gamma seal lids, three blue buckets and three blue gamma seal lids from BayTec Containers.

April 9, 2012
The buckets finally arrived from BayTec Containers. I mixed the colors on the buckets that I put GritGuards inside: the blue bucket with a yellow gamma seal rim and the yellow bucket with a blue gamma seal rim have GritGuards in them. The other two yellow buckets have full yellow gamma seal lids and the other two blue buckets have full blue gamma seal lids.

It’s worth noting that Autogeek wants $35 plus shipping for a single bucket with gamma seal lid and GritGuard. I paid less than $15 per bucket with gamma seal lid, and already had the GritGuards which were $9 each. I saved more than $11 per bucket (plus shipping costs) versus buying directly from Autogeek. The gamma seal lids are exactly the same, made by the same company here in the U.S.A.

Luxor STC211 utility cart

Yesterday I received a Luxor STC211 cart from Wayfair. It was $100.99 with free shipping.

It’s a good cart for detailing. It’s all plastic except the casters, so it should be essentially impervious to water and obviously will not rust. The top is not truly flat; there’s a slight ridge around the edge, maybe 1/8″ tall. I consider this a good thing for a detailing cart. I wanted a near-flat (not tub) top to make it easier to lay some items on the top and not have a top that could hold much water. The ridge has little effect on either of those functions.

I wanted a tub shelf for the middle shelf because it makes it easy to hang spray bottles on the tub edge while working. This helps prevent dirt from clinging to the bottom of detailing product bottles. I also wanted a tub shelf here to retain bottles when rolling the cart around. For the same reason, I wanted a tub bottom shelf.

It went together in about 5 minutes, the only tool needed was a rubber mallet.

I previously said I could probably use another one, and I’ve every reason to believe it’s worth buying a second one. I’ve put it on my wish list. This one will quickly be loaded with the intended day-to-day detailing products: spray-on car wash, wheel cleaners, detailing sprays, spritz sealant, microfiber towels, etc.

Making my own swirl spotting light (like a 3M Sun Gun)

I’ve wanted a 3M Sun Gun since I first saw one. A great tool for paint work and detailing, alongside an LED flashlight (I’m using a Maglite XL200 at the moment). This type of light has a 4700K “daylight” bulb for true color rendering. However, I don’t care all that much about the color accuracy. My intended use is for swirl spotting when polishing a car, and the 3M Sun Gun is expensive. A simple 12V light kit using an off-the-shelf MR-16 bulb should not have a street price of $400, with an extra NiCad battery costing near $90 and a bulb that lists at $504 for a case of 6!

Thanks to several Internet forum posts in various places, particularly the post from Starscream88 on Bimmerfest, I created my own for a LOT less using a 12V cordless drill as the base. Ordering parts from Amazon, I spent $92. That includes the drill with battery and charger, an extra battery (for a total of 2), a charger, a tailed bulb socket, the correct bulb, a spare bulb and the soft case that was included with the cordless drill. I may add a 40mm 12V fan to help keep the bulb cool, especially since I intend to fiddle with a 50W bulb in place of the usual 35W bulb.

The drill I’m using as the base is a Skil 2240-01 from Amazon which was $40.97. To connect the bulb, I am using a Leviton 80054 miniature bi-pin base, which has wires pre-attached. It was $4.64 at Amazon. The bulb is an EiKO 35003 SoLux True Daylight Flood 35 Watt MR16 Halogen Lamp, 36 Degree Beam Angle. It was $7.95 at Amazon. No additional parts are needed, so you can put together this setup for a total of $40.97 + $4.64 + $7.95 = $53.56. That’s about 87% cheaper than the 3M Sun Gun. I added an extra battery ($32.97) and a spare bulb to bring my total to $92, which is still only 23% of the cost of a 3M Sun Gun kit which has one battery and no spare bulb.

The Skil 2240-01 drill kit, extra battery, Leviton 80054 bulb base and an EiKO 18003 SoLux True Daylight Flood 50W MR16 36 Degree Beam Angle bulb arrived today. The EiKO Solux 35W bulbs won’t arrive until next week.

I took the drill apart by removing the eight Torx T10 screws.

I then removed the chuck assembly (it slides off of the motor easily).

I then snipped the wires from the motor and removed it. Testing the bulb fitment, I wanted the bulb to be close to the front edge of the housing. There is a surrounding groove here formed by two ridges that is near perfect, except that the rearward ridge is too small in diameter. This means that the housing won’t go back together nicely as is, because the rear surrounding ridge hits the bulb housing right behind the lens before the drill housing halves are fully seated. The solution is to Dremel off enough of this surrounding ridge to let the bulb install snugly without preventing the housing from going back together. I removed about 5/32″ of it, by hand with a cutting wheel on the Dremel. This allowed a perfect fit of the bulb.

I twisted the bulb socket wires to the power leads, put a bit of solder on them to prevent strand breakage, then installed some small wire nuts. This will make it relatively easy to replace the bulb socket someday if necessary.

For the heck of it, I hooked up the 50W bulb and tried the light. It works fine, though the drill’s current control circuit emits a faint high-pitch squeal when the trigger is pulled less than halfway. I’m assuming it does the same with the drill motor under high load, you just can’t hear it over the drill motor. Given that I’ll only have the light on for a few seconds at a time, it appears that the 50W bulb does not get hot enough to cause problems. However, it’s crazy bright… I’d probably need sunglasses to use it. I’ll try the 35W bulbs when they arrive, which will be easier on my eyes and should be plenty sufficient given that it’s the same bulb that’s in the 3M Sun Gun.

In any event, it turned out nicely.

And it fits in the case with the charger, extra battery and spare bulb.

More pictures are available in the photo album.

March 10, 2012
The 35W Solux 4700K bulbs arrived this week. Today I replaced the 50W bulb with one of the 35W bulbs. I think this will work better than the 50W bulb; the reflection is less blinding. A 35W spare and the 50W both fit in the carrying case. Now I just need to order a Torx T10 driver to leave in the carrying case, probably a Wiha SoftFinish.

Almost set for full detailing… new detailing tools

I’ve slowly been populating an inexpensive cart to store detailing supplies. It is almost ready for action, though I’ve already run out of room on it. It has my polishes, waxes and microfiber towels in separate bins with lids on a lower shelf. The drawers hold my random orbitals, and pads for the random orbitals. Each pad type (compounding, polishing, glass polishing, waxing, wax removal) is in a separate Flambeau case to keep them free of dust and organized. In all likelihood, I will move some of the polishing stuff to a different cart at some point, since I don’t polish during every detail. That would leave more room for spritzes and the like on my supply cart.

I recently received a Grit Guard dual bucket wash system from AutoGeek. The 5-gallon buckets are on dollies (5 wheels each), and each bucket has a grit guard and a gamma-seal lid. I also received a seat cushion which can be used on top of one of the buckets when the bucket lid is on.

I’ve also purchased the Mothers Wheel, Well and Tire brush kit, as well as the RaggTopp natural horsehair brush to clean the ragtop from AutoGeek.

My most recent polish purchases include Menzerna POS34A (PG 1000) Powergloss compound, Menzerna PO91E (IP 2000) Intensive Polish, Menzerna PO85U (FF 3000) Final Polish, Menzerna PO85RD (UF 4500) Ultimate Finish and both of the Griot’s glass polishes. I still have some older Menzerna Final Polish II, some Menzerna Finishing Glaze, various 3M polishes, plastic polishes, etc.

My most recent sealant purchases include Wolfgang Deep Gloss Sealant 3.0 and Wolfgang Deep Gloss Spritz Sealant. I still have some older Menzerna FMJ.

My most recent microfiber towel purchases…

Two of the large pocketed waffle-weave drying towels from Griot’s:

A 26×35″ pocketed waffle-weave drying towel from Chemical Guys:

Six 24×16″ Fluffer Miracle Supra Microfiber Towels from Chemical Guys:

and three 24″x17″ Big Monster Microfiber Extreme Thickness Microfiber Towels from Chemical Guys:

I will definitely be buying more towels from Chemical Guys; the ones I received are very nice and their pricing is better than any other top brand.

I’ll take some more pictures of the new stuff and post them before or during my first spring detailing.

Renovo fabric soft top reviver

I’m preparing to a do a full detail on the M roadster in preparation for the arrival of springtime. Given that my ragtop is 10 years old, it has faded a little bit.

I’m going to try using the Renovo black fabric soft top reviver kit to restore the color of the top. I’ll post before and after pictures here.

Fabric convertible top protectant: RaggTop versus 303 Fabric Guard

I’d like to put this debate to rest.

First of all, I’m not a professional detailer. My experiences are my own, on my own vehicles. By no means do I have the breadth of experience of a professional detailer.

But for my money… 303 Fabric Guard wins over RaggTopp fairly handily. Why?

First, let’s talk about protection. I’ve been applying protectant to the top of my M roadster as needed for over 10 years now. I’ve used both products, and have twice split them side-to-side (one product on the left half, the other on the right half). If I’ve seen any difference in protection, the 303 has been better. I don’t have a scientific explanation, and I have not taken pictures. However, even if we call this a tie…

303 Fabric Guard is less expensive. By a considerable margin. A 16 oz. spray bottle of RaggTop is around $20. You can buy 32 oz. of 303 Fabric Guard at that price; that’s half the price of the RaggTopp. And if you care about filling up your local landfill, you can buy 128 oz. refills of 303 Fabric Guard. I’ve never seen a RaggTopp refill. I know that some find the RaggTopp aerosol convenient, but I find it useless. The can has to be thrown out when empty, and to me it’s more difficult to use without getting overspray on your paint, glass and plastic window. Especially if you’re using it outdoors on anything but a completely calm day. 303 Fabric Guard can be applied with a paintbrush if you want complete control over its application, without ever buying a spray bottle.

Scent… maybe it’s just me, but I find RaggTopp fairly offensive to the nose. I’d never consider using it on fabric in the interior, but I don’t have a problem using 303 Fabric Guard on interior fabrics.

Availability… I’ve never seen RaggTopp locally. That means I have to pay shipping when I order it. I can find 303 Fabric Guard locally, which avoids the shipping costs.

Buy whatever suits your fancy, but for me 303 Fabric Guard is the right product for a fabric convertible top.