"Where'd you get this stuff?"
Gus Wilson asked as he picked up a gaudily decorated can that was resting on
the edge of his partner's desk in the office of the Model Garage.
"That's a marvelous new
auto polish, Gus," Joe Clark replied as he pushed aside the pile of bills in
front of him. "A couple of swipes with that'll put a shine on the
dingiest old crock you ever saw. We ought to be able to sell a lot of
Gus shook the can, then
unscrewed the cap and moved it in front of his nose as he cautiously
"Marvelous polish eh!" he
growled, "A couple of swipes give you a grand shine do they?"
Well, I'll be another couple of swipes or we'll take the finish off
altogether. That would be grand stuff to sell if the Model Garage was
in the repainting business. How much of it did the salesman stick you
"Only a dozen cans," Joe
replied. "He said it wouldn't hurt any auto lacquer. Are you
sure it's no good?"
"My nose tells me there's
stuff in it that's sure to damage the finish if you use it much," said Gus.
"If you don't believe it, polish a spot on the fender of the service car
every day for a week and see what happens."
At the end of the week, Joe
called Gus over and pointed to a spot a few inches square in an
inconspicuous place on the service car's rear fender. Although the
finish glowed with a fine shine at that point, there was a small streak in
the middle where the gleam of bare metal showed through.
"You win, Gus," Joe
admitted, as Gus examined the spot. "Guess we'd better throw the rest
of the stuff in the ash can."
"That's the place for
it," Gus smiled, "only I hope it doesn't eat holes through the ash can!"
"What I want to know is
how does that fellow you call 'polishing Pete' get by with all the polishing
he does without taking the finish off? He spends nine tenths of his
time polishing his car and the other tenth riding around town to show people
how swell it looks."
"In the first place," Gus
said, "Pete knows a thing or two about polishing a car. He uses one of
those hard wax finishes that takes a bit of elbow grease to apply, but which
actually forms a protective coating over the lacquer. Then, instead of
letting the car go till it's all covered with mud and grime, he goes over it
with a duster when he gets home and then gives it a light rubbing with a
clean soft rag. Road dirt and scum never have a chance to harden on
the surface of his car and so he doesn't have to dig away a lot of the
lacquer itself to get a polish."
"But that can't go on
forever," said Joe. "No matter how careful he is there'll come a time
when the finish gets shabby and nothing but a polish with a bit of bite in
it will restore it. What does he do then?"
"What every one else
does," Gus explained. "He uses a good cleaner or one of the good
combination cleaners and polishers.
"That's one of the things
that people don't seem to understand about lacquer finishes. They
don't check or crack and they don't peel or take off as the old paint
finishes did. But time takes its toll on lacquer just as it does on
most everything else. After a while, depending mainly on how much
ultra-violet light from the sun actually reaches the finish and also on
changing temperatures, moisture, atmospheric gases, and so on, the extreme
outside skin of the lacquer coating gets rotten and discolored. The
only way you can bring back the finish then is to strip off this skin of
broken-down lacquer so as to get down to good lacquer again.
"That's why even the
really good lacquer cleaners and polishers seem to make the color of the
finish run onto the rag. It isn't color you see, it's the particles of
dead lacquer being rubbed off that color the rag. If you let the
finish go long enough without any cleaning at all, you can rub your dry
finger over it and it will show the color of the dead lacquer particles."
"Then no matter what you
do, the finish is bound to go in time, isn't it?" Joe broke in.
"Of course it is," Gus
replied, "But if you take care of the lacquer finish on any car made today,
it'll look fine as long as the car lasts. Of course, that doesn't
apply to a car that is garaged in the street or back yard without shelter.
"Another thing lots of
car owners don't know yet if how important it is to dry a car right after
washing. Most fellows, after they get through washing off the mud and
grime with soap and water, just let the car stand till it's dry. If
you could rinse the car with distilled water, that would be fine, but any
ordinary water contains chemicals, and every drop leaves a spot when it
"The proper trick
is to wipe off all the water drops with a piece of chamois leather.
What's more important is to see that the chamois is clean. Unless you
frequently wash the chamois with soap and water, it'll pick up grit and
scratch the finish."
"Seems to me," Joe
grinned, "most fellows don't want to go to all that bother."
"Humph!" Gus grunted.
"I'm a bachelor, and nobody cares whether I keep my car clean or not, but I
should think you married birds would take the trouble to keep your cars
clean just to keep your wives from frowning.
"After traveling through
rain and mud, suppose you let the hose flow on your car gently to flush all
the loose, wet mud, and then give a quick wipe with the chamois. Isn't
that better than letting it dry and cake on so you have to give the car a
"It would be less work in
the end, I suppose," Joe agreed, "once you get the habit."
Joe glanced toward the
corner of the garage where the veteran auto mechanic's own car stood in its
"Yes," he nodded as he
observed with renewed interest the spotless condition of Gus's two-year-old
bus. "I think I'll treat my boat to a thorough cleaning and then try
to follow your method."
Gus walked over to his
car and lifted the hood. "Take a squint at that," he suggested as he
swung a drop light around so that its light fell on the motor.
"Gosh!" Joe exclaimed as
he gazed at the motor, which looked as though it had been dolled up for an
exhibition chassis. "You could eat your dinner off any part of that
motor. What's the use of keeping the motor so clean when nobody sees
"I wouldn't argue that
point with you." Gus smiled. "But there are mechanical reasons why
it's a good idea to keep the motor clean. In the first place a clean
motor is easy to work on. Even so simple a thing as changing a spark
plug is a filthy, disagreeable job if the motor is covered with road dust
and oil. Also, it's a lot easier to see what you're doing on a clean
motor. On top of that, a clean motor runs better because when you
clean the motor, you just naturally clean the distributor head and the spark
plug cable. Then, if you get caught in a driving rain, all their juice
won't flow out through the damp muck that coats them."
"What's the easiest way
to clean a motor?"
"If you haven't air
pressure as we have here, the best way is to fill a gasoline torch with
kerosene and just chase the dirt off the motor with a fine stream of the
"Funny I never heard you
suggest cleaning a motor to any customer," said Joe.
Gus laughed, "Sure I do," he
"If I think a fellow has
gumption enough to appreciate the value of taking good care of a fine place
of machinery like an auto motor, I get him started right. Of course
when I run into the kind of bird who only has the front of his house painted
because the back doesn't show, it'd be a waste of time!"