Sunday, July 8, 2012

Scratches, splashes and crowds

This weekend was a beauty here in Vancouver, BC.

We finally got some summer.  Hopefully it has arrived for 'good' now.  It's horribly late, even by Vancouver standards, or perhaps more accurately I should say that we had no spring this year, so seeing any sun at all is horribly late.  In a way we seem to have leaped from winter to summer almost overnight.  That means I'm completely white still, but suddenly accosted with a UV index over 8!

Summer has resulted in the impetus to clean the car so she looks her best, and also the need to use the windscreen washer to clear the inevitable bug splattage.  Both of these activities have resulted in discoveries.

First, I discovered scratches on the hood.  These weren't bad and clearly hadn't stood out egregiously, but they were definite scratches through the clear coat and into the paint proper.  They are localized and by their number, orientation and distribution you can see exactly how they were caused.  Someone at the dealership who was tasked with cleaning the vehicle, while it was on display at the dealership, clearly picked up a rag that had been used for rather less genteel purposes, or dropped their wash rag on the ground.  They then took a few good strokes at 'cleaning' or 'polishing' the hood, nicely rubbing some grit into the paintwork in the process.

Of course, once you've spotted these things, you can't take your eye off them (well at least while your vehicle is under a few years old!).  Consequently, I had to find some way to affect a fix.  With some trepidation I bought a couple of scratch repair kits from a local automotive products outlet.  It's quite clear that most of these products are based on the principle of fine abrasives to dull scratches... though some also provide a clear coat touch-up compound too.  I decided to start with the simpler system, which is basically a tube of toothpaste-like material (and of course performs much the same function).  Working this into the scratches did make a noticeable difference to the definition and visibility of the actual scratches, which was encouraging, so I continued until I thought I'd achieved a sufficient effect.   You then remove the residual paste, and it was then that you could see the unintended consequences for the larger areas over which I had been applying my "circular motions".  This whole area had a noticeably duller appearance and appeared to have a whitish sheen.  It was quite noticeable in sunlight and the area reflected direct light quite differently.

Naturally, one fears the worst on such occasions, but I had figured that there was at least a chance that this effect was mostly down to product residue that wasn't easily removed with a cloth.  Failing this, then it might be a microscopic scoring of the clear coat from the abrasive that changed the lustre of what is an exceedingly deep metallic style paint on the Karma.  I figured that the best approach was a full-system clean and wax.  Consequently I trotted back off to the purveyor of car beauty wares and acquired Autoglym's deep cleaner, polish and waxing products.  I figured the cleaner might remove any residue (if that was the issue) and the polish, which is an even finer abrasive, could probably restore an even lustre and shine if the paint surface was the actual problem.  Wax would be the icing on the cake, so to speak.

You can't apply these products onto hot bodywork in direct sunshine, so I had to wait until late afternoon when the sun had dipped behind the mountain forest.  I then applied the cleanser and polished the whole hood after that, with particular vigour on the scratched and denatured area.  The end result is practically miraculous.  You _can_ still see the scratches, but you really do have to look hard now.  I suspect that another round or two of the Autoglym treatment after subsequent washes will continue to improve things.  In the meantime, the hood is gleaming incredibly.  That stuff does what it says on the tin.  It's tempting to do the whole car one day for an all-over effect.

Onto the windshield washer topic.  The Karma has a simple system compared to must cars I have ever owned, except maybe my Pontiac Bonneville from around 2000.  Rather than having through the hood liquid deliver to spray nozzles (which are often heated in luxury cars), the Karma has tubes to deliver washer fluid to the midpoints of the wipers.  Clearly, this system has some advantages in distributing washer fluid over the windscreen, however probably also freezes up much more readily and given the mechanical stresses of the tubes and how they have to be clipped onto the wiper blades, I wonder if the system is as robust and reliable.  Anyway, in point of fact, the right hand wiper seems to no longer be delivering any fluid today.  Given that I'm getting fluid from the left hand (drivers-side) wiper, which is of course the most important, it's not a critical issue.  I am however going to have to investigate.

I assume there's only one washer fluid pump, so there's probably a blockage or airlock preventing the fluid from reaching the right wiper.  Anyway... we'll see.

Finally, another bit of Karma people-magnet fun.  On both occasions that I have driven the Karma to the aforementioned automotive products superstore I have arrived back at the car after paying for my swag to find a small crowd of people gathered around it.  Today was no exception and had the biggest crowd yet (I'd only been in the store under 10 minutes!).  Perhaps it was the incredibly bright sunshine glinting off the sparkly bodywork, or maybe the eye-catching roof (which does seem to be a factor in grabbing initial attention).  Either way there was a crowd and they had questions as soon as it was obvious I was the owner:

  • What is this vehicle?  Never heard of it.
  • Does the solar roof really work?
  • How far can you go?  
  • Is it as fast as it looks?
  • How does it accelerate with that electric motor?
  • Are they selling these in Vancouver?
While we were talking more people were parking up and heading over... it was like some kind of impromptu auto show in the sun.  

Aside from the obvious issues with being found out doing this, Fisker or their dealerships should seriously pay to have people drive their cars into the middle of auto-retailers parking lots on sunny days.  The attention the car was getting all on its own was insane!

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