It is a question that every vehicle owner should ask at some point: How to spiff up their car or truck without hurting the paint job? Tsunami asked members of the Mustang forum. “Spring is coming soon. I will be clay barring, and putting down sealant and wax. What is the best/safest chemical to clean off last year's protective coatings? A friend said to use isopropyl alcohol.”
Matt suggested starting with something gentle. “I use Dawn dishwashing soap.” Dawn is known for its ability to cut grease, so it would make sense that it would cut through most road grime.
Souldriver recommends, “Cleaning with dawn soap, and then using soapy dawn water as lubricant during the clay bar should do the trick. Unless this is a special hardened sealant we are talking about.”
Vinnay agrees, “Clay bar with a heavy spritz of dish soap and water in a spray bottle as lubricant will do the trick...no need for anything else.”
Rebellion says alcohol works. “Wash with dish soap then the alcohol.”
Labradog agrees with Rebellion. “What is the "protective coating" from last year? If you applied wax and sealant a year ago it's most likely gone by now. The act of claying the vehicle will also remove most sealant/wax. You can buy a shampoo designed to strip the vehicle, add a small amount of all purpose cleaner to your wash bucket or foam gun, or wipe down with diluted IPA.”
A couple more Mustang aficionados made similar suggestions.
Banks says, “One way to tell if protection is still on the car is pour water on it. If it beads then it's still protected, if not then most likely it's ran its course. Also I have yet to see any sealants/wax last for a year. I'm not saying I've used all of them, but the ones I've tried personally, none last a year lol. As mentioned above, stripping soap and/or 3:1 ISO alcohol should remove it.”
Doogan adds, “The sealant could still be on depending on which product was used. To fully remove the previous coatings, I wash with normal car soap and dry, then use a 3:1 ratio of water to isopropyl alcohol in a spray bottle. Spray liberally onto one panel at a time and wipe dry with a microfiber towel. Once you're done, everything is nice and clean to lay a coat of sealant or wax on.”
Clearly, these recommendations would work on any type of vehicle. It is important to know what you are doing with the clay bar and alcohol so you don’t mar the beautiful finish. Spring is coming and you want your ride to shine with the best of them.