Pros: Beautiful, lasting finish; great smell; good for lightly oxidized paint
Cons: Like any wax, applying this is hard work
I had a lot of fun attending an import car exhibition in South Carolina a couple years ago. It was held at the BMW factory and the fields around the plant were carpeted with every make and model of foreign car imaginable, including many I have not seen before or since.
Although I had a perfectly good time at the show, I was further delighted to receive a package a couple weeks later that included car care products, one of which was Zymol Z-503 cleaner wax.
What's a "Cleaner Wax"?
Car wax puts a protective coating on your car, which is all that some cars need. However, paint and clearcoats that are exposed to sun and the weather usually develop an oxidized layer that can dull the paint's finish. A cleaner wax is a product with both mild abrasives to strip away the oxidized layer and wax to protect the car's finish. You could do the same thing in two steps by first going over your car with a polishing compound, then rubbing in a good-quality wax, which is exactly what the best car detailers do.
Zymol Z-503 contains three different abrasive/cleaning substances: kaolin clay, almond meal and chalcedony crystals. Of these three, chalcedony crystals (which is a form of quartz) seems like the sort of thing I would least like to rub on my car. All I can say is that the mix must be right in this stuff because it all seems to work well.
On the waxing side, Zymol Z-503 contains several waxes and oils, including yellow carnauba, bees wax, shea nut butter and coconut oil. The overall consistency is that of a thick liquid, like a very smooth milkshake. It is not at all lumpy and the green fluid smells pleasantly of coconuts, which always makes me a little hungry after an afternoon spent waxing a car.
A bottle contains 16 ounces, which in my experience is enough for about eight to 10 treatments; perhaps a little more if your car is small. Figure on 12 Miatas and six Ford F-150s. Although I received my bottle for free, the Zymol Web site (www.zymol.com) lists a price of $26 per bottle and $15 if you buy it over the Internet. Unfortunately, the Web site says that Zymol Z-503 is "Not Available" -- I don't know if that means it's out of stock or has been discontinued.
Applying Zymol Z-503
For the rest of this review, I am going to refer to Zymol Z-503 as "wax," although it is both a cleaner and a wax.
The first thing to note is that any car wax should only be applied in the shade and on a car with a cool surface. If the car is hot from baking in the sun, the wax will dry much too fast and stick to the surface of the paint, making it difficult to buff out.
The second thing to note is that wax should only be applied on a clean car, preferably right after washing. Otherwise, you will be grinding dirt into the surface of your paint, which is not the hot ticket to a fine finish.
Most people want to apply wax in big swirling motions but the instructions for Zymol Z-503 say to apply it over a 2-3 square-foot area with straight-line motions, not in a circular motion. Applying it in a circular motion could form swirl marks on the car's finish. I follow the directions, dripping a spot of Z-503 onto a soft cloth (I like to use old towels) and wiping it onto the car with easy pressure, perhaps rubbing a little harder on spots I know need a bit of extra attention.
Zymol Z-503 spreads on smoothly and easily, with no gritty feel. It is, however, hard work. Plan on taking two hours if you do the car yourself or a bit more than one hour if you have a partner buffing after you rub in the wax. (In my case, my wife usually buffs out the wax after I apply it.) Bigger cars/trucks take longer, of course. No matter how you do it, this is a lot of exercise and there is much bending over and standing on tiptoes.
Zymol should be kept off rubber and glass bits, although it is fine for painted plastic items, such as bumpers. I have overshot the paint and rubbed Zymol onto glass and rubber seals without much discoloration. If you're really fastidious, you may want to keep a bottle of rubber dressing compound around to keep the rubber looking perfect. I am not bothered by the appearance of rubber that has gotten Z-503 on it.
Buffing out Zymol after it dries is very easy and the stuff comes off the surface of the paint quickly -- as long as the car is cool and in the shade. Shake and turn the buffing cloth frequently to keep it clean and to avoid rubbing more of Zymol's abrasives back into your finish.
What you see and feel when you're done will slap a smile on every car lover -- Zymol Z-503 leaves a beautiful, high-shine finish that simply glows. (In fact, it might actually glow, since chalcedony crystals are known to have fluorescent properties!) To the touch, the car feels exquisitely smooth and slippery, and water beads up and sheets off in an amusing dance. Zymol Z-503 is a treat to three senses: I enjoy the coconut smell, appreciate the slippery-smooth touch and delight in the glowing shine and the sight of active water beads as they try to find the quickest way off the car.
After all the work done to wax a car, the finish with Zymol Z-503 is worth the effort. In my experience, the effects of Z-503 last for at least two months; longer if I can park the car in the garage when it's not being used. Furthermore, all the work and the coconut smell usually makes me hungry, so I jump in the car to show it off as I drive to the burger joint -- the reward for a job well done.
Assuming Zymol Z-503 is still available and that you can get it for $15 per bottle, this works out to less than $2 per treatment. Considering the shine I get from this stuff, it is worth it. I'm sure I can use the exercise, too.
I really like Zymol Z-503 and plan to get more once my bottle is gone... which will be soon. I recommend Zymol Z-503.
July 9, 2005 Update:
I was just at a Target store and saw a 16-ounce bottle of Zymol Z-503 for $13.50. Pretty good price!