Project: Lexus RX330 Paint Restoration

One of the first things I do when I get a new car is detail it. For new cars, I can’t stand the factory swirls that either come from shipping, or from the dealership washing it up before delivery. To be honest, it was probably better for it to be dirty than for the dealership to wash it and make it worse. In this case, the RX is an 11 year old car – one that looks like it’s never seen a good detail in its lifetime. It’s a sad and exciting thing… Sad because it deserves more than that, and exciting because I love restoring paint on cars almost as much as I love modding them. It’s a good challenge and a ton of work, but when it’s all done – man, does it feel good.

I’ll walk through the steps of restoring the RX in this post – it’s not as in-depth but it does show the progression well. I tried to take pics when I remembered, but for the most part you’ll be able to see what I did and what I used. This is really just to show that you can bring any car back to life and make it look brand new if you put some elbow grease in paired up with proper products. The below will show you the RX330 coming back to life – AKA (as JC says) Hoanger Spec.

This was the night I got it home. I forgot to take pics of what the headlights looked like before I started wet sanding… But this pic was when I went over it with 1000 grit sandpaper mixed with soapy water. Literally just dish soap and warm water. The important thing is to keep the surface wet (that’s what she said). I like to sand in back and forth motions as opposed to circles, but I don’t think it really matters. I just find it’s easier to remove the swirls and see where you need to keep polishing.

After wiping it dry. You can see most of your sanding marks and where you may need to sand a little more. The headlights have been through a lot over the last 11 years and you could feel the grittiness when sanding. Although the headlights look 100x worse now, they feel 100x better. Smooth as a baby’s bumb.

This was after the second pass with a finer sand paper – 2500 grit. By going up each time, you’re effectively reducing the amount of polishing you have to do. You’re just minimizing the previous sandpapers marks by going over with a smoother grit. When you start, you’ll see some of the marring left by the 1000 grit sandpaper and as you keep smoothing it out, you see less and less of it. Eventually you’re left with a foggy but super smooth finish with very minimal (if any) sanding marks.

My go-to polish combo has been Menzerna PF2500 with an orange cutting pad for a while now. I’m using a Porter Cable 7424 (super old but super reliable) so it’s not strong enough to really burn the clear coat even if I tried. The combo has worked wonders for anything from minimal swirls to something as marred up like the RX. You’ll see what type of condition the paint is in later in the post…

The headlight looks bad now from all the wet sanding, but it’ll soon be better. Dab the polish around the headlight and start slow to spread it all over, then speed it up and finish until the polish has broken down and removed the hazing.

Here we go.

Voila! Good as new. All of the yellowing over the years has gone away… the hazing and foggy build up near the bottom is gone as well. It’s crystal clear now! Repeat for the other side. Also – once you polish, you’ll be able to carefully examine where you may have missed a spot when wet sanding. You can repeat the above process until you’re happy with the result.

I would caution though that I probably wouldn’t recommend doing this on newer headlights. Most headlamps come with a protective UV coating but they wear off as you can see here. If you wet sand a new headlight, there is a good chance you’re just sanding it away. Unless you 3M it afterwards, you’re probably worse off by wet sanding. There are other products out there to fix things like this but I’ve never personally tried them. Most of the cars I have restored headlights on have been older models so I’ll use the wet sand method.

Saturday morning – I was back at it again. I don’t typically clay bar – but this one was a must. The paint was gritty and it just felt nasty to touch.

Here’s a good pic of the condition of the paint. Lots of swirls and unattractive…

Here’s what one pass looked like on the front quarter. JUST the front quarter alone held that much debris and dirt – it is surprisingly satisfying when you clay bar and get this much gunk off.

More shots of the marring and swirls.

Last one. You can imagine how stoked I was to bring this paint back to life…

Here’s what the clay looked like after the first half of the car. Keep in mind to knead the clay every panel so that you get a fresh start on the next panel. The last thing you want to do is continue rubbing the grit and dirt from one panel onto the next one. You don’t want to make it more difficult for yourself when polishing.

One thing that I got a lot of questions and comments about on my Instagram story was about the clay bar method. Clay barring your car is used to remove contaminants and debris that is “lodged” in the clear coat that regular washing wouldn’t have removed. There are people that clay bar their new car and still find debris and contaminants in the paint. I’m not one of those people – but I do think that after 11 years, a car that has not received a good detail does require claying. Technically, I could have gone straight to polishing and it would’ve had a similar effect. However, you would just get a lot of the debris in your polishing pad and make it less effective as you go. Clay barring also does not remove swirls – polishing and sealing/waxing is vital to follow up with to protect the clear coat after clay barring since it removes everything – even existing wax. Please don’t think clay barring will fix your paint – it will make it look ‘cleaner’ for sure, but your swirls are there for good until you polish.

The final product after claying. The car does shine a bit more with a lot of the dirt out of the clear coat, but there is a bigger challenge ahead – swirls.

Here’s a shot of the polish after being worked into the clear. The biggest thing to remember is that polish needs heat and time to break down. You can’t run your polisher on the lowest setting and expect swirls to be gone. You need to spread the polish at a low speed, then gradually work your way up and begin generating heat on the pad to the surface of the clearcoat so that the polish starts to break down. I typically work on a panel for 5-10 minutes depending on how many swirls or how bad the condition is. It also helps to have a light over the panel you’re working on so you can see how much you’ve fixed.

Once you’re satisfied, wipe the polish off with a MF cloth and inspect the surface. This is how you’ll know whether you need to make another pass or if you’ve removed enough swirls to your liking.

Here’s a shot of the front fender after polishing with one pass. 99% of the swirls are gone and the surface is reflecting as expected.

Aria came to join and help out for a little bit…

A shot of the rear bumper – the rear bumper was probably the worst part of the car. Lots of scuffs from many things I imagine – luggage, swiping with jeans/jackets, bumps and bruises from parking lots… I was able to remove about 95% of the scuffs that did not go past the clear coat.

Also polished the tail light. Yes – you can polish your tail light to reveal a nice, clear finish.

A shot of the rear quarter and tail light.

One more of the tail light. Note – I did not wet sand the tail lights. Typically, tail lights receive much less abuse than headlights. The only time I’ve wet sanded tail lights was when the previous owner has taken the car wash brush to it one too many times. You’ll be able to tell based on the scratches and scuffs and haziness of it, but this wasn’t bad at all. A quick pass on this really just helped clear it up again.

Once you’ve done the hard – and most important – part of it all, the next step is to help reveal and protect the shine you’ve just brought out. I decided to try out a new type of sealant – a product from Japan – Soft99’s Fusso Coat. It’s the Japanese brother of Chemical Guys, if you will. It’s a fairly hard paste sealant made of a fluorine polymer. It’s marketed as a ’12 month wax’ but I suspect with our winters, I’ll probably last 4 months if I’m lucky.

This particular tin is made for dark cars. Small print if you would like to read the details…

Here’s what it looks like. I was totally expecting it to smell like squash but it just smells like strong chemicals. Bummer lol. I’m not going to bore you with wax application pics – it’s pretty bland. The best pics are after the wax is wiped off…

While I was inspecting the car, I also noticed the grill had taken quite the beating over the years. it looked like a cookies and cream grill now. I wanted to restore it back to black so I masked it off and painted that while I was waiting for the wax to cure.

Finally done! All in all, it took me about 5-6 hours to complete it all. I consider myself lucky because the car was already pretty clean to begin with – it was kept in good condition and all I needed to do was fix it up here and there. A little hard to tell in these pics since the sun was half and half…

A shot of the rear quarter – it truly looks like a brand new car.

One more…

A shot of the rear. The rear hatch was also quite beat up I imagine from opening and closing and other things. The 3″ pad that I picked up worked wonders on the tight spaces here.

A shot of the refreshed grill. Nothing fancy, but definitely better than before.

A shot of the now-cleared headlights.

Another shot of the headlights. No more swirls, or haziness!

Reflection shot. Much better than the swirly shot I took above…

Tail lights refreshed as well.

Head on…

And one last one before the garage closed for the day. It’s a total bummer too because I wanted to drive it while it was so damn shiny… But it’s snowing and shitty today and no one will ever be able to appreciate it like I did on Sunday… Oh well.

If anyone has questions, feel free to email me! I’m always willing to help and answer questions!

Welcome to the Family: Lexus RX330

Not much been going on lately but did want to update you on something car related… Over the past few weeks I’ve been searching for a winter beater to get me around this year. I was originally going to take the Civic back from my sister to use again but realized that lugging a car seat/stroller/child around in a 2-door is not practical, nor is it easy. I’ve been doing that during the weekdays with the FRS – which is about 8.4x more difficult than the Civic and I already hate it. I can’t imagine doing it all winter while it’s cold.

During my searches, I had specific criteria – nothing too narrow but nothing so wide that any old thing would do. The top contenders were the RX, 4Runner, MDX, RDX, and an X3. I came across a few RX’s, very rarely a nice 4Runner without a million KM’s on it would show, MDX’s and RDX’s were a rare sight – especially if you wanted a nice body and clean interior, and finally X3’s were surprisingly cheapest of the bunch but 150,000+km’s on a BMW scares me a little bit. I often complained over Instagram about how no one has a good car, and if they had a good car, they never replied to ads. It is a painful, painful process as I’m sure some of you might know.

Late last week, Howard Lum – a fellow social media friend messaged me saying he might have something and that he’d look around. At this moment – this is when stars align and everything happens perfectly – that’s when I knew my search could come to an end. He mentioned that the Service Manager at Royal Oak Lexus was selling his RX. 180,000km, 2006, practically mint, serviced perfectly, and black on black. What more could you ask for other than to come see it and just take it off the guys’ hands?!

Anyway, some back and forth and we finalized the deal earlier this week. I’ll tell you – in my searches, I saw a lot of shit and it’s literal shit. There are RX’s out there that are – according to the ads – “perfect condition” but always come with a clause. “Only one key”. “Windshield crack”. “Needs new brakes and rotors”… Otherwise, “Perfect condition!!”. That annoys me to no end. As most of you car goers are, I tend to be very particular about the condition of the car. You can’t ask much from an 11 year old car, but you CAN ask that the owner cared for it at least half as much as you would and treated it well. This RX was exactly that and more.

The RX itself is a gem. Mechanically – it’s a buyer’s dream car – maintained at the dealership as intended. Everything done to it that’s ever needed to be done. New brakes, rotors, struts, fluids, etc – all with proper documentation backing it up. The worst thing you can do is buy a car that’s never been maintained or maintained poorly by some hack shop.

The exterior though could use some TLC. That’s something that never really bothered me as long as it’s just wear and tear from use. Swirls, hazing, fogged up headlights, etc. I am actually really looking forward to bringing the paint and headlights back into pristine condition. Over the next few weeks, I plan on tackling parts of it here and there and I’ll take pics as I go of the condition it’s in now and to where I am able to get it.

A lot of the car just needs a thorough wash, claybar, polish and wax. The headlights in particular are kind of hazed up from the sun and 11 years of probably little to no polish or sealant. The top part of the headlight is yellow-ing a bit as you can see above.

The bottom part of the headlight is less yellow but pretty fogged up. You can even feel that thick layer of build up as you run your finger over it. I’m stoked on getting this thing wetsanded and polished back up to new.

The body as you can see is pretty much perfect. No dings or dents besides a few here and there on the side mouldings. There’s a bit of orange peel but I haven’t decided if I want go through wetsanding it as well…

The interior looks like it just stepped out of the showroom from 2006. Unlike some of the other cars I looked at, you can tell whenever this thing was driven, it was literally just to sit in it, drive, and get out.

The only real sign of wear is in the drivers seat which you can see here. No big deal either – it’s not something I look at (or can look at) while driving. OEM rubber mats, no nicks in the wood grain. It’s beautiful.

Same thing with the rear – the tail lights could use some polish but other than that – nothing.


You can see in this pic, the rear quarter needs a polish pretty badly. That’s pretty much what the whole car looks like – not terrible, but not like the FRS lol. Mind you, the FRS hasn’t been washed since Sunday School and it’s still shinier than the clean RX LOL!

It’s actually super exciting for me to have both the FRS and the RX beside each other in the garage right now. I’ve been wanting an RX for a really long time – but just never cared to look into one. This has also been my Dad’s dream car so maybe when I’m done with it, he can live his dream too…

If I Could Call it a Drink, Call it a Smile on the Rocks

I’m pretty behind on posts… To be honest, I completely forgot that I had taken pictures on Friday of some of my time at Jackie’s shop and then of JC’s grill install (hence the title of this post – courtesy of Diana lol).

It was about time that I had my oil change, so I stopped by Jackie’s to get ‘er done and took some snaps while I was there. Haven’t really taken pics so I’m a little rusty lol.

IMG_5917 copy

Jackie’s crazy track build. He acquired this bumper about a week ago – a custom, one-off bumper made from a Subaru bumper. The build quality of it is pretty legit and it looks absolutely crazy in person. It literally sticks out a good 15″ if not more. Not sure how he’s going to get up ramps LOL

IMG_5919 copy

On the other side… The car going up

IMG_5925 copy

Kinda liked this shot… The red and black worked way better than I had imagined. Glad I kept it red.

IMG_5926 copy

Some other detail shots of Jackie’s bumper.

IMG_5928 copy

The carbon is pretty good and well put together.

IMG_5933 copy

The canards molded nicely around the bumper. Very sturdy construction. Kudos to whoever made this. It’s super nice.

IMG_5936 copy

From the rear quarter of the bumper. Mad downforce.

IMG_5944 copy

Now some artsy photos while I waited…

IMG_5949 copy

IMG_5950 copy

Upstairs is Jackie’s previous set up for the ITR – a C-West bumper with Top1 canards.

IMG_5955 copy

IMG_5962 copy

Diana bored as hell lol

IMG_5963 copy

Next up we got back to my place and tackled JC’s new grill install. Stock shot here.

IMG_5964 copy

Sunken Battleship!!

IMG_5966 copy

Removing the stock grill and headlight washer lines.

IMG_5968 copy

Gopesh’s car…

IMG_5969 copy

Bottom grill removed. Pretty easy.

IMG_5971 copy

Touching up some paint on the sideskirt. Shot courtesy of Punit lol

IMG_5974 copy

These locking star washers were probably the hardest part of the whole job. There’s no real way to actually remove it without ruining the tabs on the emblem. Gopesh managed to get them off pretty quickly and still got away with being able to re-use them.

IMG_5977 copy

A shot of the grill-less bumper.

IMG_5984 copy

Dat hybrid emblem.

IMG_5985 copy

Punit unpacking the new spindle-type grill.

IMG_5989 copy

The emblem goes back…

IMG_5992 copy

Comparison shot o the two. The difference is actually night and day when you see the two side by side. The old one was just really cheap looking. The new one brings a lot more character to the front and updates it with a newer look.

IMG_5994 copy

Top one installed in a jiffy.

IMG_5997 copy

Bottom one in. Cool shadow/light pattern of stars on the ground lol.

IMG_6002 copy

Boom. An updated front end – attention to detail is what matters the most!

I Forgot How Much I Missed Summer…

Had nothing planned today so we tagged along with Punit and Gopesh to drop their cars off to get some bodywork done. It was a nice day, I have yet to get my car back – which btw will be tomorrow!! – and thought this would be a nice relaxing way to spend a Saturday… I don’t remember the last time I hung out and just chilled. Decided to also bring my camera along just in case… I’m glad I did. This place has been bone dry lately.

IMG_5498 copy

On the way to the bodyshop. This was the first time Punit and Gopesh brought their cars out this year. It was refreshing for sure…IMG_5507 copy

Punit brought his car to get his bumper and lip repainted. It took a beating last year and as you can kind of see in the pics, it’s been chipped up pretty bad.IMG_5506 copy

Gopesh took his in for a more minor fix – under his flares, a piece of his bumper was bent out and losing some paint, so he wanted to get that touched up.IMG_5508 copy

Andy – the owner of the shop has his 1976 Mitsubishi Lancer under the knife as well. He’s won a few awards with it and he’s looking to bring it back fresher than ever this year with a fresh coat of paint, and some new chrome trim pieces.IMG_5516 copy

Inside the shop, Punit checking to see if he’s high enough…IMG_5517 copy

This would be a prime picture if Gopesh’s ass wasn’t in the way. Thinking he’s a Calvin Klein model or something..IMG_5523 copy

Inspection of the bumper. You can see the paint chips all over.IMG_5524 copy

Outside, Gopesh taking off the flare to reveal the imperfection he’s been talking about that none of us believed.IMG_5525 copy

I guess he wasn’t lying afterall… LOLIMG_5527 copy

A few more pics of Andy’s Evo – it has an Evo IV engine swapped into it. Cool. (thanks JC for the clarification).

IMG_5529 copy

Some of the work that he’s been doing trying to get rid of the rust.IMG_5532 copy

There’s something about Japanese classic cars that just hit you right in the feels. Too cool.IMG_5534 copy

Decided to head over to Jackie’s shop to hang for a bit and on the hoist sits Steve’s RSX waiting for an oil change.IMG_5541 copy

Over on another hoist is Jackie’s project shop car – an ITR. There’s lots going on with it right now and he’s been stockpiling parts for it over the winter with much more to come. I took a few shots of what I could…IMG_5543 copy

DIY undertrayIMG_5544 copy

Top 1 CanardsIMG_5545 copy

Fender cut outs for that race car effectIMG_5553 copy

Not too long after – Nick and Derrick dropped by in Nick’s new Porsche GT3. Gone are the days of the GTR if you remember that one at all…IMG_5555 copy

Beautiful.IMG_5557 copy

Took a few interior pics…IMG_5560 copy

IMG_5567 copy

The yellow BBK stands out nicely. IMG_5569 copy

IMG_5575 copy

Squished.IMG_5577 copy

Rich’s winter car – his CR-V that he’s been modding here and there. He’s added a bunch of additions since he’s acquired it. One of the newest additions being the retro CR-V side decal.IMG_5576 copy

Nicely retrofitted projectors into the stock housings. I’ve always loved a clean retrofit. IMG_5590 copy

Outside of Jackie’s shop – Isaac’s LS-swapped RX7 sits… And it really just sits there most of the time, and it’s easy to walk passed it or never get it a second glance. However… Jackie gave me a ride in it not too long after I took this picture and I think I almost puked up the pizza I had earlier.IMG_5587 copy

The interior of the RX7. It’s nothing crazy – and like I said, it’s easy to underestimate. It doesn’t have sparkling, showroom paint. It doesn’t have anything that screams “hey look at me!” If any car can scare the shit out of you, it’s this one. I told everyone it’s highly likely that I would never get into this car again after Jackie drove it. LOLIMG_5584 copy

Back in the shop – on yet another hoist, sits Lester’s Mini Cooper. An ongoing project for Lester that will turn many heads when completed…IMG_5586 copy

I’m sure it’s an easy spot – but… Guess the Swap!IMG_5581 copy

A few shots of Steve’s interior as I walked by… Mugen wheel.IMG_5583 copy

IMG_5537 copy

Lastly – Isaac’s dog chilling in the waiting room happy to see some new faces! Hopefully I’ll have a few pics tomorrow when I get the car back! Stay tuned! It’s about to be a crazy summer!