The Science of Car Care

 by Michael Satterfield

If you have ever been to an auto parts store or just the car care aisle of a local retailer you have undoubtedly seen the nearly endless selection of car detailing and maintenance products that are on the shelf. I'm sure few, if any of us, ever give much thought to the engineering that goes into something like tire shine or waterless car wash; Besides how many ways can there be to make a tire shiny?

If you have ever worked on, washed, or even just done some basic maintenance on your car, it's likely you have used a product from one of the many brands in the ITW Global Brands collection. So, when they invited me out to their research and development lab in Houston, I was excited to see what the scientists behind products like Slime, Gumout, RainX, and Fast Orange do to innovate some of the oldest brand names in car care.

Clare Huang, Director of R&D

Our tour was led by Dr. Ali Alwattari, who is the director of R&D, after a brief introduction and handing out some safety glasses we headed into the lab where we would meet with Clare Huang, the main research engineer behind Black Magic tire shine and Gumout. Clare has been with the company for over 25 years, so if you have detailed your car and used a tire shine, there is a good chance it was developed by him. While tire shine is nothing new, it is something that the team at ITW is constantly working on improving everything from the developing new formulas to the design of the spray nozzle. The latest version of tire shine, Black Magic Intense Tire Wet Spray lasts up to four weeks and has been engineered to not run or streak for a more even coat, Clare used a demonstration tire to compare competitors products to his latest creation, and the difference in application and performance was impressive.

Tze-Lee Phang, Senior R&D Team Lead

Next, we headed over to meet Tze-Lee Phang, an R&D senior team lead, to learn about Gumout fuel additive. After over a decade of working with the brand and dozens of patents, Tze-Lee demonstrated how Gumout works, the science behind why it works, and the data that backs up the claims that Gumout can restore performance and fuel economy. She also shared a little history, originally developed in the early 1940s for the US military, it was used during WWII to keep carburetors from clogging up in the field. Today the brand still offers a version of its carb cleaner, as well as other cleaners, gasoline additives, and diesel fuel system cleaners.

Rain-X is a brand most consumers (even non-car enthusiasts) know, in fact, Rain-X got into the wiper blade business because a large percentage of consumers already thought they were buying Rain-X wiper blades, though at the time the company didn't even make them. Rain-X got its start in 1972 with the product it is most known for, a water-repelling windshield treatment to improve visibility. It was developed for the aerospace industry but quickly was adopted by the automotive world. Today the brand offers a range of products that include car washes, windshield washer fluids, headlamp restoration kits, cleaners, and wiper blades. 

Martin Rosas, Wiper Engineer: Windshield wiper testing area

To showcase how the Rain-X brand wiper blades perform compared to traditional blades, Wiper Engineer Martin Rosas pulled out a cooler full of dry ice, in extreme cold, the OEM rubber wiper blade shattered, while the silicone blade remained flexible. Martin also showed up how they have improved the mounting hardware on their blades to make installation easier for the average consumer. 

From there we headed over to a see how the waterless car wash worked on one of the employees commuter car. While most detailing guys cringe at the thought of dragging a cloth across a dirty car, the team assured me that if done correctly it won't scratch your paint. Plus, it does leave a layer of Rain-X on the car which helps keep it cleaner.

Like many automotive enthusiasts, I have been using a number of these products for years, be it Rain-X wiper blades, Black Magic detailing products, or Fast Orange to clean up after a long day of working on a project car. Getting a peek behind the scenes at what goes into the making of the brand was exciting and it made me appreciate the science, engineering, and passion for cars that goes into making a product that for me as a consumer, just works and can be found at any Walmart or Autozone.

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This is not a sponsored post, all content, images, and opinions are my own and I was not paid by ITW Global Brands, their PR Firm, or any of their affiliates.