I helped my friend detail his car and it was worth it
This "disaster detail" was a fun way to build friendship
You don't have to drive something fancy, expensive, or special to enjoy the drive. A longtime friend of mine has fully committed to keeping his aging 2003 Honda Pilot on the road for several more years despite its many issues. The cosmetics are particularly poor but I stepped in and offered to help eradicate the years of built up grime and gunk. A good reset on the years of neglect helped him feel better about his increasing financial commitment to an old jalopy and we got to catch up while we were at it.
It's difficult to overstate just how bad the layers of grime were. It may have had a wash every year or so over its life, but I don't think it has ever been detailed properly in its 19 years on the road.
Every crack and crevice that wouldn't have been reached by a run through an automatic car wash was literally black from over a decade of built up tree sap and decayed leaves. For instance, the above photo of the rear hatch hinge was after I'd scooped out a half dozen handfuls of dripping mush that used to be leaves.
The most pressing concern was the completely opaque yellow headlights (that don't look nearly as bad in this photo as they actually were). We were able to restore them to nearly 100% clearness, allowing far more light to pass through.
I don't want you to think my friend was apathetic to the condition of his car. It's just that cleaning it was such a low priority and such a daunting task that he would never have the time and energy to attempt a proper detail himself.
In fact, I was surprised by how efficiently and effectively he was able to work after he got motivated. I let him take the second headlight restoration and he achieved better results than I did! Apparently my technique has a long way to come.
Probably 2 of the nearly 4 hours we spent working on the exterior were spent scrubbing every crease, joint, and body line to flush out the thick black sludge that had made a home there. The shockingly large panel gaps were doused in degreaser and attacked with stuff plastic brushes. I used an entire bottle of tar remover that day and there were still spots that had to be declared just "good enough."
But what a difference! Sure, it's a nearly two decade old beater without A/C (in Georgia!) that doesn't have a single panel that lines up properly or is free from an impressive array of dents and scrapes, but it's living its best life.
Is this car really deserving of this treatment? I should think so! For the length and severity of its service, this Honda has been remarkably reliable and even pleasant to use. It does its job reasonably quietly and comfortably and even does it with style. Being a first year Pilot, it has a 255 horsepower V6 and the standard full time 4x4 system. It's also got nearly first gen Toyota Sequoia levels of interior space covered in Honda's finest blue leather and plastic. I can see why he is such a fan.
And, best of all, I got to spend some quality time with one of my best friends freezing our hands off, listening to rock and roll, and talking about life. There are some things that are just better done with friends.
If you have a friend that has a car in urgent need of such a simple livability improvement, I advise you offer your help. It was a great friendship building experience.