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    Thread: Paint Correction & Polish Basics

    1. #1

      live to Detail...am addicted

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      Jun 2012
      Bangalore, Koramangla

      Paint Correction & Polish Basics

      Generally modern automotive paint is a two stage paint where there is a color coat at the bottom and a clear coat applied on top. The clear coat provides protection for the color coat beneath it and all the swirls and scratches happen on top of the clear coat. Clear coats generally last for around 5-7 yrs (without application of any LSP) and starts wearing out gradually over a period of time...hence the gradual dullness of the initial shine as it starts getting oxisdised and swirls start forming.

      Older cars or vintage cars generally have what is called a single stage paint where there is no clear coat to prevent damage to the color coat directly. Hence you will see vintage cars or cars where clear coat has gone, the color starts fading rapidly.

      If measured with a paint depth gauge (PDG) the (color + clear coat) thickness comes to around 100 microns -120 microns, in general. Generally you will hear about soft paint (Japanese / Korean cars) or hard paint (German cars), this is achieved through the thickness of the clear coat and type of material used which provides greater hardness and more resistant to damage

      Recent developments in paint technology have led to the big brands like Mercedes, BMW etc experimenting with something called ceramic paint where the paint system is more resistant to swirling and scratches and also can sometimes be kind of self-healing for minor damages...

      Also another big change is moving away from solvent based paint to water based paint gradually, due to increasing environmental damage concerns from VOC's ((down side is that water based paints are generally softer than solvent based ones)

      Paint Correction vs Gloss Enhancement

      Paint Correction:

      *is where basically some amount of the clear coat is removed in order to level the deeper scratches and swirls and remove the minor ones
      * heavy cut compounds (on wool pads) and multiple stage polishing is done
      * you can have almost full paint correction (say for show cars) but at the cost of the greatly reducing your clear coat thickness, so always best to take a common sense approach to paint correction and accept that not all swirls and scratches can be safely removed.
      * recommended to be done once in a while only

      Gloss Enhancement:

      * is where basically a light finishing polish or AIO with some masking fillers is used
      * basically very less clear coat is removed to achieve a great glossy shine, basically removal of oxidation dullness and surface contamination
      * can be done on regular basis


      Degrees of of "Cutting" and "Finishing"

      First let's start with an analogy:

      Say you purchased a pair of trousers and find that the length is too long and it needs to be fitted to you. So you take it to a tailor and ask he him to fit it to you. The tailor basically does a cutting (basically he cuts of some of long of the length of fabric to make it your length ) and finishing (here he snips off any random thread and uneven edges and stitches the end) yo make it fit and look nice.

      For any paint correction, the basic process is the same. To remove any defects (swirls or scratches) you will need to do a cutting (remove some of the clear coat) and finishing (basically even out the areas and add some gloss).

      1.Type: By Cut/Gloss

      In general, the chemicals can be classified as below:

      =>Cutting chemicals / Compounds: Compounds can have varying amount of cut, generally ranging from a heavy cutting compound to medium cut and a light cut, but can be as many as the manufacturer is willing to make. Cutting here is nothing but removing very small amounts of clear coat to level the scratches and swirls with the rest of the paint surface.

      Generally the compounds will have increasing cut and less gloss /shine as you go up the range

      =>Finishing chemical / Polishes: Generally known as polishes and have some varying amount of cut, ranging from light finishing polishes to ultra but always lesser than cutting chemicals or compounds. Finishing is nothing but removing any hazing or holograms left over from compounding stage and shining the paint to a gloss by removing very very fine layer of clear and glossing it up.

      Generally finishing polishes will have decreasing amount of cut and increasing gloss/finish as you go down the range.

      2.Type: By Abrasive Particle Size

      All compounds or polishes will generally either be one of the type below or a confusing mix of both

      =>SMAT / Non-Diminishing Abrasives:

      * These type of compounds / polishes basically have abrasive particles which remain the same in size throughout the polishing cycle i.e. no diminishing of size.
      * User can stop at any point of the polishing cycle and wipe it off
      * More user friendly as you can stop polishing process anytime nor does one have to wait for particles to break down
      * Easier for hand polishing / DA and also rotary also
      * Newer technology

      =>DAT / Diminishing Abrasives:

      * These type of compounds / polishes basically have abrasive particles which gradually break down by application of heat and pressure through the polishing cycle i.e. abrasives diminish in size gradually
      * May take more effort and time to ensure there is a proper breakdown of particles...when starting off, DAT polishes sound and feel like rubbing stone chips on the paint...very distinct sound
      * Easier for rotary use and also DA and hand

      Now lets cement that understand that has been built above. Looking at the small diagram below, what we can understand that heavier the cut, lesser is the gloss and greater the gloss, lower is the cut. (Of course, for any compound / polish the gloss or cut level may not be actually zero but low enough that it does not matter)

      Now since a heavy cut compound may not finish down well as its low on gloss, hence it is always preferred to follow up with a finishing polish of some type as they enhance and bring out the gloss. Similarly when paint correction is required, using a finishing polish and expecting good amount of cut is not going to work...so do match you polish to your expectations.

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      Popular Polishes / Compounds Combos

      Let's look at some popular product lines, namely, Meguiar's, Menzerna and Scholl to get some understanding of what we discussed till now...we are not going to discuss the complete range of polishes but will talk briefly about a heavy cut compound, light cut polish, finishing polish or the best possible combos wherever possible

      1. Meguiar's Polishes

      Best example of a simplest combo would be Meguiar's M105 (cutting compound) Meguiar's M205 (finishing polish). With only these two chemicals you can work on around 90% of automotive paints, depending on certain other variables. If you only want to buy two chemicals ever then these two will do the job wonderfully whether it be a pro or enthusiast.

      If you are looking for a medium level cut and some amount of finish, then lets look at D151, which the AIO from Meguiar's stable...light protection but good amount of cut and decent finishing...a proper one stepper if you are looking for one. Could be something else also, you have to check and take a call on what you want.

      The below image sourced from Autogeek showcases all the Meguiars compounds / polishes with M105 having the maximum cut and the M205 the least...UP would come somewhere after M205

      Click image for larger version. 

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      2. Menzerna Polishes

      Now let's look at Menzerna polishes...referring to the image below, we can see that they have chosen to come up with a more varied offering...the best combo would be a heavy polishing compound (SI 2000/ IP 1500) and medium finishing compound (PF 2500) and fine finishing compound (PO85RD/ SF 4500)...the PG 1000 is something which you would mostly not required unless you working on really hard paint or a very messed up car.
      Notorious, kmoh since you follow / like the Menzerna system, it would be nice if you can share your thoughts here...

      Click image for larger version. 

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      Source: Autogeek USA

      3. Scholl Polishes

      Let's look at pictures below...kind of self explanatory is it not? The combo here would be S3 Gold (heavy cutting compound), S17+ (medium cutting compound/one stepper) and S30/S40 (finishing polish)

      Click image for larger version. 

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      Source: Scholl

      So, what we can see is that in most cases a medium cut compound / polish and a finishing polish will suffice for most paint correction or for more variety, a heavy/medium cut compound, a light cut polish and a finishing polish would be sufficient, depending on the requirement.


      Understanding Grit Sizes and how it is relevant to compound / polish selection

      This is not something you may understand immediately or even be relevant right now but once you get started with machine polishing then this part will help get more from your polishes and buy just what meets your requirements.

      When you look at sandpaper you will find tiny particles of abrasives attached to a piece of backing. The abrasive particles are generally emery or aluminium oxide or something else and generally the abrasives are bonded with either glue of some kind or some kind of resin and a waterproof backing.

      The sandpapers which generally have a resin bonding with some kind of waterproof backing are generally known as wet / dry sandpaper

      Now the abrasives or grits embedded in the paper have certain sizes. The two most common standards which establish the average grit size and allowable deviations from the same are USA CAMI and European FEPA "P" grade. We are going to talk more about the FEPA P grade as its more widely followed by manufacturers.

      So lets talk about the P grade, lets look at the table below taken from Wikipedia, a snapshot of some of the popular P grades as pertaining to automotive paint

      FEPA P grade
      Average Particle diameter (micrometers)
      Super Fine P1000 18.3
      Super Fine P1200 15.3
      Ultra Fine P1500 12.6
      Ultra Fine P2000 10.3
      Ultra Fine P2500 8.4
      So what all the data from above table means is that a scratch made by a P1200 grit (particle size 15.3 um) is going to be bigger and deeper than a scratch made by a P2500 grit (10.3 um)...So logic says that to remove a big and deep scratch you will need to polish with either same or larger size particle to level it flat...

      Which means for removing a mark made by P2500 grit you will need something which is either at P2500 or even better perhaps P2000 grit size...If you try to polish out a P2500 scratch with say a P5000 grit, you will reduce but not complete remove the mark from the P2500 grit!

      Having understood the above let's look at SchollS40, S30, S17+ and S3 Gold and what grit rating they have

      S40 -> P5000 Cut: Microfine Gloss: Extreme
      S30 -> P2500 Cut: Fine (2/6) Gloss: Extreme (6/6)
      S17+ -> P1500 Cut: Heavy (4/6) Gloss: High (4/6)
      S3 -> P1500 Cut: Extra Heavy (5/6) Gloss: High (4/6)

      So if you have swirls and scratches which are say around P2000 and you are trying to polish them out with something like S30, what do you think will happen? It will reduce the marks but not remove it...To remove P2000 you will either need to match it with something similar or keep cutting more and more paint till it levels out

      If you have ever faced a situation where you end up being frustrated because your polish seems to be totally ineffective then one of the reasons may be that you have not started with the correct selection of polish

      NOTE: Please keep one thing is mind, heavier the polish / compound that is tending towards P1000 and so, greater the chances of leaving behind a compounding haze and hence you may quite possibly need to follow up with a finishing polish like S30/ S40/ M205 / PO85RD or similar (some polishes like S3 / S17+ while having a heavy cut can still finish down surprisingly well)

      Let's look at Menzerna Fast Gloss FG400, a new polish released recenetly from Menzerna which can remove defects upto P1200 range and at the same time finish down well enough that it may not need a finishing polish...the label says Cut:9 and Gloss:7 which when combined with P1200 makes it a pretty amazing polish!

      When looking for a one stepper or any polish / compound, its critical to understand what level of defects (P grade) can be removed and what is level of Gloss it will give ...


      Pairing Polishes and Pads

      For machine polishing, similar to the polishes above, there are a huge variety of different types available. In the above section, from the pictures of Menzerna and Scholl polishes, one can get some idea about what type of pads are required for which polish.

      Let's look at Lake Country pads who have some of the most confusing variety available. The diagram below will help figuring out which polish goes with what pads

      Click image for larger version. 

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      Now lets look at the Scholl pads, they have a pretty easy combo already laid out

      Click image for larger version. 

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      Source: Scholl/Spautopia

      So the most basic polishing pad kit to have would be

      1. Polishing pads of medium cut types
      2. Finishing pads
      3. Cutting pads of medium / heavy cut for when you are working on a particularly deep scratch or abused paint(optional)
      4. Compound, Finishing Polish...again as per personal choice and as much variation as required


      Open Cell vs Closed Cell Foam Pads

      Foam pads are made in two different structures: open cell and closed cell and it is important to understand a little more about this in order to get the best results when pairing pads and polishes (Note that below is my understanding built from going through many articles on many forums but primary credit for building the understanding goes to Mike Philips of Autogeek)

      Open Cell / Reticulated Foam

      Think of a big, long wall full of windows and their wooden frames...Now imagine that all the window frames have no glass, so easy air flow and light...in layman terms thats how a open cell foam can be defined as which gives rise to certain characteristics namely, more porus, more absorbent, less elastic, less dense.

      So what it means when it comes to paint correction is that:

      * open structure allow more air flow and hence heat dissipation is more when working times are longer
      * more air flow means polishes may dry up faster
      * more liquid is absorbed by the foam pads when working which can be released by little more additional pressure as required
      * cleaning can be easier
      * best for finishing down when correcting paint

      Closed Cell / Non-Reticulated Foam

      Think of that long big wall with lots of windows and frames...now imagine the windows have no glass but curtains across them, which to some extent inhibits the air flow and light...in layman terms thats how a closed cell foam can be defined as which gives rise to certain characteristics namely, less porus, less absorbent, more elastic, more dense.

      So what it means when it comes to paint correction is that:

      * closed structure allow less air flow and hence heat generation is more even with shorter working times
      * less air flow means polishes stay lubricated longer
      * less liquid is absorbed by the foam pads when working and hence remain between the pad and surface
      * cleaning can be a pain
      * best for cutting more in less time

      Microfiber Pads:

      are kind of unique, because their textile structure allows them to be both 'dense' and 'open' at the same time. They are still a compromise, but they are a much better compromise in many cases than foam. Their larger surface area allows more abrasives to be packed onto a pad, and the free-floating fibers allow those abrasives to be constantly rotated to keep them cutting cleanly. This all translates into more cut, better finishing potential, and less heat than an equivalent foam cutting pad.


      Hand Correction for Paint

      The principle of hand correction remains the same as above...certain tools will help you get the best results as shown below in the picture

      Click image for larger version. 

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      In the picture (from left to right) in order of cut

      1. Lake Country CCS Euro Orange Cutting hand applicator
      2. Scholl Polishing Puck
      3. Polishing Pal handle (red and black) for better grip and velcro attachment
      4. 3.5" white polishing pad (can be used with machine also)
      5. Carrand Gripper (grey)
      6. Lake Country CCS Euro White Polishing hand applicator
      7. Tri foam applicator (white polishing side and black finishing side)
      8. Blue MF hand applicator
      9. Yellow foam applicator

      So now you need to figure out which of the above to pair with what type of compound / polish. Say you have UC and UP (the equivalent of 105/205) and now you are planning to pair it with a certain pad

      * Pair UC and yellow applicator and it will cut but will still be less than when a MF applicator is paired with UC...similarily when pairing UC with tri foam white side or LC white polishing applicator the cut achieved will be more than the other two

      * similarly pairing UP with any of the above combo will give more cut but will still be less that when paired with UC

      Hand Correction Tips & Tricks

      1. For best results select one of the tools showcased above (polishing / cutting)
      2. Select a SMAT compound (UC is a good starting point) rather than a DAT product as the latter will need more effort and time
      3. Work small sections around 16 inches x16 inches size as below (kind of a modification of zenith point method)
        - spread product on the applicator in a cross pattern
        - first lightly rub it into the section selected to apply the product
        - now start applying light to medium pressure and follow the cross hatch patter (up-down and side-to-side)
        - do multiple passes i.e. one side to side to cover the whole section (one pass) then up and down for the whole section (second pass) and so on
      4. Wipe off product and check how much defect removal has happened...if okay move onto another section overlapping with previous section or repeat same section again
      5. Best to do one panel at a time i.e. one day do the bonnet, few days later do a door and so on.

      Hand Polishing Combos- Product Recommendations

      --- Compounding ---

      • Meguiars Ultimate Compound & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck / orange cutting hand app
      • Scholl S3 Gold & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck / orange cutting hand app
      • Optimum Polish II & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck / orange cutting hand app
      • Farecla G3 Pro Scratch Remover Liquid & Farecla G3 white waffle applicator (http://www.performancemotorcare.com/...g/Farecla.html)

      --- Gloss Enhancement / Paint Cleaning ---

      • AG SRP & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck
      • ZAIO & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck
      • Meguiars Ultimate Polish & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck
      • Optimum Finish & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck
      • Prima Amigo & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck
      • Poorboys Blackhole / White Diamond & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck
      • Any AIO & white tri foam applicator / polishing pal white pad / polishing puck


      Machine Polishing

      This is not going to be exactly a deep dive of machine polishing but more of a collection of some tips and tricks to facilitate using your machine. We are also going to share two links where you can find the deep drive on using a machine whether a rotary or DA

      Pads - Some Suggestions

      Here's some brand suggestions to get you started...all of these are well known and well loved brands...of course there are more to select

      • Lake Country CCS (dimpled) pads
      • Lake Country Flat pads
      • Lake Country Hydrotech Low Profile pads (fantastic pads specially when using SMAT polishes)
      • Buff & Shine pads (superb construction, rugged and durable and fantastic...OEM for a few other pad brands also)
      • Scholl pads
      • 3M pads
      • CG Hexlogic pads
      • Meguiars Softbuff 2.0 pads

      When buying pads the common sizes are 4" , 5.5" and 7" Of these the 5.5" ones are best as they allow you more control when machine polishing and 4" ones or smaller are useful when doing small sections. Og course the pads will need to be paired with an appropriate backing plate.

      Backing Plates

      A good quality flexible backing plate is essential for machine polishing. Why you need a flexible backing plate is because when going over the curves of the car you want it flex a little and conform to the shape rather than be hard and stiff.

      Pairing the appropriate pad with the correct foam pad is very important. For rotary bigger the pad and plate, more it will cut, faster it will spin and less control (it will drag you along). Best size is 5" inch backing plate and 5.5" pads... More control when using rotary. 3.5" / 3" backing plates are too small... Good for small pads and narrow areas bit otherwise will take a whole lot of time to cover whole car.

      Would suggest importing a good backing plate from outside, look for something with foam layer in between the plastic screw top and velcro layer... And plz ensure they are M14 size backing plates (UK,India follow M14 thread convention whereas US has different size convention so please pay attention to this)


      If your BP is 5 inch then pads needs to be at least 5.25 inch or 5.5 inch (preferable) or 5.75 inch

      Product Suggestion (rotary, M14 thread): 3M Perfect-it III Rotary BP, Scholl Concepts Blue BP etc
      Product Suggestion (DA): Megs SoftBuff BP, Flexipads etc

      NOTE: we have not talked about the Flex VRG machine/backing plates here

      Machine Polishing (DA / Rotary) Techniques

      Here am going to provide links to some other sites which cover the techniques well, rather than trying to reinvent the wheel again. Would suggest you also look at the Junkman2000 videos in youtube to get an idea about machine polishing. Another good resource is Autogeek and Mike Philips, please have a look at some of his tutorials also

      DW Guide - Machine Polishing By Dual Action Polisher

      DW Guide - FAQs for Dual Action Polishing

      DW Guide - Troubleshooting Guide for Dual Action Polishing

      DW Guide - Machine Polishing By Rotary Polisher
      Last edited by fordfan; 21st Mar 2013 at 19:33.

    2. #2

      kmoh's Avatar
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      Mar 2011
      What a write up!! Coming to the menzerna polishes- i have used Power Gloss and Power Finish. Power gloss is heavy and its nicknamed "rocks in a bottle". Its best with a rotary and chokes the foams big time. It leaves collateral damage in the form of haze and needs to be followed up with a finishing. I have also used Fast Gloss- something that is not listed here.
      Power finish is a very amazing product. That said- easiest to use is M105, rarely needs a finishing.

    3. #3
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      Holy mother of God.. what the heck is this thread.

      I am heading straight home and throwing out the Turtle wax.

    4. #4
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      Amazing fordfan ! As always you rock. Thanks. That's a one stop reference to persons like me Subscribed & glued to this Detailing dictionary !!

      Dream is not what you see when you sleep;dream is something that doesn't make you sleep - A. P. J. Abdul Kalam.

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    5. #5

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      You may accuse me of complicating things further, but what about the HD UNO polish, which claims that it can be used for cutting / polishing / glazing just by changing pads? Are there any other products like this?

      Here's an excerpt from their website -

      HD Uno - Compound and polish in one Usage Instructions :


      Shake Well Before Use. Apply HD UNO to a cool surface in a shaded area. Dispense enough polish to work on a 2’ by 2’ area.

      CUT: Attach a cutting pad to your buffer and set the speed to 1,500 - 1,800 RPM. Work HD UNO using light to medium pressure in overlapping passes. To prevent holograms and burning the paint, keep the pad moving at approximately 6-9” per second and do not buff dry. Remove polish residue with a clean microfiber towel. Repeat if necessary.

      POLISH: To remove fine scratches, oxidation and compound swirl marks, attach a polishing pad to your buffer and set the speed to 1,200 - 1,500 RPM. Work HD UNO in overlapping passes. Keep the pad moving at approximately 6-9” per second and do not buff dry. Remove polish residue with a clean microfiber towel. Repeat if necessary.

      To inspect work, use a Quick Detailer or IPA and a clean dry microfiber polishing towel.

      FINISH: To create an ultra-high-gloss, hologram-free final finish, attach finishing pad to your buffer and set the speed to 1,000 RPM. Keep the finishing pad moving at approximately 6” per second and buff until polish residue is almost completely gone. Repeat if necessary. Follow up with HD Poxy, a nano-polymer sealant, to enhance the gloss and achieve a long lasting, superior protection.
      Last edited by Guru; 29th Jan 2013 at 13:51.

    6. #6
      not aware that he can set his status here!

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      I had to keep scrolling down and down and down and down, until their came a pop-up which said "This post is never going to end. Want to try reaching the end of it --> Mission impossible". Too much exaggeration eh. I don't feel so. Hats of to the detailing guru aka fordfan aka Anupam Saha (Never thought this to be a bengali name though ).

    7. #7

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      Nice one fordy. Thanks for sharing. Where does Vics Deep Cleanse and Prima amigo fall in the above picture?

    8. #8

      There's three things men
      always talk about - women,
      sports, and cars.

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      fordfan are you doing PhD in Detailing.. I think it will take ages for me to understand these. LOL
      i20 -2011 / Alto K10 AMT-2015 /HH-Pleasure-2010/ HH CD100 SS-1996/ Hercules ACT 110

    9. #9

      Retired hurt detailer

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    10. #10

      live to Detail...am addicted

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      Quote Originally Posted by WildWeasel View Post
      Vics Deep Cleanse and Prima amigo fall in the above picture?
      Vics Deep Cleanse is a paint cleaner comparable to UP / M 205 minus the cut Prima Amigo is comparable to same but with a little cut.

      Both are aimed at masking (fillers) and gloss enhancement.

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