How to Perform a paint Correction
How to Compound and Polish Paint
Over time a clear coat layer of a car’s paint becomes scratched, scuffed, swirled, and stained. All of these paint blemishes detract from the paint’s natural shine and beauty. Examining the paint with the use of high powered LED light or direct sunlight is the only way to determine the true condition of the paint. After determining the severity of the paint defects it’s time to perform a test spot on one of the most damaged areas. A test spot consists of polishing a small section of the paint to determine the appropriate polisher, buffing pad, and polish combination required to achieve desired level of correction. Always clean the paint using a 20% isopropyl alcohol and distilled water mixture or a dedicated polish removal product to remove the polishing oils. Simply wiping away the compound or polish residue will leave behind oils that can fill in any remaining paint defects. With proper hand washing a car’s paint can remain swirl free for numerous years after the polishing is performed.
Choosing the Polisher, Buffing Pad, and Polish
There are two types of polishers to choose from when it comes to compounding and polishing paint. The rotary polisher is a very powerful direct drive machine that can quickly install buffing trails as fast as it removes swirl marks. Rotary polishers also spin at a higher rate of speed which causes them to generate a considerable amount of heat in a short period of time. In the right hands a rotary polisher can be used to remove the heaviest paint defects in fewer polishing passes then a dual action polisher. However in the wrong hands considerable damage can be caused in a matter of seconds. If you are new to paint polishing it’s a wise choice to learn using a dual action polisher. Unlike rotary polishers dual action polishers use clutches that prevent rotation under excessive force. In addition dual action polishers operate in a random orbit which eliminates any chance of installing buffer trails. The stroke of the dual action polisher will determine how fast the paint correction is performed and what size pads the machine was designed for. Smaller orbit machines are capable of using smaller four inch buffing pads which are required to polish the tighter areas. While larger orbit machines with either five or six inch buffing pads are perfect for polishing large flat areas.
Buffing pads come in a multitude of different cuts and it’s a good idea to purchase at least three different cuts. Depending on what brand of buffing pads are being used the color of the foam can be different so it’s important to verify the level of cut whenever trying new buffing pads. The compounding pad is going to be used during the first stage of the paint correction to remove heavy paint defects without generating excessive heat. Whenever compounding is performed it should always be followed up by a minimum of one additional polishing stage. After the compounding stage is complete it’s time further refine the paint by using a polishing pad to remove any micro marring left over from the high-cut compounding pad. If achieving an unparalleled level of gloss the goal then a third stage known as jeweling should be performed. The jeweling stage consists of using a finishing pad and a finishing polishing. The benefits from performing a three stage paint correction are highly worth the extra time investment for black paint.
When it comes to compounds and polishes it’s a must to have multiple products with different levels of cut. The more cut that a polish provides the lower the level of gloss that it will leave behind. Having three or more cuts of compounding and polishing products is a must. The highest cut product will almost always be paired with the compounding pad and lowest cut product with the finishing pad. It’s far more common to have to pair a medium cut product with another pad besides the polishing one. With so many different buffing pad and polishing product to choose from it’s essential to always start with the least aggressive combination and work upwards. There is a finite layer of clear coat on each car and limiting how much is removed during each paint correction is a priority.
Step 1 – Before any compounding or polishing is performed rubber and plastic trim should be taped off to prevent any accidental staining or damage. While product residue can typically be removed from trim using an all-purpose cleaner it’s quicker and easier to tape off the trim. If a rotary buffer is being used there is a possibility to cause discoloration on the trim due the higher rotation speed and extra heat generated. If heavy compounding is being performed it’s a good idea to tape up the panel gaps to help minimize residue build-up in the door jambs.
Step 2 – Perform a test spot on a heavily scratched or swirled area of the pant. Starting with medium cut polish and a polishing pad begin to correct a two foot area of the paint. Once four “polishing passes” have been performed remove the polish residue and check the results using a high powered LED light. If paint defects are still present after the initial polishing passes then it’s time to increase the aggressiveness of the product and pad combination.
A polishing pass consists of moving the polisher in a series of horizontal and vertical movements with approximately a 50% overlap. Once the section of paint has been covered using either direction the following passes should alternate directions to achieve maximum coverage and ensure all paint defects are removed. On the final two polishing passes use decreased downward pressure and polisher speed can utilized to minimize the level of micro marring left behind.
Step 3 – Once the test spot is complete it’s time to duplicate the process on the remaining paint. After section of the paint is compounded or polished the buffing pad should be cleaned to remove residue. The clear coat that is being removed to level the paint defects builds up on the pad’s surface. If this residue is not removed it will diminish the level of cut and cause pad deformation due to excessive heat buildup. Use a soft nylon bristle brush to thoroughly clean the entire buffing pad to remove product and clear coat residue. After the residue has been removed apply a few drops of product to the pad and begin to polish the next section of the paint. Depending on how many stages the paint correction is will determine how many times this step is repeated.
Step 4 – While the compound or polish residue should be removed from the paint after each section is corrected it’s a good idea to perform an additional wipe down. Using 20% isopropyl alcohol and distilled water mixture or a dedicated polish removal product wipe the paint gently in straight lines. Do not use heavy downward pressure of circular motions when performing the final wipe down. Accidentally causing any towel marring at this point in the paint correction would undo hours of polishing.
If any polishing oils remain on the paint the layer of carnauba wax, paint sealant, or paint coating the bond will be compromised and the durability diminished. This final step offers extra peace of mind to anyone who plans on installing a paint coating. With some paint coatings costing in excess of $100 dollars a bottle spending the extra time to ensue no polishing oils are remaining on the paint is time well spent.