Detailing is an art and science, learning to both parts at once can be a challenge. You must learn what techniques are required along with the correct products. What is up with all the different color polishing pads out there? And which one are you supposed to use for what? What is the difference between a wool pad and a foam pad? Why are there so many different rubbing compounds out there? Or maybe you've been wondering about the different types of waxes and which one you're supposed to use? Well we will try and explain some basics to you.
Depending on what you are trying achieve depends on the products you will need but for the purpose of this post let’s start off with the most aggressive pad, which is made to remove heavy scratches and blemishes which would be used on badly neglected car paint.
For those of you that don't know when you're polishing or using any type of pads with a polisher on your car's paint, you're only dealing with your clear coat. Now you might hear terms out there like ‘color sanding’ or ‘color correction’ which could be confusing because that would imply that you might be doing something damaging to the base coat paint. But note when you are polishing (even wet sanding) you are never touching the base coat (unless you go too crazy), you're only dealing with the clear coat.
Ok not so fast! Let’s explain base coat and clear coat for you. When cars panels come out of the factory, they are going to be completely bare. To protect these panels against rust and corrosion the panels are usually sprayed with the combination of a Primer/Sealer.
After the primer, the base coat is sprayed on your car, which is the coat that gives your car its color. After your base coat, clear coat is sprayed over it in order to protect it against sun damage and corrosion, but also to give your car that nice shiny gloss. The clear coat also protects your base coat against light scratches and scuff marks and when you are buffing or polishing your clear coat using pads, those are the blemishes that you are removing.
So, if you are working on a badly damaged clear coat with blemishes and scratches you would start off with as a cutting pad.
Now this could be either a wool pad or a foam cutting pad. If you have a scratch in your clear coat that has gone in deep, cutting pads (as the name would suggest) are to be used with the polisher and basically cut away at your clear coat to below your scratch and remove it from your clear coat.
The benefits of using a wool pad. The main one is that it cuts faster, as in you spend less time cutting through your clear coat. Since this is faster it's going to mean you're going to spend less time with your polisher going over the blemishes or your clear coat. Which means you're going to generate less heat and you won't heat up your clear coat and run the risk of damaging your clear coat.
The cons of using a wool pad are you end up using more compound than if you were to use a foam pad, because the fibers soak up a lot of compound. Secondly you could also have some marring on your clear coat because of these fibers. Third, you run the risk of dry birthing because these fibers soak up all the lubricant that could be in your compound and if you are not careful you could damage your paint by dry buffing.
As far as the benefits of using a foam cutting pad, firstly they are not as aggressive as wool pads when it comes to cutting, so that means they are a little bit safer to use. Unlike a wool pad they don't need a whole lot of compound so you would save some money on compound.
The cons when using a cutting foam pad, since you're going to be spending more time with your polisher going over the blemishes then you would with the wool pad. Because foam pads generate more heat you run the risk of using this in the same area a little too much and overheating that area actually and damaging your clear coat.
It sounds like the pros and cons of these two pads kind of cancel each other out but as a general rule of thumb, if you're experienced, you would use wool pads to remove these scratches and blemishes and on the other hand, you would likely use foam pads if you're starting out or to remove just medium scratches or scuff marks.
What kind of compound you use with these pads? well since you are using cutting pads you want to use a cutting compound.
Quick side step……What is up with all the different color pads?
And which color is a cutting pad, that simply depends on which company you buy your pads from. Unfortunately, some brands like to stand out by changing their pad colors which leads to more confusion.
Connection Type Basics:
The most common connection type is a hook-and-loop pad design, you have probably seen the hook and loop style before if you have ever worked with Velcro - it’s the same concept. We think Velcro has been trademarked so we have to use another name.
Alright back to it. Next, after you use your cutting compound to get rid of the deeper scratches and blemishes you will move onto your polishing pad, that's because you might have gotten rid of the scratch with your cutting pad but your cutting pad has left smaller scratches of its own and the surface where your scratch once was, now might be a little dull. Now generally speaking, for polishing foam pads since you do not need to remove much clear coat these are less aggressive. Foam pads work fine, these have a smooth surface, therefore, they help deliver a smoother finish on your clear coat as well.
Next is common sense, with your polishing pad, you use a polishing compound.
After using your polishing pad and polishing compound there will still be some blemishes on the surface. Which are called swirl marks, which are very tiny scratches on your clear coat that remain. If you want to get rid of swirl marks grab a finishing pad. Finishing pads are the smoothest pads. Most of these pads are black colored. After using our finishing pad with swirl remover, you should get a very smooth swirl-free finish on your clear coat.
Go Step by Step:
If you are just starting out or especially if you’re using an old-school rotary polisher it is suggested, you go through the three steps – Cutting, Polishing and Finishing. This way it is a lot safer and you reduce the chance of going through your clear coat and you’re ruining your car's paint.
Wax n wax off….
Next it is time to protect all this hard work but also to make things even shinier, we do that by putting another coat on top of our clear coat in a form of car wax. Car wax comes in different forms. Wax also acts as a shield against environmental factors, helping your paintwork stay pristine.
Liquid waxes: apply these using a foam pad or a dual action polisher, the way these work is that you get some of this on your foam pad or your finishing pad on your dual action polisher and you start applying this on your panels in a circular motion. Then you simply wait for it to dry to a haze and then you wipe it all down with a clean microfiber towel. Now, these liquid type waxes are not as easy to apply. But they do last a lot longer and they give you a much better shine and gloss.
Pastes: As far as durability is concerned, some people argue that these last longer than liquid wax. Others argue, however, that liquid wax lasts longer. Pastes on types give a much deeper gloss to your clear coat. But between the liquid wax or the paste wax. It is simply a matter of personal preference. Now like our liquid wax these also can be applied using a foam pad. But unlike our liquid wax the majority of these cannot be applied with a dual action polisher. The cons of using these pastes type waxes are that they can be very hard to apply as and it is very time-consuming. It takes a lot of elbow grease and when they dry on your panels and you go to wipe it off, they can get into small areas and crevices you might have a hard time reaching.