Detailing 101 chosing your products and buffing how to
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This is a discussion on Detailing 101 chosing your products and buffing how to within the Detailing Forum forums, part of the Tech & Modifying & General Repairs category; Ok, I was asked if I would contribute to the community by putting in some tips and tricks and just ...

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    Detailing 101 chosing your products and buffing how to

    Ok, I was asked if I would contribute to the community by putting in some tips and tricks and just overall what detaling is about. Of course I am happy to try to help people out with what I know.

    While I am not a professional... one whom considers himself so is many times one who refuses to accept or even attempt other methods of doing things. In detail work, there are few hard and fast rules... other things are simply how you choose to do them.

    Firstly, I have written the other sticky about washing, drying, how to do things my way, and that way does seem to work well for me, but others do things differently. This section will be more about the overall way to detail based on the way I have learned it. There are MANY great detailers out there however that could completely teach me all over again though.

    So what are those rules? The basic rules that I have seen include some of the following.. you will make more or your own as you go along.

    Price means NOTHING! Some of the most expensive products out there don't work any better than your off the shelf autozone or walmart product.
    Paint will burn! Actually the paint burning thing comes from using rotary polishers which are for more advanced detailers... and some don't like them at all such as myself. Many times it's not the paint getting so hot it "burns" it's more that it's been cut through by the polish.
    WAXES will go over sealants, sealants will NOT go over waxes.
    WATCH FOR EDGES!! The edges of any body panel is where the paint will be the most thin, do what you need to do to get the finish where you want it and then get away from it, keeping your pad as flat as possible will help you out a lot with this issue!
    FORGET ABOUT MOST RULES! That's right... like any other hobby or profession, new trends come out all the time. Ever go to your local autoparts store and just think.. "i'd like to try that wax" or "I wonder if that carwash works better than mine"? Bottles are made to look attractive so you'll buy them lol, most of them aren't worth the plastic it cost to make their container.

    Anyway here we go.

    1. What is detailing? It's pretty self explanatory, but for me it means... if you can see it, it needs to be clean. Detailing goes far, far beyond simple washing and waxing. For some of us it's a hobby, for some of us, it's a job, perhaps it's both or maybe even an obsession.

    2. Ok, i've got my car all washed and dried and I want to give this a shot, how do I go about it?
    Detailing work and products are like anything else... do you like Xbox or Playstation? Do you like Grey Goose or Smirnoff? Most will argue about which is better, others simply want what gets the job done. Through asking and trail and error we find out what works for us.
    Let's go through a list of your basic steps of detailing a car.
    A. Washing (wheel wells, tires and wheels after presoak all first is ideal)
    B. Drying and/or claying (before or after is your choice)
    C. Inspection
    D. Polishing (1,2 or even 3 steps all depend on paint condition and you)
    E. Thorough inspection with some sort of appropriate lighting
    F. Applying (LSP) last step product. (IPA wipedown will depend on preference or if you are applying a permenant coating)

    3. Claying and types of clay: Megs or Clay Magic? Griots? which one is best? Well the answer is that all of them are correct, it only depends on your application. Do you have a lot of imbedded particles? Live in an area known for bad acid rain, smog, etc? Then a Clay magic or the like would probably be better. The softer the clay, the most the clay will pick up. Living in a basic rural area? A harder clay might be all you need to get those imbedded particles out. For the record, I have never felt that those expensive 20.00 or more clay bars were any better than clay magic.
    4. Towels: Washing towels, drying towels, polishing towels, which one? When I had my 370z Adam's car care products was one of their MAJOR sponsors... on a few occasions I questioned how good some of their products really were. I then did a write up on how to detail will cheaper products and was banned about 3 days after that from the detailing section. Obviously showing I was right lol. The truth is that there are a lot of great products out there. Are the plush microfiber towels better? Well maybe, some people don't think so. Me? I pick up a pack of cheap MF towels at walmart in the pack of 20 or so and keep them washed with simple green. If they are extremely dirty, or they fall on the ground they are thrown away. Many people like the PakShak brand towels, some like Cobra, the biggest thing to watch for is picking up dirt that sticks to the surface and then that dirt marring your paint. The idea behind the plush thick towels is that the dirt gets trapped deep in the nap, making marring less likely to occur.
    5. Polisher: DA or Rotary? This can be quite an indepth subject, so i'll try to make it simple. 99% of you here will want a DA (dual action) polisher. A rotary as I said earlier is more advanced, but without much experience, burning a hole right through your paint is a real possibility. A Rotary is just that.. it rotates, the DA polisher has osolations per minute. It still rotates, but much slower than a DA and also vibrates at the same time, which makes it less prone to some of the issues you can run into with a rotary polisher. I actually know quite a few detailers who use a DA over their work after polishing a car with the rotary.
    DA polishers range in price new from about 130.00 or so to about 300.00. The Porter Cable is 7424XP is a nice little polisher and is a newer version of the less powerful model they had out before. Meguiars, Griots, Flex all make these polishers. The Flex used to be and I believe still is, the most powerfull of the DA's in terms off osolations per minute and torque. I use this polisher and also have the older PC which I use mostly to apply sealants.
    6. Pad choice: What color pad do I use? There are so many! The majority of companies use a universal color system (Meguiars does not) which is your yellow, orange, white, black, blue, red and I may be forgetting some. However. To make things simple, the orange pad is a safe choice for most paints, yellow is more aggressive and isn't really needed much on today's paints, as they are so much softer. For instance We'll take the orange pad with some Menzerna SIP (Super intensive polish) as example. SIP is know to remove 1500 grit and above sanding marks, while their IP (Intensive polish) is a bit more mild removing 2000 grit. Your orange pad is going to be sort of like your go to pad. Many times you can even stop after doing a one step correction. If you do choose to go further then a blue pad with FP (Finish polish) would be a very good choice. Note: These are all Menzerna polishes I am writing about because they are what I use on a regular basis. The white pad is the one I use with a cleaner wax or sealant, but it has other uses as well. The black pad is great for applying waxes, sealants, glazes, etc.
    6. Pad sizes: Your pad size is very important based on the polisher that your choose, most DA pads will range in size from 4" to I believe 7.5". The less powerful your polishers is, the smaller pad you will need to get some real cutting power. For instance, with my Flex polisher, a 6.5" pad works very well, but for my PC being a weaker motor, a 4" pad would be better. If your particular polisher is ok in the power department then a 5.5 or 6.5 would be fine.
    7. The art of putting it all together: Polishing can be extremely technical, but basically what you are doing is cutting down very small amounts of clearcoat, which levels the microscopic peaks and valleys that almost every paint job has so that the light refracts more evenly. When you use your orange pad and SIP combo for instance.. you are leveling the paint, and also removing any marring that may exist as well, so the finer that the polishing combos get... the more level the paint and therefore the better light refraction resulting in that mirror shine that we all love to see out of our finishes. Polishing does not have to be complicated... in fact, it's really not at all, but like anything else... much patience is needed as well as experience.
    8. Your first polishing lesson: Ok, get your orange pad and SIP (or whatever polish you may have chosen) out and put about a quarter sized amount on your pad. You will be working with about a 2x2' area. Rub the pad back and forth in the area so your polisher doesn't sling your polish all over the place, turn on the polisher and work the polish in, first going back and forth in overlapping motions and then up and down. The polish will begin to break down. What this means is that the abrasives that are in the polish will sort of melt away as they are used. This doesn't have a specific amount of time, but 2 minutes or so of this will yield results. After this time, turn off the polisher, wipe away the excess and with proper lighting, look at the finish from all angles. If you see some marring, continue doing the same area again until you are satisfied with the look that you want. Remember to ALWAYS keep the buffer moving to avoid heat built up and low spots. You will not need as much polish after you do the first section, so a nickel sized amount after that should be sufficient. Menzerna polishes especially go a long way. After moving to the next section, always slightly overlap each previous section so that you don't end up with lines where you didn't polish... basically play connect the squares. It is important to remember that sometimes the less is more theory is very helpful doing this. You don't need to turn the buffer up to the highest speed to get results.... in fact, MANY times you will get better results with a slower speed, the faster speeds have their place... sometimes correction of very damaged paint isn't it.

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    9. Know when to move on: It's easy to get caught up in trying to remove a scratch or other paint problem, but if you've done 3 passes with your most aggressive pad and polish combo, it likely isn't going to come out, or worse, you may be close to cutting through your paint. It's much better to move on not have to worry about how much your paint shop bill will come out to.
    10. Be mindful of your surroundings: When using your buffer around mirrors, spoilers, door handles, etc. make sure you are aware of where your buffer is... the back plate of it can sometimes hit protruding areas such as the above and can either scratch of even take a chunk out of your paint. Just be cautious.

    Section 1: waxes, sealants, and other coatings (LSP's):
    Just as we have discussed about the products being hard to resist and looking pretty on the store shelves, there is also the issue of which wax, sealant, or coating to use. Let's look at some of the pro's and cons of each.

    Waxes: A wax is a wax... it's been around for hundreds of years and as I talked about in my other thread the word caranuba is almost ALWAYS mis-used when it comes to waxes. Wax comes from leaves of trees that they produce to protect them from heat, rain, and perhaps some bugs maybe? Not sure there. The wax "takes on for the team" if you will and when it gets hot... it drips off and more is produced. "Pure 100% caranuba" is a LIE! In it's pure state it is literally as hard as a brick in it's pure form. It is broken down either by weathering, or in our case... by people who get the wax, take a little tiny bit of that pure 100% wax and add all kinds of chemicals to it to melt it into a nice little squirt bottle. Does it work? Sure, but not for the amount of time that they claim. Usually a harder wax is a more pure wax. All of it has to have some sort of additive, otherwise you would never be able to use it on your car. Wax gives off a nice warm glow, while a sealant most of the time gives off a candy coated look, especially when layered, but we'll get to that later. I've used a few waxes over the years and my favorite is Collinite 915, Collinite makes a lot of very nice products, but their claims are over rated like anyone elses. Claiming a wax will last 8-10 months is more delusional than actual truth. Perhaps in the most ideal circumstances and conditions. Even the best waxes out there will give you a max life of maybe 3 months in most cases. A garage queen? Well maybe a bit longer I suppose.

    Sealants: As I said... I think I wrote about these too, but we'll just put it all together. A sealant is a man made "wax" but not really. There isn't any wax in them. They are the new nano, or polymer, etc etc. For me personally, I prefer a wax over a sealant. Usually a good sealant, you will get more life out of than a good wax. Sealants offer protection for up to 6 months is what most of the claims are... IMO even that is stretching it with most... however, there are always those cases where they last longer. Menzerna used to make (and maybe still does) a product called Full Metal Jacket, I read mixed reviews on it, so never bothered spending the money on it. Now they have Powerlock, and with some of the feedback on here and actually seeing a test for a permanent coating when the car was being stripped down to prepare for an opti-coat test, it did not break down very easily next to another sealant Glanzwax which I have used and still have... though I don't use it often. My favorite sealants are:
    Finish Kare 1000P: It actually is called a wax on the can, but it's not really a wax... open the can up and mosquitos seem to instantly disappear though lol. It's heat resistant from 215-250 degrees making it a good choice for the very hot days we get where a black paint will reach extreme temperatures.
    Werkstatt's Acrylic Jett Trigger: Jeff Werkstatt has a line of products, but i've only tried the trigger. It's a WOWO (wipe on wipe off) product that basically just soaks into the paint. It can be layered within 15 minutes of application and won't stain trim like some of the older stuff would do. It's very glossy and adds a lot to cars that have metallic flake. I tend to think it looks better on while, silver, or grey colors, but I haven't tried it on all colors, so maybe it does well! It's pretty cheap at about 15.00 or so a bottle and his shipping is resonable and pretty quick.
    Blackfire Wet Diamond: A VERY popular sealant over the last few years. It's HIGHLY slick, seems to look good on any color, and has a pretty reasonable life. Easy on, I let it sit for about 30 minutes and then very easy off. Apply wih your DA with a black pad on a slow speed and sort of like today's health trends "thin is in".. keep it thin or you are simply wasting product and money. It's cost is about 30.00 per bottle.
    Duragloss 105: This is honestly I think my favorite sealant out there. It can be found at a lot of local auto parts stores and though cheaper online, with the costs of fuel going up, the shipping costs have also gone up, so unless you're going to spend a good amount of money on a lot of products, it's much easier and cheaper to get it locally. It's a very watery almost thin product. Again, apply with the black pad on a DA polisher. It's claims are up to a year of protection... nope, BUT it does protect well. It's not super slick, but it does look very nice and has mild cleaners in it that will remove any oils, mild tar spots or stains on paints as it goes on. Layering this isn't going to do as much because of the cleaners and the way they will strip the previous layer. I have layered it anyway because I just love to put stuff on my car and even with the cleaners, the paint did look better with each layer up until about 5 or so.
    These are just some of my personal favorites, but you may hate them lol... it's all personal preference.

    Other sealants that have become very popular:
    Optimum opti-seal: goes on a lot like opticoat, many seem to like it... I have never tried it.
    Nitroseal: I've seen some really nice pictures and read pretty good feedback from people who have used it and that it lasts a pretty long time.
    Polyseal: This is an AIO (all in one) it will remove mild defects, clean the paint and seal all at the same time. I don't have any info on durability, but if you want to keep that just polished look, this may be the product to use.
    There are others, but I can't think of them right now...

    Permanent Coatings:
    This has VERY quickly become kind of the mountain as the traditionalist may stick with his polisher and wax and/or sealant, you will be out enjoying your driving machine if that's your thing. There is absolutely NO WAX OR SEALANT that can stand up against a coat of Opti-coat, Cquartz, etc. It just won't happen. They are scratch resistant, they clean easier, they are easier or just as easy to apply as anything else, the list just goes on. Do they look better? They can look as good, but the prepwork underneath must be done with precision or you will be very unhappy with the final result.

    Opti-coat: This is the only one I can speak from experience, as well as several users of it here. It's had numerous tests done on it, and comparisons and it always seems to come out ahead, so it's what I stick with. It's 1-2 micros thick and is claimed to be as hard as pencil lead (9h hardness) I can believe it. I applied it to a friends car and his doberman recently got excited and jumped on the side of the car... it left scratches... that wiped off. I myself found road paint on my car about a week ago, pissed might be the word for it.. but about 5 times more... and then I remembered I had the OC on the car and as I washed the car and got to that section... the road paint wiped right off like it was just part of the dirt. It's a top notch product, and the first of it's kind as far as I know. Durability is going to be 2 years or more if the product has been applied correctly. There are plenty of videos that have it applied and they keep up with it over time. Scottwax is one on youtube who does this. He is also an excellent detailer.

    Cquartz: Made by carpro, this is an excellent product as well, not quite as thick and from what I have read, not quite as durable as OC, but it can be layered multiple times, and it's actually recommended to do so after I believe 3 hours of curing time. It uses nano tech.. yes I know, that nano **** is EVERYWHERE! lol. What does it do though? Nano particles are SUPER small particles that fill in all of the super small spots on your paint that even polishing cannot remove. This creates a slick finish that water and elements cannot stick to because there is no where for it to stick to when the finish has been coated. Easy to apply from videos i've seen.

    Aquartz: Again, this I cannot speak from experience, however from what I have read, there was a split up of a company, one created Cquartz, one Aquartz. From what i've read, this product has had some issues to remove, but as i've said, I have not tried it, so I won't knock it. I just look at a lot of ratings.

    Hard Body: This one has JUST come out and is made by Wolf's Chemicals, so obviously I haven't tried this either, but I can tell you that Wolf's products have been making a good name for themselves and all their products seem to get very good reviews.

    There are a few others, but IMO the best to go with would be either the OC or the Cquartz. OC is still king when it comes to the durability from everything i've seen and tests i've read.
    Last edited by Methodical4u; 07-13-2012 at 09:56 PM.

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    Super Moderator   Sasquatch's Avatar
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    Stuck! Great write up!
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    Very nice write up.
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    i think this needs to be stickied

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    Update: My posts are to long apparently, but I wanted to update the list for the "permanent" coating list.
    CarPro has recently come out with "Cquartz Finest". It's a bit harder and is better supposedly in all areas than Cquartz. I inquired about the product (that is only available to professional detailers right now) and asked about coat which turns out to be 345.00. It comes with a 2 year warranty card and everything needed to apply the coating. This is to much money IMO and the majority of people out there unforunately are tricked into believing that this coating is so much better than the 60.00 opti-coat or standard Cquartz, when in reality ... it's not.

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    UPDATE: More and more coatings are now hitting the market. Please be cautious and do your research on each one of them before using. I am actually going to polish the opti-coat off of my car and try the new 22PLE VX1 glass coat pro version, but that is because this is how I make money, not because it is a better product that OC.

    Here are more of the newer products:

    Gtechniq EXO: They have multiple sealants and are a reputable company. EXO by itself isn't a hard coating (from what I read) but it supposedly is better when their C1 is applied first. I have NOT used this product so this is strictly from reading. Also it seems to be a bit difficult to apply from reviews i've read.
    22PLE VX1 Glass Coat: This product gets very good reviews thus far. It's easy to apply and easy to remove. It's slicia based so actually is like "glass" and has a wetter look to it. Than other coatings (again...this is from their claims and what I have read). I will be trying this product on my car this week or next. Projected durability time is 18-24 months.
    Wolf's Hardbody: This isn't really new, but it's newer than OC. I've read mixed review from both the casual user and from some pros about it durability. Wolf's makes some good products, but I will just say many people are less than impressed with it, but that doesn't mean it might not work ok for you if you already have it, or want to use it.
    Cquartz Finest: Probably the top of the line looks wise of all of the coatings, but perhaps not in overall durability. It will last for a very long time. 2 years+ is what i'm reading.

    Thus far, opti-coat is still the most widely used and probably the best for a daily driven car. If you find that your OC is getting a bit dull in the looks department, or you see more stuff sticking to it. Give it a bath in a good citus wash, simply green, etc. It won't hurt the coating and can bring it back to life. If that doesn't work. There are some companies that make very fine grit polishes. I have used Menzerna FP 4500 grit on a blue pad and it quickly brings the gloss back very nicely. You can then add another layer of OC to the car, or just leave it, as I don't believe 4500 alone is going to cut into your coating very much.

    Other coatings are coming out all the time now, but again, please read as many reviews as you can and ask questions to those who have used it.
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