Polishing is one of the biggest steps to a noticeable improvement in your paint. Polishing removes those scratches, swirls, oxidation, etc. You can apply layer upon layer of wax and eventually once that wax wears away, those swirls and imperfections will rear their ugly heads again. The only true way to remove the imperfections is by polishing. There is a lot to cover with this article, so I’ll break it up as much as possible. I’ll start with highlighting some basics…
1. First and foremost, I recommend using machine application over hand application. Polishing can be time consuming and tiring depending on the paint condition. It often requires multiple passes over the vehicle using different pads (and sometimes products). Polishing also requires a degree of pressure. Needless to say, hand application would be extremely tiring as well as risking the results due to uneven application pressure. I realize that money doesn’t grow on trees, but in my honest opinion, saving up for a good quality buffer is worth the investment.
2. When it comes to polishing, it is always best to start from least aggressive and progress aggressiveness as needed. This rule goes for both product and pad selection. When you reach the correct product/pad aggressiveness for your job, apply as needed and regress to the least aggressive product/pad with each pass.
3. Buffer selection: A common question amongst new detailers is “What is the difference between a high speed buffer and a orbital/dual action buffer?” A high speed buffer (aka rotary buffer) only spins in a circle. It does not move in any other way other than around (Think of a circular saw. It rotates, but the base stays in place). An orbital (aka dual action) buffer rotates, but the base moves as well. Here are pictures to give you a better idea.
As you can imagine, the rotary buffer packs a lot more power to one specific area. However, it makes using it a lot more dangerous as it is harder to control even pressure and could even burn straight through your clear coat/base coat if you don’t use it properly. The orbital buffer constantly moves, so it won’t damage the paint as easily. Unless you’ve been extensively trained on a rotary buffer, I would stick with an orbital.
4. Pad selection: Pads are applied to your buffer and are interchangeable. Pads come in all different sizes and levels of aggressiveness. Most manufacturers identify the aggressiveness level of the pad by color, but pay attention when ordering because the colors are not universal across all brands.
We recommend about every six months. If the vehicle is properly maintained, you may be able to go longer.
Clean and clay bared vehicle
Buffer or hand applicator
Selection of Pads (if buffer is being used)
Compound, polish, etc. (Whatever product you want to apply. Check out Element Armor Scratch & Swirl Remover)
Microfiber towels (We recommend Professional Grade Microfiber Towels)
1. Thoroughly wash, dry, and clay bar the vehicle.
2. Tape off an approx. 12″x 12″ square area that you want to work on.
3. Place approx. 3-4 pea sized drops of your desired product on the pad or applicator.
4. With no pressure, spread the product across the entire working area (when using a buffer, the buffer should be off).
5a. If applying by hand, make small circular motions using moderate-to-heavy pressure (depending on the condition) over the entire working area. Be sure that you try to maintain the same amount of pressure evenly over the entire area.
5b. If applying by machine, turn the buffer on it’s lowest speed to spread the product using an overlapping “S” motion. Increase the speed to the desired level and start at one corner and using the same overlapping “S” motion, continue to the opposite corner. When you reach the opposite corner, change your direction and proceed with your overlapping “S” motion (If you first went side to side with your “S” motion, now go up and down with the “S” motion).
6. Immediately wipe the working area off using a Professional Grade Microfiber Towel.
7. Repeat steps 2-6 until your desired results are met.
Working smaller areas at a time often produce better results.
Do not rush polishing. It may be time consuming, but the results are worth it.
Properly match the aggressiveness of the product with the aggressiveness of the pad.
Swap out your pad for a fresh one every couple of panels for best results.
Use proper lighting to accurately assess your results.
Smaller pads offer you more control and allow you to get into tighter areas.
Tape off your trim, glass, and any other area you do not want polish to potentially damage.