Not many people know the top techniques to become a great polisher. Over the course of 5 years, I've learned some subtle techniques and tips that really changed the game and made me become a skilled polisher.
Here are my top tips:
1. Select the Right Pads for The Job - As easy as it sounds, this is probably the top factor you're going to need to have right to get the results you want.
For compounding paint (removing heavy swirls, scratches, defects) - I only use wool pads or microfiber cutting pads. Not to say that foam pads don't work, but over the past couple years, I've found that wool and microfiber just do the job faster and cut/compound more efficiently.
You just have to take the time to clean them out, but these pads are so effective. After each section, the paint residue will clog the fibers and make them lay down. To cut, these fibers need to be free and standing up.
Clean the pads or blow them out after every application that you do. Please don't confuse this with every panel. *Every application* your pads should be blown out.
I clean them out by running a soft nylon brush or my Rupes Claw Tool through them. I turn the machine upside down. I then turn it on speed 2 and run the brush through the fibers. Obviously, make sure you pay attention and have full awareness when you do this. Make sure to keep your hands and fingers away from the machine. Do this at your own caution and be safe.
If you want to blow them out quickly, use some compressed air, but make sure your air line is clean because you can be blowing contaminants into your pad, which could cause problems when polishing.
**This step is very important because if you continue trying to polish or compound without blowing wool or microfiber pads out you will essentially be doing nothing and generated an enormous amount of heat. These pads cut well because the fibers are grabbing the paint.
Generally when paint is soft, you want to use softer pads. When paint is hard to cut, use firmer pads. All paint finishes are different and I'm not going to lie, some of them are extremely tough to work on.
Don't be discouraged though because knowing these tips will help you out a lot. These tips are very subtle but are extremely important to becoming a professional paint correction specialist.
2. Work in Smaller Sections
When I started machine polishing, I actually learned using 3 and 4 inch pads. I did this because I couldn't get results using bigger machines. The problem was that I wasn't working the products in because I was working way too big of an area. I was pushing the product around because I was impatient and wanted to get the car done quickly. Products need time to break down. The abrasives in polishes need to work into the paint to cut the clear coat.
The standard is 2 x 2' area. But I do about 1.5 x 1.5'.
Of course, time is money for detailers, but you must understand that paint polishing is a very timely process. It may take a full week (sometimes longer) to fully correct paint to a show car finish. This also includes: washing it, decontaminating it, prepping, taping off areas, machine polishing, blowing out pads, etc.
There are no shortcuts in paint correction, but trust me, take the time to do everything correctly. The results are worth it.
3. Work Clean!
Make sure you are working surgically clean with polishing paint.
Clay your paint - this decontamination process will remove unseen contaminants in your paint. This can be overspray, sap, and really anything. It's even totally possible that claying your car won't remove all the contaminants.
Naturally when compounding your paint, you will be cleaning the paint and removing more contaminants as well. If there are left over contaminants and you compound, these will go into your pad. This is another reason to make sure you are continuously cleaning/blowing your pads out.
Check your towels before using them on your car. Microfiber towels are known to pretty much grab and hang onto anything (leaves, stones, etc). It is super important to look at your towels and pick off anything that is sticking onto the towel.
Towels need to be surgically clean. These things that can stick on your microfibers will act like sandpaper to your paint and when wiping your paint, it can cause swirls or scratches.
My suggestion would be to have 8-12 dedicated paint towels that are edgeless. These towels are very soft and have generally thick pile to be able to hold all of the paint residue. Don't go cheap on towels because the correct towels will lead you to your success in paint polishing. Wash them and store them separately.
Clean out foam pads after 1 or 2 panels. - When foam pads get too saturated, they don't cut/polish anymore and will eventually start to splatter everywhere. This just creates frustration and a huge mess. This is another thing you really want to avoid. Personally, paint splatter is one of the most annoying things that can occur when polishing.
To avoid having to constantly clean out your foam pads, buy 6 to 8 of the same polishing pads. When you're done you can clean them all together and have them ready for your next job. This way there will be no unnecessary interruptions in your paint polishing process.
4. Pay Attention to Heat On The Paint
When temperature suddenly gets too hot on paint, it can swell. This makes it look the paint is corrected when it's really not. They can appear back after a couple hours or even weeks. Here are a couple of ways you can keep heat down on paint.
Stop putting so much pressure - in reality, machine polishing does not require heavy pressure. More pressure doesn't equal more cut. I've learned that a couple pounds of pressure is more than enough. Anything more than that, and you are dramatically adding higher temperature to the paint for no necessary reason.
Turn the speed down - my golden rule is: use the lowest speed on the machine which it maintains constant rotation. This means if the machine is spinning on speed 3, then stay on that speed. The higher the speed, the more heat you will be generating.
Example: Do this! Rub your hands together. Do it slow for 3 seconds and then do it fast. Did you notice the heat build up?
Faster arm movement will also keep paint temperature down - Think of using a hair blow dryer, if you have it on a high heat setting and keep it in one spot on your hair, it's going to get hot and might even hurt/burn you. The faster your arm movement is, the more control you'll have of keeping the temperature down.
You will have to do more section passes, but to me it's worth it. I should also say it's a little bit more of a workout too, but it's not too bad.
I hope you guys enjoyed these tips. If you did, leave a comment below. I would love to hear your questions if you have any. Thanks!
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