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How to safely and effectively polish hard paints by hand and machine

Discussion in 'Detailing' started by WX51TXR, Jan 24, 2008.

  1. WX51TXR
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    WX51TXR Polished Bliss

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    [Jan 24, 2008]
    One of the questions that pops up time and time again on here is how do I remove swirl marks and scratches from my paint? Rather than continuing to answer these questions one by one, I thought I would take the time to write a pictorial guide instead. This will hopefully save me some time on the forums, and also serve to reinforce the methods and products we recommend for this task. Some of you will be aiming to try and correct your paint by hand, while others of you will be using dual action machines – this guide will cover both approaches. Okay, here we go...

    How to safely and effectively correct your paint by hand

    If you choose to work by hand on harder paints you've got little chance of removing all of the defects present, so often the best bet is to use a glaze like Menzerna Finishing Touch Glaze or Blackfire Gloss Enhancing Polish to fill and hide the defects and then seal the finish with a decent wax or sealant (to boost the gloss and lock in the fillers). This approach is straightforward and relatively easy in terms of product application and removal. However, if you are happy to put in a lot of hard work, then it is possible to achieve a reasonable degree of correction by hand, providing you use a polish with a high degree of cut but that also breaks down effectively with just hand pressure. Few polishes have these characteristics, but one that does and that we highly recommend is Menzerna Intensive Polish. Here is an example of what can be achieved with it...

    Before

    All of the usual suspects can be seen here; marring, swirl marks and deeper random scratches. Once again note that swirl marks are not circular patterns. Instead, they are simply the result of a lighting source reflecting off of the edges of widespread multi-directional random fine scratches...

    [​IMG]

    Step 1

    There are many different types of polish available on the market today, but one of the few that is capable of producing excellent results when working by hand on hard paint is Menzerna Intensive Polish. I recommend applying it using the white side of a German Pad, and buffing off the spent residue with a Poorboys Super Thick & Plush Towel...

    [​IMG]

    Step 2

    This is how much polish I recommend using per 12”-18” square area. Use any less and very little correction will be done, use any more and you will struggle to break it down fully...

    [​IMG]

    Step 3

    Note that when you first start working it in the residue is a solid looking white colour. You should work the polish in straight lines in all directions using firm pressure...

    [​IMG]

    Step 4

    Keep working the polish firmly until the residue thins out and turns clear – this indicates that the abrasives are properly broken down. Don’t be tempted to give up before this happens, otherwise the level of correction will be lower than expected, and you may also leave marring in the paint. I usually find each area needs to be worked for a good 3-4 minutes before the residue is ready to be buffed off...

    [​IMG]

    Step 5

    Here is the result of 3-4 minutes of hard work...

    [​IMG]

    Around 80% correction I would say, which isn’t bad at all considering the state of the paint to begin with. However, the deeper random scratches are still visible, and while you could of course keep on and on with the Intensive Polish in an attempt to remove them, a better bet is to accept from the off that full correction can only really be achieved using a machine. Right then, let’s take care of those remaining deeper scratches with a machine...

    How to safely and effectively correct your paint by dual action machine

    Whilst it is relatively easy to swirl harder paints up, it is very difficult to subsequently correct them, as we saw above. Harder paints almost always comprise the standard 3 layer system used by most car manufacturers (primer, pigment, lacquer), but the lacquer tends to be elastic (to better resist stone chipping) as well as resistant to polishing. To fully correct defects in such clearcoats requires polishes with ultra-fine, ultra-sharp particles that resist premature breakdown. The latest generation of polishes from Menzerna hits both of these nails squarely on the head and Lake Country's CCS Technology pads have been designed to work perfectly with these polishes. Here is the method I recommend using a dual action machine...

    Before

    Just a quick reminder of the defects remaining after a tiring session of hand polishing...

    [​IMG]

    Step 1

    My product of choice for deeper defect removal in harder paints is Menzerna RD3.02. It is quite simply a brilliant product, having enough bite to tackle most defects, yet finishing down almost as well as a finishing polish...

    [​IMG]

    Step 2

    In this example, I am using a small Lake Country CCS Light Cut Spot Pad in order to allow you to see more of how the polish is behaving as I work it; however, the method is identical whether you are working with spot pads or full size pads. This is how much polish I recommend using per 12”-18” square area. Use any less and very little correction will be done, use any more and you will struggle to break it down fully...

    [​IMG]

    Step 3

    Before starting the machine, it is important to partially spread the polish by dabbing the pad evenly all over the work area...

    [​IMG]

    Step 4

    With the pad touching the panel, switch the machine on at speed 1, and make several overlapping passes to spread the polish thinly and evenly over the work area...

    [​IMG]

    Step 5

    With the spreading done, increase the speed of the machine to between 4 and 5 on the dial. Then, applying light to moderate pressure, work the machine slowly back and forth over the work area in overlapping passes. I tend to favour moving the machine around at a rate of 4-6 inches per second. Note that during the early stages of the work the residue remains a solid looking white colour.

    Step 6

    After a few minutes you will see the residue thin out and turn clear – this indicates that the abrasives are properly broken down. Don’t be tempted to give up before this happens, otherwise the level of correction will be lower than expected, and you may also leave marring in the paint...

    [​IMG]

    Step 7

    Once the polish residue is fully broken down, switch off the machine with the pad held against the panel, and then buff off, turning the towel regularly (again I recommend buffing off the spent residue with a Poorboys Super Thick & Plush Towel). Here is the result of 3-4 minutes of much easier work...

    [​IMG]

    Step 8

    Now we have a finish that is 95% corrected, with just a few feint traces of previous deeper defects. However, the finish isn’t quite as sharp as it could be, so following up with an ultra-fine finishing polish is necessary if we want to achieve a truly stunning finish. My product of choice for refining hard paints is Menzerna 85RD. It is a superb finishing polish, with minimal cut but maximum gloss enhancing characteristics. You don’t quite appreciate how much sharper it makes paint look until you try it...

    [​IMG]

    Step 9

    In this example, I am using a small Lake Country CCS Polishing Spot Pad in order to allow you to see more of how the polish is behaving as I work it; however, the method is identical whether you are working with spot pads or full size pads. This is how much polish I recommend using per 12”-18” square area. Use any less and very little correction will be done, use any more and you will struggle to break it down fully...

    [​IMG]

    Step 10

    Before starting the machine, it is important to partially spread the polish by dabbing the pad evenly all over the work area...

    [​IMG]

    Step 11

    With the pad touching the panel, switch the machine on at speed 1, and make several overlapping passes to spread the polish thinly and evenly over the work area...

    [​IMG]

    Step 12

    With the spreading done, increase the speed of the machine to between 4 and 5 on the dial. Then, applying light to moderate pressure, work the machine slowly back and forth over the work area in overlapping passes. I tend to favour moving the machine around at a rate of 4-6 inches per second. Note that during the early stages of the work the residue remains a solid looking purple colour...

    [​IMG]

    Step 13

    After a few minutes you will see the residue thin out and turn clear – this indicates that the abrasives are properly broken down. Don’t be tempted to give up before this happens, otherwise the level of correction will be lower than expected, and you may also leave marring in the paint...

    [​IMG]

    Step 14

    Once the polish residue is fully broken down, switch off the machine with the pad held against the panel, and then buff off, turning the towel regularly (again I recommend buffing off the spent residue with a Poorboys Super Thick & Plush Towel). Here is the result of 3-4 minutes of refining the finish to perfection...

    [​IMG]

    Around 99% correction or more I would say, and certainly enough to ensure a flawless looking finish in full sun conditions. With the polishing stages complete, all that remains is to seal the finish against the elements using either a sealant or wax. The choice of sealant or wax can greatly alter the way the paint looks, and for more information please see the other sticky threads discussing what to use and why on various coloured paints. I hope that helps some of you, and as always if anyone has any questions please don’t hesitate to ask either below, by pm, by e-mail or by phone.

    :)
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  3. 205man
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    205man Active Member

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    [Jan 24, 2008]
    well done that man for a great write up, with photos that show exactly what each stage should be like.

    im glad to see ive read all you previous advise and now reading this ive been doing it right apart from i need some of those towels, i always struggle abit remove the residue, and am never really sure what to use
    #2
  4. WX51TXR
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    WX51TXR Polished Bliss

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    [Jan 24, 2008]
    My pleasure, should save me answering the same questions over and over again from now on! I've pm'd Olly to ask him to make it a sticky. :icon_thumright:
    #3
  5. Ess_Three
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    Ess_Three Active Member

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    [Jan 24, 2008]
    Superb stuff Rich...

    Not sure when Olly will be on again so I've made it sticky for you, as requested.
    #4
  6. WX51TXR
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    WX51TXR Polished Bliss

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    [Jan 24, 2008]
    Cheers muchly! :icon_thumright:
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  7. buckas
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    buckas Member

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    [Feb 8, 2008]
    cracking thread rich! thanks :icon_thumright:

    drew
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  8. buckas
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    buckas Member

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    [Feb 12, 2008]
    is it the meguiars machine? cheers

    drew
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  9. WX51TXR
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    WX51TXR Polished Bliss

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    [Feb 13, 2008]
    Aye, it is indeed, although the method shown would be the same for any dual action machine. :icon_thumright:
    #8
  10. Ant&Vic
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    Ant&Vic A3 1.8T Quattro

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    [Feb 19, 2008]
    i was going ask whats the best way to get scratches out as ours got keyed, il try it this way, thanks:icon_thumright:
    #9
  11. WX51TXR
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    WX51TXR Polished Bliss

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    [Feb 20, 2008]
    Yep, this way is the method to follow, just remember that the general rule of thumb is that if you can catch the scratch with your nail, then it is unlikely to fully come out (otherwise you'd end up removing too much lacquer). That said, even if you can correct the problem fully, the above method generally yields a significant improvement in such defects. :icon_thumright:
    #10
  12. Caesium
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    Caesium My BM is fixed!

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    [Aug 18, 2008]
    Is BMW paint the same sort, i.e. would this procedure be the same?

    Just trying to get fully informed before buying my kit.
    #11
  13. WX51TXR
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    WX51TXR Polished Bliss

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    [Aug 18, 2008]
    Yes it is as hard as Audi paint, and the same method works very well. If you have to tackle severe defects in either Audi or BMW paint you can also use the Menzerna pads, which offer a little more cut than the Lake Country pads but are harder to use (due to being that bit firmer). :icon_thumright:
    #12
  14. Lyntonius
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    Lyntonius New Member

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    [Aug 22, 2009]
    Thanks heaps Rich - great guide. I was considering getting into the machine polish side of things, but one thing that always turned me away was not knowing how destructive the abrasive polishing is. Does it wear off a lot of the clear layer? How many times could you use the above methods before you run the risk of wearing through the clear? Or does it not work like that?

    Cheers!
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  15. WX51TXR
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    WX51TXR Polished Bliss

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    [Aug 24, 2009]
    The above two stage method usually removes around 1-2 % of total paint thickness at most, so overall the rate of removal is low. However, clearly there is a limit to how many times it can/should be done (i.e. half a dozen to a dozen times before the paint starts to get too thin). However, if a car is well maintained, the two stage process should only need to be done once or twice in the cars lifetime - on an annual basis just the second stage can be done to nip out any fresh wash marring, and in such instances the rate of paint removal will be negligable, meaning finishing polishing can be done 1-2 times a year every year without any fear of causing problems. :icon_thumright:

    PS - note since the above guide was originally written, we have changed our advice to recommend that Menzerna pads are used (as opposed to the Lake Country pads shown above). A minor change, but worthwhile, as Menzerna pads do work better on Audi paint. See this link for recommended hard paint kit contents...

    http://www.polishedbliss.co.uk/acatalog/g220-hard-paint-machine-polishing-kit-kits.html

    :yes:
    #14

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