| Clay Bar
Polishing is one of the best ways to improve
your finish, but it's also one of the quickest ways to scratch
the heck out of it if you aren't careful, so you should proceed
with caution! There is lots of misunderstanding about what a
polish is. This is compounded by the fact that various
manufacturers use the words "polish" and "wax" loosely (or just
plain wrong) for marketing purposes. A true polish is an
abrasive compound that you rub on the finish of your car to make
the finish smoother. Polishes range from quite abrasive, for
removing heavy oxidation and similar problems, to barely
abrasive at all, for the final step in making the finish as
smooth as possible. The polish itself provides no protection; it
just makes the surface smoother. Some waxes (notably "cleaner
waxes") contain some amount of polish, and those waxes tend to
give the average car a better shine because the average car's
finish has been neglected and could use some polishing! If the
polish you use is truly a polish, you'll still need to wax your
car after you polish it.
It's impossible to tell from the label
whether a wax contains polish, and this seems to be one of those
things where the Internet is really helpful in finding other
people who have used the product you're interested in and who
can tell you how it performs.
use an orbital buffer, specifically, my Porter-Cable 7424.
Initially I had an inexpensive Craftsman 8" orbital
buffer. I thought that the bigger buffer pad on the
Craftsman would make
my job easier. In fact, the 6" pad on the PC is easier
to work the contours of the car with. An important
accessory not shown in the picture is a "hook and loop"
backing plate (i.e., a velcro pad) that attaches to the
buffer. You can then attach various buffing and
polishing pads to the hook-and-loop pad. You can buy
this buffer at Lowes, Home Depot, Amazon, or similar
places. I bought mine through
can get dozens of different pads for the PC
hook-and-loop buffer system. You want to be careful to
use the right pad for what you're trying to do. I'm
Wolfgang EuroTech pads, which are color-coded based
on the density of the foam. (This is true of all pad
systems that I've seen.) Denser foam will remove deeper
scratches, but is also more abrasive. You want to use
the least dense foam that will get the job done. There
are lots of philosophies about pads. Some manufacturers
claim that flat pads distribute pressure and heat
better. Some claim that waffle-surface pads dissipate
heat better. Some offer conical pads, beveled edges,
2-ply, etc. As far as I can tell, most of those details
are BS. The main thing you need to watch out for is that
there's enough foam surrounding the backing that you
minimize the chance of the backing (or the buffer's
mounting plate) coming in contact with the car.
I started out using Griot's Garage's
pad system, but now that I've learned more about
polishing I can't figure out what they're doing. Most of
the foam pad systems come in at least 5 different
densities. Griot's systems comes in only 2 densities.
You can also polish by hand.
The advantage of polishing by hand is that you don't
risk (as much) scratching the heck out of your finish if
you get some grit in the pad. The disadvantage is that
it can be quite a workout to polish a car well, and
machines do a better job if you know what you're doing.
I've picked up a few tips.
Most Important: Your car must be
absolutely clean before you polish it. If
there is any dirt on the car when you begin polishing,
polishing will scrub the dirt across your finish and
scratch it more. Some people probably think
washing the car thoroughly before polishing is good
enough, but I want to
claybar it before polishing, too, so that I'm
starting with the cleanest possible surface.
Don't drop the pad! If you
drop the pad, or if the buffer tips over when you set it
down and an edge comes in contact with the ground,
you're done with that pad until you wash it. It doesn't
matter how clean you think it is, if it's come in
contact with the ground, it isn't worth taking a chance
of scrubbing grit into your finish.
Apply the polish to the pad then
smear it on the car before starting the buffer. If
you put the polish on the pad and turn the buffer on,
you'll be wearing the polish.
cleaning. Clean your pads after each use. I like
Snappy Pad Cleaning powder. You dissolve the powder in a
5 gallon bucket. The powder's
for 3 packs from AutoGeek.
I haven't used all that many
polishes. Here are a few that I've used.
Gloss Enhancing Paintwork Cleaner. This is a mild
polish that can be applied by hand or machine. It claims
to be non-abrasive (which is impossible) and it's easy
to wipe off, for a polish. (I have yet to find a polish
that's as easy to wipe off as the easier waxes are.)
Deep Crystal Polish. This
also claims to be non-abrasive,
which doesn't make sense for this product either! I've
used this product numerous times, and it seems to work
well. As far as I can tell, it's a little more abrasive
than P21S, though it's hard to say for sure.
Garage Machine Polish, 1, 2, 3 & 4.
Griot's Garage has a polish system that goes from
fairly abrasive (Machine Polish 1) to very fine/mild
(Machine Polish 4). I've used the Machine Polish 3 and
found it to be very mild, as advertised. I haven't used
the other Griot's Machine polishes.
Z-5 Show Car Polish. This is
synthetic wax that has some polishing compounds built
into it. It claims to be non abrasive. I've used this
numerous times. It does indeed seem to be nonabrasive,
and in fact I'm not convinced that it's doing anything
that Zaino Z-2 (Zaino's straight non-polish synthetic
wax) isn't doing.