How To Choose The Right Compound Or Polish For Your Car

 

We get a lot of questions about selecting the “right” machine, polishing pad, and polishing compound. People always ask what works best for black paint, for red paint; for hard paint, for soft paint; for domestic cars, for import cars, etc. You can make just about any paint finish shine on any vehicle if you select the best combination of polishing machine, buffing pad, and polishing compound for that particular car. Every car and every paint job is different, though: How much paint did the manufacturer spray on? What paint brand and formula did they use? What type of paint is it: petroleum-based or water-based? Was it waxed and cared for, or was it neglected for years and destroyed by the elements? How humid was it the day they painted that run of cars? Was the car in an accident and was it repainted with completely different paint? These are the questions you need to consider as you start polishing a car.

So there is no cookie-cutter answer that will work for every car out there. What there is, though, is a method. We have a method for selecting the best combination of machine, pad, and polishing compound for any car we may detail. The method we use in the Chemical Guys Detail Garage is as follows:

 

Step 1: Polish A Test Spot

We start by polishing one small spot on the car. We use this spot to find out what combination works best for removing scratches and restoring glossy shine on the paintwork. Once we determine what combination works best for this paint job, we repeat this process over the rest of the car.

Step 2: Use The Gentlest Method That Produces The Best Results

Start with the least-aggressive combination of Machine, Pad, and Polish to get the results we want. We can always remove more paint if the prior step did not remove all the scratches, but we can never undo the paint that we removed. Paint doesn’t grow back.

 

  • Polishing Machine: Start with Dual Action over Rotary
    • Dual action polishers spread out their energy over a larger area because the buffing pad orbits as it spins.
    • This orbit moves over a bigger circle than a pinpoint rotation of a rotary polisher, so there is less energy and heat put into any given place as the machine works.
  • Buffing Pads: Start with Orange Hex-Logic Pad
    • Of the 7 Hex-Logic Polisher Pads, 2 are “cutting” pads that remove a lot of paint at a time: Yellow and Orange.
    • We pick the Orange Medium Cutting Pad because it is less aggressive than the Yellow Heavy Cutting Pad.
  • Polishing Compound: Make your first pass with V36 Cutting Polish
    • We choose V36 Cutting Polish because it is has lighter abrasives than a heavier compound like V32 or V34.
    • V36 cuts away swirls, and refines glossy shine, but does not cut out deep scratches or oxidation like a compound.

 

Step 3: Check Your Work; Make Adjustments

After finishing your first pass with V36 on an Orange Hex Logic Pad with a Dual Action Polisher, check your results for satisfactory scratch removal. Shine a halogen light into the paint and look at all angles to see if the scratches and swirls are gone, or reduced. For the most scrutiny, pull the car outside and look at the test spot in direct sunlight. Compare it with the untouched paint and see if your results are satisfactory.

If you are satisfied with the amount of swirls and scratches removed, go on to the next refinement step: White Soft Polishing Hex Logic Pad with V38 Final Polish. Check for enhanced gloss and depth with this step. If there’s no discernable difference between the finish of V36 and V38, skip it.

If you are not satisfied with the amount of swirls and scratches removed, start changing variables and get slightly more aggressive until the scratches and swirls are gone:

  • First try using a harder compound:
    • Try V34 Hybrid Compound with the same DA machine and Orange Cutting Pad.
  • If that didn’t work, try using a harder cutting pad:
    • Switch from Orange to Yellow Cutting Pad, or try a Microfiber Cutting Pad.
  • If all else fails, switch to a rotary polisher:
    • Start the test spot with a new combination:
      • Rotary Polisher, Orange Cutting Pad, and V36 Cutting Polish.
      • Analyze results as you go and make adjustments as needed.

Remember

Just remember one truth as you polish: You will not remove 100% of defects.It’s just not possible.

Some scratches are just too deep for machine polishing to fix. You would have to wet-sand and polish all the paint off the car to get the scratches out. There comes a point where if you want perfect paint again, you simply have to repaint the car. And even then, it’ll be full of defects, runs, and holograms from the body shop polishing the car with a wool pad on a rotary polisher.

Embrace the limitations of paint technology and polishing methods: accept that you can get paintwork to look as good as it possibly can without simply starting over with a new paint job.

Final Note

Remember: this was a guide for the methodology of choosing the best combination of machine, pad, and compound for any particular polishing job. It is not a writeup on proper machine polisher technique, the prep work you have to complete before you start polishing, or the protection steps you need to take after you finishing polishing. You can cause permanent damage to your painted finish if you do not use good polisher technique, if you do not choose a good combination to work with, or if you do not do thorough prep work before you start polishing.

For more information on polishing prep work, using a machine polisher with good polishing technique and combination of machine/pad/chemical, watch the Polishing How-To videos on the Chemical Guys YouTube channel. Or better yet, sign up for a Polishing DIY Class with Chemical Guys Smart Detail University for hands-on training.

Now you know the proper steps to care for your microfiber goods. Proper washing and maintenance of your microfiber goods will keep your towels and applicators lasting for years. Knowing how to care for your microfiber goods will produce better results on any detailing job!

 

Daniel Curtean