If you’ve never done it before, polishing a vehicle could seem to be a challenging task, but it’s really not that difficult if you know the right procedure to follow. Preparation is going to be one of the most significant aspects that you need to think about.
If you do not properly prepare the paintwork of your vehicle before polishing or compounding, you will either wind up with results that are lackluster or generate scratches and swirl marks. Both of these outcomes are undesirable. In this guide on steps to polishing a car, we’ll walk you through each step of the preparation process so that you may get the best possible result. So let’s get started.
Step #1 Wash Your Car
Washing the automobile is, of course, the first stage in the process of achieving flawless paintwork on the vehicle. If you are reading this post, there is a good probability that you are already familiar with the correct way to wash your automobile so that you do not chip the paint or leave swirl marks.
If your car’s paint has swirl marks, you must take some time to read our article on how to remove swirl marks.
When it comes to cleaning your automobile before polishing it, there are two key distinctions between this and any other circumstance.
- Make sure that you are really careful and thorough. When polishing the paint, any debris or dust that is left behind might cause scratches. Therefore, the automobile needs to be spotless. Panel gaps, emblems, and the grille should all get a lot of attention.
- Do not use a shampoo that contains wax or other ingredients that enhance the shine. To ensure that there is no residue left on the car after washing it, choose a shampoo that is simple yet has strong cleaning power.
The washing procedure is identical to the regular car wash except for the above. So to begin, give the vehicle a full rinse, then use a snow foam or pre-wash, give it another rinse, and lastly, use a microfiber mitt made of lamb’s wool to clean the vehicle. After that, give it one last thorough rinse. We will go on to the next phase now.
Step#2: Strip Old Sealants and Waxes
Before polishing the automobile, it is necessary to completely remove any wax or sealant that may have been present. If they have not been removed from the paint yet, the polishing pad will get clogged with the debris. Because of this, you will need to apply more polish or compound and make further passes. As a result, the procedure can take more than twice as long.
In certain cases, the polish will not even come into contact with the paintwork if it is protected by a highly resilient sealer or coating. Therefore, you need to make sure that it has been eliminated in advance.
There are a few different approaches to use when removing the layer of paint protection.
Using an all-purpose cleaner along with a snow foam is one common method. After applying this combination all over the car and allowing it to sit for a couple of minutes, take a clean wash mitt and go over the whole vehicle, then remove the suds by rinsing.
In our experience, this is the fastest and most effective way that may be used on protection products that are older or less robust.
However, to get rid of the wax or sealer that’s been applied to your car, you may choose from a wide variety of other approaches.
By observing the behavior of the water, you will be able to determine whether or not the wax or sealer has been effectively removed. If water continues to bead up or sheet off the vehicle fast, then you will need to attempt again.
Step#3: Chemical Decontamination
The next thing that you need to do is to make the car free of any contaminants. Over time, “contaminants” such as tree sap, iron fallout, tar, water spots, and paint over-spray may build up on the paintwork. These “contaminants” can be difficult to remove. In most cases, standard washing will not be able to remove them.
Things that are simple to identify include tar and tree sap, while some things aren’t as obvious. If you run your fingers over the paintwork of your vehicle after it has just been cleaned and dried, you will be able to determine whether or not it is contaminated. If it is rough to the touch, then there are pollutants on the surface that cannot be seen.
Chemical decontamination and physical decontamination are the two options available. The chemical decontamination process needs to be done first so that physical decontamination is less likely to leave scratches and other marks.
There are two steps involved in the process of chemical decontamination:
- Tar removal
- Elimination of iron fallout
You may use different sprays for each purpose if you want to. Typically, they are applied to a dry automobile (after it has been washed), left for five minutes, and then rinsed away.
Step#4: Physical Decontamination
Clay is used in the process of physical decontamination. This is often made of synthetic materials and comes in the shape of a clay bar, a mitt, or a cloth. As per our experience, clay bars are a good choice. They are more efficient and cost less overall.
Clay is used to peeling all of the impurities off the paint and shave them down until they have been fully removed from the paintwork. The procedure is as follows:
- Car shampoos that do not include wax should be used to lubricate the paintwork.
- Work the clay until it is somewhat smooth and warm to the touch.
- Dip the clay in water and shampoo.
- Drag the clay in straight lines over the painted surface until you can feel that the painted surface has become absolutely smooth.
- Rinse away any traces of the residue.
It’s a pretty straightforward technique that shouldn’t take more than half an hour at most on a more compact and modern vehicle. Depending on how severe the contamination is, decontaminating older and bigger vehicles might take up to an hour.
Despite the fact that it is not too complicated, there are several important things that you should remember. Clay is an abrasive material, which means it has great potential to generate scratches, swirl marks, and marring when it comes into contact with a surface.
This danger may be mitigated by making certain that both the paint and the clay are well moisturized.
Also, make sure that you are working in a clean area, and never let the clay fall on the ground. In that case, start again with a fresh piece.
Step# 5: Rinse and Dry
At this point, the paintwork should be clean and free of any contaminants, as well as any old waxes or sealants. The only thing you are required to do is make sure the paint is completely dry and free of any residue.
In order to guarantee that the paintwork is spotless, it is occasionally beneficial to give the vehicle a second wash using a fresh wash mitt and a shampoo that does not include wax. In most circumstances, a thorough rinsing will be all that is required.
After that, you need to properly dry the vehicle. Using a leaf blower, blast water out of any seals, panel gaps, or cracks on the outside of the vehicle.
When you’re polishing, you don’t want any water to leak onto the surface, so this is really crucial.
Step#6: Tape the Trim
Now that the vehicle has been washed and dried, you are nearly prepared to begin polishing it. However, there are still a few crucial steps to take if you want to see the best outcomes.
Taping the trim on the outside of your automobile is a very crucial step to take. If you are going to use a machine polisher of any kind, whether it is rotary or dual-action, you must tape the trim for a few different reasons.
- The machine polisher is going to cause harm to the trim, particularly if it is made of rubber or plastic.
- The pad will pick up stray particles of debris from the trim, which will then harm the paintwork.
Step# 7: Use a Low-tack Tape
We would suggest using a low-tack tape to make sure that all of the plastic and trim, including the headlights, are adequately protected from the polisher. Just make sure that you don’t leave it on for more than a couple of hours at a time at the most.
Step# 8: Inspection
Before moving on with the project, you will need to do a thorough inspection of the paintwork to get professional-level results. Make sure that you have a complete understanding of the work before you even consider picking up the polisher.
If you take off too much paint, it will not only be pointless, but it will also lessen the amount of protection that the clear coat on your automobile is able to give. If you remove too little, the scratches and swirl marks won’t be removed as efficiently as they may be.
Step#9: Measure the Amount of Paint
A paint-depth gauge is a piece of equipment that may be of use to you at this stage. They may be purchased on the internet for a reasonable price, and using them is a piece of cake.
This approach isn’t entirely exact, and there are still some risks involved, but rather than simply polishing away blindly, it provides you with more of an indicator of how much paint you’re working with.
Step#10: Assess the Damage
If you’ve concluded it’s safe to proceed with the paint repair, the following step is to determine how much damage you want to remove. This refers to the number and intensity of swirl marks and scratches. This is best done inside a garage with a strong torch or while it’s dark outdoors.
When it comes to polishing, there are several aspects to consider, including:
- How soft the car’s paint is
- The amount of polish
- The machine speed
- The number of passes
- The pad type (foam or microfiber)
- The type of machine polisher
- The Polish
When polishing, the most important thing you need to focus on is protecting the paint. Therefore, it is best to choose a strategy that is less aggressive wherever possible.
To get things off to the best possible start, use a finishing polish with very fine grit and work with a foam pad rather than a microfiber one since foam is much more gentle. If, after polishing, the damage is still visible, this method may not be effective. Switch to a microfiber pad or use a thicker cut compound or polish.
You won’t have to put the whole automobile through this process of trying things out and seeing what works. Simply choose a portion, to begin with, and then proceed to repeat this process across the car.
Taking your time to check and evaluate the paintwork will do two things:
- a) it will help you achieve better results;
- b) it will maintain the paintwork and avoid over-polishing. Both of these outcomes are important.
The Bottom Line: You’re Ready to Go!
Congratulations! You’re ready now. Keep in mind that you need to take your time, continually clean your pad (with either compressed air or a microfiber cloth), and replace it if it becomes too clogged. You won’t have to wait much longer before you’ll be able to appreciate the mirror finish on your automobile.
Thank you for reading! We hope that you found our article on steps to polishing a car informative. Make sure you go through the remainder of the website to get all of the information you want on the process of automobile detailing.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
We’ve included a few questions that are pertinent to getting your vehicle ready for paint repair. So, in response to some of the most frequently asked questions, here are the answers.
How to prepare a polishing pad?
Before using a polishing pad on the paintwork, you should “prime” it by rubbing the polishing liquid or compound into the pad to ensure that it is uniformly covered. After that, you should apply three to five dots, the size of peas, on the pad prior to polishing your car’s paint.
When to machine polish a car?
In order to protect the quantity of paint that is still on the vehicle, polishing should only be done when absolutely essential, and never as part of a regular maintenance schedule.
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