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Are you over polishing your car?

Thanks to Craig @ detailingworld.co.uk for finding the following originally from autopia.org forums in the USA

Are You Over Polishing Your Car’s Paint?

I have been reading a lot of threads on the Autopia.org forum lately that basically start with people asking “what polish should I use?” I couldn’t help but think, how do I best avoid using an abrasive polish all together?

I posted the basic content of this article on Autopia to see what members had to say. The conversation was interesting and insightful.

I think it’s time for a completely different discussion about paint polishing. What I strive to achieve is the highest level of paint perfection without altering the structure of the paint. Once I get there, I want to use the proper tools and techniques to keep my paint looking perfect.

When I have a paint problem, I want to be able to fix it without removing excessive clearcoat that I need to maintain a deep-looking finish. I’m a huge advocate of spot treatment. I rarely take an abrasive polishing compound to an entire body panel, or worse, the whole car. It simply isn’t necessary.

I have the distinct feeling from reading many Autopia threads that people are buying step 1-2-3 products and using all of them because that’s what they feel is necessary to achieve “the best results”. In no way is this use of paint polish an appropriate way to care for paint.

RULE 1: Do less damage than the damage that already exists.

My experience shows me that 95% of all paint issues can be resolved with a very fine polish, the right tools and the right technique. So, why is it that so many people are willing to reach for a harsh compound as the first step… when it should be the last resort?

Autopia Member fotodad writes:

“You make many excellent points! I tend to get all caught up in having the “best” most glossy finish I can have, but I never thought about actually doing more harm than good. I truly believe (after reading your post) that detailing can reach a point of diminishing returns once we get involved in all these assorted polishes and paint preparation products. Certainly no one would dispute the need to keep an automobile’s finish clean of dirt and general debris via weekly or even daily cleaning. But is it really necessary or even smart to polish and wax or just wax more than once every two months?

Often times neighbors will walk past my house while I’m detailing and they’ll jokingly say, “You’re going to rub the paint right off the car!” I laugh, call them a few choice names under my breath and continue polishing. But maybe they’ve got a point!”

Your neighbors are correct, fotodad, you are going to polish the paint off your car. I know, as I have done it!

There is a class of paint polish that can be used to maintain gloss without abrasives that thin your paint. These polishes are most commonly called pre-wax cleaners. The polishing (gloss enhancing) action is a combination of chemical cleaners that remove embedded dirt and very fine polishes that maintain gloss. The polishing “abrasive” is about the consistency of talcum powder. My two favorite products are Sonus Paintwork Cleanser and P21S Paintwork Cleansing Lotion. There are many others.

RULE 2: Don’t remove clearcoat you may need some day!


We all talk about gloss, depth and clarity, but are you stopping to think about what you might be doing to each of these final finish characteristics each time you take an abrasive polish to your paint? You might be seeing more gloss, but it’s coming at the expense of depth and maybe even paint finish clarity.

Most professional polishes are designed to be used with a rotary buffer, by an experienced technician. When you use these polishes by hand or dual-action (DA) polisher, you put scratches in your paint finish that will not come out by using the next polish up in the line.

Autopia Member Accumulator writes:

“Glad you mentioned the lack of depth that can result from excessive polishing. You really can see the way a thin clearcoat lacks depth. My ‘95 Caprice is a good example of that; you can tell that the previous owner tried a little too hard to ’polish it up’. Now I can either live with how it looks or repaint, but I can’t do much more polishing. I don’t need a paint thickness gauge to tell me there isn’t a normal amount of clearcoat on it.”

There’s no doubt that the clearcoat on the modern car finish creates the beauty of the finish. To retain the good looks, the clearcoat must remain clean and finely polished. Heavy polishing will reduce finish clarity and depth.

Autopia Member Tasty writes:

“I posted a question about this exact topic when I came to the forums on one of my early visits. I raised the issue of how much polishing and abrasive use can be done before you are actually just wearing the paint thin. I also read the study that one guy did about abrasives on paint over on the Meguiar’s forum. He tried several products on a hood panel, and after each use measured with a paint thickness gauge. It became clear that you REALLY have to get aggressive to remove any significant amount of clear or paint, but nonetheless the points in this thread are good. After time all the less aggressive products effects become cumulative, and may start to do more harm than good.”

It should be noted that a proper paint finish (primer, color and clearcoat) is only 6-8 thousandths (6/1000) of an inch thick. If your car has a quality clearcoat, it will be about half of that total paint thickness. Removing 1-2 thousandths of and inch of clearcoat happens in a matter of seconds with an abrasive polish.

My business partner got a 3-inch long scratch in the clearcoat of his new Lexus SC. I used a spot pad and a corrective polish to pull most of the scratch out so it would pass the 5 foot test. He said “…but I can still see a trace of the scratch close-up…” I explained that if I removed more material we risked thinning the clearcoat and creating a patch of paint that no longer matches the rest of the finish.

Sometimes, enough is enough. The skill is learning how to read the paint and knowing what the final result will be when you use a product.

RULE 3: Know for a fact what tasks the products you’re using were designed to perform.

Are you using a polish designed to be used on an automotive assembly line by a technician with a 4-inch spot pad on a pneumatic polisher to remove 2400 grit sanding marks? If so, what are the equivalent pad specs, rotation speed and polish time to remove your 5000 grit equivalent swirl marks?

Are you using a refinisher’s panel blending compound originally designed to cut and blend fresh paint using a wool pad as a general purpose cutting compound? If so, can your foam cutting pad effectively generate enough heat on your DA to break down the abrasives to prevent paint scouring?

The fact is, very few abrasive polish systems were designed from the ground up to be a DA polishing system. Very few others have bothered to correctly match “general purpose” polishes with polishing pads and proper instructions to create a system.

Autopia Member Accumulator writes:

“As for the abrasive products, I generally find myself using (and recommending) those that can be used by hand/PC/rotary. Nothing that requires any real specialize technique or equipment. You might not get the best results without a rotary, but you won’t do any real damage either. I sort of cringe reading recommendations to use rotary-only products by hand or PC.”

Again, I reiterate buyer beware. All abrasive polishes have abrasive particles with different characteristics. Abrasives have different size, shape and hardness. Some abrasive particles are designed to break down into smaller, finer abrasives as the polish is applied. Others are designed to cut continuously at the same rate.

PAINT CARE WITHOUT ABRASIVES

Most new car finishes can be properly maintained without using abrasive (corrective) polishes. Doing so requires smart paint care, including regular washing and waxing, use of proper wash and wax tools (wash mitts, applicators, towels, etc.) and cautious parking. Finish damage avoidance is the best way to maintain a perfect finish. Nothing will swirl a paint finish faster than a bad wash mitt or drying towels.

If you park away from soccer moms and shopping carts, and wash your car using proper tools, you can keep the finish free of light surface damage for a long time. When your paint does get marred, the problem can be locally treated by hand or with a spot pad with a corrective polish.

Member Jinba ittai writes:

“I’ve always thought that it’s preferable to get rid of or lessen a scratch by filling it rather than taking actual paint off. That’s always the way I’ve always operated. IMO [in my opinion] the more paint on the car, the better. I was taught to start with the least abrasive product and work your way up.

Maybe it’s because I’m a wuss when it comes to using a buffer on the paint. I still do it all by hand. I have to admit that I am impressed by the pictures I’ve seen here of cars that are too far gone for a simple hand polish that have cleaned up nicely with a polisher.”

This is a great approach. Many wax products can be layered to help cover minor surface marring. My favorite combination is Klasse All-In-One followed by P21S Carnauba Wax. Others swear by the Zaino polish system.

Member laefd writes:

“I’m often reminded of that old saying, “moderation in all things…” The trick is to learn to live with the minor imperfections and reach a happy medium where you take care of the issues that lead to the problem - proper wash, protection, etc. If you have a problem that needs immediate attention then take care of it, if you have issues (swirling, etc.) take care of the swirls when it crosses your individual threshold for tolerance. Just make sure you set your standard at a point that you’re not obsessed.”

I could not agree more with laefd’s comments. Moderation is the key.

I offer the following advice for proper long-term paint finish on new and like-new cars:

Wash weekly (as possible) using a quality car wash, wash mitt and drying towels.

Deep clean paint twice a year with detailing clay.

Polish paint 3-4 times a year with a pre-wax, non-abrasive polish.

Seal paint 3-4 times a year with a quality paint sealant.

Protect your paint finish from damage by other motorists and pedestrians.

These five simple steps will keep your paint looking great without the need to use heavy polishes for corrective action.

Proper paint polish, detailing clay and car wash are available from http://autopia-carcare.com

Former information systems executive, technology columnist, and author of five computer science text books, David Bynon is certifiably “Car Crazy.” His http://autopia.org community web site is home to more than 25,000 car detailing enthusiasts.
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

I never polish my car ...
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Interesting article - thanks for that bunyarra


There is one thing you guys might be able to clarify for me:

What is the distinction between a car polish and wax?

What does each one do?

Should I use one or the other, or both? And how should they be applied (if used in conjunction)?

What gives the best result?

Which gives the best protection for the car?

Does anyone have any recommended products?
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigFoot
I never polish my car ...


that's ok - it's only a Nissan


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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigFoot
I never polish my car ...
Nor me, lifes too short.
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

A guy I work with never polished his alfa Red 156, he says the dirt and scratches help prevent the paint from fading into pink. It looks like it has worked too, it is still in pretty good colour. :-)
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

liquid car wax by mag's, how oftern should i use that?
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Green Cloverleaf
What is the distinction between a car polish and wax?

What does each one do?

Should I use one or the other, or both? And how should they be applied (if used in conjunction)?

What gives the best result?

Which gives the best protection for the car?

Does anyone have any recommended products?
Generally speaking a polish is an abrasive liquid although there are chemical cleaners which are also called polishes.
http://www.bettercarcare.com/how-to-polish-paint.html

and for wax http://www.bettercarcare.com/how-to-wax-your-car.html

The shine does not come from the wax, it comes from the polishing. If you imagine a rough piece of wood and you put the equivalent of wax (paint) on the wood, it will still look rough but if you sand it down until it is very smooth (polishing) and then paint the wood, it will look perfect
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Quote:
Originally Posted by a17esh
liquid car wax by mag's, how oftern should i use that?
Depending on conditions an average wax will last between 4-6 weeks
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

I dont ever polish mine

Does this thread contain the forum's longest post????
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosbird1
I dont ever polish mine

Does this thread contain the forum's longest post????
Each to their own of course but in my opinion ''detailingworld'' website doesn't really sound like my bag, like I said I have more important things to do.
Sorry!
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

My car is washed once every six months when it's serviced. They don't polish it and I certainly don't!
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

If you take a car to an Auto wash that uses the rollers, you are going to ruin your paint work fast.
The best is always a manual wash.
I prefer to do it myself.
First, hosing down the car making sure that most of the thick dirt is washed off.
Second wipe the whole body with a car wash liquid using a chamois, sponge, or leather cloth.
Hose down again to wash away the soap or use a bucket of clean water and a sponge.
Wipe down until dry using a clean leather or soft cotton cloth.

I use wax polish about once every six months....
Follow the steps above,
then apply the wax, wait until it hazzes to dries and wipe down with a soft cloth (buffing for a good shine).

Leaving dirt on too long, coupled with smog and other stuff, you will cause your clear coat to fade, thus having a fading effect on the paint.
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rosbird1 View Post
I dont ever polish mine

Does this thread contain the forum's longest post????
I don't either, as the saying goes - life is too short!
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

I have a solution for pink fade; never buy a red car!
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Commanderfish View Post
I have a solution for pink fade; never buy a red car!
Good one....
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

If you leave a red car dirty, the dirt will prevent the UV rays from fading it.
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

Quote:
Originally Posted by symonh View Post
If you leave a red car dirty, the dirt will prevent the UV rays from fading it.
And I thought with the excess dirt, the clear coat would start to become opaque, thus resulting in the pink....
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Re: Are you over polishing your car?

What do people who think it's a "waste of time" polishing their car do with the time they "save"?


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sit in a chair with a glass of wine and maybe a little cheese and look at other peoples highly polished cars
 
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