How To Prep & Polish
How to Prep & Polish Your Car
Polishing your vehicle to shine its best takes time and patience – the results are well worth the effort. There are a few steps to follow to make sure you get the best shine on your vehicle. The first step we covered in our wash section.
The preparation steps are very important before you try to use a orbital or rotary polisher on your car. These steps will allow for safe removal of any harmful contaminants that can cause scratches in your paint.
After thoroughly washing your car following the tips in our wash section, you will need to clay your car. Clay is a very elastic compound engineered to remove contaminants from your car’s paint, glass, and metal. The clay can be used several times because it is elastic and durable. There are many types of clay applications that have come to market and all are suitable. You can use a traditional claybar, clay mitt or a clay pad that affixes to a polisher.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Clay is very good at attracting contaminants and if the clay hits the ground, it will pick up the tiniest of rocks and pebbles. These will scratch your vehicle, so if your clay falls and hits the ground, throw it away immediately and use a new piece of clay.
Why Should I Clay my Car?
Your car is constantly exposed to pollutants – brake dust, air pollution, industrial fallout, acid rain can adhere to your vehicle. The pollutants contain metal particulates that oxidize and allow for rust to spread below the clear coat. Claying your car removes these contaminants in order to keep the paint shiny and like new.
Clay is also effective at removing sap, tar and bug remains. All many stubborn contaminants found on glass can be quickly removed with clay.
Follow these steps after you have washed your vehicle using the tips discussed in the wash tips and tricks section:
- Spray a small 2’x2’ area with clay lubricant
- Rub the clay bar back and forth across the wet area
Note: the bar will grab and have resistance in the first few passes, this means it is working and removing the contaminants out of the paint. When the clay is no longer grabbing and is moving easily, the paint should be very smooth and clean.
- Wipe the clean area with a microfiber towel. If there is still clay residue, spray the area with clay lubricant and wipe with a microfiber towel.
Note: Keep the clay well lubricated
- Repeat these steps until you have clayed your entire car.
- When complete, make sure to store your clay in a plastic case or air tight plastic bag. Store in temperatures between 35-110°.
After you clay, it is important to follow up with polishes or paint correction. The clay removes waxes and sealants, but it will also leave tiny holes from where the contaminants have been removes. These need to be corrected.
Polishing your vehicle should like we describe below, should only need to be performed 1-2x per year. There is on so much clear coat on the vehicle, If you polish more than 1-2x, you risk permanent damage to the clear coat protection. So it’s best to polish and then protect with wax and sealants throughout the year.
Polishing works by temporarily heating the clear coat, through use of a polishing pad and compound or polish, into a highly viscous liquid which fills in and removes blemishes.
Depending on how much correction is necessary, will depend on what product to use – heavy cut polish, cutting polish, or finishing polish. In some cases a 3 step process is necessary to fully remove all swirls, scratches and blemishes, in some cases a 2 step process of cutting polish and finishing polish will get the job done.
Some advice and tips:
- Start slow and less aggressive. You can always go more aggressive if a less aggressive approach does not work. If the less aggressive approach is not providing the desired results, you can go with more aggressive compounds or cutting pads.
- Work in small sections. This allows you to test your methods to ensure they are working before you buff the entire car.
- Check your work and check it often. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to your methods.
- This is not a race…the best results will take some time, but it is well worth it to see your paint shine like new. If you try to work too fast, you can cause damage to your paint.
- Cover areas to avoid messy clean ups. There will be some sling from the rotary and orbital polisher. If you cover areas you are not applying product, this will eliminate the need for unnecessary clean ups.
- Last but not least, we are striving for a perfect finish, but know there will not be a perfect finish unless you decide to repaint the entire vehicle. There will always be some small and minor blemishes.
Follow these steps for a perfect (well near perfect) finish:
- Start with a small 2’x2’ test area
- Starting with a small area allows you to work on your method and find the best combination of product and pressure to remove scratches and restore the shine on your paint work. Once you have the desired combination, you can repeat these steps until the entire car is complete
- Start with the least aggressive combination
- Go with a process with the lowest combination of machine speed, pad cut strength and polish cut strength. You can always go heavier if these combinations did not remove all the scratches. But if you start strong, you cannot reverse any paint damage or paint that has been removed.
Note: If you are not experienced with polishing, we recommend using a dual action because the machine is more forgiving and easier to use. It allows for better control and dissipates the heat and energy better.
Start with Bull Shine Cutting Polish with a Yellow or Orange Cutting Pad at a medium speed no higher than 5. This will allow for you to see if the process is working or if you need to make adjustments.
- Check your work and make adjustments if necessary
- Lighting is important to be able to see any imperfections. Shine a bright light onto the paint and see if there are any scratches or swirls.
- If there are not scratches or swirls, continue to the Polishing phase by using a final polish similar to our Bull Shine Finishing Polish .
- Repeat the same process for the rest of the car.
- If there are still noticeable scratches or swirls, a more aggressive correction process may be necessary
- Start by increasing the strength of the cutting polishing by using a heavy cut compound similar to our Bull Shine Heavy Cut Polish.
- If the results are still less than desired, increase the cutting pad strength up to a Yellow
- If the results are still less than desired, you will need to switch to a heavier polisher like a rotary polisher. In most cases, either step 1 or 2 will provide the desired results.