A shiny, polished vehicle imparts a high degree of satisfaction and pride of ownership. A deep, wet-looking shine demonstrates an attention to detail and respect for the vehicle. Detailing shops and car washes cultivate thriving businesses from drivers’ desire to have a nice finish on their cars and trucks. However, you can perform many of these same polishing techniques in your own driveway, making your vehicle stand out from the rest.
Washing the Vehicle
Ensure the car is completely clean. Use of a high-quality soap and a clean sponge is key. Use a separate bucket for your soap and water mixture, and another for rinsing and cleaning the sponge. This keeps dirt and other scratching agents from re-entering the solution you’re using to clean the vehicle. Using a clean or new set of drying towels helps to ensure that existing particulate matter on an old or dirty towel doesn’t scratch the paint surface.
Clay bars stick to and remove contamination from the paint surface. Spray the affected area with the clay bar’s lubricant, then spread a chunk of the bar out, pressing and wiping along the surface. Fold over dirty sections and repeat. This helps ensure no significant contamination is on the paint surface.
Using a quality orbital buffer makes your job that much easier. Remember to thoroughly inspect the pad prior to use, ensuring that there is sufficient thickness to avoid having the mounting plate of the buffer come in contact with the surface. Try to use the least-abrasive pad possible when in doubt. More abrasive pads are great for removing deep scratches, but they do so by removing more material during each polish. Always keep the buffer moving. Stopping in one place while the orbiter is in motion is a good way to burn the paint. Move slowly and in small sections.
Tips and Tricks
Always apply the polish to the vehicle first, wiping it on with a hand pad. Applying the polish to the buffer pad first will cause polish to fling off, wasting the compound and potentially getting it on unintended surfaces. If you drop a pad, consider it done for the polishing session until you clean it. Even the smallest dirt particles can and will find their way into the vehicle’s paint, creating more work for you as you get those scratches out.
Polish and Wax
Remember that polishes only work to make the vehicle’s surface smoother. Most polishes, unless part of a combination wax/polish, do relatively little to actually protect the paint surface. You will need to wax the vehicle after the polish is applied and excess wiped away. Waxes allow the polished effect to last longer, in addition to providing protection against sap, bugs and bird droppings.