The Garage – Make it Shine by Jim Blackwood of JB’s Paint & Autobody Supplies

While not everyone is into doing a full paint job on their car, most want to be sure their car looks its best when the weather turns for the better.  After all, it’s fun to see admiring heads turn…

Most drivers will have occasion to restore a tired paint job or polish out small scratches and swirls in a new one.  A key consideration can be keeping the expense reasonable and not buying equipment that will be intimidating or do damage.

The job can be done either by hand or with equipment and with essentially the same products.

Old Paint – Automotive paints will lose their luster because of oxidation and grime buildup from tree sap, road material, bird droppings and the like. 

By Hand – For this, a light cut rubbing compound with very little abrasive is needed to clean the paint surface.  Two good products are Pro “Duz-All Clearcoat Cleaner” (#P40) and Kleen-Flo “Paint Reconditioner” (#275) (formerly known as “Carshine”). 

Apply the rubbing compound in dabs over the selected surface using a clean applicator pad.  Using a soft flannel cloth, buff the surface until the compound is gone.  Run a finger over the surface; if it is slick, the result is unprotected paint that will require a protective wax.  Use a good carnauba wax such as Meguiar’s “Hi-Tech Yellow Wax” (#26) or Autoglym “Super Resin Polish” (#R12).  The “Yellow Wax” is available in liquid or paste.  Avoid cheaper waxes that will contain more silicone fillers. 

By Machine – A variable speed, orbital sander polisher using 1500-2000 rpm can be bought for about $100-150.  Two good examples are the Titan Vaper Orbital Polisher Sander (#22504) and Powerfist Variable Speed Sander Polisher (#8336349).  These polishers are slow operating and provide good control.  An assortment of pads are needed for the cutting, polishing and finishing stages.   The best pads are part of the Norton “Liquid Ice” System – “Super Cut Wool Pad” or “Orange Waffle Pad, Step 1”; “Blue Cutting Foam Pad, Step 2”; and “White Finishing Foam Pad, Step 3”.  For step 1, the foam is easier to use.  3M is releasing a similar multipad system called the “3M Perfect-It Paint Finishing System””

A great polish for this job is Norton “Liquid Ice Extra Cut” (#97116).  This is a one polish, 3 pad system that is easy and convenient to use.  “Duz-All” and “Carshine” are also good choices for machine polishing.

Apply the polish with an applicator pad in dabs on the surface.  Spray a light mist of water from a spray bottle on the surface and to the Step 1 pad.  Set the polisher at 1500-2000 rpm.  Hold the polisher at a slight angle and work side to side on an area about shoulder width apart.  Polish the work area until the polish is gone.  After doing the entire job, repeat the process using  Step 2 and 3  pads at the end of which there should be a high gloss shine.  If the results are not satisfactory, the entire process can be repeated.  Then apply a protective wax.

For dark cars, use Norton’s “Ultra-Fine Machine Glaze” instead of the “Extra Cut” compound for step 3.

It is generally a good idea to work in a linear direction along the lines of the car to all polishing work.   If concerned about burning through the paint at edges or ridges, tape them with masking tape to protect them, then polish later by hand.  Rub the tape on a pant leg to reduce adhesion to the paint.  Also, when starting the job, hold the polisher on the work surface to avoid free-wheeling and possibly causing damage.  Doing this will also prevent spraying polish around the work area.

New Paint – New paint can be marred by swirl marks or light scratches.

By hand – Various manufacturers make swirl removers as part of their product line.  Some good ones are Pro “Swirl Eliminator and Polish” (#P21), Meguiar’s “Swirl Remover” (#9) and Mothers “PowerPolish Stage 1” (#38616).  These products contain micro abrasives and are safe and easy to use. 

Apply the product on the trouble spots with an applicator pad and buff with a soft flannel or microfiber cloth until gone.  If a scratch is more serious, move up to the “Duz-All” compound.  Wax upon completion. 

By machine – Use one of the swirl removers or “Duz-All” compound with an orbital sander polisher.

Follow the same procedure as outlined for Old Paint.  Use a Norton Step 2, then Step 3, pad.  Or use only the Step 3 pad.

Maintenance – To protect the finish, use a proper car wash soap.  An example is Pro “Supercar Wash” (#C60).  A wash and wax product or one that strips the previous wax is not recommended.   Use a wash mitt and wipe dry with soft cotton towels without sewn edges.  Wash in the shade for a cool surface, dry with a chamois immediately to avoid white spots.

A good quality carnauba wax is important.  It will seal the paint which is porous and provide UV protection.  Water will bead off and road grime is easier to remove. 

Wash mitts and microfiber cloths can be washed in a clothes washer – don’t use any fabric softener.

For dressing tires, use Pro “Wipe-On Vinyl Dressing and Protectant” (#S81) to give them a medium gloss finish.  It can be used on all vinyl, rubber and plastic surfaces and does not leave a slimy residue.  Kiwi shoe polish does a credible job as well.  Avoid any product with a silicone solvent that will dry out the material by drawing out the oils. 

That’s it – enjoy the summer.