By Ray Morgan
The mystery of detailing is probably best described by what might be termed the magic of exterior buffing. We have all tried every major brand of wax and polishes only to be disappointed by the end result. Following the directions on the bottle helps but there is nothing like the finish that comes from a good machine buffing.
So what is the problem? High speed buffers generate a lot of heat and if used improperly can damage the best of paint applications. Generally, a buffer is used to level out the finish and to remove any orange peel or other imperfections. However when a high speed buffer is used by an inexperienced person, micro-marring occurs leaving swirls in the paint.
If you are really serious about getting a near perfect finish, the process that works best is called color sanding followed by dual action buffing. Color sanding begins with a light surface sanding using 1500 grit or finer sand paper applied wet using a 3M foam applicator pad. But color sanding is needed only when the imperfections are such that a buffing compound won’t do the job.
I have an air driven dual action buffer but there are several electric models available. The DeWalt Model # DW443 is a good one as is the dual action buffer from Porter Cable. Be sure to get the right pads for the buffer; dark color for cutting, green or medium color for polishing, and light for finishing. A Velcro back plate makes it easy to change pads between applications.
Begin by washing the surface and drying it with an absorbent towel. This will be the last time you will ever use a towel or terry cloth or chamois. From now on it will be micro-fiber towels. If the surface has swirls that are not too deep, a medium swirl remover will work nicely. 3M makes a variety of swirl removers of varying grades. Work the machine slowly by allowing the product and the motion of the pad do the work. Working too fast demises the results. Once the swirls are gone, the next step is polishing. This is where depth and shine are achieved. Change the pad to a yellow color and similar and work the material in slowly. Use the micro-fiber towel to remove the residue.
Here where most people make their biggest mistake; they go back to a diaper or flannel towel to buffer the surface. Guess what? It scratches the surface and destroys the finish. Use only micro-fiber towels for as long as you own the car.
Now change pads and apply a good wax. Apply the wax to the pad and then let the machine do the work. Go slowly and work the product into the finish. Do this on the whole car without removing the residue. Let it stand for about 20 minutes or until completely dry. Then use a clean micro-fiber towel to remove any residue.
Finally put on your Ray-bans and stand back. The shine will be like never before. Buffing is so much easier than hand application. It produces an even finish and yields a lasting shine. Using a dual action buffer is easily mastered and will become the only way you will want to keep the finish on your car’s finish at its highest potential.