My seasonal polish.

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May 15, 2008
Norwalk, CA not CT
As a former detailer I know how to photograph cars to really make them look good to advertise my work. As such I also know how to really highlight the before and after. Well today I just finished my seasonal polish. These are some details to show just what's possible with just a 6" cheapy random orbital, wool bonnet and Meguiars Ultimate Compound. The last big compound I've done was about 4 years ago with Meguiars M105. I keep up with seasonal polishing usually with D151, sometimes with M205 and a waxing with Collinite 915. But usually I just one step it and when the D151 protection wears off I rewax with Collinite. I can say Ultimate Compound removes more swirls than D151 which removes more than M205 but doesn't remove as much as M105. But it has more lubricant so a longer work time allows you to jewel down the finish without adding lubricant like spray detailer unlike M105 which needs additional lubricant to jewel down (I'll explain jeweling later). This was my entire kit. Cheap Turtle Wax 6" random orbital which I custom modded with a 15 foot extension cord, the 5 inch short cord it comes with is absolutely stupid. It's got on it a wool bonnet, I have several and I make sure to clean them after really well. Collinite 915 for after, keep in mind that all the after shots were done without wax and after an alcohol wipedown to reveal any swirls not hidden with oils or fillers. It's the real deal correction which people assume is impossible with a cheapy random orbital. And in the spray bottle is my homemade spray detailer, I'll tell you more on that later. Here are a couple before shots. These were taken in direct sunlight which really serve to highlight swirls, holograms and hazing. I also happened to have polished the hood in direct sunlight, generally a no no but cooling the hood with spray detailer before polishing and using Ultimate Compound which has much more lubricating oils in it actually make it feasible to polish in direct sunlight. I know that's an absolute impossibility with M105. This is a closeup of the side door. Pretty swirly but they're mostly light swirls. Wide shot of the hood the swirls here are more numerous and definitely deeper but sorta hard to get the lighter swirls to stand out. Closeup of the hood before to highlight more swirls A little more on technique. I say you can achieve swirl correction and a hologram and mar free finish with a cheapy random orbital and a wool bonnet but there is a technique. And it's one that took me a while to come up with and master. So trying to be smart and substituting products and technique or rushing it won't get you the same finish. Some people say you can't do any correction and you're better off not buying one and doing it by hand well that's total nonsense. While you can achieve minor correction by hand, the pressure most people apply induces marring in the finish. Plus every person that I've seen that claims they can remove swirls by hand I ask them to tell me where they started and where they finished. Every time I bring out my inspection LED flashlight I can always show them they left marring and they did more correction where they started than when they finished simply because they get tired and or lazy. To start with make sure you start with a new or well cleaned wool bonnet and make sure it's dry. Before starting with the first panel I prime it by running a whole line of polish down the center. Then work it in by hand to spread it, press the polisher against a panel and turn it on to work the polish into the bonnet. It's now primed. To begin polishing I work small sections at a time. I don't bother doing OCD things like taping lines since this is my daily driver and all I want is for it to look good I don't need concours perfection. Generally I work by features, sheet metal creases individual curves on each panel, etc, on the hood I work lines from top to bottom, on the roof I just work 1/4 at a time on my small car, larger cars obviously means more areas to subdivide it into. It helps me subdivide large panels and get more even correction. The technique is when the polish is fresh quickly spread it out over the whole small area you're working on. This is where Ultimate Compound really shines as it doesn't flash off as quickly as M105 so is a lot friendlier for the necessarily slower random orbital technique. Then comes working the polish. You need to press down about 3 or 4 pounds of force and move the polisher very slowly, about 15 to 30 seconds per foot overlapping each row you passed previously. This lets the polish work itself down since you don't have the power of a DA you need to move slowly in order to get any decent correction. Now the trick to not leaving marring and holograms is after the polish is worked to a clear consistency, you need to jewel the leftover polish. To do this go back over the polished area with the lightest of pressure and again go slowly. The very light pressure lets the machine spin up to very high rpms and both orbit and rotate quickly and the broken down polish and leftover lubricant help to remove any marring left over. After this immediately wipe off the residue. After the first section you don't need to use as much polish, two half-pea size drops are all that's needed. Don't use too much or it'll sling and also clog the bonnet. Oh and one more tool I do use in detailing is a flashlight, it's a Solarforce L2 with a custom high powered XP-G module which is emits a very bright concentrated beam which helps easily spot paint defects, it's sorta dual purpose. It helps to easily spot when I've worked the polish enough to remove swirls or if I need to go over the spot again and in between panels when the wool starts to matte up I can use the crenelated bezel with the machine on to fluff up the wool and shake out the spent polish which comes out in a magnificent cloud of dust with the machine on and the crenelations on the bonnet pressed into the rapidly rotating bonnet. And now the results. This is just polished with an alcohol wipedown to reveal any defects that may be hidden by leftover oils. So this is the true correction. With a decent waxing it obviously looks even better. This is the side door. As you can see from the before there is a significant reduction in swirls. This is a hood wide shot. Since it has deeper swirls I couldn't take off all of them but I'd say it's pretty well taken care of. If I spent even more time I probably could remove everything but this is a daily driver and constantly trying to keep the paint perfect means also removing more material than is necessarily good for the finish. Closeup of the hood to show the amount of correction. Not 100% correction but I'd say it's like 90% there especially considering that's the worst part of the car with the deepest swirls. It looks darn near perfect after waxing anyways. Are the results perfect and concours ready? No but it's pretty darn good plus go to a car show most of the cars there don't even look this good I always see them buffin' their beauties in front but when I go take a look, swirl city. On mine the swirls are definitely reduced, no holograms, marring or hazing, it's good especially considering this is with a polisher most people say is only good for spreading wax and is impossible to do any correction with. Obviously I was able to do some decent correction and the finish is wax ready, and yes it would definitely be quicker with a higher power DA and you'll get that last bit more reflection if you multi step it but I gave up the detailing business years ago, and getting a concours ready finish is kinda pointless on a daily driver since it's gonna get messed up anyways. Plus the DA's are darn loud and I don't wanna annoy the neighbors with hours of DA polishing, the random orbital on the other hand is nearly silent. Total time for polishing was about 4 hours. Keep in mind that's just polishing. I washed it a couple days ago so spray detailer was used to clean the panel before polishing. Waxing I do by hand with Collinite 915 and that only takes about a half hour to 45 minutes anyways. With a properly prepped surface 915 is very easy to use. I use a wax on wax off method. I don't let the wax dry before buffing it off with a microfiber. This puts a very thin layer but prevents the marring that can occur if you let the wax dry too thick and have to muscle it off. Oh and if you're wondering about the spray detailer. Here's the formula. I use it and find it works quite well for cleaning and unlike others actually serves to put a little wax on. So it's a good booster when used to wipe up bird bombs or do a little in between wash cleanings. In a 20 ounce soda bottle pour in two ounces gel wax. I've used Armor All Wax it Dry gel but unfortunately it's discontinued so it's now Eagle One Gel Wax. I've also tried Turtle Wax Carnauba but it tends to separate too fast. One ounce Armor All protectant, yes it's part of it, it's sorta a necessary evil to help emulsify the wax and lubricate the cleaner to prevent dust from scratching the finish. Considering how decent my car looks in the before shots I'd say it's not damaging the finish at all because I've been using it constantly ever since owning the car. And I've also compared it to the commercially available stuff when dealing with dusty cars my formula definitely scratches less and doesn't have nearly the alcohol concentration which I've found strips a little wax protection whereas this detailer adds wax protection. And the last ingredient is a little harder to find. 1/2 ounce Kodak Photo Flo. It's a pure surfactant that won't leave any sort of residue when wiped off and is needed to keep the wax in suspension. I tried using car wash detergent but it foamed too much when shaking and left a residue when wiped off. So Photo Flo is a must. The remainder of the bottle is filled with distilled water so as to make the concentrate easy to pour. This concentrate now can be used to make your detailer. I mix about 2 ounces per gallon of distilled water. So one concentrate bottle is enough to make 10 gallons of detailer and in total costs very little since when you get all three ingredients you can make several more 20 ounce concentrate bottles. Total spent is about $25 for the ingredients minus bottles of distilled water. Very economical considering a 32 ounce spray bottle of detailer costs about $8. Shake it before you spray and occasionally during use, spray on wipe off and turn the cloth to a clean side and buff off any residue left, usually best to knock off the loose dust with a car duster before. Works great.
Great write-up! Thanks for sharing some tricks of the trade! I read some of your earlier advice before detailing my Cruze. Thanks again for sharing your experience!
Very good job. I an a fan of the Ultimate Compound works very well. Collinite as well is very good but is a PITA on my dark blue GTI. Doesn't matter what I do the Collinite 845 and 915 are a bear. Thin coats are a must but by hand is hard to get just right. I have been using SmartWax layered with Chemical Guys Jet Seal. Much easier in my application. I do have a DA and they are a PITA they are heavy and awkward at times especially on a car with shaped panels. For a perfectly flat surface DA is easy though. I agree with the OP 100% that yes you can get the car dang near perfect with other techniques or products but fora DD vehicle especially one that sits outside like my car it just makes no sense. I do wash my car weekly and apply a spray wax or apply a wax or sealant almost weekly. Mainly for the UV protection for the dark blue metallic paint sitting out in the desert sun. Jeff
This was a very informative post. Thank you for the time and tips! Car looks excellent! My Charger has the "blackberry pearl-coat" and shows the swirling like crazy. Will be following your method!
Looks good!! I used the ultimate compound today, applied by hand and surprised how easily it got ridof alotofswirls. Cant wait to use it with my HF DA.
THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! For years I have been saying that you *can* do good enough job using a small wax spreader but most people here never believed me. Coming from you as a former professional detailer, it carries a lot of weight. So, hopefully people who keep on saying you need to invest $500 in getting the top of the line Flex polisher and boutique products would learn something from this.
Wow, lots of new interesting ideas here. Where do you get those wool bonnets and price? Did you use just one for the entire car? For a detailer I'm using Ultima concentrate which is $21 but makes 32 bottles of 22 ounce detailer. So after shipping I'm still under a buck a bottle. Plus it leaves some protection behind.
You can get the wool bonnets at pretty much any auto store but I got a lot of them at once for really cheap on ebay. I end up using just one to do a whole car. If you're clogging them and need to change them to continue polishing you're using too much polish. Oh and what's amazingly hilarious. I've been making my spray detailer concentrate longer than many of the other waterless washes have been around. And every single detailer balks that I use Armor All because it contains silicones. And on looking at the MSDS for all of the waterless washes I find a formulation similar to mine. A water based wax (if it's a waxing cleaner), polysiloxane based lubricant, and surfactant. So pretty much my detailer is formulated very similarly to the products the detailers are buying and they probably don't even know they're using silicone based detailing solution. One thing I'll say is if you're watering down the Ultima as much as it says, 32 22 ounce bottles, you're basically just using water. The concentrate itself is 94-98% water. In my experience watering down a detailer too much means you'll induce swirls because there's not enough lubrication.
I'll start out by saying I am a detailer too, though more for fun now that I work a 60/hr a week job. I mean no disrespect, but I would not use the mix you are using. While it may work and be cheaper, I'm not going to use that mix on my paint. Period. In terms of the Ultima and watering it down. Flawed logic in my opinion. The reason you add water is because it is a concentrate. I've used it on soft paint, hard paint, you name it. No marring if used properly. Ultima is good stuff. I like experimenting, but I'll go with premixed products that are produced for their intended purpose. There are plenty of good ones.
You may not use it but there are a lot of people here that can benefit from this method. That's the whole point for me posting this. Some people don't want to spend hundreds on their polishing kit. So what option do they have? If you can recommend a method that can produce as good a result for as little money and effort you're more than welcome too. With a little practice and patience I'm showing you can produce professional results and very good correction with a particular combination of products. As for the concentrate. The reason I say it's too diluted is from experience. I've tried those waterless washes before, I've tried it at different concentrations. And I've found at higher concentrations you get less marring and swirling on dirty vehicles. It makes sense since you're increasing the amount of lubrication while wiping the surface. I also simply stopped buying them after looking up their MSDS and finding out the detailer I've been making all along is essentially the same thing so I've switched back to it since for me it's far more economical. I got out of the detailing business long ago and never looked back because I moved on to aerospace engineering. Chemistry, surface finishes, engineering, they're all part of my current job. And experimentation is just the kind of stuff that breeds innovation. And I like to experiment and share my results in case anyone here can benefit.
I admire your work. I never disagreed that a budget polisher and Meg's UC produced great results. I use UC and would put it up some MUCH pricer products. In fact, I am a huge fan of Meguiars. If your mixture is working, awesome. I personally do not use waterless washes, but Ultima is used by some detailing professionals I admire quite a bit and they have flawless results. I did not mean to offend anyone. As Mike Phillips says, find something you like and use it often.
I'm a little puzzled by your description of Ultimate Compound "breaking down." My understanding is that Ultimate Compound uses the SMAT abrasive technology, which simply does not breakdown. M105 is an interesting product. It cuts fast, and in some capable hands, it can finish very well. I know that many people have their own tricks for using the stuff, but more often than not, it has a very short work time and leaves a ridiculous dust cloud. I have since switched to Menzerna FG400 with better results. D300/M101 mix is also a good combo. While I cannot say that I have any plans of trying your setup, I am glad that it works well for you. But for the price that you mentioned, I think most people are better served by the HF DA and some proper foam pads. wink2
From what I can tell Meguiars Ultimate Compound is not pure SMAT. After looking at it under a high powered microscope at work after washing away the lubricant I see two distinct particle sizes. To me it seems to be a mix of standard garnet diminishing polishes and SMAT aluminum oxide. I know because M105 is pure white. Aluminum oxide abrasive is normally too abrasive for paint, usually it's used as an industrial abrasive. It's sharpness and hardness makes it ideal for very tough abrasive use. In order to make it work for paint the particles must be ultra fine since polishing soft materials aluminum oxide simply will not wear down appreciably. If large aluminum oxide particles are used it will simply gouge the paint. Garnet on the other hand is very brittle and will break down with use. Hence it's popularity as a diminishing abrasive. It's also reddish brown in color. This is what's leading me to believe that Ultimate Compound is a combination of both. It's not pure white like M105 and not nearly as dark reddish brown as their traditional polishes and it has distinctly large reddish particles mixed in with smaller white ones. Now the neat thing I know is that if you combine a tough but smaller abrasive it will wear down a more brittle one more quickly. This makes it almost ideal for paint since standard pure garnet based abrasives will break down much slower and likely would need a machine. The aluminum oxide will break down the garnet quite quickly after the garnet has it's chance to polish down the major defects, and the broken down garnet won't polish further but the aluminum oxide will and will do so to a finer finish since they're SMAT. Meguiars knew that they wanted a fast cut and ease of use. I don't think this can be accomplished by using a fully loaded SMAT polish since M105 flashes off too quickly and tends to clog pads and dust. Put too much lubricant and the fine particles won't have enough bite and you basically have M205. This also explains M105's finicky nature, not enough lubricant but you can't add too much or it won't cut fast. But put large garnet particles and you can load up on lubricant to make the polish easy to use less likely to clog pads and less likely to dust. Now have your initial bite to get rid of more major damage and the SMAT will simultaneously break down the garnet and provide excellent finishing even by hand. And the plus side lubricant and garnet are cheap, SMAT abrasives on the other hand are expensive. It's a win-win for Meguiars, a still excellent product made more affordable and easier to use by combining added lubricant, traditional garnet abrasives, and SMAT abrasives. It's amazing the knowledge you can glean when you have access to a lab and a pretty good knowledge of materials and chemistry.
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Thanks for the great explanation. I've had some seat time with the SMAT stuff, but personally I've switched to the diminishing abrasive polishes such as FG400 and Sonax Perfect Finish with better results. Especially on softer paints, I am finding that the diminishing abrasive polishes deliver more predictable results if given the proper cycle. Sonax Perfect Finish is an interesting animal as well. It breaks down extremely fast for a diminishing polish. With a moderately aggressive pad and the proper polisher, it takes only one very, very, very slow pass for it to become translucent. Two more quick passes to finish and you get very good, haze-free results on even the softest paints. I think its possible to achieve the same results with the SMAT stuff, but it will take a bit more (or a different kind of) practice. As with a lot of this stuff, the end user is a huge variable and can/will greatly affect the end result.
Originally Posted By: Jeffs2006EvoIX
I picked up my HD DA polisher at harbor freight for $70 pads are $5 there. Can't beat that. Jeff
The buffer is great, but their pads suck.
Originally Posted By: HyundaiGuy
Originally Posted By: Jeffs2006EvoIX
I picked up my HD DA polisher at harbor freight for $70 pads are $5 there. Can't beat that. Jeff
The buffer is great, but their pads suck.
The buffer works, but if you plan to get into this as a hobby, I would seriously consider a Rupes 21 or Flex. The Porter Cable/HF are the dinosaurs today.
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