June 12, 2006Ok, we are now ready to talk about buffing. To give you a better understanding on what buffing does for your paint, lets say you had a piece of wood that had a gash in it. You could use wood filler to fill in the void, or you could sand the surrounding area down to where the imperfection is completely smooth. Automotive paint can be looked at in much the same way. If you have some light scratching, you can hide it with Glaze, or for deeper imperfections, you may need to buff it out with compound which is a liquid based product that contains micro-abrasives designed to etch the surrounding area removing a slight amount of paint until the paint is level, and completely smooth again.
A QUICK NOTE: Most modern vehicles have Base coat/Clear coat paint. The process involves using a thin coat of acrylic enamal for a base color, and then applying a coat of clear Acrylic Urathane over it. Most compounds on the market today are clear coat safe, but their are a number of compounds still around that are intended for use on single stage non-clear coat paint. Here is a simple way to determine if your vehicle has a clear coat, or not. Take a white terry cloth, or microfiber towel. Apply a small amount of wax, and rub it on a small section of your paint. If color appears on your towel, then you do not have a clear coat. If no color appears, then you do, and should only use clear coat safe products to avoid damage to your paint.
Now that we have a basic understanding on what buffing does for your paint, lets take a quick look at compound (AKA Cutting Material) which is the chemical used in the buffing process. Their are three basic types of compounds on the market today. They range from light duty, to medium duty, to heavy duty.
LIGHT DUTY COMPOUND: Is used to remove light oxidation, minor swirl marks, and light surface scratches. This is the least abrasive compound available, and will cause the least harm to your paint. It is always recommended that you try this compound first, and work your way up to a more aggresive chemical if needed.
MEDIUM DUTY COMPOUND: Is used for moderate oxidation, medium scratches, swirl marks, and light paint defects ranging from paint overspray, to bird droppings, ect. This is a more aggressive compound, and will etch the paint more than light duty compound. Use this chemical with more care, as you are removing more surface from your paint.
HEAVY DUTY COMPOUND: Is used for removing heavy oxidation, color sanding scratches, heavy scratches, paint overspray, and paint defects. The is the most aggressive compound, and should only be used as a last resort. This chemical will remove the most surface of your paint of the three types of compounds available, and extra care should be taken when using this material.
The best way to buff your paint requires the use of a high speed rotary type buffer. These machines use a high speed rotation as opposed to an oscillating orbital buffer (AKA Dual Action Buffer), and are capable of removing swirls, light scratches, and most paint contaminates more effectivly than by hand, however they remove these defects by etching, or removing paint. So every time you buff your PT you are removing paint, and making your surface thinner, so this process should be limited to a full buff once, or twice a year as opposed to routine maintenence. This can be a little intimidating since high speed buffing can burn paint if not done right, however if you follow the steps I give you, you should never have a problem of any kind. These methods, and recommendations are safe for both clearcoat, and non-clearcoat paint finishes.
If you are not very well versed in high speed buffing, I strongly recommend using a rotary buffer with a speed setting of 1000 to 1200 RPM. This is enough speed to do a good job without the risk of burning, or causing damage to your paint. If you do not have a buffer, and are interested in purchacing one, I recommend the Makita 9227 with a cost of approximataly $199.00, or the DeWalt 849 with a cost of approximataly $225.00. Note: Most liquid compounds are only effective when using a high speed rotary buffer due to surface friction, and heat.
For buffing, I recommend a wool cutting pad. Foam pads are also available for cutting paint, but I prefer wool pads as more of a traditional method, which to me produces better results. Both are available at most Automotive Paint Supply Stores. Be sure to ask for advise, on both types. A couple more items recommended are a rubber backing plate, and a tool called a Spur, used to clean wool pads.
For Chemical in this segment, I am using Meguire's #2 Fine Cut Compound. This is a good mildly abrasive compound that is inexpensive ($10.00), and produces good results. Note: When buffing always use the least abrasive chemical possible, and work your way up till you achieve the desired results.I also recommend always testing a small less visable section of your paint before you buff (Example. the lower vallance under your rear bumper by your exahst pipe).
Now, lets break down your PT into the five sections I mintioned in part 2 of this segment. if you have experience using a high speed buffer, then start on the roof. If you have never used a high speed buffer, then I recommend you start on the hood.
Start by applying a ring of chemical around the buffing wheel. Before you start buffing, slide the chemical across the panal to minimize splatter. Now grip the buffer firmly in your hands. The buffer will feel a little squirly on the paint. To minimize this, hold the buffing wheel at a slight angle as opposed to laying the pad flat on the surface. Now you are ready to buff.
On flat surfaces such as the hood, and top, I recommend either using a cross hatching pattern (first side to side, then front to back), or a figure eight pattern. Continue buffing until most of the compound is gone, and a good finish is either visable, or the surface feels smooth as glass. Please note, if your paint appears hazy, it is normal, and will be cleared up in the next step. Be sure to wipe off any remaining residue with a clean microfiber towel, folded into quarters, and misted with either Meguire's Final Inspection, or Meguire's Quick Detailer.
Always work in small sections, and moniter your progress. Continue till the entire vehicle is completed.
Now your cruiser is fully buffed, and ready to move onto the next stage. Part 4 of this series will dicuss polishing to remove compound hazing, and achieve a high gloss finish. Till next time, happy detailing!