This question came from a few readers of the blog, but it’s one I’ve also come across before in my business. Usually a client with two or more vehicles will ask me how the process will differ from vehicle to vehicle and on what will it be based.
First off I’d like to clarify that the actual color doesn’t impact the detail process at all, at least not my process. Rather, it’s the fact that a specific color dictates which clear coat comes with it 99% of the time. What I mean is that whether a car is black, green, white or blue, we are polishing the clear coat on a vehicle’s finish, unless of course we’re dealing with single stage paint. Even with single stage paint, actual color, or hue, doesn’t have any impact because what matters is the kind of paint used, how it was applied, etc. For the sake of simplicity, this article will be solely based on clear coated vehicles. So without getting into too many details and variables, such as different manufacturers, models and vehicle places of origin, the following is true from my experience, as well as experience of most of my colleagues:
Black paint, especially that without any metallic flake, is typically coated with a softer clear coat. In some cases, such as jet black Porsche or BMW paint, the paint is so soft that you have to utilize every tool and every ounce of your energy to properly correct and finish the detail job. Due to it being extremely soft, it’s extremely difficult to refine properly and in some cases takes a few more steps than other, more “normal” black paint in order to finish down to a nice, swirl free gloss.
Conversely, lighter paints, such as white and gray, are normally coated with a fairly hard clear coat, which requires a bit of a different plan of attack. Due to the paint being hard, it’s very easy to finish down as you can’t marr the finish too much even with very aggressive media, but then again it’s a long process of removing defects from the hard paint.
With that said, my answer to “Does color impact my detailing process?” is yes and no, but mainly no. Why the confusing answer you ask? Here’s why…
I say yes because the detailing process is something that greatly varies even between most detailers performing the same quality of work. Some will use different products, others different techniques, but the process will slightly vary. Personally, the color of the vehicle impacts my process by requiring me to utilize different pad and polish combinations, along with different polishing techniques, in order to perform the detail job correctly. For example, if I have a black Porsche 911 coming in, I’ll be sure the wait for it with about 6-10 different polishes and 5-6 different pads. In addition, I’ll make sure to have all my polishers on hand “just in case”. That’s because regardless of the detail job the client and I agree upon, I’ll need a few combinations to test on the paint to know that it’ll finish down to my standards. On the other hand, if someone is bringing me a white BMW or Audi, while I will still have all the stuff because that’s just the right thing to do :), I can probably get away with having 2-3 polishes and 2-3 pads. For a car like this, I’m 95% sure that I can do a great job with one fairly aggressive pad and polish combination, such as Meguiar’s 105 and Meguiar’s DA Microfiber Cutting Pad, a medium combo, such as Menzerna Super Intensive Polish and a White Lake Country Pad, and a finishing polish like Meguiar’s 205 and a Crimson Lake Country Pad.
Also, on softer clear coats, I’d be very careful to use a lot of lubrication while doing clay bar decontamination in order to leave very little to no marring on the paint. Due to the softness of the clear, clay bar can easily marr it and show up almost too well on black and darker paints.
I say no because the process always generally stays the same, regardless of the paint color or clear coat softness. It is always my job to properly take care of the paint. In terms of doing a paint correction in 2 or more polishing steps, which is mainly what I do as a service, I have to clean and wash the vehicle, decontaminate the paint via clay bar, prep for polishing, correct via polishing and finally protect with some sort of sealant. Whether I’m working on a black car with extremely soft clear coat or a white car with extremely hard clear coat, these steps in the process will not change one bit. If anything, as mentioned above, only the polishing step would be slightly impacted by color in that I might have to do a couple more test spots on certain paints to figure out the best combination. Even with that though, the process overall remains the same and the time and care put into the detail job remain relatively similar.
Why mainly No?
The reason I said “mainly no” is simply my personal answer and purely subjective. It reflects the way I look at this question and the way I wish to provide an answer. That is to say, I believe the process is impacted much more by such variables as thickness of the paint, severity of defects and the client’s budget for the detail job. This is where experience and ingenuity come to play. How do I utilize the 7 hours I was paid to perform as much correction on this vehicle as possible within the time frame? Should I push that extra 0.1 MIL on extremely thin clear coat and get the few deeper swirl marks out in order to have a perfect result, or play it safe and call it a day?
Those are the issues that definitely impact the detailing process in a major way, but color itself is of very little to no impact in my opinion.
In addition, numerous vehicles have harder clear coats on all colors, which is something I’ve experienced mostly with Mercedes and Audi. Similarly, many vehicles today have been repainted for one reason or another, and most body shops typically use softer clear coats due to the costs associated with the harder ones. That means that a white BMW with extremely hard paint could have 2-3 body panels that require a completely different process than the rest of the vehicle.
Long story short, yes I do cringe every time I get a call from a client with a jet black BMW or Porsche because I know it’ll be a “fun” experience to correct it. However, when working on vehicles I don’t see color, rather defects in the clear coat that encases that color and I do my best to make that color look its best by removing the defects. That’s why color does not impact my detailing process to any extent worth mentioning.
Hope this answers many readers’ questions on the topic and I’m looking forward to any related responses.
Thanks for reading!