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A Conversation with Barry Theal of Presidential Details


I have been friends with Barry Theal of Presidential Details/AmericanaCarCare for a few years now, I finally decided to pick his brain and get into a discussion with him about polishing, correction, and coatings. I will relay our conversation here. It was very informative and actually allowed me understand a few things better.

Me: I know this is touchy, but let’s start with paint coatings. Some provide more protection/scratch resistance, and some provide more gloss. How are you applying coatings? Specifically which are your go to coatings and why?

Greg thanks for the opportunity to answer these questions. Let’s get started I’m sure the readers of the Detailed Image blog will love this. First off I prefer to only use two coatings at the moment. I have tried every coating so far on the market. Although I carry them all due too customer demand, there are two that really stand out for my business. Cquartz Finest and Opti-Coat Pro at the moment are my go to coatings for sure. The characteristics of both are what make them unique. They are two completely different coatings. From a business standpoint it makes sense for any detailer to carry both. I have always been a firm believer in giving the customer options that will help them further with their expectations. As I use the word permanent. I want the readers to understand as an individual I feel nothing is permanent. So when I use the word permanent I want the readers to understand I truthfully mean “over a long period of time, more than 5 years”.

Separation of the two coatings is important to me. Opti-Coat Pro is advertised as a Permanent Paint Protection. As an installer I like to tell my customers that it’s the longest lasting coating offered by any company on the market to date. From my experience I try to dedicate this product to the person who really isn’t an enthusiast versus someone like my wife. For example my wife could care less about how her car look’s, I know that sounds funny coming from a guy like myself, but it’s true. My wife has been 29 years old for the last 8 years. “If you have a wife over 30 you understand my joke” On a daily basis she drives about 60 miles a day. These are miles that consist of round trips to the hospital for work, kid’s events, and grocery hauling like a boss. For her there are not enough hours in a day. This is where Opti-Coat comes into factor. It’s the product that adds ease and comfort to her lifestyle. The ease comes from the fact that, it’s abilities to keep paint clean are amazing. I’ve never seen a product that made washing a car that easy. Bugs are easily removed, dirt rinses right off. It really is that nice of a product. Its long-lasting properties make it a no brainer for protection and ease her mind for years to come. The only downside I have found to Opti-Coat is water spots. Between my busy life and hers, she often uses an automated touch less car wash that just doesn’t do that great of a job getting the car dry. On occasion I will see water spotting left behind from this. Not a major issue for us, but to some it can be horrifying.

Cquartz Finest from CarPro is my biggest seller at the moment as far as coating goes. This is a professional product that is only applied by Professional Installers and can’t be purchased on the open retail market. Finest was designed specifically for those with discerning tastes for its exceedingly rich and glossy finish, as well as its ability to resist the elements and protect like no other. While it’s beauty is undeniable, that is only the start! Long-term protection of that beauty and resistance to the environment is equally important. Unlike lesser products, Finest resists dirt, dust, and the environment. One of the most important features in keeping your vehicle clean is the ability of the protective layer to release water. Finest features an industry leading low sliding angle that allows water drops to release, causing a hydrophobic “self-cleaning” affect. Utilizing a proprietary condensed nanotech material, Finest adds a measurable 2~3µm tough, rich, high gloss “glass” layer, which protects the surface beneath and resists dirt, brake dust, bugs, bird bombs, and other conditions for a minimum of two years. Cquartz Finest is one of them products that make you want to step back and say “aaaaaah”. As of late many of my more particular customers are requesting this because of how it looks. It really offers a glass type look that I would describe as that the one of a Jolly Rancher. This is one product I would highly recommend for the most discerning owner or enthusiast.

Me: I offer the same two coatings and understand why you do the same. I agree when Cquartz Finest is applied you do step back and say “aaaaaah”! I saw your video on Abrasive Isolation; can you elaborate on it for me?

Abrasive Isolation is a term I came up with recently during a training class that I was instructing. It derived from me saying, “you have to isolate them abrasives and control them”. When working with students I can only share the knowledge and experience I have gained from others who have paved the way before me. Personally I have been detailing my entire life. I started at 16 years of age when I was a sophomore in high school. I always had experience, but the proper knowledge is something I learned from others who have come before me. One of these guys is Kevin Brown, a professional detailer in California. I’m not sure where my career would be without him. He is one who always makes me think outside the box. Most people think of a compound as a buffing liquid that removes scratches. To me it’s so much more. Imagine an engineer designing a car. He knows every limitation that car has. Likewise this is how I look at compounds. They become a part of me. Learning how to maximize their potential is how I make my living. The compound, pad, machine and I are one tool in sync to create a flawless finish. Understanding how it all works is knowledge, utilizing this is how experience is created. With that in mind, you have to control the abrasives in any compound to make them work. The term Abrasive Isolation is how I teach polishing. It’s a slower movement with a controlled compression of the pad.

In order to describe this the best way, you are going to need a small lecture on compounds. The best way to describe this is to imagine a small bowl of Jello with a lot of marbles in it. As you put that image into your mind now imagine that you flip the bowl of Jello upside down onto a table and you can see it in a controlled wiggle. Now imagine that the Jello can be spread like peanut butter. Next we are going to put a round sponge on top of that and spin it. If you spin it to fast the marbles are going to shoot all over the place, but if you put the right amount of pressure on the sponge and compress the Jello just enough with a controlled rotation of the sponge. The marbles should actually roll compressed under the sponge isolating themselves to one spot under the pad. Okay now imagine this exact same thing, but instead were going to change the formula to a buffing liquid. That liquid consisting of a thick creme with thousands of super fine non diminishing abrasives. The second a detailer pulls the trigger on his polisher the pad begins to rotate and abrasives begin to do their thing. It’s how they work that makes the difference. In theory if you control your abrasives you will eventually control the end result. This result is a faster cut and a better finish.

Ultimately the fundamentals to Abrasive Isolation are as follows.

  1. Slow arm speed – this allows for the abrasives to do their thing without slinging from underneath the pad.
  2. Pad Pressure – this is very important, it allows a consistent compressed pad to absorb the abrasive particles just enough to help with control, but yet still allow them to spin and remove the substrate material (substrate being paint).
  3. Machine speed- the last crucial part. To slow of a speed and the down pressure will make the pad stop or change direction of the orbit, to fast of a speed and the abrasives aren’t isolating themselves. Machine speed is something that is more of a feel in the technician’s hands.
  4. Lastly use enough liquid to run a longer polishing cycle.

In summary that is Abrasive Isolation.

Me: Great way to describe the need for slow arm movement, makes a lot of sense. What are your thoughts on “Destructive Paint Correction”, basically creating defects to remove defects?

It was almost 20 years ago when I first heard a phrase that I still embed into every one of my students minds today. That phrase is simple, but very important. “To get scratches out of a car you must first put them in!” Now to most this simply just doesn’t make sense, but to someone who is polishing paint it will or at least should. Anytime an abrasive crosses the path of a substrate, it will microscopically remove material while leaving behind finer scratches. Years ago it use to take three or sometimes four steps of different polishes and pads to completely mill the substrate to perfectly smooth surface. In today’s world with machine enhancements, abrasive enhancements, and pad enhancements polishing, as we know it has become easier, but there still isn’t one product that will be the end all be all. In the trade of polishing a craftsmen will utilize his tools to make a surface that refracts lights actually reflect light threw polishing. In general every time a craftsmen is polishing paint he is creating defects, it’s the inexperienced polisher that will do it in a destructive manner. In closing, I think the important part of that question should be how my peers react to a person who is destructively damaging paint. Realistically they’re probably uneducated and as a group it should be our goal to educate them to proper polishing.

Me: Can deeper Random Isolated Deep Scratches be removed without destructive polishing?


Again this falls into being properly educated. The thing with the internet is that it can be a great tool and it could also be someone’s worst enemy. In the world of Forums, Facebook, and online Blogs a person can learn so much in such a short amount of time. It’s those that take the proper time to gain experience are the ones who will excel. All the knowledge in the world will not produce results unless you have the experience to make it happen. It takes a craftsmen years to master his trade.

I wanted to thank Barry Theal for taking his time to answer these questions. Everyone can expect more from Barry, I plan on doing this with him again when he has the time.

As always thanks for reading 🙂

Gregory Gellas
Signature Detailing NJ
Hillsborough, NJ 08844
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1 comment on A Conversation with Barry Theal of Presidential Details

  1. Tony Kiger says:

    Great writeup! I have met many detailers that have not wanted to evolve and grow in a detailing world and have chosen to stick with their methods as being destructive towards finishes. Wanting a quick fix and not true my examining the work or methods used to correct. Something I have always strived for is to better my abilities and results in being the least aggressive and yet achieving the best results. All of you on detailed image have helped me better myself with the insight and knowledge that we have all achieved over the years.

    Question though about coatings? Have you tried Modesta yet and any thoughts on their coatings?

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