This question, “How Do I Choose the Correct Pad for a Specific Polish?“, is a great question and I’m happy to provide some insight. It may sound ironic but I don’t think you can actually choose a pad for a polish, rather you choose the pad that best works with a specific polish for a specific paint. That said, there are certainly some good pad/polish combos that work well with each other on any paint and here’s a short list of the ones we use.
Meguiar’s Pro Speed Compound M100 is what we use 95% for doing paint correction. Most of the time we use the Lake Country Foamed Wool Pad. This works well with the M100 compound because it too cuts pretty well and corrects the paint, but leaves a decent finish that requires only one finishing stage. I choose this pad mainly for the correcting ability especially when paired with the M100 compound. That said, there are more sensitive paints on which the combo would be a bit too aggressive, leaving too many unnecessary scratches that need to be corrected. In this case we normally go with an Lake Country Orange Foam Pad because it still allows the M100 to correct really well, but doesn’t cut as much itself. This gives a nice mix of correction and a good finish, which final polishing takes over the top. For reference, the M100/LC wool pad combo is great for paints such as a sapphire black BMW and the M100/orange foam combo would be great for a red Tesla or a Japanese car, which have softer paint and correct well.
Meguiar’s Ultra Finishing Polish M205 is a long time staple in my detailing arsenal and I have yet to find something that’s as versatile, capable and easy to use. M205 works very well with basically any pad. I may pair M205 with the LC Wool pad mentioned above on a medium/soft paint if it’s pretty hammered. This combo corrects really well, but since M205 isn’t as aggressive as the compounds, the wool pad pairs well to accomplish great results. Most of the time we use M205 with the Lake Country Orange Foam Pad as a 1-stage polishing on harder paints and with a Lake Country White Foam Pad on softer paints, such as the Tesla mentioned above. Reason being, the orange pad doesn’t cut too much when used with M205, but corrects a lot of swirls while leaving a very nice finish on harder paint. Sure a 2-stage correction is always best, but when a client wants only 1 stage of polishing, the M205/orange becomes a great combo. White pad is even softer than orange, so it works well for softer or darker paints, where marring from the pad is more visible. In short, light pad marring looks MUCH better than swirl marks, so we lean toward as much correction as possible while leaving a pretty perfect finish. Plus applying a wax/sealant, especially by machine, eliminates very light marring and leaves a great finish. Very rarely we will use M205 with the Lake Country Red Finishing Pad, but usually if it needs a pad that soft, it needs a finer polish.
Last but not least is the Menzerna Super Finish Plus 3800. This is by far one of the best finishing polishes I have tried in 15+ years doing this. It’s not nearly as versatile as M205 nor does it correct as much when used as a 1-stage polish, but it does a great job finishing down any previously corrected finish. When paired with the Lake Country White Foam Pad, it’s great after something like M205/orange to correct light marring and leave a great, glossy finish. It’s also very decent as a 2nd stage behind something like M205 and a wool pad on certain paints. When it comes to soft and sensitive black paint though, SFP3800 is one of, if not the best polish to use. Paired with the Lake Country Red Finishing Pad in the right hands it can correct hazing on soft paint and leave a perfect finish.
The above mentioned pads and polishes are used in practically 95% of jobs where we touch a buffer, usually the Flex 3401 VRG. Obviously there are countless pads and polishes on the market, but the same principles apply. When using a heavy cutting polish/compound, you should pair it with a heavier cutting pad on harder or more damaged paints and a softer pad for medium paints with average defects. Most pads will work well when used with a “medium” polish such as Meguiar’s M205 so you have more control depending on the paint condition and expectations. Lastly, finishing polishes usually only pair well with finishing pads. Since they can’t accomplish much correction, they’re best at finishing down paint as a 2nd stage.
Hope this easy little guide helps!