Paint Correction: Pairing Products and Padsby Zach McGovern
One of the most common questions I receive is “Which pad and product should I use to correct my paint?” Unfortunately the simple answer is:
I Don’t Know
This is because there are many variables when it comes to paint correction, so no two vehicles will be the same, and therefore what may have worked well in one instance may not work as well in another – even if they are on the same year, make, model, and color vehicle. This is why test spots are an important part of the paint correction process. Luckily, there are many popular products available today that work well in many scenarios, and when paired with the right pad, can be adjusted to fit your specific needs.
One of the keys to successful paint correction is being able to make the necessary changes to your products, pads, and technique in order to produce the results you are looking for. I discuss some of this in my article on Analyzing Your Test Spot, but I’d like to spend some more time discussing the product and pad choices.
It seems the majority of individuals who are beginning to learn how to correct their paint assume that a finishing polish goes with a finishing pad, a cutting compound goes with a cutting pad, and so on. This mindset is extremely limiting and will certainly reduce the success you have with paint correction. The beauty of having many different types of pads and many different types of polishing liquids is that you can mix and match the liquids with the pads to create even more options for you in terms of cutting ability and finish!
Let’s consider the very popular Meguiar’s M105 and M205 products. M105 is known as a heavy cutting compound that is capable of removing some pretty nasty defects, and M205 is thought of as a finishing polish that can remove light defects and produce a nice glossy finish, but what if I told you that M205 could be used as a cutting compound and M105 could be tamed to a more mild cut.
Optimum Hyper Spray Polish paired with a light cutting pad to produce more cut while still finishing for an excellent one-step correction combination on this harder GM paint.
By simply pairing M205 with a more aggressive pad, such as a light cutting pad or even a microfiber cutting pad, you’re going to increase the cutting power compared to using M205 with a finishing pad. Likewise, if you were to use M105 with a finishing pad it would have considerably less cut, and usually a better finish, than if it were to be used with a heavy cutting pad. Makes sense, right? Learning to experiment with what may feel like a non-traditional product/pad combo can lead to some great results… so don’t be afraid to think outside the box! Once you can understand that there is no true wrong or right pad combo, your paint correction results will surely improve even if you only have a couple of products to work with.
As always, thanks for reading!
I recently did paint correction on my brand new 2015 Corvette thanks to products from Detailed Images. Even a new car will come with minor scratches, swirling from Dealer prep, and/or contaminants from transporting it. I washed the car and used Car Pro Iron-X before claying the entire vehicle. I taped off all of the seams, gaps, emblems and windows. Then I removed all of the scratches and marring with Meguiars DA Paint Correction compound and their microfiber pads. I switched to Menzernas SF4500 fine polish with a soft foam pad and jeweled the paint to a perfect shine. After a wipe down with 50/50 alcohol and water I coated the car with 22ple glass coating. After several days curing I used 22ple Final Coat. My car now has a deep gloss wet-look shine. It took me over 25 hours and three days to complete the process. Now I will do the same thing to my 2008 Corvette.
If you use a milder compound (205) with a more cutting pad will there be marr left because of the cutting pad?
John – the cutting ability & finishing ability of any given combo is dependent upon many things. Mostly the paint you are working on and your technique. You mentioned M205 on a more cutting pad (let’s say an orange light cutting pad just for reference)… This combo has worked well for me as a one step correction process that produces enough cut to remove the majority of defects while still finishing down without marring, however, this certainly isn’t always the case. In many situations, especially when dealing with soft or finicky paint, this combo may produce marring and therefore require a more delicate finishing step afterwards, or perhaps it is completely too aggressive and I can achieve better results with another combination. This goes back to my article about analyzing your test spot. You must experiment to find what product/pad combo will work best for you (provide the most efficient results) in any given circumstance. This article was simply meant to remind everyone that it is OK to ‘think outside the box’ with your product/pad selections in order to find that perfect combo. Hope that helps.
hi sir, im trying to build a good arsenal of products and pads to tackle most jobs. ive taken several classes and wanted to start my own mobile detailing company. ive done hours of research, watched dozens of videos and am having a hard time deciding what products to carry to tackle most jobs. My main issue is finding products for tackling newer paints as well as older cars with heavy oxidation and swirling. ive used wolfgangs swirl remover with great success. im not sure this product would work well on an older car though that needs more cutting. I really like the menzerna line of products. if i orders a 3000 grit, 2000 grit and 1500 grit would any one of those combos with the right pad be able to conquer newer cars and older cars. start up costs are always tough just trying to find a good line of products that i can use on several different types of cars. i realize every car and every situation is different, i just wanted a true professionals opinion on what products to carry in the beginning that would allow me to conquer a wide variety of cars. thanks in advance and great website
Great article as always Zach. One thing I would love to see your help with are which speeds do you set your machine at for the different steps.Cutting, polishing and lastly the finishing speeds.I know just like which pads you need to learn combos but I dont think anyone covers machine speeds.
Thanks for the kind words, Kevin. Machine speed is a good topic, yet I find it difficult to explain in writing. I’ve mentioned before that in general, higher machine speed is used for more cut and vice versa, however it can vary greatly depending on the product you’re using (as some work better at higher speeds), the paint you’re working with, the condition of the paint, the shape of the panel, etc. In general, I tend to keep my Rupes LHR21ES between speed 4-5 for most of my work, and can go down to 2-3 for some tasks. If I can find a way to translate some of my though process of choosing my machine speed into words, I’ll gladly write an article. Thanks again!
Hi Zachary, I’m a first time responder. Being a virgin (paint detailer that is) at 63 has become annoying! I have a 2008 Mustang Bullitt in Dark Highland Green. It’s paint condition is good, but only because I am so cautious when cleaning and polishing. I really want to detail it well, but don’t know what products or processes to perform. This article made me write to you. First, are all pad colors “industry standardized” for specific purposes? For example…is an orange light cutting pad always “orange and initial intended use for light cutting ” or do I need to be aware that different manufacturers color and purpose is different from others? Also, is 2008 Ford Bulliitt in Dark Highland Green a soft, medium or hard paint and what grade/thickness of clearcoat does it have. Whew…that’s a longie…. Cheers L
Great questions, Larry. No – pad colors are not an industry standard and color/cut definitions will vary between manufacturers. Ford paint has generally been on the medium to soft side for me… but in all honesty, I haven’t worked on many… and never one of that specific color, so it could vary greatly. The only real way to know is through testing (see my article about analyzing your test spot). Clear coat thickness varies greatly as well, I cannot provide an estimate because it could be way off. There are no generalizations here, so someone would have to measure it. If your vehicle does not need extensive defect removal, then the chances of you penetrating the clear are extremely low, so I would not let it concern you.
Thanks… It is a great relief to simply have knowledge that pad colors virtually mean nothing about their intended purpose…unless they are labelled. Even then, they can be worked and finessed using polish and compounds etc. I’ll start in one the more harmless areas of the car. I’ll see what I can learn.
Thanks for your tips,
I have a question regarding correction. I was performing paint correction on a friends 2013 Hyundai Genesis coupe. I was using a orange hex logic pad with chemical guys V36 and was getting 90% correction with no marring. I then tried to refine that with a white polishing pad and chemical guys V38 and the paint was in worse condition after! It left tons of micro-marring! The pad was brand new. I am using a Rupes lhr15es and was using slow arm movement with 6 passes. Not sure why it happened and I don’t really understand as a cutting pad with a more aggressive polish caused no marring yet a final polish with a polishing pad did. Really would like your input on this as I’m pretty confused right now !!
hi sir, im trying to build a good arsenal of products and pads to tackle most jobs. ive taken several classes and wanted to start my own mobile detailing company. ive done hours of research, watched dozens of videos and am having a hard time deciding what products to carry to tackle most jobs. My main issue is finding products for tackling newer paints as well as older cars with heavy oxidation and swirling. ive used wolfgangs swirl remover with great success. im not sure this product would work well on an older car though that needs more cutting. I really like the menzerna line of products. if i orders a 3000 grit, 2000 grit and 1500 grit would any one of those combos with the right pad be able to conquer newer cars and older cars.
Brandon – it’s always best to be over prepared rather than under prepared… we keep a large variety of different pads and polishing liquids around so we can hope to be ready for any situation. With that being said, we do seem to reach for the same routine products more often than others as they seem to produce great results in the majority of situations. From menzerna, I do like their FG400, PF2500, and SF4500. We tend to use Meguiar’s more often, and I really enjoy their M101 and M205. My most used pads would be the Meguiar’s MF Cutting Pads, LC Orange Light Cutting Pads, LC White Polishing Pads, and Rupes Yellow Polishing pads. Hope that helps.
Hi Zach, I love reading your articles. I’ve been doing paint correction for about a year now. I’m a Rupes and Menzerna fan. My client has a 2012 Mercedes Benz S550. It has marring, swirling, holograms, and heavy scratching. The best of the worst! I did a test spot and used the orange microfiber with 300 Menzerna. I see improvement yet still see a lot of more polishing needed. And I’m doing a 3 stage paint correction than protection with 22 PLE. I was wondering should I high speed as my 1st stage? 2nd stage 2500 Menzerna orange microfiber . 3rd stage 4000 Menzerna with orange maybe black foam pad with 4500 Menzerna.This paint is really stubborn on the spot I tested. Hopefully it won’t take a beating on me. Let me know what you think. Thanks.
John, Thanks for the kind words! It depends on what you’re seeing after your initial cutting process. Have you removed the defects and now see micromarring? or do the defects remain and still require additional cutting? It would be expected that a heavy cutting compound produces micromarring and will require additional finish polishing to refine the surface. If the defects have not been removed, you will need to use a more aggressive approach… this could mean using a different pad, product, technique, or machine. Best of luck!
Zach this is a very well written article. I completely agree with you on increasing the cutting ability of M205 using a cutting pad. For example I used M205 on the new thin Burgundy Meguiar’s foam disc on my dad’s 2002 Camaro Z28 that has hard paint. The defects were mild and this combo worked very well. No marring whatsoever . Great one step.
Great to hear, thanks for sharing!
Smaller orbit machines are capable of using smaller four inch buffing pads which are required to polish the tighter areas. While larger orbit machines with either five or six inch buffing pads are perfect for polishing large flat areas.