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Paint Polishing: Changing the Speed and-or Pressure


Polishing the paint on a car can rack the nerves of many a weekend warrior, heck even a seasoned detailer will encounter paint that puts up a fight.  Some key things to try BEFORE you just start switching polishes and pads and going postal are; changing the speed of the dual action polisher and/or the downward pressure on the pad.  Too many times we just read what “a pro” did for a certain car and think if we just do that we’ll get the same results.  The “how” you use the product is more important than the product its self… Products are only as smart as their user!

I will always, always, always do a test spot on a large flat panel to try and figure out my game plan before I start the entire car.  Test spots allow you to do just that, test your hunch, a recommendation, or what has worked in the past and really try to hone the desired outcomes you want to achieve.  During this time you are working this area, take the time to adjust your technique before you change the pad or liquid you first tried, it just might be the correct combo you need, BUT the technique is equally important.  Its technique that makes a seasoned pro.  If you are seeing hazing after you wipe down, your first instinct might be to go to a finer grade liquid… STOP change the downward pressure.  While it might seem counter intuitive apply a bit more downward force directly above the spindle of the polisher, check the outcome after you’ve work the polish… What happened?  More hazing!  Go to less pressure… What happend then?  Its not really going to take any extra time; you already have a pad and product on that machine.  Even if the outcome is not as you wanted…  YOU HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING!  We all want polishing to be simple, that comes after much systematic watching of the outcomes you get by trying to change one variable at a time.

The second idea is to change the speed at which you are polishing.  The speed of the dual action will have a direct effect upon the action of the pad on the paint.  My friend Kevin Brown has spent many hours showing how speed and pressure effect the pattern action of the pad on the paint.  By slowing down the speed you make a different polishing pattern than when you speed up the machine.  Not all machines on speed 3 have the same pattern or resulting force, and even over the life of the machine that force will change.  Changing the speed can make a difference and giving that a try before you switch over to a new combo on your test section is an easy effort.  Even after you have slowed things down you don’t get the desired results you want… YOU HAVE LEARNED SOMETHING!

The tricky part becomes when you try to change too many variables at once, you cannot properly assess which one gave the outcome you see before you.  At times I’ve found that applying a firm down-force with a slow speed at the beginning of the polishing and then changing to less down-force and even slower speed for the final few passes give me what I’m looking for.  While I could have just cut the paint down, been left with product and pad marring that needed to be worked over, only to need to then refine that step with a finer cut…  Basically making the process a three step.  I change my technique, watch for the outcome and found that I can do one less polishing step…  I’ve just saved time and money.  The ability to know how to change multiple variables comes from you knowing how changing just one and the effect it gave.  You cannot get to that point until you take a careful systematic look at your outcomes as you change the individual variables.

I guess the real take away knowledge of this article is that you need to systematically look at the outcomes you get each and every time you adjust your technique on various paints.  Its important to learn from what didn’t work as much as what did work.  I apologize to all you readers that need photos, I debated about showing in photo what I’m talking about.  I decided that YOU need to see first hand what YOU did, what you changed, and its effect.

Greg Nichols Reflections Detailing
Greg Nichols
Reflections Detailing
Logan, Utah

8 comments on Paint Polishing: Changing the Speed and-or Pressure

  1. John says:

    Another great article Greg..!..I know that I get frustrated sometimes when I will follow the steps that a pro has done, and not get the same results. Obviously somebody that does this for a living knows the proper techniques and I have not honed those skills yet because I do this as a hobbyist. Its easy to read in an article that somebody used a certain arm speed or pad/polish selection to accomplish a certain result…but until you can duplicate that with your own car, its test, test, and test again, AND learn from it.

  2. Great article Greg!

    I’ve seen it time and time again where people new to polishing have given up right away after they don’t see the results they expected with a certain pad/polish combo. Rather then adjust their technique as you outlined in you’re article, they either give up all together, come back online and ask for help, or some may even complain about the product itself online.


  3. Marco says:

    Thanks for sharing Greg! This is one of best article i’ve ever read!

  4. Duy says:

    Thanks for the article Greg! This is a good reminder for everyone. I recently starting working with the Megs MF system and changing the speed and amount of pressure is paramount on getting this system to work right. First section I worked it pretty fast and it didn’t come out like how I have seen others turned out. Second pass was a slower pass with a little bit more pressure and viola! Products stayed the same, but the technique was changed.

  5. Pete says:

    Great article Greg…even after 15 years in the business I get frustrated at times with certain paint finishes…Patience is one of many things that makes a detailer great…
    A correct paint correction is 30% pad/polish combo and 70% technique.

  6. Al G says:

    This is one of the best polishing write ups with tips you rarely see written.

  7. Mike Cardenas says:

    Fantastic article! Proper pressure and speed is an important component when polishing. As I read your article, Surbuf and Megs MF Correction pads instantly came to mind. These pads require the right combination of speed, pressure and technique to get the desired results.Great write up!!!

  8. Greg Nichols says:

    Maybe I wasn’t able to articulate what I was hoping the reader would do, and that is pay attention to the changes you make in your technique. SSSOOOOO many detailers just want a recipe for paint correction and don’t want to think and test as they go. If you are doing paint correction solely for $$$, there are easier ways to earn the $$$……… In my opinion paint correction is an art form, and it takes time and adjustments to get it right.


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