A decision that all amateur detailers have to make is how many pads they need to buy. This is a question I am asked quite often, and something that is worth discussing in more detail. Many consumers frequently assume that just one of each type of pad is enough to properly complete a paint correction job, but if you’ve gone through the process before, you know this is far from the truth.
Why Do I Need Multiple Pads?
During the paint correction process, compound/polish, dirt, and paint will begin to accumulate on the face of the pad. This contamination needs to be removed regularly to help maintain a clean pad face and produce consistent results, however there comes a time when the pad is too dirty to ‘clean on the fly’. When the pads reach this point, the performance is reduced, dusting will likely increase, and it may create other frustrations which hinder your progress. In this instance, it is easiest to switch to a new pad, otherwise the dirty pad must be thoroughly washed, rinsed, and dried before it is ready for use again. More pad cleaning information can be found in this great article by Ivan Rajic.
How Many Pads Do I Need?
The cutting/compounding process will result in more material being removed and therefore more dust and residue will be present. This often means more pads will be required for compounding than polishing.
In general, I recommend at least 3 of each type of pad to allow for best results. Some jobs may require more if the vehicle is in considerably poor shape. We tend to switch pads very regularly, and therefore go through quite a few pads for each job, but it helps to ensure we are producing uniform results throughout the job.
If you spread the job over multiple days you could get away with fewer pads, but this will require you to wash all of your pads at the end of the day and ensure they are dried so they are ready for use the next morning. In general, I highly recommend buying more pads than you think you may need. It never hurts to have a spare, or two.
Which Pads Should I Buy?
I often recommend microfiber cutting pads, orange light cutting pads, white polishing pads, and black finishing pads (or similar options from other brands) as the basic pads to produce great results on almost every type of vehicle when paired with appropriate products. This variety of pads ranges from aggressive microfiber cutting pads to soft foam finishing pads, and therefore will allow for a wide range of work to be done. Remember that the functionality of polishing liquids can be manipulated with a different pad choice. This is discussed in my article about Pairing Products and Pads.
Before you start your next project, be sure you’ve got enough (or more than enough) pads to get the job done!