Polishing Supplies for Experts and Beginnersby Ivan Rajic
The idea for this article came after two recent detail get-togethers I was fortunate enough to attend. About a month ago, I hosted a local detailers meet at my shop and everyone in attendance had questions on what products are good, what products are great and what products are a complete waste of time. Then, more recently, I was fortunate enough to be invited as a guest instructor by Todd Cooperider to his Esoteric Elite Detailer Acadamy. During Todd’s classes, one of the very main points was using and properly utilizing products that work well, all while avoiding too much experimenting with the hundreds of other products on the market. Don’t get me wrong, experimenting with products is great and it allows us to see what’s new and what’s better in the detailing industry. However, as a business owner, especially a busy business owner, or as a detail enthusiast who doesn’t have the money to try out numerous products out there, it is much easier to buy a single product that comes highly recommended by reputable sources in the industry.
Considering the questions asked and information gathered throughout the two events, I wanted to write an article that helps those in search for the “right” products and eliminates spending too much money to find them. In other words, this is a very short list of products meant for polishing paint, which I have chosen based on my experimenting with many other products over the years and my experience with the listed products that I use on pretty much every detail job. I have found that these products are not machine dependent, so while I won’t be recommending any polishers, I want to state that I use a Flex XC 3401 VRG for 95% or more of my detail work.
That said, here are the products that I have come to find absolutely necessary when doing paint correction and products that allow me to do great work on well over 95%+ of paint finishes. The other 5% are what we like to refer to as nightmare paints. These include the very soft jet blacks (on BMWs, Porsches, and VWs for example) that are extremely difficult to properly finish polish, as well as the extremely hard paints found on some Audis, Mercedes and Corvettes, which require good ol’ “sand in a bottle” :). Aside from those few random hard jobs, these products should allow beginners and professionals alike to get the high quality results we all seek. In short, these are the products every beginner should buy when getting into polishing work because I assure you all of them will stay in your arsenal for many years to come and will be used on a regular basis.
Meguiar’s Ultra-Cut Compound M105
As many already know, Meguiar’s Ultra-Cut Compound M105 was a game changer the moment it hit the market. It is capable of fairly heavy correction when used properly and paired with an aggressive polishing pad, but considering how aggressive it can be, it still leaves a very fine finish. M105 is extremely versatile as well in that it can be used effectively with a rotary, dual-action, random orbital and by hand. Regardless of the method used, it does great work at removing deep defects. When performing a 2 stage paint correction job, I mainly like to use M105 with the orange Lake Country cutting pad on my Flex because it takes out a majority of defects even on harder paints and leaves a finish that can easily be refined with just one additional step of polishing. M105 is the first step in doing proper and safe correction when doing machine polishing and should be in every detailer’s arsenal, whether beginner or professional.
Meguiar’s DA Microfiber Correction Compound D300
Meguiar’s D300 Compound is another great product that came out together with their microfiber pads. It’s focus was to enhance paint correction via dual-action and random orbital machines, making the gap between rotary + wool and dual-action machines even smaller. While not as aggressive as M105, D300 is capable of doing some serious correction and almost always provides a very clear finish, which needs only one finishing step to fully refine. D300 can also be mixed with M105 in order to get more correction from D300 and also cut down on the dusting from M105. For more information about mixing the two, creating what I like to call “WGCI” :), you can refer to my article listing A Few Pad and Polish Combinations I Use Regularly. D300 is also something I use mainly with the orange Lake Country cutting pad, as well as the DA Microfiber Cutting Pads. The main purpose of D300 in my business is to be used on softer paint jobs where M105 might be a bit too aggressive and require 2 finishing steps, whereas D300 only requires one.
Meguiar’s Ultra Finishing Polish M205
Yet another Meguiar’s product that does great work and is used on a regular basis. For the description of Meguiar’s Ultra Finishing Polish M205 I’ll simply copy what I wrote about it in my article Ivan Rajic’s 10 Favorite Detailing Products. M205 stands apart from it’s competition in many, many ways. It’s easily one of the most versatile polishes out there, having the ability to correct fairly severe defects when paired with an aggressive pad and also finish down great with a finishing pad, such as a Lake Country Black or Crimson Finishing Pad. It can even finish down without marring on most of those nightmare, jet black paints when used with the right pads and techniques. This makes it perfect for those one-step polish details where the goal is to get as much correction as possible without leaving any additional marring in the paint. Finally, when used in tandem with it’s aggressive counterpart, Meguiar’s Ultra-Cut Compound 105, it’s a part of the most advanced two step system the detailing world has seen in a long time, providing great correction and a fine finish in only two steps.
Menzerna Micro Polish SF 4500 (PO85RD)
I started using this polish before the name change, so I will still refer to it as PO85RD. That said, PO85RD is the finest polish of the bunch and allows for refining of those hard-to-deal-with paints after a compounding stage. It is very easy to use and a little bit goes a long way. In my article “How much product do you put on the pad? Do you prime it?“, I show 3 small dots of PO85RD on the pad, but it will vary quite a bit depending on what machine is being used and how large of an area is being polished. For beginners, I would suggest using the 3 small dots only on the first section, then only 2 dots so as not to have too much product for the section being polished. The only negative of PO85RD, if you can call it that, is that due to its oily nature it may be difficult to remove after polishing a section, especially if too much is used.
Lake Country Orange Light Cutting Pad
The Lake Country Orange Light Cutting Pad is my go-to pad when doing 2-stage correction detailing because it can remove defects very well while still leaving a great finish. As stated above, I typically use this pad with M105, D300 or “WGCI” and always get great results, usually only requiring 1 stage of finish polishing after the compounding. I believe this is a must have pad because it’s much finer than the Lake Country yellow cutting pads and a bit finer than DA Microfiber Cutting Pads, but can still do some serious correction on any type of paint. In short, it’s a great correction pad that normally leaves a very fine finish.
Lake Country Hydro Tech Crimson Ultra Fine Finishing Pad
Last, but not least (actually my favorite :)), is the Lake Country Hydro Tech Crimson Ultra Fine Finishing Pad. This pad is my favorite pad because it is one of the best finishing pads I have worked with over the years and it never disappoints. I like it a bit more than the Lake Country Black finishing pad because it’s a bit firmer, which makes it quite a bit easier for me to work with during the polishing process. When paired with PO85RD it finishes down perfectly on pretty much any paint out there. I also like to use it quite a bit with the SONAX Nano Technology Paint Cleaner during light machine polish detailing.
Well that’s about it. With these six products, I believe anyone out there can accomplish great results without having to buy other products in order to fill a certain role. If I wasn’t focusing on pure polishes and paint correction in this article, I would surely add in the SONAX Nano Technology Paint Cleaner (NTPC) as a must have product. NTPC takes care of finish polishing on any of the harder to deal with paint jobs and it’s a great all-in-one polish that cleans well and protects.
I’m hoping this helps out everyone and anyone, mainly the beginners looking to dive into paint correction but are undecided on which products can do what and which should be purchased. I encourage everyone to leave any questions or comments below and, as always, thanks for reading!
Buy Products From This Article
Purchase the products used in this article individually or in one convenient package here!
Just used M105 with my PC for the first time on a buddy’s 13 yr old Miata that had never been polished- WOW! As I was new to M105, I did two applications at lighter pressure with a white polishing pad rather than heavy pressure with a cutting pad, but it worked really well. Tried to follow it up with Meg’s #82 but wasn’t satisfied so I went out and bought M205 to use instead and was again blown away. My buddy is loving it as well and is a total noob to paint correction but was able to finish the job himself with great results. Great to have just two products to handle most any paint correction need. M105 worked great on the headlights, too!
Ivan, are you going to have another detailers meet? I’m in Arlington Heights and would love to stop by. I’m an enthusiast, not a pro.
Glad you had good results with the M105/205 combo Kevin!
As for another meet, I’ll probably host another event come next February/March, just before my busy season starts at work. Not sure yet how I’ll organize it or through which outlet online, but if you’re interested feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll put you on the email list for when the time comes.
Outstanding article, immensely useful.
Would it be a wise idea to try M205 on a orange lake country pad? I like the ease of removing M205 vs. M105 and only have medium swirls to get out.
Excellent article, full of educational material and very easy to understand and apply to practice.
It will be very nice and helpful if you can write a similar article for waxes, sealants and finishers.
I thank you in advance.
Billy Bob, M205 and Orange Lake Country pad is a great combination and usually does amazing work on all paints, but obviously wouldn’t finish down well on softer black paints. You could also try mixing M105 and M205 with different ratios (25% M105, 50/50, 25% M205, etc.) to see what works best for you, but any mixing will cut down well on the M105 dusting and ease of removal.
Bob B, I will surely keep that in mind for my next few articles and try to compile a list.
Could you pleas provide and explain how can I use M205 to finish down jet blacks BMW 2008 without marring and what pad do you suggest for that kind of color&car.
Unfortunately I can’t give you a straight answer or advice for that issue. The only thing I can say for certain is that sometimes, you simply can’t finish down on very soft jet black paint with M205, regardless of pad and technique.
Here are a couple things that may help you though… You’ll definitely need to use a fine finishing pad, like black or crimson (what I typically use for finish polishing). If you’re using a random orbital (like Porter Cable or Griots Garage) or D/A (like the Flex 3401), you’ll want to try very light pressure and keep the speeds higher. I typically find that when I lower the speed, the orbit/throw of the machine makes more marring than if the pad simply spins faster. Other than that, you’ll simply have to experiment and try your best, otherwise go with something a bit finer and that breaks down to a finer abrasive.
Hope that helps.
Ivan: Thank you for your valuable info on polishing procedures. I was concerned which speed to use on my PC orbital polisher which left circular sanding marks on my stainless steel mirror housings. I was not aware of the different cutting properties and colors of pads to use for types of polish jobs but your article gave me a better idea of the right one to use. I will use a higher speed on my polisher in the future. I have a 1994 black Ford which I usually test products on. I am anxious to try the Merzerna Intensive polish and Merzerna Final polish on it and see the results. I also may try MG 205/105 before my final seal. I also like the results of Collinite 845 Insulator as it is a great sealer. Again, thanks for the info.
I have a Phantom Black 2010 Audi S5 and a 1996 Porsche 993 Turbo in Midnight Blue. Are either of these “nightmare paints” as you described above, other otherwise special?
I haven’t worked with either of those paint specifically, so I don’t know for sure how they will react to paint correction, but I can almost guarantee the 96 Porsche will be a bit on the softer side. Doubt it’s a “nightmare” paint but is probably on the softer side.
I enjoy your site. Thanks for posting that. I will definitely come again to find out more and recommend my coworkers about this, hcg.
Love this web site!!!!! So much info. A quick question, I have a black 2009 acura tl, i never buffed before(ROOKIE) so Im planning on buy the Griots 6inch polisher and using the Meguiar’s DA correction system(2 step) with their pads as well….whats ur input on this?? also what can I use to finish/seal the hard work that goes into polishing..in other words i wanna make the shine last as long as it can….Thanks in advance!!!
I am assuming you’re talking about purchasing the D300 and D301 Meguiar’s combo. If so, there are a few issues you could run into, especially if you’re using the microfiber pads. If you plan on only using the 2 microfiber pads, I can almost guarantee that you will run into issues when trying to do finish polishing as the microfiber pad will most likely be too aggressive to finish well on the soft black Acura paint. You also might find that it is hard to correct any marring left by the D300 compound and microfiber, using only the D301 finishing wax, so you might need a 3rd combo.
If you only want to get 2 pad/polish combinations, then I would suggest, as the 1st/correcting combo, D300 compound with an orange Lake Country pad (it’s a bit less aggressive than the microfiber pad and can be controlled enough to finish a lot better compared to the microfiber) or D300 with the Meguiar’s microfiber pad. If you go with Microfiber, just make sure you play around with it and try to finish down as well as possible before going to the finishing step. For the 2nd step, the D301 might be enough to correct any marring left by the 1st step, so if you’re going with the D301, I would say buy not only the microfiber finishing pad but also a black or crimson Lake Country pad in case the microfiber pad is too aggressive for the paint. As I said above, I can almost make a 100% guarantee that it will, but paint is tricky and you never know until you try.
My recommendation for that paint would be to get 3 combos. D300 compound with the cutting microfiber pad, M205 with a white or crimson pad, and D301 or Menzerna PO85rd/SF4500 with a crimson or black pad. This would ensure you have something to correct the paint pretty well but also finish down really well. If you only want to get 2 combos, my recommendation would be D300 with microfiber for correction and Menzerna SF4500 with crimson or black for finishing.
Hope that helps!
As for the sealant, you really can’t use anything but good washing and waxing techniques to make the shine the resulted from polishing last. Any sealant/wax you use will last a certain amount of time and give the paint good protection from the elements, but keeping swirl marks away is only done by proper washing methods and regular intervals for cleaning up the car.
Thanks a lot bro!!! Great info!!!
Just discovered this site and really like it. I use the Flex 3401 and want to try the 5.5″ Megs MF cutting disk. Will they work ok on the smaller Flex backing plate. I’ve read we’re you should use the Megs backing plate but I don’t think it fits the Flex???
That is one issue I’ve run into time over time. The regular Flex 3401 backing plate is too large for 5.5″ pads, which is what I use 99.9% of the time. Using the thicker foam pads is somewhat OK but still dangerous as the backing plate is slightly larger and can potentially hit the paint and damage it. On the other hand, the smaller 3401 plate works fine with the 5.5″ pads, but it lacks the size to apply pressure throughout the pad surface. Thus, the smaller plate works fine with the finishing process because you don’t need all the pressure, but when doing aggressive polishing, especially with the Meg’s MF cutting pads, you lose out on much better/faster results due to the lack of pressure. My solution has been cutting down the larger backing plate so it’s roughly 5-5.25″ in diameter. This way I’m not risking damaging the paint while getting all the necessary pressure when cutting. I don’t know what warranty issues may come up, but this has been the only solution I was able to come up with.
Hope that helps!
Enjoyed your article about polishes. Are Menz polishes water based? I have successfully and happily used 106 and prepped the pad using a spritz of water. When I use Meg’s products I prep with 34. Is this the correct thing to do?
I really couldn’t tell you the chemical makeup of the Menz polishes so hopefully someone else will chime in. I tend to not prep the pads at all aside from adding some water when doing compounding work with something like M105, but if the prep you’re doing is working well for you then I wouldn’t “fix it if it isn’t broken” as they say. I would just stay clear of prepping pads with anything that has wax or oil in it as it may interfere with how the polish works and also mask some defects, which will lead you to believe the finish is in better shape than it really is.
hi IVAN : just read your blog of 11/15/12 polishing supplies for experts & beginners (I’m a newbie) m105 d300 m205 po85rd , is this list still your go to products ? Because of new technology, products, and pads has your go to list changed?
Thanks for any information that you can provide me.
Great question Charlie. Generally speaking, the answer is yes. I have started using M101 more (mixed with M105 as well as alone) but still use M105 and D300 alone. D300 is getting used quite less since M101 made it’s way into the shop. M205 is still a big regular and I don’t see dropping it until something much better comes along. PO85RD is also something we use quite a bit when in need of a good fine finishing polish.
As for the pads, we still mainly use orange and crimson Lake Country pads. We also use Meguiar’s and Rupes microfiber pads, along with some other foam pads, but these two I believe are still 2 main pads that can help with cutting harder paints as well as finishing finicky paints.
I have a 1975 Pinto with 3677 miles. I bought it with 610 miles in 2011. I think the prior owner did not take car of it at all through out those year, and the paint is seriously oxidized. When I try to apply a wax it bonds with the paint so bad it will not buff out and the applicator pad turns the color of the car. Is the clear coat gone? How do I bring back the shine without losing paint?
Larry are you sure there was ever clear coat on the car? If it’s original I’d guess that it was single stage paint, which would explain the really bad oxidation over the years, even with the low mileage. A good way to tell is if it’s consistently oxidized then it’s probably just single stage (whether original or repaint). You’re probably looking at doing 2-3 polishing stages with a machine in order to remove the oxidation and bring back the paint. As for losing the paint, I really can’t say without knowing the situation and how much is there, so I’d recommend possibly seeking a professional to try and help out at least get the restoration started. Wish I could be of more help.
Ivan, I have a beautifully restored black E-30 that was re-painted. It was shipped by train across country and was filthy. Has some moderate scratching, and on hood and truck almost a coat of god knows what. It needs work, but I am nervous about going at it with a compound that is too hard because so many posts I read are related to original factory paint. This car has several coats of clear coat. I was going to buy Mequiar’s correction starter kit with Porter Cable but wonder after reading your posts, if I should go at it with something more moderate — at least in terms of pads?
You should be fine (or at least in better shape) on a repaint with thicker clearcoat than on OEM paint as it should be much thicker now. You will be fine with a Meguiar’s kit with M105 and M205 to start thing on it, but you may find that there are some sanding marks, etc. that need more aggressive pads/compounds or maybe even wetsanding due to the paint job. On the other hand you may find the paint is very sensitive and you may need something like the SF4500 from Menzerna if M205 is not fine enough of a polish.
In short, you have to get started somewhere and the M105/205 kit with 2-4 different pads is always a great start.