November 14, 2019

Surface Preparation for Car Polishing

Car polishing and detailing is an oddly intimidating process for many vehicle owners. It straddles the boundary between aesthetics and mechanics, often deemed an afterthought while other times becoming as integral to vehicle performance as any other aspect of car care. To reduce the risk that mild visual flaws will become a serious problem down the line, it is best to clean and polish vehicles regularly.

In past articles, we have outlined some of the factors that affect automotive surface finishes and have offered various car polishing tips. This week, Saint-Gobain Surface Conditioning will explore some of the key surface preparation steps required before a polishing pad touches the car.

Surface Preparation Step One: Washing

Washing is always the first stage in car polishing. It is a key part of the surface preparation process where dirt, dust, and other pollutants are removed from the paintwork to render a clean and uniform surface. Countless tips and tricks for how to properly wash a car are available online, but – as with car polishing – the best results are always achieved by a professional.

Car Polishing

Improper washing can contribute to the sort of poor surface finish that requires polishing to correct in the first place. Using standard dishwashing soap, for example, can accelerate the oxidation process of chemicals and oils in the paint, causing it to rapidly fade. Swirls may also be imparted by gritty particles and debris carried over from areas like the license plate and wheels if wash mitts and sponges are not properly rinsed.

Although it might sound like a very basic aspect of surface preparation for car polishing, it is worth reading a full tutorial on the best practices of car washing to guarantee the highest quality surface finish for your daily driver.

Surface Preparation Step Two: Drying

After the car has been washed, it should be dried-off using a combination of compressed air and microfibre towels. Using a stream of compressed air helps remove standing water from hard-to-reach areas like the crevices and seams between body panels. Afterward, dry the panels by hand using the microfibre towels, either dragging or blotting them across the surface with very light pressure to avoid marring the paint.

Drying the paintwork is technically an intermediary surface preparation step between one form of cleaning and another: Washing and claying.

Surface Preparation Step Three: Claying

Claying could more accurately be described as a method of paint decontamination than cleaning. It is used to describe the process of removing embedded contaminants (industrial fallout, road grime, etc.) that have chemically bonded to paintwork using detail clay. Again, clay bar detailing is best left to professionals as they must be lightly abrasive (roughly equivalent to 5000 grit sandpaper) to strip away these bonded agents from the car bodywork.

Surface Preparation Step Four: Taping

Finally, elements of the car may need to be taped over before polishing can take place. Door handles, emblems, window seals, and more can be damaged by the rapid orbital/rotary action of the buffer and the abrasive action of the polishing media. Surface protection tapes are used to cover local areas of the car and prevent abrasive action from spreading outside of the desired area.

Achieving the Ideal Surface Finish: Car Polishing Tips

Car Polishing with Saint-Gobain Products

Saint-Gobain Surface Conditioning is a world leader in the manufacture of abrasive particles for specialist automotive polishing products. If you have found this post interesting, you may be interested in reading our recent blog post Automotive Polishing: Balancing Cut-Rate with Surface Finish. Otherwise, contact us with any questions about our surface preparation products for the ideal automotive finish.