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Paint Correction

The Planning

Paint correction is done to remove swirls and micro scratches as well as oxidation and haze on paint. Check out the Surface Damage Field Guide to determine if you need to correct your vehicle’s paint.

Caution

Paint correction takes several hours including all of the prep work to wash and clay before starting. Plan your weekend accordingly!

The Buying

Check out the Beginner’s Buying Guide and the Recommended Kits articles. Most kits in the Advanced section should cover your first paint correction.

Pads are often color-coded by manufacturer based on how abrasive they are, but that system isn’t universal between companies. Be careful when ordering that you’re getting the right type of pad!

The Machine

You’ll be using a dual action orbital polisher, also known as a DA. There are many makes and models but they all work in pretty much the same way. In addition to spinning the pad, it rotates the pad around a circle to simulate how it would move if you were hand polishing. Try drawing a curly line in a circle – that’s similar to the path that the pad will follow. This allows you to have power spread over an area without breaking the limit to burn through your clear coat.

For this walkthrough:

  • Pads are discs of foam or microfiber used to work the compound or polish against the surface. You’ll need about 4 of each type you plan to use so you’re not washing them while doing the job.
  • The backing plate is the circular metal part that holds the pad while it’s spinning around. The most recommended size is a 5.5 inch backing plate. If your DA didn’t come with that size, you can buy a universal backing plate to swap it out.

The Polish & Compound

How-To Guides: Machine Polishing

Supplies

  • Vehicle that has been washed, clayed, and dried
  • DA polisher with 5.5″ backing plate
  • Blue painters tape
  • Microfiber towels
  • Quick detailer or distilled water
  • 4 polishing pads
  • Polish
  • (optional) 4 compounding pads
  • (optional) Compound
  • Wax

Paint correction is very methodical. We need to test a section to figure out what combination of pads and compound or polish we need to get the results we want before doing the entire vehicle.

Warning

Do not perform paint correction in full sunlight.

Steps

  1. Install the 5.5″ backing plate onto your DA. Run any extension cords you need.
  2. Tape off a 1ft square section on your hood. This will be the test section.
  3. Attach a polishing pad to the DA. Prime the pad and apply a small amount of polish per the directions on the bottle.
  4. Set your DA speed to 1. Press the pad against the test section and turn it on.
  5. Slowly spread the polish around the test section. Keep the pad down so it doesn’t sling.
  6. Turn off the DA, keeping the pad down until it stops moving.
  7. Add 2-3 more drops of polish to the pad.
  8. Set your DA speed to 4. Press the pad against the test section and turn it on.
  9. Slowly work the polish against the paint, making several slow passes over the test section.
    • Don’t lean on it. That heats up the panel (which we don’t want) and throws off your balance while making the machine work harder.
  10. Turn off the DA, keeping the pad down until it stops moving. Set it aside.
  11. Wipe the section down with the microfiber towel and compare the corrected section to the untouched paint. Shining a bright light on the paint should show fewer or no swirls.
  12. If you’re satisfied with the improvement, remove the square of tape and repeat steps 3 thru 11 on each panel of the vehicle. If you’re not satisfied or see no improvement from the polish in the test section, repeat the test process with compound on a compounding pad using DA speed 5.
  13. When you’re doing the full vehicle, keep these tips in mind:
    • Swap to a new pad every few panels.
    • Tape off rubber edges and plastic trim. Polish is annoying to remove from those crevices and it can discolor some trim materials.
    • If you have deep rock chips, put a small piece of tape over them so the DA doesn’t kick up the paint and make them larger.
    • If/When you sling polish or compound, you can remove it from windows and paint with some quick detailer.
  14. When you’re done with paint correction, wipe down the entire vehicle with quick detailer to remove any sling and residue.
  15. Wax afterward. Clean your pads in hot water with some APC and scrub out any polish or compound. Let them air dry.
Updated on 30 September 2018

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