Junkman's Novice Guide To Machine Polishing Paint
This is Junkman2000's guide for those who have never used a machine for polishing you car's paint (or those who've been doing it wrong!).
This writeup is based on Junkman2000's video series on Youtube. I love his work and want to help share it with those that prefer a text guide. I've seen his techniques raved about in automotive forums I frequent from the Syclone and Typhoon forums to Corvette and Lotus forums. Junkman is the real deal, and he's got some great advice for beginners. What follows is slight reworking of his video series to better fit a textual guide. Junkman's a little quirky sometimes, I won't attempt to translate his personality into this guide - just the priceless techniques.
Before You Start
Technique trumps product every time. Products won't make up for a terrible technique, so don't get lost in searching for the right products before you have some experience.
There are tons of products that take your paint from 'jacked up' to shiny. Ignore the over-the-counter stuff at your local auto parts store, it's is made to be used by hand. Ain't nobody got time for that.
Junkman gets asked a lot; "What's the best product out there?". The truth is, there's no answer to that question. Every person is different, the question is what's the best product for YOU. If you're the type that that likes a product that takes 20 steps and 2 hours of training, a wipe on - wipe off product won't make you happy. If you're just not into slaving over 20 steps, there's no point in trying it. Look for the product that best matches you, your technique, your goals, and your budget.
On the internet, there's a ton of different perspectives about what to do and what not to do. I'm going to make this simple for the novice. This guide will give you a shiny car and a solid technique.
Typically there are 3 layers of paint (from top to bottom):
- Clear Coat - top level, shine and protection
- Base Coat - the color
- Primer - helps the base coat adhere to the panel
- Panel - metal or composite panel like a fender or a hood
Shallow scratches in the clear coat can be fixed. If you have deep clear coat scratches, you're probably going to have to live with them. Super deep scratches that dip into the base coat or primer? Those require repainting all 3 layers again for a quality finish. You can use touchup paint, but it looks like crap.
Paint correction with polish means we're going to shave off small amounts of the clear coat to get below the scratches on the surface. What you'll learn in this guide is how to shave the clear coat safely.
You're probably asking: "How many times can I shave the clear coat?". That's the wrong way to think about this - You need to change your mindset to figuring out how can you can make sure you only have to shave the clear coat once! Otherwise this is a waste of time. Learn how to prevent scratches by changing how you treat your paint.
How Safe Is This?
This technique is extremely safe, you won't damage your paint. You won't burn it, you won't do anything destructive unless you flip the polisher over and beat your car with it. What Junkman is showing us is the safe and effective way - not the fastest way, the perfect method for a beginner.
Unless your car is perfect, this process isn't one take one day. It's going to take a bunch of time, probably multiple weekends. So, don't do any single step the the entire car.
If you try to rush it you won't see the results you're looking for. Junkman advises: Learn each technique in a small area. 1.5' at a time. Seriously, work on a fender for the weekend - or split the hood into 2 weekends. You need to hone your skill and put in the time to get the results you're looking for as a novice. There's no way around it.
JunkMan's Video Series
- Porter Cable 7424XP Polisher
- 2 x 5.5 inch Orange Hex Logic Polishing Pad
- 3 x 5.5 inch White Hex Logic Polishing Pad
- 5 inch Hook and Loop Contour Pad / Backing Plate - Porter Cable 15001
- Waffle Weave Microfiber Drying Towels from The Rag Company
- Eagle Edgeless Orange or Blue from The Rag Company. Or Zaino's Blonde Borderfree Towel (rarely in stock)
- 14 Gauge Extension cord
- Spray Bottle
Wash and Dry Your Car
Your car needs to be clean and dry.
Starting this process with the slightest amount of dirt or dust will only hurt your results. Don't even work on a car you washed earlier and took for a short drive. Make sure it's really clean.
Move your vehicle inside
This process can not be done in direct sunlight. Move your car into a garage and make sure the surface of the car is cool. Not warm, not hot, Cool.
Remove Contaminates with a Clay Bar
Prepare your clay.
Clay is the foundation of the shine, remove all contaminates before you start polishing.
It doesn't remove scratches, no matter what anyone says. It's purpose is to pull out tiny particles stuck in the paint.
Unpackaged your clay and need it to soften it up a little. As you use your clay you'll regularly have to need it and fold it into itself to get a new clean surface.
Note: If you ever drop your clay on the ground, do not use it again on the paint.
Spray Garry Dean's Infinite Use Detail Juice over the area you're about to work. The detailer will act as a lubricant for the clay. You can't use water.
Junkman says he's a little different, he'll spray a ton of detailer and presses pretty hard when he uses clay.
Make a pass over the panel, rubbing the clay over the entire area. You should see material starting to get stuck in the clay. When you do, fold it over to get a new clean surface to rub on the paint.
You'll know it's clean when the clay slides smoothly and stops picking up dirt.
Dry the surface before Polishing.
Junkman says he usually washes the car after claying. But if you're working on a small panel, you could apply a squirt of detailer and wipe it dry using the Waffle Towel.
You can test the surface by using the Baggie Test.
Use a thin (the thinner the better) plastic bag. Something like a cheap grocery bag will work.
Place your hand in the bag, and gently run the tips of your fingers (still inside the bag) across the paint. You shouldn't feel it snag on anything. Test this against an area that you haven't yet clayed to see the difference. It's pretty amazing.
Set up the Polisher
Powering your polisher.
The Porter Cable 7424XP is one of the most versatile and safe polishers for this job. It comes with a very short cord, so you'll need an extension.
Junkman modified his polisher by permanently attaching a 25' extension, if you're comfortable with household electrical work you may wish to do the same. Always make sure that you select an large enough gauge wire for the tool's amperage draw, otherwise you'll have a bad time. In this case, the 14 gauge extension like the one linked in the tools section above and should be adequate.
Drape the cord over your shoulder so that it doesn't scrape or slap on the paint you're working so hard to polish.
Install the backing plate.
Throw away the pad that came with the polisher, it's worthless. You'll need a backplate with hook & loop (aka Velcro) to mount the polishing pads to. Junkman recommends a 5" backplate but shows a 6" backplate in his video. Either size will work, I've linked to all the 5" size materials per his suggestion.
Screw the backplate onto the polisher. Make sure you use the included washer between the backplate and the polisher so that theres plenty of room for the wrench (also included with the polisher - don't lose it) and pad. Once tight, make sure the backplate does not contact the polisher's housing.
Attach Your Orange Hex Logic Pad.
Polishing pads come in all sorts of colors and styles. Junkman recommends the Hex-Logic pads linked in the parts section above. With polishing pads, the colors generally mean something, even across different manufacturers. In this case, Orange is the Heavy/Medium cut pad while White is a lighter (they call it medium) cut pad.
The 'cut' refers to how much material the pad will shave from your clear coat. The cut is a product of how big and far apart the tiny holes in the foam are. That, combined with the polish and your technique will determine how much material is shaved off the paint.
Attach the Orange pad to the backing plate and make sure it's squarely in the center. The hook and loop attachment method makes this step pretty simple. This pad will be the one we use to remove all the damage to your paint. The white one will provide the spit shine.
Note: Don't let polish dry out in your pads over night. To get understandable and consistent results, you need to wash your pads. Junkman recommends you buy several (3 white, 2 orange) so that you have enough time to wash & dry your pads while you continue working.
Do not use the screw on handle that comes with the polisher. It will aid you in applying uneven pressure which will only slow you down.
Set the polisher speed to 5.
Learn how much pressure to apply.
Junkman suggest 9-14 pounds of pressure including the weight of the polisher.
You can test how hard that is by pressing the polisher against a bathroom scale set up on a table. It's not very much pressure, but it's more then just the weight of the polisher.
Priming the Pad
Shake the M105 well, mix it up.. it's been sitting on the shelf for a while.
Priming the pad requires a little more polish then normal use. Add 4 pea sized dabs on the Orange hex pad.
Position the dabs like 4 corners of a box where the corners are about halfway between the center and outer edge of the pad.
Using the polisher face down against the paint, dab the polish around the area you'll be working on before you turn it on.
Turn the polisher on and quickly move around the area to spread the polish over the pad and panel.
This movement speed will be faster then the normal speed for polishing.
Polishing the Panel
Place one hand on the head of the polisher above the pad.
You're pad is primed, there's wet polish on the panel, your power cord is draped over your shoulder, and the polisher is set to a speed of 5.
You're ready to start shaving off some scratches.
Turn the polisher on and move slowly around the panel. Probably about 1-2 inches per second at the fastest.
Keep a constant 9-14 pounds of total force applied to the polisher as you move.
Move across your panel in an S pattern. Make sure every sweep across the panel slightly overlaps the previous one. When you've covered the area, switch to an vertical S pattern and go over the panel again.
This is crosshatching and it'll ensure you cover the area evenly.
When you stop the polisher, you can leave it on the surface, no need to pick it up and fling polish around.
The heavier polishes will dry up faster. With the M105, Junkman will usually add a spray of detailer after a pass or two across the panel to revive the polish.
It's all still there, it just needs a little moisture to keep it working.
The polish will 'flash' when it's time to wipe it off. Flashing can best be described by alternating spots of shiny and dull polish on the panel.
When shiny areas start to show up, the polish is saying it's time to wipe it off.
You can overwork polish if you keep using it past the flash point. Overworking it will cause extra damage to the paint. However underworking polish will cause no damage, it just wastes a little polish. Error on the side of underworking it.
Wipe off the polish and inspect your work.
You must wash it off to inspect the surface for your progress. If the polish dries too much (you ran to the bathroom or got distracted), spray it your detailing spray, then wipe the polish off using your waffle towel. Inspect your surface with a bright side light.
With just 4 dabs and a few passes, you'll remove a lot of the light swirls and damage. Pretty sweet stuff!
From this point forward, we'll only ever add 3 pea size dabs to the pad.
Add one spray of the detailer to revive the polish already on the pad. If you apply too much polish to the pad it'll only slow down your progress.
Again spread it out by dabbing the pad around the panel and make another series of passes with the M105 again.
When it starts to flash again, wipe it clean and inspect. You'll start to see how fast this progresses over time.
When you're confident you've gotten all the shallow clear coat damage out of the paint, move on to the next section.
Adding Shine with M205
Remove the Orange Hex Logic pad by reaching your fingers between it and the backing plate.
If you just try to rip it off, you may separate the velcro from the pad.
Install the White Hex Logic Pad.
Prime the White Hex Logic Pad with 4 dabs of well-shaken M205.
M205 is much lighter and won't require the use of any detailer spray. It will also drip and take much longer to flash over.
Dab the polisher pad over the panel surface while the polisher is off.
Turn on the polisher and spread the M205 around the panel quickly for priming.
Now, move at normal polisher speed, following the same crosshatching pattern and pressure we used before with the orange pad.
Continue till the polish flashes then wipe the surface dry and inspect your work again.
The 205 should provide you with a show quality spit shine. Repeat as needed.
Apply Wax To Protect Your Work
Once the paint is shiny and clean. Add wax to help protect your new smooth clear coat.
This technique is safe and effective. Junkman showed how safe by applying tons of pressure and keeping the polisher still in one spot to emphasize exactly how hard it would be to burn through your paint.
The keys to the technique are the: 1. Polisher speed 2. Polisher movement speed 3. Downward pressure 4. Amount of polish used
Fix your paint one time. You should only ever have to use M205 again. Learn how to treat your paint and you'll never have to worry about how many more times you can polish before you run out of clear coat.
If you don't understand what you're doing wrong with your paint care, then there's no point in fixing it. Take care of your car's paint, wash it right, and stop grinding contaminants into the surface.