How do professional detailers get an old car’s paintwork looking like it’s fresh out of the showroom again? Sure, they have all the right tools and equipment for the job, and a little expertise born of plenty of practice helps.
But there’s another secret that every good pro swears by – using the right products for the right job in the right way. As all of these products are readily available to car owners, there’s really nothing stopping you from getting fantastic results when you give your vehicle DIY spruce up at home.
In this article, we’ll focus on the products used right at the end of the cleaning and polishing process – what is known in the trade as finishing. Finishing serves three main purposes – it gives your detailing a final zing, it locks in that attractive gleam you’ve been after for longer, and it also helps to protect your now-stunning paintwork from wear and tear on the road.
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The finishing process
Before we move on to look at the key products professionals use for finishing, let’s make sure we understand exactly what finishing is – and also what it isn’t.
In the detailing trade, finishing is what happens after bodywork is polished. Polishing is an abrasive process that physically changes the condition of your car’s paintwork to buff out scratches and marks and smooth over imperfections.
The typical complete detailing process moves from washing and cleaning to remove as much dirt and debris from the surface of your vehicle as possible to polishing, then finishing. So by the time you get to the finishing stage, you’re not looking to clean or to tackle unsightly marks anymore – your paintwork should already be looking in good nick, and now you’re giving it a final gloss and protection.
But before you rev up your polishing machine, finishing products don’t have to be used after polishing. Bearing in mind that polishing is ideally something you only want to do once a year or so, otherwise, you risk wearing out your paintwork, you can still use finishing products after a good wash. The results won’t be quite as spectacular as after a polish, but it will still soup up the shine and help your car look good for longer.
Getting to know your finishing products
So let’s get straight on and look at the key products used in the finishing process.
Where else to start but with the classic finisher – wax. Nowadays, wax is available in spray and liquid form as well as the classic paste. But it is all more or less the same stuff – a combination of natural or synthetic waxes (the tough wax extracted from the Carnauba palm is a popular base), together with solvents that keep the wax in a workable form.
While polishing is about cutting into and smoothing the topper most layers of your paintwork to buff out imperfections, wax is used to add another layer of substance on top. This helps to further hide any minuscule scratches or marks that even fine polishing misses, but also provides protection to newly exposed paint.
While waxing is widely viewed as an essential finishing step after polishing, you can also achieve pleasing results by waxing your car thoroughly after a standard wash. Just remember to wash your car again afterward to remove the excess wax residue.
While wax offers some degree of protection to your paintwork, it’s not its main purpose. If you really want to keep that post-polish pristine look for as long as possible while still using your car regularly out on the roads, you should use a sealant.
Paint sealants are made from synthetic polymer-based compounds that add a protective layer to your vehicle, stopping water, pollution, and even UV light from the sun reaching your paintwork. This will help to prevent physical degradation, but it doesn’t offer the same pleasing aesthetic gleam that wax provides.
If sealants take the protective properties of wax to another level, glazes do the same with its ability to obscure marring and imperfections. Glazes are manufactured to fill in scratches and marks much better than waxes do. They are therefore a great friend to the DIY polisher, as they give you a bit more breathing space in terms of how perfect you have to get your finish. If you find a few light marks still show through after waxing, a glaze will probably hide them just fine.
Glazes can also be used as a useful stop-gap between polishes to make sure inevitable wear and tear aren’t too obvious.
Quick detailer spray
The name is a good giveaway for what quick detailer spray does – it’s a quick, easy solution for when you want to give your vehicle a little pick-me-up without going through the whole detailing process. They are designed to be applied after a wash and do a great job at removing soap residue from your bodywork. But their main job is to help give a healthy shine in a simple, straightforward way – simply spray on, buff and you are away.
Quick detailers come in two main forms. Wax-based detailers can be thought of as a ‘fast wax’ option – they contain natural or synthetic waxes in solution, which makes them very easy to apply. They offer some of the protective as well as the shining properties of wax, but not to the extent that a true wax product offers.
Ceramic quick detailer sprays are for cars that have a ceramic coating on their bodywork, or which have recently been polished. Quick detailers are not really for use right after polishing, though – they don’t offer much advantage. They are what pro detailers will use for their rapid ‘wash and go’ options, and should be used in the same way at home, as a handy stop-gap in between a more thorough polish or wax.
But what about finishing polish?
If you’re looking through a detailing products catalog and wondering why finishing polish isn’t on this list, well that’s where things can get slightly confusing. Finishing polish is still a polish, i.e. an abrasive substance used to buff out marks. It’s just got the lowest cut off all polishes, so is used right at the end of the polishing process.
To find out more, or to get any questions about finishing, polishing, or detailing in general answered, Slim’s are always happy to help.